May 4, 2011

The Gallery Goes to Washington

When not in the sub-basement of Andersen Library processing the WAM files, my whereabouts on campus are often confined to an area just to the south of the library, to encompass Heller Hall, Wilson Library, and the Hubert H. Humphrey Center.

The Humphrey Center is often host to many events and activities that include the attendance of political leaders, and my proximity to this building is the reason for my one and only brush with political “celebrity.” As I leaned back from taking a refreshing sip of water from a Humphrey drinking fountain, my eyes focused upon a tall gray-haired man, in a smartly tailored suit, that was walking towards me down the hallway: Former U.S. Vice President, Walter Mondale.

I thought of that moment recently when I came across the folder titled, “Minneapolis Sculpture” in the Archives. The folder contained a photocopy of an article from the Los Angeles Times, profiling Mondale’s wife, Joan Mondale, and her transformation of Number One Observatory Circle, the official residence of the Vice President, into a setting for the display of American art.

According to the article, through her MN art connections (she previously worked at the MIA), it was arranged for the loan of prominent American artworks from museums across the country to be “exhibited” at the residence throughout the time that Mondale served as Vice President. The accompanying photograph with the article contained a familiar object – a piece from the University Gallery’s collection, David Smith’s, “Star Cage.”

New_StarCage2.jpg

New_StarCage1.jpgBehind the article copy was found a loose-leaf sheet of paper containing handwritten instructions (with diagram) on how the sculpture was to be mounted to a stand for display. The constructed mount appears slightly more secure compared to how it was once displayed alongside its creator David Smith, as well as to how it was mounted while Smith was creating it.

In recalling “star” sightings and learning more about the Mondale’s and the history of the official residence of the Vice President, I can’t help but think that the sculpture, “Star Cage” was an apt fit for temporary display at Number One Observatory Circle.

The residence, once the home to the Chief of Naval Operations, is located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory – where astronomers were measuring the location of the stars in 1977, and continue to do so to this day.


Rebecca Wilsonย is a graduate student in the Master of Liberal Studies program at the University of Minnesota, completing a minor in Museum Studies. She also serves as a Visitor Services Assistant at the Weisman Art Museum.

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