VISUAL ARTS | “Hedge Magic” creates an alchemy of past and present at the Soap Factory


To say that alchemy is now afoot at the Soap Factory during the Hedge Magic exhibition would be a bit misleading. Alchemy has actually been going on at the 130-year old industrial warehouse since its first day “at work” because the process of producing soap from raw materials including (hate to say it but) animal remains was, itself, a science. Per Ben Heywood, executive director of the Soap Factory and the primary curator of Hedge Magic, the show’s theme “follows through with the building’s history of transformation as the artists move raw materials to an illuminated state.”

Creating Hedge Magic followed the Soap Factory’s unique open-call submission process. There are no “thematic” curators at the Soap Factory (for instance, no curator of Middle Eastern or Modern Art). Projects are submitted by artists throughout the United States (sometimes the world) by the previous year’s deadline (2013 project submissions were due by April 30, 2012), then reviewed by a panel. Diversity is encouraged, and artists are given full support including stipend, installation support, and travel budgets as needed. Submission guidelines are available in multiple languages; a rigorous intern/mentor program may be available per project as well. This is extraordinary in the Minnesota arts community.

Heywood says that the Soap Factory’s exhibition schedule is created by the projects, not vice versa. No set themes are in mind during the submissions review. This allows the group to choose the “most effective projects for the unique exhibition space.” The Soap Factory “moves artists, not art” for exhibitions giving each artist time to respond to the specific, sometimes grueling (no climate control), oftentimes illuminated (amazing light; seasonal consideration) spaces throughout the large, old warehouse. 

Hedge Magic came together because seven artists submitted projects that had underlying commonalities and conceptual links. Participating artists Chris Lawrence, David Hamlow (Minnesota), Jess Hirsch (Minnesota), Amy Reckley, Meredith Foster, Peter Goché, and Keith Lemley have each created their pieces in The Soap Factory, taking advantage (or dealing with, as the case may be) each gallery’s unique physical attributes. The historically significant surroundings are an integral part of the whole.

A unique and passionate exhibition for this unusual gem of a gallery, Hedge Magic is an alchemy of past and present.