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'Buy/Collect' exhibit adds to discussion of state arts scene’s future

Erica Spitzer Rasmussen. "Book of Woes." 11" x 10" x 2". Mixed media with handmade paper.
Courtesy of Placement Gallery
Erica Spitzer Rasmussen. "Book of Woes." 11" x 10" x 2". Mixed media with handmade paper.

"Anyone can write a check to buy a painting," says Fox 9 anchor and Flatland Gallery founder Robyne Robinson. "That's not all there is to being a patron of the arts."

We're talking about a new exhibition of work by local artists, "Buy/Collect: Arts Patronage in Minnesota," drawn from her own extensive collection of contemporary art, co-curated by Robinson herself and Placement Gallery's Yuri Arajs.

"This isn't really about money," she says, "You have to get involved." Robinson comes by her passion for community engagement, in both civic and creative arenas, from her Chicago upbringing in a family filled with both aldermen and artists.

"You have to give back," she says simply. "When I moved here and started reporting on the arts, the richness of the arts community in Minnesota really struck me. I don't think the larger public quite knows what we have here."

And Robinson insists that our state's abundance of creativity and talent can't continue to thrive without the support of that greater community. "If we want the local arts scene to be strong well into the 21st century," she says, "then we need patrons to take a more active role in supporting the arts. The community can only grow if the arts community grows -- the McKnight Foundation's research consistently bears this out."

"Patronage is not about money or influence," Robinson reiterates. "It's fundamentally about person-to-person communication — about making connections. There are many, many ways to be a patron of the arts, even if you don't have money. You can barter your own skills and expertise in exchange for artwork; you can volunteer your time and efforts on behalf of an organization that supports artists."

"The point is, you just need to become actively engaged with the artists in your community," Robinson says. "These are your neighbors, your cousins, your friends and family. These are people you're supporting. It's not like adding an investment to your portfolio."

The range of artists represented in "Buy/Collect" -- all of whose careers Robinson has followed over the years, almost as avidly as she's collected their artwork -- is an eclectic sampling of Minnesota's contemporary art scene: Aesthetic Apparatus, Greg Dickerson, Luis Fitch, Frank Gaard, Matthew Madson, Ernest Miller, Ben Olson, Terrence Payne, Erica Spitzer Rasmussen, Amy Rice, Al Wadzinski, Anne Wood and Dean Lucker. (See the artwork included in the show on Flickr.)

"Buy/Collect: Arts Patronage in Minnesota" will open in Bookman Stacks in Minneapolis with a free, public reception from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 11; work will be on view through April 25.

 In addition to the exhibition, "Buy/Collect" will host a number of public panel discussions with local arts administrators, museum curators, historians, and artists:

• "The Relevance of Arts Patronage" -- Panelists include: Emma Berg,; Amy Rice, artist; Frank Gaard, artist; Anne-Marie Wagener, Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Sheila Smith, MN Citizens for the Arts (April 18, 2 p.m.)

• "The Growth and the Decline of the Contemporary Art Market in Minnesota" -- Panelists include: Greg Dickerson, artist; Sheila Smith, MN Citizens for the Arts; Martin Weinstein, Weinstein Gallery (April 19, 2 pm)

• "Designers & Galleries: The Interdependence of Art & Design" -- Panelists include: Susan Wittine, Design Within Reach; John Alspach, artist/curator; Dan Ibarra, Aesthetic Apparatus Artists and Design Group (April 25, 2 pm)

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