Art the security guard stands at the entrance to the under-construction Cafesjian Art Trust museum in Shoreview – the future home of 3,000 contemporary works of art focusing on glass art.
Scraps of drywall cover the floor, and foamy pink fiberglass insulation drips from the ceiling. Art wears a baggy blue shirt and holds a piece of paper in his left hand, but he doesn’t respond to passers-by.
“He regularly confuses FedEx people,” said Andy Schlauch, executive director of the Cafesjian Art Trust (CAT) Museum.
“They don’t know why he’s not answering the door,” added CAT administrator Kathie Cafesjian Baradaran.
The art is not a person but a creation of hyper-realistic Milwaukee-based sculptor Marc Sijan and resembles a realistic security guard. It will also likely be the first encounter for visitors to the new 20,000 square foot museum which will open in mid-September at 4600 Churchill St. in Shoreview.
The space includes a permanent installation of “Pergola Ceiling”, a cacophony of light, color and form created by glass artist Dale Chihuly, which visitors will recognize from his bright yellow “Sunburst” suspended glass work in Mia. The museum will also have a library, reading room, research center, event space and mini outdoor sculpture garden.
CAT’s holdings all come from the personal collection of the late Gerard Cafesjian, a renowned art collector and former executive and shareholder of West Publishing Co. which made millions when the company was sold in 1996.
“The collection is mostly what Dad loved,” said his daughter Baradaran, the estate’s sole trustee.
The collection, with some 3,000 pieces, includes 46 works by Chihuly, 103 works by the painter/glass duo Stanislav Libenský and sculptor Jaroslava Brychtová and 20 works by the French cubist artist Georges Braque.
Rather than donating the collection to a single institution, building a wing on an existing museum, or loaning the works, Baradaran chose to open a new museum.
“One of our goals will be studio art glass education, contemporary art education, which still eludes a lot of people, even though it’s been around for a while,” Baradaran said. .
The CAT Museum will have approximately six employees, including Schlauch, who has worked with Chihuly since 2008. For the past eight years, he served as executive director of the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. The first two major exhibits at CAT will focus on Chihuly.
Baradaran was born in New York and moved to Minnesota in 1960 when her father transferred to West Publishing’s headquarters in St. Paul. She already runs the Cafesjian Arts Center in Yerevan, Armenia, which her father founded in 2009.
After retiring from West Publishing, Cafesjian devoted much of his time, energy, and wealth to helping Armenia. His parents were Armenian immigrants who left what was then Constantinople in 1912, three years before the Armenian Genocide. He grew up in Brooklyn, frequently visiting Coney Island and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Known locally for his $600,000 donation for the repair of the Cafesjian Carousel in Como Park, he also founded the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona and was the owner of the Armenian Reporter, the oldest Armenian- independent American. Cafesjian died in 2013 and the following year a major lawsuit was settled against his close associate John Waters who embezzled $4 million from him.
The museum will also collect the oral histories of artists, especially those in the studio glass movement, and hopes to make glass art more accessible to the public.
Having all of his favorite art in one place seems like what Cafesjian would have wanted the most.
“He grew up in New York during the Depression, and he as a kid could go to the Met for free — and he wanted to live there, in the Met, and so he was always drawn to that,” Baradaran said. . “He had broad tastes, but he liked modern art and he liked studio art glass and he liked color and also had a kind of humor. … He liked whimsical things.”