Obama nominating Ramaswamy to arts council; 5 music festivals coming up

Ranee Ramaswamyragamala.netRanee Ramaswamy

President Barack Obama has announced that he plans to nominate Ranee Ramaswamy to the National Council on the Arts. The founder and co-artistic director of Ragamala Dance Company, Ramaswamy will be the second Indian-American on the council. Her many previous honors include 14 McKnight fellowships, a Bush Foundation choreography fellowship, and the 2011 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award. Ramaswamy told the Pi Press that she was contacted about the position by email in March. “I thought it was a hoax – it was so unexpected.” During breaks in council meetings, she can swap Minneapolis stories with fellow member Irvin Mayfield, who comes here often as artistic director of jazz at Orchestra Hall.

Bluesman Big Walter Smith has died. Duluth’s adopted son and a great favorite around the Twin Cities, Smith played at every Bayfront Blues Festival and is credited with inspiring its creation. He passed away Tuesday at his home in north Minneapolis. He was 82. A memorial is planned for 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapel in Crystal, and a tribute/fundraiser will follow at Wilebski’s Blues Saloon on Aug. 19. Smith’s band, the Groove Merchants, will play the dates still on Smith’s calendar, including this year’s Blues Fest. Obituary here.

There’ll be no more “Weekly Reader” for Minnesota schools – or any schools. It’s the old familiar blah-blah: declining circulation and a series of owners, including a private equity fund. The magazine a lot of us grew up with is now in the hands of Scholastic, which will fold “Weekly Reader” into its own weekly, “Scholastic News,” co-branding the first issues with both names to ease the pain.

The Walker has received over $1 million in grants from the Andrew Mellon Foundation. The grants will support continuing research on and care of the Merce Cunningham Dance Collection, acquired by the Walker in 2011; performing arts commissions, production residencies and global performance programs; and production residencies and commissions by American dance artists. We can look forward to several new commissions over the next few years and a further strengthening of an already stellar performing arts program. (The 36-page catalog of the 2012-13 season landed in my mailbox on Wednesday.) 

Bedlam Theatre is moving to St. Paul – and staying in Minneapolis. It’s the first theater to have a foot in both cities. As reported by MPR’s Chris Roberts, Bedlam plans to open a “theater nightclub” in St. Paul’s Lowertown in the old Rumours & Innuendo space. It hasn’t yet found a new Minneapolis home to replace its former Cedar-Riverside location, but it’s looking.

Andrew Litton will carry on as Sommerfest’s artistic director at least through 2014, the Minnesota Orchestra announced Wednesday. By signing a two-year contract extension, Maestro Litton becomes the longest-tenured Sommerfest director in Minnesota Orchestra history, after Leonard Slatkin (1980-89). He will lead this year’s Sommerfest finale on Saturday, a concert performance of Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”

Casting has been announced for “The Brothers Size,” set to premiere in the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio Sept. 7. For the second play in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s trilogy “The Brother/Sister Plays,” James A. Williams and Gavin Lawrence reprise their roles from “In the Red and Brown Water,” a hit last year at Pillsbury House Theatre. Marion McClinton directs. “The Brothers Size” is co-produced by Pillsbury House and The Mount Curve Company. Through Sept. 29. FMI and tickets.

Zadie SmithCC/WikiMedia/David ShankboneZadie Smith

The English Department at the University of Minnesota has finalized its 2012-13 English@Minnesota Visiting Writers Series. The line-up of award winners includes poets Peter Campion and Ray Gonzalez (Oct. 4), short story writer Antonya Nelson (Oct. 16), British novelist Zadie Smith, whose “White Teeth” became a two-part Masterpiece Theatre series (Oct. 23), poet Christopher Kennedy (Nov. 7), essayist/poet Lia Purpura (Nov. 14), and novelist Colum McCann (Apr. 10). Events take place at the Weisman and the Coffman Union Theater; all are free and open to the public.

Writing for The Line, Michelle Bruch calls for “more Minnesota-made movies.” Here’s one and it’s almost done: Eric Tretbar’s “Girl Meets Bike.” The story of a Northfield high-school shop teacher who buys her first motorcycle with her wedding-dress money, it was shot in and around Northfield when Tretbar was teaching film production at Carleton College. It features many Carleton faces and places as well as Northfield landmarks and locals. Here’s the trailer. The film will screen in Minneapolis in early fall. Meanwhile, Tretbar hopes that his Kickstarter campaign will raise needed completion funds, perhaps from the large number of Carls living in the Twin Cities. Oles are welcome to contribute as well.

Ruth Menard as Kat in 'Girl Meets Bike'Courtesy Moto Girl FilmsRuth Menard as Kat in ‘Girl Meets Bike’

If you enjoy sweeping, epic Chinese films set in long-ago dynasties, you have a week to see the exclusive Twin Cities engagement of “Sacrifice” by Chinese writer/director Chen Kaige (“Farewell My Concubine”). A huge hit in China, set during the opulent Yuan Dynasty in the 5th century B.C., it tells of a prince orphaned as an infant by a ruthless general and raised to seek revenge. Here’s the trailer, with glimpses of fancy armor, flashes of red, swordplay and aerial action. Opens tonight (Friday, July 27) at the St. Anthony Main Theatre.  FMI and tickets.

The Walker’s annual summer gift to the Twin Cities, Summer Music & Movies, starts Monday with a performance by Night Moves and a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound.” This year’s theme, “In Dreams,” takes its cue from the “Midnight Party” exhibition that continues through Feb. 23, 2014. Music at 7, film at dusk (8:45 or so) on Walker Open Field. In case of rain, events move indoors to the Walker Cinema. FMI.

The Cedar Cultural Center, a nurturer of the arts as well as a venue, has announced its latest slate of Cedar Seeder projects. A community-based fundraising platform, Cedar Seeder has similarities to Kickstarter. Local artists propose an idea and set a fundraising goal and deadline. If the money is raised by the deadline, the project happens; if it doesn’t, donors aren’t charged. The new projects include Firecracker, the creation of a literary journal in just 12 hours by the Rain Taxi Review of Books; a weekend strings workshop and concert by Zack Kline and Jacob Lawson; a performance by the Romanian brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia, who were featured in the movie “Borat;” the Latina Ritual Project, a recording in Puerto Rico led by Maria Isa (Villa Rosa) and Adriana Rimpel (Malamanya); and support for a feminist book club.

Starting Saturday at noon, you can carom like a human cueball among five music festivals in Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, and St. Paul. (Festival fatigue? Not when the music is free.) The 14th Annual N.E. Folk Festival at Grumpy’s Northeast features 21 acts on two stages including Nikki and the Ruemates, Roe Family Singers, Dan Newton, Mother Banjo, Paul Metsa, and Bitter Spills. 2200 4th St. NE, Minneapolis, 12 p.m. – close. At Palmer’s Bar in Minneapolis, Palmfest welcomes Willie Murphy, the Brass Kings, Skoal Kodiak, Cadillac Kolstad, and more. 500 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis, 2 p.m. – close. Perhaps a bit more family-friendly, the Midtown Global Music Festival presents live music and dance from around the world with the Tropics Steel Drum Band, Ole Olsson’s Oldtime Orkestra, Ancestor Energy, Diniya Drum and Dance, and more. 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis, 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.  St. Paul’s Mears Park hosts the 2nd Annual Lowertown Roots Music Festival with the Barley Jacks, Butch Thompson, Los Conocidos Tex Mex Band, and Mike Farris Band. 2:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. At Veterans Memorial Amphitheater in St. Louis Park, it’s the 4th Annual “Blood on the Tracks: A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan.” Organizer Kevin Odegard was one of the musicians heard on the original “Blood on the Tracks” album (1974). He’s joined by Bobby Z, Matt Fink, Patty Peterson, Lonnie Knight, Paul Metsa, the Daisy Dillman Band, and more. Wolfe Park, 3700 Monterey Drive, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. 

Or you might spend Saturday at the Soap Factory, which hosts a free, all-day, family-friendly “Kinship of Rivers” festival starting at 10 a.m. The rivers being celebrated are the Mississippi and the Yangtze; events and activities include a sand mandala, wind chime sound installation, tea ceremony, flag-making, music and dance. FMI.

Also on Saturday: the 7th Annual FLOW Northside Arts Crawl, with a mobile Pedal Stage, potentially the world’s longest Soul Train line (will it break the Guinness World Record?), storefront art, a historic walking tour, a photography contest, cookies, and more. 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. FMI, Pedal Stage sign-up, and Soul Train Line registration here. The Capri Theater will be open all day with free film and performing arts presentations (“Cornerstones: A History of North Minneapolis,” Mu Daiko, the Capri Big Band) and cold pop for sale.

Paul Metsa is playing two festivals Saturday and a show on Sunday.Photo by John WhitingPaul Metsa is playing two festivals Saturday and a show
on Sunday.

It’s a busy weekend for bluesman Paul Metsa. After playing two festivals on Saturday (see above), he’s at the Artists’ Quarter Sunday with Mark Naftalin, former pianist for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and host of “Mark Naftalin’s Blues Power Hour” on San Francisco’s KALW. Naftalin has played and recorded with Mike Bloomfield, John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Van Morrison, and other greats. The chatty and knowledgeable Metsa hosts and guides what should be a colorful, far-ranging conversation. 7:30 p.m.

Sunday is Sousa day at the Old Log Theater. Starting at 4:30 p.m. near the shores of Lake Minnetonka, Scott Crosbie conducts the John Philip Sousa Memorial Band in an outdoor concert. Guest artist Stan Freeze plays “Carnival of Venice” on the tuba. Free concert, free ice cream, “Stars and Stripes Forever.” It all sounds enchantingly old-fashioned.

Earlier this week, Andy Sturdevant marked the six-month anniversary of his weekly column “The Stroll.” I’m a regular reader and I hope you are, too. Sturdevant’s series on our governors’ portraits was fascinating (here’s part 1), as was his saunter through the once-futuristic community of Jonathan. I guess if he’s been here six months, so have I. Time surely flies. Thanks for reading. Thanks for correcting my mistakes in gently worded emails instead of mean comments. Thanks most of all for your interest in the arts; we’re lucky to live where each day is a banquet. Now, please, get out there.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Dave Eischens on 07/27/2012 - 09:00 am.

    Pamela, thanks for all the excellent coverage

    I know it probably doesn’t cause as many readers to comment as in the more political columns but it IS greatly appreciated. Keep ’em coming!

  2. Submitted by Janice Gepner on 07/27/2012 - 11:14 am.


    I’m always glad I read your column. It’s a delight to read and I always find something I’m glad to know about.

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