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Director, Weisman Art Museum
This is a coral necklace and some coral earrings. I got them in St. Petersburg, in Russia. This was after the breakup of the Soviet Union, so things had changed a lot in terms of what was available to buy. I made my first trip in 1976, so I know what there is in that part of the world: the hand-knit, ethnic-looking Russian stockings and mittens and fur hats. I’d been through all of those things. They had just opened some big department stores in St. Petersburg, and on my last day I decided I was going to buy this. They put them in, like, a plastic grocery bag. They hadn’t gotten to the packaging part of retail yet. I was walking back to the hotel, and I felt something bumping me in the back. I turned around and there was this guy in a leather jacket. I hit him with my purse, went down through an underpass, and could feel something still going on behind me. I looked and there were two guys now in leather jackets. I started to run. It was a very crowded street. But these guys were so brazen—they chased me for two blocks, until I ran into the hotel. Then I realized what they were after: I had my video camera in the pocket of my coat and I had the strap around my wrist. Well, they had cut the strap. High noon on the busiest street in St. Petersburg and nobody had said or done anything! It really made me sad to think, this is the new Russia.
Vice president of the Moscoe Group
I’ve been selling products to Target for 21 years, primarily home décor. Much of it is made in Asia, of course, and my first trip to China 21 years ago was for a meeting with Target. At that time, Target didn’t go into mainland China. So I’d land in Hong Kong, go over to the mainland to get products, and carry them back to a hotel in Hong Kong to meet with Target. A couple of years later, we started going to the mainland on factory tours. That was a big deal. They’d put a huge banner across the entrance: “Welcome, Target!” One time we were greeted by a full marching band. Another time, I accidentally left the free-trade zone and got stuck at a ferry station without a visa for mainland China. I had to sign a statement without knowing what it said and pay the customs manager a lot of money. Anyway, I got pretty good at adding vacations to these trips, and a couple of years ago I met up with my son, who had been traveling around the world, in Bhutan. This is the country where the most important measure is the Gross Happiness Product. Tourism is limited by design: there were really only two nice hotels. Bhutan Airlines only had two planes. There are 13 crafts indigenous to their culture and one of them is making singing bowls: rounded brass bowls with intricate graphics used in meditation and cultural events. Rub the top and eventually you’ll hear a rich tone. Each one has a unique sound. I bought one for myself and another for my son. That’s what I love about travel: the actual travel is grueling, but learning other ways of life is fascinating. We don’t have all the answers here.
Board member of the Minnesota Opera and Guthrie Theater
This year, I’ll visit my 80th country. My husband, Ogden, and I have a special affinity for Southeast Asia. We started collecting antiques from there. We have a carved lintel that was over a doorway in the Forbidden City. We have Buddhas from Myanmar, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. When we first bought our Minneapolis condo 13 years ago, we had a lot of French antiques. But Asian artwork is so peaceful—it really has a calming, peaceful synergy to it—and when you’re living in the heart of a city, that’s a wonderful thing. This Buddha statue was purchased in Cambodia in 2008. It’s about six-and-a-half-feet tall, made from a piece of rosewood that’s a couple hundred years old, and sits in our family room, facing Orchestra Hall. The artist was swept up in the Pol Pot genocide of the 1970s, in which 90 percent of the artisans in Cambodia were murdered. Our artist survived by working his way up the northern border to Laos, where a couple of pig farmers took him in. He’s a direct descendent of the carvers who worked on Angkor Wat and some of the same sculptural representations you’ll see at Angkor Wat, are found on this Buddha. He returned to Cambodia after Pol Pot left power, married, and has three children, to whom he’s teaching his trade. They all did some work on this piece. The pose is called “bringing down the rain.” It means renewal, rebirth—life coming back after the dead season.