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Hop in the car: Two Greater Minnesota art events this weekend are well worth a day trip

Karl Unnasch, "Made in the USA," snake carcass, model scenery and accessories, wood, pigment, 4.5" x 8" x 6".
Courtesy of the artist
Karl Unnasch, "Made in the USA," snake carcass, model scenery and accessories, wood, pigment, 4.5" x 8" x 6".

I'll be candid with you. I'm not likely to head out of town very often just to see an art exhibition. If I'm going to eat up a whole weekend day heading out of town to see a show, I need to know there'll be enough whiz-bang to make a day of it — and, ideally, that it'll be something the whole family might like.

And now I'm in a quandary, because this Saturday there are two Minnesota art events that fit the bill, either of which would give even a reluctant Twin Cities day-tripper ample reason to hit the road.

One of my favorite Minnesota art spots, Franconia Sculpture Park near Taylor's Falls, has invited internationally known sculptor Kenneth Payne to present an "Iron Performance." This Saturday evening, Payne will pour "7,000 pounds of molten iron into a seven-foot-deep earthwork from his 800-pound cupola."

Friends, this is no mere iron pour. It's an earthworks spectacle, complete with pyrotechnic thrills, hot metal, and muscular machinery action —  and my 4-year-old and husband would love it. Payne's "Iron Performance" (PDF) begins at 5 p.m. and will continue until midnight. (If you can't make this weekend's iron pour, don't fret — the sculpture park's annual Community Hot Metal Pour is also pretty terrific, and it takes place next Saturday, Aug. 7, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

An "Iron Performance" by Kenneth Payne, Franconia Sculpture Park, Taylor's Falls, Saturday, July 31, 5 p.m. to midnight.

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And have you been out to New London's ARThouseA few times a year, artists Lisa Bergh  and Andrew Nordin move out their furniture and turn their family's home over to a local artist for a day.

The charm of their impromptu gallery space is typified by the artist-made door prizes they always give to early-bird exhibition visitors — ARThouse happenings feel more like neighborhood block parties than they do art exhibitions. But while the vibe is accessible, the artwork you'll find there is anything but provincial; in the few years they've been putting on art shows, the couple has invited some of the state's finest mid-career contemporary artists to exhibit work — among them Scott Stulen, Bill Gorcica, Deborah Miller, Jonathan Gomez Whitney, Richard Barlow, David Bowen and Kristina Estell.

On Saturday, Karl Unnasch will spend two days "re-engineering" and "re-contextualizing" gallery-goers' found objects and household junk into one-of-a-kind art pieces. "A Guild of One" is intended to serve as the artist's tribute to the single-minded pursuits of the avid hobbyist, what he affectionately calls an "obsessive isolationist" — the 21st century successor to the master artisans of the bygone eras.

Karl Unnasch's ARThouse installation-performance will also feature live music by the blues/roots outfit Adam Hammer and the ImpactWhile Unnasch will be on-site making art pieces at the ARThouse all day, the festivities for "A Guild of One" will take primarily place from late afternoon and through the evening.

"Karl Unnasch - A Guild of One" ARThouse, New London, Saturday, July 31, with a reception for the artist from 4 to 10 p.m.

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