Chaos incarnate on a flat screen: Mia’s fifth “Foot in the Door”


Foot in the Door 4 (2010). Photo courtesy of Mia.

Christian Wibe, Staff Writer

On Nov. 1, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) will be opening what may be considered an unusual exhibition, held every 10 years. Anyone living in Minnesota has the chance to submit a work of art to the exhibit, titled “Foot in the Door 5,” by September 28.

Submission of artwork is free and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, rather than by the typical selective curation process. Thus, the first 5000 submissions will be automatically included. Though this year’s rendition of “Foot in the Door” is virtual, Mia is keeping with tradition: for submitted work to be accepted, it must be no larger than one cubic foot.

Though “Foot in the Door” has been a decennial tradition since 1980, the unexpected, fully-online modality of this year’s event contrasts with each of its four predecessors. A crowded art gallery is conspicuously unsafe these days, Nicole Soukoup, assistant curator at Mia, acknowledges. As coordinator of the Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program (MAEP), Soukoup is planning an alternative but similar experience for viewers.

“It will retain some of that chaotic introduction to the works, in terms of scrolling through…hodgepodge,” Soukoup said.

Her goal is “[to] take the curator out of it as much as possible.” However, the webpage will hopefully support viewers searching through the thousands of images.

Sokoup remarked that the limitless space of a digital platform does not mean that an infinite amount of works can be shown, hence the new limit of 5000 works. Beyond having a deadline for submitting works, a cap on entries gives staff a manageable workload. This serves not only a local viewership, but anyone across the country who can access the webpage.

“We were hoping to still have the exhibition in person… but by doing it digitally, it gives us an opportunity to make it accessible to people who might not have been able to make it for the limited run of the exhibition in person,” Soukoup said.

The aim of inclusion is second nature to the MEAP, whose decision to let anyone place their work in “Foot in the Door” was conceived to combat the exclusivity of elite art culture and its emphasis on the canonized artists of Western history.

The number of artists who quite literally got their “Foot in the Door” in the art world via this exhibition are extensive, including renowned photographer Alec Soth. Macalester has its own historical ties with “Foot in the Door” as well, including the personal works of Megan Vossler and Ruthann Godoleii, now both professors in the college’s art department.

On a broader scale, multiple alumni of The Mac Weekly’s Arts section have commented on the diverse array of visual artworks in past editions of “Foot in the Door”.

On page 12 of The Mac Weekly’s Feb. 11, 2000 issue, Elsa Lenz ’00 wrote that  “with 1744 works included in the show, the pieces flood the walls, making the works into a sort of wallpaper.” 

Ginny Moran ’90, who currently works as a research librarian in the Dewitt Wallace Library, reflected that the 1990 event was “an exhibition that is also an artwork; a sort of patch-work quilt of expression,” in the March 9, 1990 issue.

Anyone may submit to “Foot in the Door 5” via Mia’s website. Keep in mind that the image of the work must be sent as a PNG or JPG file no larger than 1000 by 1000 pixels, must have a 1:1 aspect ratio and be 10 megabytes at maximum. Only one work may be submitted by any one person and they must be residing in Minnesota at the time of submission

Soukoup emphasized what the flexibility of requirements means for the variety of art attracted by the exhibition.

“It’s one of those opportunities that you rarely see in a museum, where it celebrates creativity in all shapes and sizes,” she said. “We get everyone as young as toddlers to really established artists.”

She also recommended that Macalester’s art, art history and history students take advantage of the recently-opened study rooms in Mia and ask faculty about the institution and the associated MEAP. The museum has operated at 25 percent capacity since reopening in July.

Whether or not a student plans to submit an artwork, the “Foot in the Door 5” virtual exhibition will be viewable from its start on Nov. 1 until Jan. 10, 2021. Keeping with Mia’s admission policy, it will be free for anyone to view. Soukoup suggests those hours scrolling through 5,000 images might well be worth the time.

“A former colleague told me that ‘Foot in the Door’ is chaos incarnate [in] what it physically really is…” she said. “[This time] it will be a much more intimate experience, one shared virtually with family and friends.”

If you choose to submit to “Foot in the Door 5”, email The Mac Weekly your work’s title once the exhibition goes live! We will follow-up with an arts story about your work!

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