My wife and I moved to Minneapolis from the East Coast in 2008. Life’s great out here, but little things keep popping to underscore the differences between my native New England and the Midwest. Social and professional codes, the sense of history and place. As a result, I have this lurking sense of groundlessness. My childhood was set against a backdrop of white church steeples, village greens where they used to hang witches, salt marshes and seaports. I can’t find those things in MN. But amazingly, a bit of my childhood is at the Minneapolis Institute of Art where I work: the Connecticut Room. The room is just a wall from an old colonial house, the fireplace wall that the 18th century owners, who evidently had some flair, painted a striking bluish-green. As it turns out, the owners were also my neighbors, sort of. Until age four I lived in an old house on North Street, in North Branford, CT. The street dead-ended at Lake Gaillard, a reservoir made in 1929 by flooding farmland from which they moved a bunch of houses. One of those was mine. Another had a pretty green fireplace wall. That wall was shipped to the still-new Minneapolis Institute of Art, becoming “The Connecticut Room.” The Connecticut Room gives me that hit of Olde New England I sometimes need. It’s a little slice of North Branford terra firma. But it’s also a fellow traveler that, like me, began its life somewhere around North Street and, entirely unexpectedly, started a new chapter in Minneapolis, MN.
– Alex Bortolot