Skip Navigation

Learn more about “Beneath the Ground” Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Coming to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) on June 12th is the “Beneath the Ground”exhibit.  MIA docents, or tour-guides and local soil scientists, Al Giencke and Anne Sawyer, will be leading a tour of artist-in residence Monica Haller’s “Beneath the Ground” installation. 

This display will showcase a series of framed soil samples, or “monoliths,” installed museum-wide.  Through this display, visitors will learn about the global importance of soil as a natural resource through historical depictions of the landscape.

Learn more about “Beneath the Ground” Minneapolis Institute of ArtsHaller uses scientific data and soil samples to find new ways to understand artworks in the MIA’s collection.  She is interested in how knowledge of soil might affect visitor’s thinking about the ground on which the museum sits, as well as understand historical depictions of the landscape and objects.  Haller grew up on a farm near Albertville, Minnesota and had an interest in soils, especially when her family sold the farm and moved to the Twin City area.  This exhibit allowed Haller to research and more fully understand the soil resource.  She then paired museum art pieces and the soil landscape for display.

Al Giencke, Retired Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and NRCS Earth Team Volunteer has been working closely with Haller on obtaining monoliths and writing text for the displays.  NRCS Soil Scientists, Roger Risley and Mike Walczynski, Duluth, Minnesota also worked with Haller in obtaining soil monoliths from unique soils in that area. Melissa Collins-Rutter, a recent graduate of the University of MN in soil science, has worked with Haller throughout the MIA residency. An interesting aspect of this soils assignment was the MIA drone used to film the soil scientists gathering soil in the field for building the monolith from above. According to Al Giencke, “this was a unique aspect of the project, interesting and a little intimidating as the drone flew overhead”.

“Working with the Soil Scientists gave Haller a better insight as how NRCS is involved on a daily basis with soils,” said Giencke. “The connection of linking soils to fine art may be a first in the country.”

Haller’s monoliths range from an area of a filled wetland in a metro park to an area flooded in the Mississippi delta in New Orleans.  One of the monoliths being featured from Minnesota include the Minnesota State Soil, “Lester.”  And, the oldest soil monolith being showcased at the display is made from a kaolin clay from the Minnesota River Valley, that dates back to the Cretaceous period 66-145 million years ago .

The “Beneath the Ground” is organized by MIA and will be on display in Minneapolis from June 12 – October 26, 2014.