How the Bill Murray Choice Award Began!

We were working at the new gallery space and anticipating giving a tour to our board member, Mike Veeck. We saw so much already done and so much left to do. Mike was leaving town that day so we hope he’d still have time to stop by but it was getting late. We were getting ready to leave and thought we saw Mike through the glass door. Bill Murray walks in with Mike trailing behind him smiling and laughing, “Hm, I got you!” Mike made introductions and said it’d be really cool if we could give Bill Murray, Mike, his wife, Libby, and one of the construction guys a tour. On the outside, I walked everyone through the space, showing the gallery space, classroom, and gift shop. On the inside, I was hearing Bill give suggestions about lighting and hoped I actually said things out loud and not only in my mind. I was excited to meet him and was surprisingly not star-struck. It meant so much to me to have him feel welcomed and be impressed that I felt the pressure of anxiousness creeping in. The bathrooms were a big deal. The city thought we needed two bathrooms – both accessible. So, I flung the door open and exclaimed, “Check this out! It’s accessible!” Hoping he didn’t think I meant that HE needed a bathroom just then. We all continued to chat and wander through the space. “What do you need?” Bill said all of sudden. Now, let’s remain in this moment … we HAD a wish list, we HAD needs – for sure! But, instead, “Bill, we could really use a ladder,” came out of my mouth. To be fair, there was a new artist installation which was going to be up that needed a really big ladder but still!?! Days later after telling this story more than a few times, a good friend suggested I send Bill Murray a note to thank him for coming by, letting him know that we did, indeed, get a ladder BUT would he be willing to judge the art from our annual Co-Lab project and select an artist pair recipient for a Bill Murray Choice Award for the public exhibit each year? “Yes!” said Bill Murray. So, we didn’t get a ladder; we got more of what we are – a lasting and strong community.”

Excerpts are taken from “The Show Five Year Book” Written by Tina Van Erp

We Made It!

Lowertown: InsideOut When’s the first time we knew we’d “made it”? When the faces of artists, typically left out of the mainstream art scene, were more than life-size plastered on the walls in Lowertown as part of the artist group chosen for Lowertown’s InsideOut project. In the summer of 2015, we walked down the street and around the corners in Lowertown under the watchful, warm, and inviting gaze of Lowertown’s artists, we knew. We’d never realized it before then – that Lowertown is the entity created by the people who live, create, and are in the community inside the multiple city blocks. While Lowertown actually is a fundamental “Lower Town” within the capital city of Saint Paul, Minnesota, its history suggests that the streets and avenues built at a lower elevation and closer to the Mississippi River are only the container/vehicle where Lowertown resides. The inside, the belly, the underbelly, and behind the walls of the literary, industrial, and geology influenced the architecture of the pocket of land cozily sandwiched between skyscrapers, the railway, and multi-layered highways doesn’t only represent Lowertown – it’s actually the other way around. Lowertown is a name, like a family crest, which unifies and encompasses the life and loves of the artists, business owners, and residents who both hold worlds inside their minds and toil to make their visions into art pieces that ultimately become a gift that lives beyond. But, as with all richness, there’s an edge which is difficult to see – the edge which forms slowly over time – created only by the space of the amount of energy it takes to define and defend an artist’s identity as both private and personal and yet public – intriguing and mysterious. It takes more steps for an artist to help you understand, to invite you in, to risk and be vulnerable in case you rush to the definition of who they are, what they do, how they live and sustain – to build the road of relationship and community. With the extra energy, focus, and commitment that remaining in the community takes, the space which would include the others remains unconsciously empty. By seeing so many familiar faces, we realized that The Show Nonprofit – Lowertown artists have a lot of experience in going the extra mile to connect, to be understood, to be in community with others who appreciated them and the art they create. They were not herebecause of their differences but because of their obvious affinity as artists. As we walked through Lowertown, we saw individuals and artists who, with their soulful and personal artist eyes and smiles gazing out over us, welcomed visitors to Lowertown as they walk the streets that day.

An excerpt from “The Five Year Book” Written by Tina Van Erp https://www.insideoutproject.net/es/explore/group-action/inside-out-lowertown

Jess

The classroom was transformed into a dressing room for the models that day in 2018, complete with a make-up artist, changing rooms, racks with the fashion hanging on them. Food for the models, the fashion show director, and events volunteers. We had met Jess, one of the models, at an evening event with her grandmother. Seeing all of it made us wonder…What transforms clothes into “the fashion that is hanging on the racks”? What transforms a person into a model? What transforms a sentence into a reality? These are questions that the day of the fashion show offered answers to. First, we saw the difference sunshine makes in a room. You know how you know when joy is in the room? That’s what Jess embodied the day she walked without her crutches in the fashion show. Long ago she declared that she would design fashion for people with disabilities and then left her crutches behind to walk on the catwalk in a fashion show at The Show Gallery Lowertown. As she was prepped and got ready to walk, she quickly learned and integrated what was needed for this particular fashion show. She so completely changed the chemistry of the dressing room that the fashion director even responded to the excitement and acceptance by declaring that it was precisely because models with disabilities were included. As she walked again and again without her crutches, she taught everyone in the big room to challenge their own fears, to feel the power of each step she took while smiling, waving, and confidently showing off the clothes she modeled and wonder what beauty lies in each of us. At the end of the catwalk, she posed for a picture for Tom, our photographer, each time. And in those photos, Jess captured the dream she knew years ago. She brought her vision, her everyday truth, and her spirit of adventure and courage and shared it with all of us. During our first fashion show, Jess became not only a fashion model but a model for everyone who experienced/encountered her that day. It’s the person in the clothes that make the fashion; it’s their stories that shine through that makes a model and it’s people like Jess, not ever fashion; it’s their stories that shine through that makes a model and it’s people like Jess not ever giving up who change what once was considered impossible.

Excerpt from “The Five Year Book” Written by Tina Van Erp