Now in its twenty-first year, the annual program honors a Minnesota artist who has made significant contributions to the state's cultural life with a $50,000 cash prize. Born and raised in Duluth, Huie combined his bachelor's in reportorial journalism from the University of Minnesota and self-taught photography skills to become a freelance journalist and commercial photographer. In the 1990s, he began exploring the increasingly multicultural landscape of St. Paul's Frogtown, installing a public exhibit in an empty corner lot, a six-mile outdoor gallery of hundreds of photographs displayed in storefronts and on the side of buildings on Lake Street (2000), and The University Avenue Project (2010), another six-mile outdoor gallery featuring monumental images and nightly slide-show projections. His more recent work has included "chalk talk" portraits in which his subjects compose a personal statement that often exposes the divide between individual reality and public perception.
In 2011, Huie opened The Third Place, a storefront gallery in a long-vacant building in Minneapolis that he describes as "an urban living room for guest artists, social conversation, karaoke, and ping pong." Using photography as a tool for widening perspectives on how we "otherize" one another, he also makes presentations to schools, colleges, and community groups.
Describing his art, Hule said: "How much of what we project onto the reality in front of us is shaped by images from pop culture rather than direct personal experience? When I tell students that I photograph strangers, most of them — and some teachers — think it's creepy. Then I ask, 'How many feel you are a stranger to most of the students in your school?' Most shoot their hands up. If we as a society redefined what a stranger was, we would have more of a society."
"With his powerful photography and compelling public art projects, Wing Young Huie has been documenting Minnesota's changing cultural landscape for more than thirty years in images that ask us to focus on people and places that are often overlooked," said McKnight Foundation president Kate Wolford. "Whether he's talking to a class of college students or turning entire city blocks into a public gallery space, Wing has a rare gift for challenging assumptions and inviting conversation through his unique artistic vision. We couldn't be more delighted by the selection committee's decision to honor a photographer who really has transformed our image of what being Minnesotan means."
(Photo credit: McKnight Foundation)