Carolyn Swiszcz was 25 and fresh out of MCAD when Mpls.St.Paul asked her to imagine what Loring Park would look like 25 space-age years later. And it turns out she was a good choice—the world she imagined is eerily similar to the 2022 we ended up in.
The acrylic-and-ink painting, which ran in our August 1997 issue, truly is a prophetic peek at Loring Park (and Minneapolis as a whole). A cartoonish semi marked “Lunds on-line grocery delivery” drives down the street. Park patrons read digital books, ride scooters, and walk hypoallergenic pets. And the nearby Loring Bar touts its place as the “last restaurant in the Twin Cities with an all-human waitstaff.” (OK, that one’s not quite true yet, but local restos like Sawatdee are experimenting with robotic servers.) And while we’re not exactly flying in transit blimps or playing “jet ball” yet, the painting is oracular enough that, upon rediscovering it, we knew we had to reconnect with Swiszcz to kick off 2022—the year of the painting, and the year she and this magazine turn 50.
In 1997, Swiszcz “had been out of MCAD a few years and was trying to find my way,” she says. She was sharing a studio in the Warehouse District and working as a server at Chez Bananas. Swiszcz still lives in the Twin Cities, painting and creating a zine called Zebra Cat Zebra. She has grown along with the Cities, and if she were to paint a future Loring Park today, it would be different.
“Thinking 25 years into the future at age 25 is one thing,” she says. “Thinking 25 years into the future at age 50 feels harder, especially with all the challenges faced by humanity.”
She says she’d include some element cementing George Floyd’s murder into Minneapolis’s footprint, more transit options and housing density, and something to aid climate change’s impact.
“I think we could use more optimistic depictions of the future in general, as most of our popular imagination trends dystopian,” she says. “Sometimes I wonder if we are manifesting a terrible future into being because we can’t seem to imagine anything else.”
Swiszcz’s imagined world is a little brighter and a little sweeter, and it represents a little bit of the best of us—while still acknowledging where we’ve been. Maybe we should listen.
January 20, 2022
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