Each week three people from the Minnesota arts community talk about a performance, opening, or event they're excited to see or want others to check out.
Art Hounds: New play creates space for empathy, virtually
Updated: 10:24 a.m., Nov. 20 | Posted: 4 a.m., Nov. 19
With the election over, but still reverberating, Minneapolis theater maker Nora Montañez recommends rediscovering common ground by watching “The Empathy Project” from Full Circle Theater this weekend. The virtual staged reading of the new play by Stephanie Lein Walseth is based on interviews with 20 Minnesotans across the state.
“I feel that the title is so timely right now, particularly because I believe empathy grows out of stories,” said Montañez, who is the founder and coordinator of the Alliance of Latinex Minnesota Artists, or ALMA.
Appropriate for a show about bringing people together, “The Empathy Project” was in partnership with several organizations statewide: The Yes! House in Granite Falls, the Department of Public Transformation, and Dreamland Arts in St. Paul. It’s directed by Rick Shiomi.
The free event — watchable from home — requires registration. The show is in two acts: Act I streams Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m.; Act II streams Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Anniessa Antar, activation specialist at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, gave a shoutout to All My Relations Arts, a creator of Native American fine art exhibits in Minneapolis. Antar calls the gallery a “cornerstone in Native art, both regionally and nationally.” The current exhibit, “Bring Her Home: Sacred Womxn of Resistance” is a collection of paintings, video and other art by Indigenous women, two spirit and trans women and gender nonconforming artists sharing narratives around missing and murdered Indigenous people. Antar says the exhibit is “rooted in empowering the community to be able to address this [issue], to grieve, to mourn, but also to celebrate the resistance” of Indigenous people.
All My Relations Arts has temporarily closed in order to comply with Minnesota's updated COVID-19 guidelines. The exhibition will be available online through Jan. 2.
Note: Music for the audio segment linked above came from “RUINS: Movement 3” by Leah K Lemm, a Grand Rapids-based singer/songwriter and a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
St. Paul comedian Adam Mellerup recently attended a Facebook Live event that he says made excellent use of the medium: Strike Theater’s first One Minute Film Festival. The festival featured 23 one-minute films that included animation, dancing and storytelling. Comedy was the most common style, says Mellerup, and that’s understandable given the judging categories from a panel of live judges: best use of the color red, best use of peanut butter and best use of the word “collide.”
“It was a nice place for people to release some creative energy and to show a little piece of what they’ve been doing, or what they like to do,” said Mellerup.
The current film festival is available for viewing on Strike Theater’s Facebook page.
Front of House manager Brian Scot says Strike Theater plans on hosting another festival next fall.
Art Hounds explores art 'Out of the Box'
Kathy Howell, an educator from Bloomington, says the current exhibition at Modus Locus in Minneapolis “stopped her in her tracks.” The “outstellation” — multimedia paintings viewable from the outside, is entitled “Just Us, Awakening Liberatory Consciousness” by Miko Simmons.
Howell described the show as having multiple iterations. Phase I occurred when the safety plywood came down, revealing the paintings through the windows. Phase II allows for in-person, appointment-only experiences, which Howell highly recommends.
Courtesy of Miko Simmons
"Brother Love, The Danger Series, 2020," by Miko Simmons.
“The intertwining of Miko’s theatrical projection design with his brilliant and powerful painting is breathtaking,” said Howell. “And a brand new creation is made as the windows reflect you, there, merging with social justice…His paintings’ effervescent Black joy and majesty [along with] the lurking, ever-present danger stopped me in my tracks. In a sense, this is an extension of the George Floyd Memorial space just six blocks away.”
The exhibit runs through December, and the third phase will involve collaborations with spoken word artists, storytellers and instrumentation in a live-streamed format.
Courtesy of Sarah Johnson
Art Is For Everyone at the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts on Valencia in Winona, by Sarah Johnson.
Courtesy of Miko Simmons
Sister Love, The Danger Series, 2020, by Miko Simmons.
Courtesy of Miko Simmons
"Yemenja, 2020," by Miko Simmons.
Courtesy of Miko Simmons
"Floyd's World, The Danger Series, 2020," by Miko Simmons.
Courtesy of Eileen Moeller
Full Blooms Mural, by Sarah Johnson.
Courtesy of Sarah Johnson.
HEAR OUR VOICES mural, by Our Voices.
Katherine Lucht of Eden Prairie has enjoyed watching performances at Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins since she was a child, and now she enjoys them with her children. During the pandemic, Stages has been putting on “Out of the Box” productions that can be experienced from home. Lucht says the September show designed for very young children had her 3-year old daughter acting along with the show several times a day for the five days it was available.
The current show is designed for children ages 5 and up. Titled “Enchanted Mystery: a Detect the Story Adventure,” it’s part mystery, part scavenger hunt, part puzzle room, and all interactive theater. The show is designed to be experienced either in downtown Hopkins or in your own home. Tickets come with a limited access video performance and a clue box, which can either be picked up in Hopkins or shipped to you. The show runs through Nov. 19.
Dave Casey, assistant curator of the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, recommends the Winona Color Project, an ongoing series of public art installations by Sarah Johnson, who is the city’s first Creative Laureate. Winona has long had a poet laureate, but in 2020 they expanded the position to include other forms of creative work.
Through the Winona Color Project this year, Johnson has painted a series of vibrant murals on walls, garages, and fire doors across the city, with positive messages like “Glad you are here” and “Art is for everyone.”
Johnson’s most recent project, unveiled last weekend, has been
Art Hounds: Two short plays and a colorful display
In a week where many people have voting on their minds, Elizabeth Dunn of the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, Minn., wants to draw attention to the show “Votes for Women! MN Rally 1920.” One hundred years after the adoption of the 19th Amendment, the show features five Minnesota suffragists, Scandinavian immigrants and an African American woman, who fought hard for women’s right to vote.
The show was produced by History Alive Lanesboro. A planned statewide tour was canceled due to COVID-19, but there are free in-person and digital viewing options at the Landmark Center in St. Paul through Nov. 15.
Want more? Learn about the many women who fought for the right to vote at the Minnesota History Center here.
100 years of women voting 3 Minnesota women who paved way for women's suffrage
St. Paul music writer Youa Vang has a recommendation for ghostly theater. An enthusiast for spooky stories and haunted homes, Vang recommends the new audio play “The House at Echo’s End.” The show follows city-dweller Allison, who inherits the rural farm where she grew up, only to discover that the house is inhabited by three ghosts who want their stories told. The 36-minute audio play streams for free on the Everwood Farmstead podcast “Conversations from the Barn.”
The show’s original music and lyrics were written by Cat Brindisi-Darrow; the book was written by her husband, David Darrow; the show was conceived by them and Derek Prestly. The show was voiced by Minnesota actors Serena Brook of “Live from Here” and Cat’s mother, Michelle Brindisi of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.
Photo by David Sherman
Acrylic on Rives BFK paper by Anne Labovitz.
Visual artist Carolyn Brunelle recently saw Anne Labovitz’s show titled “Response” at the Burnet Fine Arts Gallery in Wayzata. Brunelle appreciated the energy of the artwork, on display through Nov. 28.
“This exhibit of abstract paintings are wildly colorful and exciting,” Brunelle said.
“‘Response’ investigates the intimacy of color and space,” Labovitz said in a statement on Burnet’s website. “For me, color is a personal reflection, a language that crosses boundaries and can connect us. I believe color is a life force. These works are about hope for the future; for a connection between people as we struggle through current complexities."
Labovitz will be in the gallery to greet visitors on Nov. 21.
“She’s really committed to public art work,” Brunelle said, noting an installation at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport,“122 Conversations: Person to Person, Art Beyond Borders”. It’s a series of large, brightly colored paintings on different materials displayed in Terminal 2. The work arose from conversations with 10 people from each of the city of Duluth’s five sister cities around the world.
Art Hounds: Spaces for beauty and joy
Ceramic artist Damien Wolf recommended the vivid plein air paintings of Colleen Cosgrove of St. Paul. Painting outdoors, Cosgrove takes on subjects both large and small, from tomatoes newly plucked from her garden to landscapes, using bold strokes and bright colors.
“I like her work because it makes me look at the world around me differently,” Wolf said. He recalls seeing Cosgrove paint during the Art Shanty project on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis: “She [was] standing outside in the freezing cold painting all the other exhibits in the Art Shanty, and her color choices actually brought warmth to the scene around her.”
Cosgrove’s work is on display at the Frameworks Gallery in St. Paul through October. It will be at the “Extremely Minnesota” exhibit at the Robbin Gallery in Robbinsdale Nov. 5 through Dec. 5.
Courtesy of Nicholas Pumper
"St Monica, Full of Hope" by Nicholas Pumper.
Ella Moróne followed the work of Minneapolis artist Nicholas Pumper throughout college. Both graduated from the University of St. Thomas this year. Pumper’s acrylic paintings are inspired by his love of nature and his Catholic faith. He posts his work and his process regularly on Instagram, and Moróne appreciates his meditations about why seeking beauty and creating art matter.
Music educator Scott Kummrow of Fergus Falls enjoys the work of singer-songwriter David Stoddard, who has produced seven albums and has performed across the U.S. and Canada. Kummrow said he got to know Stoddard’s music when he performed on the open mic scene in western Minnesota, albeit “at a different level than everybody else.”
Stoddard sings and plays piano, guitar, and accordion; his songs range from introspective folk songs to humor. “He’s good at being funny and also creating good music at the same time,” says Kummrow, who recommends seeing Stoddard perform live. Next chance: a livestream concert on Nov. 2 with singer-songwriter Beth Wood.
Can't see the video? Click here.
Art Hounds: Art that allows people to be seen (and heard)
Updated: 10:19 a.m.
Poet Connor Stratton shines the Art Hounds spotlight on “Beyond Bars,” the annual reading from the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. As with every year, the reading will feature poetry, stories and other creative work from incarcerated writers, often read by the writers’ friends and family. Unlike other years, the COVID-19-friendly format has created new possibilities for the writers to read their own work.
Saturday’s Zoom reading will include videos — recorded before the pandemic — of some writers reading their own work, which Stratton says is a first for the audience.
The videos are part of the Seen project by the Minnesota nonprofit We Are All Criminals.
Courtesy of Emily Baxter | Seen project
C. Fausto, is a poet featured in We Are All Criminals’ project, "Seen."
Courtesy of Emily Baxter | Seen project
Poet Von will be featured at Beyond Bars; photographed by Emily Baxter for the Seen project
Marlise Riffel of Virginia was inspired by the essential worker portraits by Duluth artist Carolyn Olson, who was first inspired to create pastel portraits of essential workers by her daughter, a grocery store cashier in the Twin Cities. The boldly colored portraits show masked bus drivers, hospital workers, sanitation workers and many more whose work keeps our communities running during the pandemic. Riffel loved both the subject and the visual impact of the colors. “When you walk into the First Stage Gallery,” Riffel said, “the walls are white, the floor is light, and they just jump off the wall at you. They’re very vivid.”
Courtesy of Carolyn Olson
School bus driver, essential worker portrait No. 42, by Carolyn Olson.
The exhibit at the Lyric Center for the Arts in Virginia runs through Nov. 7.
From April Portraits of essential workers
Opera singer Jack Swanson is looking forward to Minnesota’s contribution to the “Tales from a Safe Distance” opera series. They are short, coronavirus-related operas presented digitally by the Decameron Opera Coalition. An Opera Theatre — that’s the name of the Twin Cities-based opera company — premieres “The Sky Where You Are” on Friday at 7 p.m. The production is in English with English subtitles.
Written by Maria Thompson Corley with libretto by Jenny O’Connell, the opera takes on the subject of domestic abuse during quarantine. O’Connell collaborated with Women’s Advocates in St. Paul in creating the story.
One ticket purchases access to nine original short operas nationally. “The Sky Where You Are” is part of the third chapter, entitled “So Noble a Heart.” A ticket provides streaming access until Dec. 31.
Correction (Oct. 22, 2020): A previous version of this story had an incorrect name for the “Beyond Bars” annual reading event. This version is corrected and updated.
Art Hounds: Public art installations address historical trauma, mental health
Opera singer Jennifer Lien of Duluth, Minn., recently saw Tia Keobounpheng’s public art installation “Unweaving,” in the Sister Cities Park in Duluth. The art consists of four large, bright yellow looms strung with woven fabric. The loose ends of the weaving catch the light and billow in the breeze by the lake. Lien found the installation peaceful and was moved by the purpose behind it.
Courtesy of Wolfskull Creative
"Unweaving" is a temporary outdoor public art installation by Tia Keobounpheng.
The work is a meditation on lost family history and past historical trauma that is passed along the generations. Keobounpheng’s grandmother was part of the “Red Exodus,” when thousands of Finnish speakers emigrated from Minnesota and the Lake Superior region to Karelia, Russia, in the 1930s, with the goal of forming a Finnish-speaking utopia.
Many were killed in Stalin’s regime, and those who returned to the U.S. generally did not speak about the experience. In an artist’s statement, Keobounpheng said she designed the installation to explore how communities become “unwoven when we are disconnected from our foundation of ancestral history; i.e. when we don’t know our stories or when truths are suppressed.”
Courtesy of Wolfskull Creative
"Unweaving" is made with stock lumber, yellow paint, polypropylene rope and used sail.
Lien connected personally with the art. As a child and grandchild of immigrants who fled the Japanese invasion and the rise of communism in China, Lien said that the installation “spurred me to think more deeply and to start asking questions about my own family’s historical trauma … and how to unweave those threads in my life through my own particular artistic expression.”
“Unweaving” runs through October.
Writer Russ Stark recommends seeing the “Rainflower Project,” a public art installation designed to draw attention to mental health and to those who die each year by suicide. Artist Damien Wolf of Plymouth created 675 individual ceramic flowers on steel stems, arranged in a grid on the ground.
The project is steeped in symbolism. Each flower is unique like each person lost to suicide. The leaves form the infinity symbol, meaning that people who die are not forgotten. The colors of the flowers, too, are carefully chosen. White flowers represent remembrance and hope, yellow is light and energy, and black for crisis.
Stark was moved by the effect of the colors together. The few black flowers are surrounded by yellow and white, reminding him of the community needed to support mental health and wellness.
The Rainflower Project is on display in Plymouth through this weekend.
MPR's mental health initiative Call to Mind
Young adult novelist Lana Wood Johnson is looking forward to attending Rain Taxi’s 20th annual Twin Cities Book Festival, which this year will take place entirely online.
The free festival is a draw for readers and writers alike, with talks and exhibitions by authors and publishers. This year’s lineup of writers features major national names, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Ayad Akhtar in conversation with Dessa and Kwame Alexander with James Patterson, Kate DiCamillo, and Naomi Shihab Nye among the speakers. Together with local writers, their work spans literature for children and adults. Eight of the events will be interpreted live on-screen in ASL.
The Twin Cities Book Festival runs Thursday through Saturday.
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Customer ReviewsSee All
Good Overview, ANNOYING Intro
I love getting these tips for cool art stuff to do each weekend but I absolutely cannot stand the intros. I listen to this as a podcast and every week I try to gauge how far to fast forward so I don't have to listen to the "cheeky," "creative" introduction to the show. Please stop trying so hard, it shows, and it would be stronger if you dropped the attempt to be cool and just added another review.