The Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis is one of North America’s oldest and most visited cultural institutions. With museum pavilions designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, Herzog & de Meuron anchoring sprawling sculpture gardens that connect to the city’s largest park and lake infrastructure, the esteemed institution is proud to present, collect and support the development of innovative work in the visual and performance arts, as well as in film and design. And it often does so in new and surprising ways.
On this basis, the multi-faceted museum set out to launch the Idea House 3 collectible design platform; The concept of contextualized “home” retail that doubles as a new type of organizational framework.
Idea House 3 at the Walker Arts Center
This new project places a wide range of limited edition furnishings, lamps, textiles and accessories in thematic displays. The 1,500-square-foot storefront in the center of campus is divided into different local vignettes: kitchen, bedroom, living room, and office. Unique pieces from some of the industry’s top designers and up-and-comers have been carefully selected by Asli Altay, Head of Design, Content and Communications, and Phyllis Clarke, Business Development Director, to create this offering.
The work of crystal glassware expert Deborah Ehrlich joins the likes of polymath Studio Proba and distinguished architects such as Frank Gehry. The overall goal of this project is to promote practices that embody the experimental spirit; Those who use and reinterpret tried and true craft traditions to push the discipline in new directions.
“Idea House 3 offers a new vision of the design experience, by combining retail, museum-quality presentation and knowledge building in public programmes,” says Altay. ‘Space offers an opportunity to connect with the power of design to create atmosphere, evoke sensations and emotions, and shape our lives. With Idea House 3, we offer the opportunity to experience the museum store as a showcase of the latest design innovations that you can bring home with you.’
It’s all about making a decisive leap from what were once the design department’s strict, seemingly out-of-reach offerings to something more dynamic and relevant. Why wouldn’t we be able to purchase items that were also placed behind the showcase? After all, design objects are meant to be used. This approach has also opened the door to a new type of organization. Part of Altay and Clark’s endeavor is to invite outside culture-makers to activate what they call the “guest room” through temporary, thematic presentations.
Midwest design here and now at the Walker Art Center
Marking the opening of the Walker Art Center’s Idea House 3 store this month is the “Midwest Design Here & Now Guest Room” exhibition curated by acclaimed curator and writer Vava Carpenter – co-founder of Berlin-based incubator Anava Project and former curatorial director of Design Miami .
By incorporating the work of talent coming from Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, the Twin Cities and elsewhere in the region, the show seeks to dispel the misnomer that cutting-edge concepts can only come from major East and West Coast cities. Models include such shining talents as Ebitenyefa Baralaye, Alex Drew & No One, Evan Fay, Steven Haulenbeek, Chris Schanck, and of course Norman Teague.
“Emphasizing the rich diversity of vision and style of the American Midwest, the exhibition highlights studios creating narrative objects using innovative production techniques, locally sourced materials, and imaginative design methods,” says Carpenter. “The works in the exhibition extend beyond purely functional aims, each in their own way, and tell compelling stories of identity, community and place inspired by the unique experiences and perspectives of their makers.”
It seems fitting that the Walker Arts Center would begin this new venture by staying close to home. The museum also plans to utilize this newly programmed space for a number of community-oriented workshops and talks – such as the Design Insights lecture series, ensuring that the themes explored resonate with a wider audience.
Walker Arts Center
725 Vineland Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403