November 2012

Symphony Art Project

Are you ever inspired by music? Are you a college student for whom a study session would be incomplete without “ear buds” habitually positioned in said ears and the latest up-and-coming sounds from emerging bands playing from your rotating playlist? (What are the kids listening to these days?) Are you an artist who prepares to paint/sculpt/etc. not only by setting out your materials and tools, but by also pressing play on your chosen audio transmitting device to start a carefully curated soundtrack to which you whistle to while you work? Musical inspiration and artistic creation was in the mind of Antal Dorati, director of the Minneapolis Symphony (known today as the Minnesota Orchestra) when he approached the Young People’s Symphony Concert Association (YPSCA) in 1949 with a proposed program titled, Symphony Art Project.

SymphonyArt-Poster.jpgAn official invitation to participate in the 1955-1956 season of the Symphony Art Project by the YPSCA dated November 21, 1955, indicates that “For the benefit of those who may be participating for the first time…” a description of Dorati’s impetus for creating the program is expressed: “to encourage a deeper sympathy and understanding for music in young people.” Dorati “suggested that one way to arouse [student] interest would be through their expression in art media of the ideas and emotions gained in listening first to ‘live music,’ whenever possible, and secondly to recordings and broadcasts.” (Original symphony recordings were provided to schools that could not send students to view a symphony concert in Northrop Auditorium.)

SymphonyInvitation1.jpg The invitation (at left) also provides additional background about the program, and includes rules and instructions for participation, noting that, “Pupils from kindergarten through high school may participate,” and that “This is not a contest.” The Young People’s Symphony Concert Association sponsored the annual program, and schools from across the metro area participated. Each school displayed the art created by their students within their own buildings, and teachers later selected a representative example of works produced by their students to be included in a spring exhibition at the University Gallery.

Clippings found in the University Gallery press books show the students in the midst of creating their music-inspired works:

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Another clipping provides an example of student work. The Minneapolis Symphony program from March 23, 1956, shows a painting inspired by Fritz Kreisler’s musical arrangement, “The Dancing Doll.” The artist, student Marlene Gossel, described her inspiration, “I thought about pretty toe dancers twirling about.”


Though the Minnesota Orchestra is currently quiet, the organization still performs Young People’s Concerts and holds other education and outreach programs and activities to spread the appreciation of symphony music to all ages.

*(All of this symphony-izing has subsequently inspired me to search for and listen to arrangements I remember playing in combined orchestra in high school… Yahoo!)


Put on your party hat…

This upcoming weekend marks the 19th anniversary of a big and important weekend in the history of WAM: the dedication and opening of the Frank Gehry designed Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum building. The building was dedicated on Thursday, November 18, 1993 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Open Houses were held on the 19th and 21st for the University community and general public, respectively. A grand opening gala – with namesake Frederick R. Weisman and architect Frank Gehry in attendance – was held on Saturday evening, November 20th.

The September/October 1993 issue of Minnesota Magazine, a publication of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, previewed the then new building in a feature article titled, “Both Sides Now.” Author Pamela Lavigne began her article: “Where once stood a sleepy little hill topped by a small parking lot on the Twin Cities campus, now there’s this… structure that causes the average viewer to exclaim, What the heck is that?!

For just shy of 20 years, many visitors to the University of Minnesota have uttered the same question, and it is likely that no two visitors have shared the same reaction. Whether you are an art or architecture enthusiast, University student on assignment, or a community member on a casual weekend walk in search for a bathroom and/or drinking fountain, the building – and the contents within – provide many things to many people, which in itself deserves celebration. Throughout the years, WAM has always found an occasion to celebrate, and the archives contain the evidence of the museum’s many commemorations…

Partyhat3.jpgAn invitation to The Weisman Art Museum’s 5th birthday party! on Saturday, November 21, 1998 was designed to be multi-functional, and served not only as an announcement, but also as an accessory. The invitation, when opened, revealed the details of the celebratory event: cocktails and appetizers, the opportunity to see the exhibitions The Great American Pop Art Store: Multiples of the Sixties and A Bountiful Beginning: The First Five Years of Gifts to the Weisman Art Museum, music, dinner in the Washington Ave. Bridge, and champagne, dessert, and dancing. It also informed attendees to “Wear your best silver.”


On the inset, instructions were provided that revealed the second function of the invitation:

Directions for wearing party hat:

  1. Unfold invitation into circular shape (side without words faces out)
  2. Adjust tabs to fit (cross tabs so that ends face inward)
  3. Wear party hat to party November 21!


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This year, WAM celebrated a little earlier than it’s official birthday date, when it held the first annual fundraiser gala at the end of October: The Big WAM Bash. In case you missed the Bash, the months of November and December are still full of party hat worthy events and programs: Weekends with the Weisguides, WAM Chatter, Be Dazzled. Now that the first snow of the season has fallen, put on your coat and hat (stocking or party), join the celebrations, and discover what the heck is going on at WAM.