Hvistendahl cited for permit violation

David Hvistendahl has been cited by the City of Northfield for installation of art work without a permit. Earlier this month, artist Barb Matz had her mannequin morph, Froggy Bottoms’ Bottoms, installed on the second river deck of Froggy Bottoms. (See blog post.)

David HvistendahlYesterday, Hvistendahl received a notice from the City to cover up the artwork until a permit was applied for and approved. He complied but wasn’t happy about it.

It’s another example of Northfield’s propensity to over-regulate. Business-unfriendly is nothing new, but art-unfriendly?

The city’s inspector general, Brook Johnson, said Hvistendahl’s been around long enough to know the rules.

He can mount mannequins in the privacy of his own home but public mounting is another matter. Without permits, this public art thing could get out of hand in a hurry in this town. Before you know it, the Robert Mapplethorpes of the world would be flocking here. Those prayer ladies would really have their hands full then.

The Northfield Arts and Culture Commission, embroiled in a controversy over Sturgis-related trip expenses, could not be reached for comment.


  1. Tracy Davis said:

    Hmmm…. is this public art if it’s on private property? Can people in the upstairs apartments put art on their balconies? What about those flags, banners, flowerpots? My god, somebody’s got to put a stop to this.

    September 15, 2007
  2. Wouldn’t it have been simpler, and less work, to simply issue the permit spontaneously? If regulations prevent this, obviously, they could be changed. The simplest option would be to make permits mandatory and the application process implicit. Once we’ve done that, we can spend a month or two cheerfully griping about the waste of paperwork before eliminating the requirement for permits entirely.

    Anyway, isn’t art, of its nature, communicative, thus “speech” in the broad sense, thus covered by First Amendment rights? Where’s the city’s compelling reason to impose time, place, or manner restrictions on these? It’s not as though it’s an installation piece entitled “flaming oil slick” or “automatic machine gun emplacement”. The only people in physical danger from this piece are those who habitually throw themselves over the balcony without looking, who might be seriously bruised by running into the artwork.

    September 15, 2007
  3. We used to have a place on Lake Michigan. When we bought it, we inherited a large worn out metal garbage can and lid. We tried to
    have it picked up as refuse, but they just slapped a big orange sticker on it, “CONDEMMED”.

    So, we asked our pal who had lived around there quite a while, “How do we get rid of this thing?” (this was before recyling centers) and my pal replied, “Take it over to Wally’s Used Cars and Trucks, he’ll take anything!”

    This licensing thing is just too silly for words.

    September 15, 2007
  4. I can never tell which things are real and which aren’t. I live a block from Saint Paul’s recent famous triple murder; the local city government has busied itself with making sure we all know how important it is to keep lawns mowed.

    There’s an adage, Poe’s Law, which states that no parody of religious extremism can be so ridiculous that a neutral onlooker can be QUITE certain that it’s a parody. I think the same applies to government. After the things I’ve seen city councils do with their time, this didn’t even seem unusual.

    September 15, 2007
  5. It is true. The city has filed criminal charges against me. (My dear sister Susan was only trying to protect my tarnished image.) I have been charged with “displaying lewd and lascivious art, to wit, numerous unclothed crotches and buttocks of dubious gender,” a gross misdemeanor. My attorney, Britt Ackerman, is working on a plea agreement that may involve Barb Matz painting granny panties and boxers on the bottoms, in exchange for a reduction to a panty misdemeanor. I would prefer bikini style or T straps, but the Powers That Be say that the Bible frowns upon under garments that are likely to expose the Tramp Stamp on the lower back or a camel toe on the front.

    Yes, I feel that my First Amendment rights have been violated, but I am well aware the City will pursue the matter to all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, unless I cave in. Decency wins, Art (White) loses.

    September 16, 2007
  6. This is a very intriguing way to create publicity and buzz about an art show. Kudos to you all. We’ll have to try something like this at the ol’ Arts Guild!

    September 17, 2007
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    It bothers me that no one seems concerned about the ‘Sturgis affair.’

    September 18, 2007
  8. Griff:

    What happens in Sturgis, stays in Sturgis. Just ask Jeff Johnson, Pat May, and my Norwegian cousin, Dave Vesledahl. They won’t tell you a thing.

    September 20, 2007
  9. Barb Matz said:

    Oh my god.

    September 20, 2007
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    David, someone has posted a video of the Northfield Arts and Cultural Commission’s recent trip to Sturgis on YouTube. I snapped a screenshot of the video. Click to enlarge. So what happens in Sturgis does not always stay in Sturgis.


    I’d link to the video but I’m afraid that they’d hire some bottoms-feeder attorney and sue me. The video can easily be found via a YouTube search, however.

    September 20, 2007

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