The Reedy Gallery and the Cafe Gallery at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum have higher ambitions than simply exhibiting still life paintings of flowers.

Thanks to Wendy DePaolis, Arboretum curator of art and sculpture, visitors to both galleries experience a broad interpretation of the Arb’s mission to bring nature and people together.

An upcoming exhibit, “Conectado por la Naturaleza: Twin Cities Inspired Latinx Art," features the work of Twin Cities-based photographer Xavier Tavera; Jessica Bortoni, an abstract and representational painter; and Luis Fitch, whose screen prints are inspired by the plant world.

Other art exhibits at the Reedy Gallery have showcased artwork from Somali, Japanese and Chinese artists. Last summer's grand opening of Farm at the Arb, prompted DePaolis to coordinate an exhibit by artists inspired by agriculture. 

DePaolis came to the Arboretum in April 2015 when the Harrison Sculpture Garden was donated. The Harrison family provided an endowment for an art curator and a gardener as part of the donation. Previously, DePaolis was worked at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in marketing, advancement and exhibiting collections, and also spent 15 years there as a MIA docent. She has an education degree from the University of Michigan and a master's in art history from the University of St. Thomas. She also worked with the University of St. Thomas art collection.

1 Could you describe the upcoming show "Conectado por la Naturaleza?"

A: It's the first Latin artists show in the Reedy Gallery. The Latin community is growing (in the Twin Cities) and changing and it's wonderful to see how much exposure we've always had to their arts and dance and food and restaurants, but not so much in the southwest suburbs. So this will be exposure to a new audience.

2 What makes Tavera of such interest in the Twin Cities right now?

A: He's been in the Twin Cities since the 1980s and is the forefather of the Twin Cities Latin art scene. He's from Mexico City and an immigrant and understands the diaspora that immigrants face. He focuses his camera on and shares the lives of those who are marginalized. He provides insight into diversity, and gives voice to vulnerable people. 

3 And yet, for this show, he produced portraits, not of people, but of trees.

A: As he researched the Arboretum, he learned there are trees here that are native to both Minnesota and Mexico, Central America and South America. We were surprised, too. Trees don't recognize borders. The more we thought about it, we decided they have a lot to teach people about tolerance and adversity. After learning about those trees in our collection, he worked with our Operations Director Alan Branhagen to identify them. In the last two months, he's had special access to the Arboretum at night, using special lighting and shooting portraits of these trees.

— Unsie Zuege



Unsie Zuege is an award-winning multimedia journalist, who enjoys community journalism, bibimbop, Netflix, Trivia Mafia and snuggling tiny dogs, not necessarily in that order.