Art Inspires: Kolina Cicero on second dates, grand staircases, and the art of love

After dozens of visits to Mia, I still find it as beautiful as the first time I came, though I can’t quite remember when that was. In high school, driving in from Chaska in search of something new? Not until I moved to Dinkytown to take journalism classes at the U?

Whenever it was, my first visit doesn’t much matter. Recently, while walking down a grand staircase, telling a story to a friend, I recalled another visit—a memory I had not thought of for many years.

It was 2009, a weekend afternoon. Two days prior, I’d gone on a first date with my former next-door neighbor. We went to the Sample Room in Northeast Minneapolis, both of us a little unsure how to compose ourselves. Our friendship had just taken a quick turn, like a last-minute decision to exit the highway while en route to my usual destination—curiosity was leading me to a familiar sight, but one I’d never taken the time to properly visit.

Now here we were again. When he’d suggested spending an afternoon at the museum, I was intrigued—a man had never asked me to do something quite so…lovely. I obliged. I put on a black dress and tied a scarf around my head. He also deemed this to be a dress-up event, as he showed up in a vest and a fedora. Under the guise of viewing art, we got to know each other’s face and mannerisms in a way we never had before.

When we walked through the Byzantine gallery, he admittedly tried to woo me by using terminology he learned in the “Art of the Twin Cities” class he’d taken at the University of Minnesota. His knowledge was textbook, but impressive to me all the same. We sat down to view the art, not too close to one another, but not too far away either. We visited the period rooms, too, and considered the way things would have been had we lived in a different time period in another world. And thus began the common practice of us thinking and wondering, imagining and analyzing, side by side.

Walking down a staircase (a different staircase), he began a story (a different story) with, “When I was single.” We looked at each other, wide-eyed and youthful, giddy at the prospect of singleness being but a memory. We overlooked the slip of his tongue, but it forever changed the trajectory of our relationship.

We had no way of knowing, while sitting on a bench at the bottom of the staircase, smiling for a photo, that this would be the beginning of a three-year relationship. We didn’t know that we would travel to New Zealand five months later, spending three weeks in a camper van together. We didn’t know that we would spend the following Christmas in Florence, taking trips to Spain, Portugal, and the Czech Republic, just the two of us.

The eyes in that photo had not yet seen our breakup—a painful one that obliterated our friendship, and the catalyst to my stories about the one who got away.

Our eyes had not seen, either, the note I wrote to him four years later, asking if he would be willing to give us another shot. Nor had they yet experienced my drive down to Madison to visit him, or his drive up to Minneapolis, car packed with his belongings as he moved back to what is once again our city. Our faces had not yet felt the smiles we had at our wedding, on the last day of 2016.

Now, every day, I look into the eyes of the man in that photo—once young and naïve—that looked into mine as we walked down a special staircase in a special museum, when we realized that we were not just friends; that we were something far more…lovely.

Kolina Cicero is a Minneapolis-based writer and runs Creative and Editorial at Studio/E.

Top image: The Kiss, a woodcut by Peter Behrens, published by Pan in 1898. Minneapolis Institute of Art collection (not on view).

The author and her husband on their wedding day, at xxx.

The author and her husband on their wedding day at the James J. Hill Center in St. Paul.