MN Museum of American Art finds a home; ‘Anytown’ to open

Minnesota Museum of American ArtThe Minnesota Museum of American Art is no longer homeless. When redevelopment pushed it out of the Ramsey County Government Center three years ago, the museum was left without a place to hang its hat or its paintings. This fall, it moves into a suite of galleries in the Pioneer-Endicott Building near Lowertown, St. Paul’s booming artists’ community. The street-level space will be open at first during limited hours.

In early 2009, when MMAA packed up and left the Government Center, it also had leadership issues. Later that year, the board hired educator and arts administrator Kristin Makholm away from MCAD, where she directed the gallery and exhibition programs, administered two large fellowship programs, and taught in the liberal arts department. Makholm kept the museum in the public awareness with a series of touring exhibitions and a show at the Minnesota State Fair in 2011. The museum has some 4,000 works, including more than 300 sculptures and drawings by Paul Manship. Most have been in storage; soon, some will see the light.

Admit it: You have always wanted to enter a Minnesota State Fair competition. More than $1 million in cash prizes, plus ribbons, trophies and glory, will be awarded to winning exhibitors. Is this the year to submit your pickles, your bees, your swine or wine or Christmas trees? Entry deadlines were announced yesterday, and because this is an arts column, we’ll try not to be too distracted by llamas, fruits, and boer goats (boer goats?) and will zoom in on the arts dates: Fine arts registration July 2. Crop art and scarecrow Aug. 10. Creative activities (including needlework and handcrafts) Aug. 7. FMI at the hotlinks and in the downloadable Creative Activities Premium Booklet. P.S. If you’re considering applying for the position of Official Butter Sculptor, don’t bother. Linda Christensen has had that enviable job for 40 years.

Opening today (Tuesday, June 19) at the Old Log Theater in Excelsior: “Mr. Toad’s Wild Adventure.” A new adaptation of Kenneth Graham’s “The Wind in the Willows,” with all the characters we love: Toad (Wayne Evenson), Ratty (Tom Stolz), Mole (Ivory Doublette) and Badger (Kurt Schweikhardt). Book and lyrics by Tim Stolz, music by Tom Witry. All ages. Performances at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 10 a.m. Saturdays. FMI and tickets.

Tonight at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, experimental artists perform a fundraiser to benefit Walker Church, destroyed last month by fire. HOBT is now the church’s temporary home. “Beyond Shadow and Strum” features musicians John Zuma Saint Pelven, Jackie Beckey, Jonathan Kaiser, Paul Metzger and Kevin Cosgrove (“The Strum”) and Smada Rovertzen, Trever Adams, and Kristi Ternes (“The Shadow”). The plan: Musicians scoring movies live and “new resonances that will shake your soul membrane.” 8 p.m., $3-$5 donation.

Tonight at the Central Park Amphitheater in Woodbury, Alexander McCall Smith reads from the latest title in his best-selling “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series set in Botswana. We probably won’t see any new episodes in the HBO series starring Jill Scott (although the series won a Peabody, poor ratings forced cancellation; before then, director Anthony Minghella died), but the books keep coming, thank goodness. The new one is called “The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection.” This is a Club Book event. As are two upcoming appearances by Isabel Wilkerson, the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win the Pulitzer Prize and award-winning author of “The Warmth of Other Suns.” Wilkerson travels to Galaxie Library in Apple Valley on Tuesday, June 26, and Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center on Wednesday, June 27. All Club Book events are at 7 p.m., and all are free.

Tonight at Common Good Books in St. Paul, someone who has bought more books than certain friends who shall remain nameless. Patrick Coleman has been Acquisitions Librarian for the Minnesota Historical Society since 1979. So far, he has added some 100,000 titles to the MHS library, making it the center of scholarship on all Minnesota topics. He’ll talk about the state’s most important books and the role of book collecting in preserving our cultural heritage. 7 p.m., free.

Secret Struggle LogoCourtesy CIRCA Gallery‘Secret Struggle’ opens Wednesday

Opening tomorrow (Wednesday, June 20) at CIRCA Gallery in downtown Minneapolis: “Secret Struggle,” an art installation by homeless and runaway youth. Based on a public art project created by 17 young people at The Bridge for Youth, it conveys powerful messages about being young, LGBTQ, addicted, abused, alone and afraid with nowhere to turn. Most of us don’t realize there are thousands of homeless and runaway kids in the Twin Cities. Founded in 1970, The Bridge for Youth gives some of them a place to go for shelter and support, to reunite with their families, and to build independent living skills. “Secret Struggle” gives them a voice.

Tomorrow at Lee’s Liquor Lounge, it’s a night of country music with Dale Watson & The Texas Two. A Grand Ole Opry regular, member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame, Watson has a rumbly voice, a James Dean attitude, and a tight rhythm section in bassist Chris Crepps and drummer Mike Bernal. They’re touring in advance of the Oct. 11 release of “The Sun Sessions,” their first recording for local indie label Red House. Recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, it’s a marriage of originals and old-fashioned swing. 10:30 p.m. Tickets ($15) at the door. 

Dale Watson & The Texas TwoCourtesy Red House RecordsDale Watson & The Texas Two

Tomorrow at Mai Village Vietnamese restaurant in St. Paul, a new music series debuts in hopes of starting something good and helping struggling businesses along the LRT corridor. Sponsored by Springboard for the Arts, “Jazz on the Line” begins with music by Mira and Tom Kehoe, a jazz and Brazilian jazz duo. There’s no cover charge, but it’s good manners to support the restaurant by ordering dinner and drinks. Music at 6:30 p.m. Reservations requested at ask@littlemekong.com or 651-222-7798.

The Guthrie Theater presents a Shapiro & Smith Dance production of Anytown, Thursday, June 21 - Sunday, June 24. Pictured: Maggie Bergeron and company.Photo by V. Paul VirtucioThe Guthrie Theater presents a Shapiro & Smith Dance production of “Anytown,” Thursday, June 21 – Sunday, June 24. Pictured: Maggie Bergeron and company.

Opening Thursday (June 21) in the Guthrie’s Dowling Theater: the Shapiro & Smith Dance production of “Anytown,” featuring the music of Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band members Patti Scialfa and Soozie Tyrell. How did the Boss’s music end up at a Minnesota dance company? Turns out that Joanie Smith, artistic director of Shapiro & Smith, is Tyrell’s sister, and Tyrell has been best friends with Scialfa since their NYC busking days in the 1980s. According to an article in the fanzine Backstreets

“ . . . they sometimes ended the day at Smith’s Chelsea apartment, where they would relax together and share performances. Pattie and Soozie would play and sing, then Joanie and boyfriend Danial Shapiro would dance. They imagined working together some day on a collaborative project. … In 2002, when Shapiro faced a life-threatening illness, he and Smith decided to focus their time and energy on what they had dreamed about in Chelsea. They talked with Tyrell and then Scialfa about using their music in a dance work. Patti put in a request to Bruce, who readily agreed to make his music available to them.”

“Anytown” premiered at the Southern Theater in 2004 and has since toured the United States. Shapiro died in 2006. The Guthrie performances mark the 25th anniversary of Shapiro & Smith Dance. Two new Springsteen songs have been added, including “Maria’s Bed” from the “Devils and Dust” album. Other featured songs include “Human Touch,” “Youngstown,” “The Big Muddy,” “Countin’ on a Miracle,” and the acoustic blues version of “Born in the U.S.A.” Thursday-Sunday in the Dowling Studio. FMI and tickets.

On Thursday at the Science Museum, it’s adults only for Social Science, the monthly event where grown-ups gather to walk through the exhibits, socialize, sample food and hang out at the cash bar. This month’s theme: Game Theory. Explore games of chance, games of skill and strategy, games you grew up playing and games you’ve never seen. Bonus: a chance to play Activision’s new “The Amazing Spider-Man” video game on the Auditorium’s movie-theater-size screen five days before it hits the stores. 6 p.m. – 11 p.m., 21+ (valid ID required). FMI and tickets.

Bridget Beck with her sculpture at the Franconia Sculpture ParkCourtesy Franconia Sculpture ParkBridget Beck with her sculpture at the Franconia
Sculpture Park

Starting Friday (June 22) at Franconia Sculpture Park in Franconia, a two-day celebration of sculpture and poetry, with readings by Heid Erdrich, Wang Ping, Dobby Gibson and Ashley David. Artist Bridget Beck debuts her interactive multi-ton poetry studio sculpture; writer David, a resident artist at the Vermont Studio Center, facilitates the workshops. Go anytime to see the sculpture and the park; reservations are required for the poetry workshops at 2 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday. Contact info@franconia.org or call 651-257-6668. Free. Readings start at 3 p.m. on Saturday. At 5 p.m., the Cromulent Shakespeare Company and singer Thea Ennen perform in the park’s Earthen Amphitheater.

If you went to Caponi Art Park on Sunday for the Minnesota Sinfonia’s annual Summer Pops concert, you know it was canceled because of severe weather. It has now been rescheduled for Sunday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Theater in the Woods outdoor amphitheater.

This Sunday (June 24) at Caponi, the peripatetic Cromulent Co. presents “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” a bawdy farce perfect for a summer evening. Shakespeare in the park – what a lovely thing. This is one of three plays by the Bard featuring the great comic character Falstaff. If you want to have some fun with words, look up “cromulent.” Tip: forget the dictionary and go online.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation made news in April when it awarded nearly $6 million to the first class of Doris Duke Artists, performing artists in contemporary dance, jazz, theater and multidisciplinary work. (One winner of the $225,000 grant, guitarist Bill Frisell, performs at the Dakota July 1-2.) On Friday the foundation announced a new grant opportunity for national projects in the professional nonprofit dance, jazz, presenting and/or theater fields. “Eligible are projects that strengthen the national infrastructure of these fields; that engage a broad national constituency; that occur once (or periodically) rather than annually; and that have the potential to significantly impact a field.” Think big. Grants range from $60,000-$200,000. Letters of inquiry are due July 2. FMI.

Closer to home, applications are being accepted for the statewide Minnesota Sings! event on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Minnesota Sings! is a free, non-auditioned choral festival presented simultaneously in nine locations around the state from Bemidji to Rochester. Choirs may be any size, age or ability, representing school, community or faith-based organizations. We are, after all, the Land of 10,000 Choirs. Due Oct. 1. FMI.

Capsule reviews: Orchestra Hall has grand closing; McKnight throws a party 

Designed to tug at the heartstrings (and perhaps loosen the purse strings), the Minnesota Orchestra’s season finale on Friday, “An Evening of Tribute,” was a parade of maestros and a cavalcade of classical hits. But when you’re about to close your doors and start hammering – inside the building and at the contract negotiations table – you might as well strut your stuff. Osmo Vänskä opened with Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” after which Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, looking spry for 89, led a splendid performance of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor, which we learned from MPR’s Brian Newhouse, our host, was the first piece the Minnesota Orchestra played when Orchestra Hall opened in 1974. (Skrowaczewski was 51 then and the new hall was his dream. Soon it will be Vänskä’s turn. What will he choose to conduct first?) Jovial Andrew Litton gave us Harold Arlen and Johann Strauss Jr.; Courtney Lewis served some Debussy from “Le Mer” while dancers from Black Label Movement leaped like salmon at the front of the stage. The Minnesota Chorale erupted in selections from “Carmina Burana,” for which I am a lifelong sucker. Doc Severinsen sported red leather pants and a sparkly white jacket; Irvin Mayfield wore shades like Ray Charles. After a bit too much of Beethoven’s Fifth, we were primed for the grand finale, a newly commissioned work by Steve Heitzig, “Let Us Start the Great Round,” for which choirs filed in and filled the aisles. Just one thing made the night not quite complete: the absence of pops conductor Sarah Hicks, who was on another gig in St. Petersburg – as in Russia, not Florida, so we forgive her.

On Saturday, the McKnight Foundation threw a party for the 30th Anniversary of its Artist Fellowship program at the Bottling House in northeast Minneapolis. Wine flowed and trays of food magically appeared and replenished themselves. Dancers circled on a walkway overhead, musicians performed, singers sang, flags flapped, and Artist Fellows in white sashes talked and laughed and greeted friends. How many fellows have been named since the program began in 1982? A lot, plus add another 40 or so for this year’s class. The square, high-ceilinged space magnified every sound and made the room a big box of noise. In sum, it was a great party, if ear-splitting. Attempts were made by McKnight officials to say a few words, but in vain. Not even special guest Rocco Landesman, head of the National Endowment for the Arts, could quiet the crowd. Some people moved closer to the podium when he spoke, but his words went largely unheard. I made out a few that summed up the evening nicely: “The McKnight Foundation has supported artists since before it was cool to do so, and has continued supporting artists when it is no longer cool to do so.” 

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