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Minnesota's museum mania

Museum month logoDid you know that Minnesota has more than 600 museums? That’s one for every 9,000 residents — twice as many as the national average. Every county in the state has at least one museum, and there are 55 in the Twin Cities — twice as many as Chicago. (Take that, Windy City, but give us Millennium Park, please.)

May has been declared Minnesota Museums Month, with special events and programs scheduled for museums across the state. The American Association of Museums holds its 106th annual meeting here April 29-May 2. According to an article in the New York Times, the meeting was the catalyst for creating the month. This year’s plans call for the launch of a new website (not yet fully up and running, but you can take a peek); public-television screenings of the documentary “Museums Creating Community,” a joint project of the Minnesota Association of Museums and TPT (and supported by Legacy funding); and special museum sections in the Strib and Mpls. St. Paul magazine and on the Explore Minnesota website

The Ordway’s renovation is on hold until another $20 million are raised. Plans are to build a new 1,100-seat hall to replace the 300-seat McKnight Theater. The $75 million project has $55 million so far, enough to fund construction but not the operating endowment. The Arts Partnership (the Ordway, SPCO, Minnesota Opera and Schubert Club) wants to wait until all the money is in hand, which they hope will be by March of next year. Ordway president Patricia Mitchell told MPR’s Marianne Combs, “There’s a high level of confidence that we will be able to start next spring.”

Last Thursday, a floor amendment to divert $30 million from the Legacy fund to state Capitol renovations was defeated on a vote of 77 to 52. In favor of the amendment: Reps. Buesgens, Downey and Sondra Erickson. Speaking against it: Reps. Howes, Urdahl, Loeffler, Kahn and Winkler.

The Northeast Minneapolis Arts District is looking to leverage itself. Home of the annual Art-a-Whirl (which draws some 50,000 visitors to the area), countless studios, galleries and performance spaces, the district has done a remarkable job of defining itself as a community and a destination. On Thursday, April 12, a “State of the Arts District Forum” will feature an activity update, a conversation with Clay Squared to Infinity owners Josh Blanc and Layl McDill (who had a successful pop-up store downtown last winter), an exploration of possible opportunities in vacant storefronts, and a discussion about tourism/tourists and the arts. 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Chowgirls Parlor, 1222 2nd St. NE.

If you’ve been to Iowa City, I hope you’ve discovered the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk. A series of bronze relief panels set into the sidewalk feature words by writers with ties to Iowa. The Line reminds us that St. Paul has an Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, conceived by the city’s artist-in-residence Marcus Young and now in its fifth year. Poems by St. Paul residents are stamped into sidewalks being repaired. To date, hundreds of sidewalks have been transformed with poems like this one by Pat Owen: 

A dog on a walk
is like a person in love —
You can’t tell them
it’s the same old world.

This year’s deadline for submissions is Friday, April 13, at midnight. Five poets will win $150 prizes and fame underfoot. Guidelines here.

Minnesota is such a great state for music — well, it is — that the Pohlads might want to reconsider their decision to change the music at Target Field. Formerly the P.A. played a mix of tunes that included local music. Last May, longtime music director Kevin Dutcher was replaced by 96.3 NOW’s Dan Edwards, who plays mostly mainstream club mixes. Think McDonald's, whose hamburgers taste the same everywhere. The Current’s Andrea Swensson blogs about an interview with Hold Steady lead singer Craig Finn, whose songs were formerly heard at Target Field but aren’t anymore. He’s not happy with the change, and neither should we be. The Pohlads own the Twins and 96.3 NOW.

DessaCourtesy of DoomtreeDessa headlines the O'Shaughnessy at St. Kate's next week.

Dessa performs her biggest headlining show to date on April 20 at the O’Shaughnessy. Pickings for tickets are already slim; best bets are in the mid- and back balcony. If you don’t know Dessa, or if all you know is that she’s a rapper, here are a few of her recent creds: She’s Artist-in-Residence at McNally Smith. On March 2, she gave a presentation on ethics and hip-hop at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg College. That day, the Strib published her op-ed, “Free speech and hip-hop: When talk is cheap,” an articulate and convincing stand against misogynist artists. Her lyrics are intelligent, literate, and imaginative, and she can sing; I’ve been listening to “Castor, the Twin” a lot. (Here’s “Dixon’s Girl.”) The O’Shaughnessy show will also include new commissioned music from Jeremy Messersmith, Cecil Otter, Aby Wolf, Crescent Moon, Black Blondie, and the great gospel singer Robert Robinson, and a visual component by figure theater artist Michael Sommers. Doors at 7, concert at 7:30. Tickets here.

With the art fair season upon us, here are two chances to learn how to be smarter about them.

Tonight at the Amsterdam, the Science Museum’s “Beaker & Brush” series of discussions considers “Why We Collect.” What makes a child start a baseball card collection? How does an art collector decide a painting is worth a million dollars? And, I might add, do I really need another teapot? With sculptor and Science Museum educator Jan Elftmann, director of the annual Minnesota ArtCar + ArtBike Parade, and Science Museum Director of Collections Jackie Hoff. 6:30 p.m. – 8:30, free.

Thursday in the historic Grain Belt Brewhouse, the American Craft Council’s Library Salon Series presents “Curating Your Life,” a discussion of collecting and curation with sociologist Marybeth Stalp, U of M art history professor Gabriel Weisberg and artist Harriet Bart. 7 p.m., free. 1224 Marshall St. NE, Suite 200, Minnneapolis. The ACC’s annual St. Paul show takes place April 20–22. We’ll tell you more about that and the ACC next week.

Register by Thursday for the MIA Art Dash, a family fun run and walk around the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ campus and nearby park. Preregister online for free, or sign up on the day of the race for $5/person.

ZEITGEISTCourtesy of ZeitgeistZeitgeist presents three days of John Cage

Zeitgeist’s mind-blowing four-day John Cage festival starts Thursday at Studio Z. In 1952, Cage changed the course of Western classical music with a work titled “4'33" ”—four minutes, thirty-three seconds of silence, in three movements. Sixty years later, it’s still a provocative concept, though I’m not sure I’d want to sit through the whole thing. It’s not on the program, but plenty else is: Cage’s “Water Music” and “Cartridge Music,” a percussion concert, a collaboration with Ensemble 61, Renegade Ensemble, and Flying Forums, “Europera V” featuring Nautilus Music Theater, and a concert with Stephen Drury on piano, plus dialogue, exhibits, readings and remembrance. Complete calendar starts here; click your way through the days. Tickets here as well. Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4:30, 6, 7:30, and 9 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.

On Friday the 13th, the Bell Museum will host another Bell Social, this time celebrating the completion of “Freeze Frame: Capturing Nature in Winter,” a crowd-sourced photography exhibit. The public was invited to submit photographs of nature and winter in the Midwest starting Dec. 22, 2011; submissions closed March 19. Maybe this wasn’t the best possible winter for this particular exhibit, or maybe it was. More than 1,010 photos were submitted, from which Bell Museum artist-in-residence Areca Roe created a mixed-media installation featuring work by some 40 photographers. The social also includes live music from Brute Heart, a presentation by UMD researcher Ron Moen on camera-trapping the Canada lynx and moose, cash bar and hors d’oeuvres from Common Roots Café, and door prizes. In 2011, Minnesota Monthly named the Bell Social “Best Geek-Chic Event.” Be there or be square-ish. Friday, 6-9 p.m, Bell Museum. Tickets online or at the door. BTW, the Bell was the state’s first science museum, established by the Legislature in 1872. 

The lineup has been announced for the first-ever River’s Edge Music Festival on St. Paul’s Harriet Island. The big news: Tool and the Dave Matthews Band are the headliners. Jon Bream and Chris Riemenschneider are happy to tell you all about the two-day event. Wristbands go on sale Friday through Ticketmaster or at Xcel Energy Center’s box office (no fees).

Out and about

 At Orchestra Hall on Friday night, Irvin Mayfield’s “A Love Letter to New Orleans” was a generous program of greatest hits and stellar guests. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien served as the show’s charming host; angel-voiced Aaron Neville sang “Ave Maria” and “Nature Boy;” Jason Marsalis played vibes and drums; percussionist (and co-founder with Mayfield of the band Los Hombres Calientes) Bill Summers performed. Irvin and his quintet — pianist John Chin, drummer Jaz Sawyer, bassist Peter Harris, and trombonist Vincent Gardner, with Ronald Markham sitting in for Chin on selected numbers — played songs from the canon, and the evening flew by on wings of swing and familiarity. Consider this an appetizer for the concert on May 26, a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral commemorating the closing of Orchestra Hall for renovations and featuring Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. This event is very close to selling out, if it hasn’t already done so. Try your luck with tickets here.

Birthday PartyPhoto by Michael Daniel'Birthday Party' at the Jungle. L-R: Mr. McCann (Marty Ruben), Meg Boyle (Claudia Wilkens), Stanley Webber (Stephen Cartmell), Lulu (Katie Geuntzel) and Mr. Goldberg (Tony Papenfuss)

As I watched Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” at the Jungle on Saturday, I thought about the movie “Ronin,” the story of a group of masterless mercenaries hired by Irish terrorists to steal a metal case. What’s in the case? We never find out. In “The Birthday Party,” directed by Joel Sass, Stanley (Stephen Cartmell) is a twitchy, paranoid loose fuse of a man who lives in a boarding house; why, we don’t know. He has a shadowy past, but we never learn the particulars. Two men — one very like a mobster, the other a thug — show up one day and insist on celebrating Stanley’s birthday, but it’s not his birthday. And that’s not really the reason they have come. Absurd and ominous, funny and dark, “The Birthday Party” is “Hay Fever” on downers. Through May 13.

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