Iconic David Fong’s restaurant featured in “Bloomington Mapworks III” art exhibit

By Greg Hugh

In addition to the many awards that David Fong's Restaurant has earned over its 55 years in Bloomington (9329 Lyndale Ave S.), the Minnesota landmark can now add another to its résumé. The restaurant is one of many landmarks featured in the “Bloomington Mapworks III” art exhibit on display through Oct. 4 at the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center.

“Bloomington Mapworks III” is the third in a series of related exhibits curated by artist Erik Sletten.

Each exhibit features six Twin Cities artists’ interpretations of eight Bloomington landmarks selected from a list of 18 locations in an August 2011 survey of Bloomington residents. This year’s exhibit includes Nine Mile Creek, the Old Town Hall, Normandale Community College’s Japanese Garden, the Bush Lake Ski Jump, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Bloomington Civic Plaza, Mall of America and David Fong’s Restaurant.

David Fong’s Restaurant is the only family-owned establishment/quasi-public institution among the eight landmarks in this art exhibit. The placard describing the six paintings in the restaurant’s grouping says, “Other restaurants may be larger … or glitzier. A few may even be older. But none is as distinctive as David Fong’s. And certainly none has its colorful combination of history and décor.”

Upon meeting the legendary David Fong, patriarch of the Fong clan, artist and curator of the exhibit Sletten knew immediately that the exhibit has accomplished its goal of bringing innate objects to life as confirmed by remarks made by Fong during their meeting.

Similar sentiments were expressed at the Preview Party held to celebrate the opening of the exhibit. Nearly 200 people from all walks of life gathered to view the artists’ varying interpretations of the places where many of us live, work and play. Multiple generations of the Fong family also were in attendance, sharing their stories with the artists. The Fongs purchased three paintings of their restaurant, with the youngest and oldest family members casting the deciding votes. There is a good chance the paintings will be on display at the restaurant soon. Please check http://www.davidfongs.com for more information.

These were exactly the types of connections between art and everyday life that Sletten, Visual Arts Director Rachel Flentje and Executive Director Andrea Specht hoped would happen. In her remarks, Specht described how community engagement in “Bloomington Mapworks III” took many forms. She said, “Through this exhibit, we’re demonstrating that the arts encourage all of us to view people, places, and things in a fresh light. Building a more vibrant, connected and humane community is ultimately one of the highest purposes that art can serve – and I’m very proud to lead an organization that’s providing nearly daily opportunities for community-building through the arts.”

This exhibit encourages the exhibiting artists and the broader community to explore the historical, cultural, and aesthetic significance of the featured landmarks. The exhibit includes 48 paintings created by the following artists: Craig Bell, D.C. Ice, Marjorie Moody, Erik Pearson, Erik Sletten and Holly Stone.

For more information on this exhibition, including artist bios, a video interview with curator Erik Sletten and more, please visit the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center at http://www.btacmn.org/3visual/at_galleries/exhibits/mapworks.html.

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