What the Oscars are to movies and the Grammys are to music, the Hugos are to science fiction. Twin Cities-based writer Neil Gaiman won one over the weekend for “The Doctor’s Wife,” his script for the long-running British SF series “Doctor Who.” This is Gaiman’s sixth Hugo. He already has several Nebulas, Bram Stokers, and Squiddys, two Shirley Jacksons and a Ray Bradbury. He’s the first author to win both the Newbery Medal and the Carnegie Medal in Literature, and the first to be called a “pencil-necked weasel” by a Minnesota legislator, which happened last year when Gaiman was paid a large sum of money for a speaking appearance.
Gaiman is not the only 2012 Hugo winner with local connections. Ursula Vernon, author of the children’s book series “Dragonbreath” and a 1998 Macalester graduate in anthropology, won for “Digger,” a comic about a wombat trapped in a fantasy world. “Digger” was published by Sofawolf Press, an independent publisher based in Minneapolis.
The 13th annual Sound Unseen festival — films on music and art — was announced today, and it’s tasty. More than 20 documentaries, narratives and short films will be shown in mid-October at the cozy Trylon and the historic Ritz, including several that have screened at major national and international film festivals. Harriet Brewing, which has become a destination for live music as well as craft beer, will be the festival’s music headquarters. Films include “An Affair of the Heart,” about pop star Rick Springfield; “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey,” the story of Filipino singer and former homeless kid Arnel Pineda, who replaced Steve Perry as Journey’s lead singer and sounds just like him (some of you heard him at the Fair on Saturday); “Beware of Mr. Baker,” about loose-cannon drummer Ginger Baker (Cream, Blind Faith); “The Source,” about a radical experiment in 1970s utopian living, complete with rock band; and “Cartoon College,” a look into the world of aspiring indie cartoonists and graphic novelists featuring the likes of Lynda Barry and Art Spiegelman. The hotlinks are to the trailers. Oct. 10-14. Full schedule online. Tickets available starting Friday here, here, and here.
We love this bit of news from Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. On Aug. 24 at the Litchfield Opera House, Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) accepted an Arts All Star Award from MCA before performing as Ming the Merciless in the “Old Time Radio” show. Urdahl, chair of the Legacy Committee, was honored for supporting the arts during the 2012 legislative session, when some tried to divert Legacy funds for things like football stadiums. Pathetic earthlings!
If you’ve been wondering about the status of the Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center, our state’s first African American history museum, so have we. Plans were to open this fall with an exhibit on black baseball in Minnesota, but now that might not happen. According to Randy Furst’s story in Saturday’s Strib, the museum is being asked by its bankers to rewrite the terms of a $1.2 million mortgage after winning a $1 million state grant. Both the bank and the state want the museum — the historic Coe Mansion south of downtown Minneapolis — as collateral.
Have we heard the last of the Internet Cat Video Festival? It’s doubtful. Ten thousand people showed up for the first-of-its-kind event, the brainchild of 28-year-old Walker Art Center program associate Katie Hill that almost overnight became a meme. Everyone covered it: ABC and CBS and the Hollywood Reporter, Slate and Newsweek, the New York Times and the Daily Mail (UK) and on and on. Roger Ebert won’t let it go. A headline in the Village Voice said rather wistfully, “We All Wish We Attended the Internet Cat Video Festival in Minnesota.”
We drove by on Thursday as dusk was falling, en route from one prior commitment to another. The Walker’s Open Field was blanketed with people, and more were streaming in from all sides. The bike parking area was a snarl of metal and wheels. Traffic was a mess. It was glorious. It was also likely a game-changer. When a major art museum does something this quirky and is rewarded so richly, others notice. Ten thousand attendees, 10,000 votes for favorite videos, international coverage, a sponsorship by Animal Planet, sold-out T-shirts and a huge spike in web traffic are all reasons for cultural institutions to come up with bright ideas of their own. (Not copycat ideas — please, no Internet Hamster Video Festival — but original thinking.) The CatVidFest had little to do with so-called serious art but everything to do with building community, establishing accessibility, breaking down walls and making the arts seem less elite and more everyday. So — who’s next?
Opening Sept. 6 (Thursday) indoors at the Walker, on view through 2014: “The Living Years: Art After 1989.” An evolving installation of works from the Walker’s permanent collection from 1990 to the present offers a glimpse into the changing nature of art produced during this period and a close-up look at the Walker’s recent history. How perfect that this overlaps, if briefly, another Walker show, “This Will Have Been: Art Love & Politics in the 1980s,” which closes Sept. 30.
I’ve seen “This Will Have Been” twice and have thought about it often since. The first serious retrospective of 1980s art, it’s a provocative and sobering look at a time not that long ago when many things were changing. Forget Depeche Mode and shoulder pads, cynicism and irony; this is about Reaganism and feminism, gay culture and AIDS, the rise of the commercial art market, commodification, activism, rage, gender, consumerism, fame, sex and desire. Almost everything in it — every print, painting, photograph, film, poster and artifact — is heavy with layers of meaning. See it if you can and maybe segue into “The Living Years.”
In 2010, the Bush Foundation ended its Bush Artists Fellowships program, which for more than three decades had supported individual artists with generous grants. That program (along with all other existing fellowship programs) was replaced by a single program called the Bush Fellowship Program that has a very different purpose: fostering leadership to mobilize communities to solve problems. Although the day of $50,000 Bush grants for artists is over, a look at the 2012 Bush Fellows, announced last week, shows that while the arts are no longer a focus, they have not been entirely forgotten. New Fellow Peyton Scott Russell (Minneapolis) will work to win support for graffiti and street art so it may be taught safely in institutions throughout Minnesota. Annette Lee (Foreston) will document and preserve Ojibwe and Dakota/Lakota elders’ “star knowledge” — stories about the stars. On Saturday, Sept. 8, Russell will be part of “Paint on the Water,” Stillwater’s first ever hip-hop and graffiti art festival. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Pioneer Park, Second and Laurel streets in Stillwater.
Have you always wanted to write a book? Beginning Saturday, Sept. 15, Hennepin County Library and the Loft Literary Center (with support from the Legacy Fund, thank you very much) will offer 29 free “First Pages” writing workshops on a variety of topics for new, experienced, published and non-published writers. Workshops last 90 minutes and are available for adults and kids (grades 4-6). All are taught by Loft teaching artists, many of whom are published authors. The workshops are free but registration is required. Sites include the Eden Prairie, Oxboro, Brooklyn Park, Edina and Franklin libraries. FMI. Complete schedule starts here.
Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the Dakota: the Pat Metheny Unity Band. The esteemed and inventive guitarist has played with a lot of great people over the years (and sometimes without any people; his Orchestrion project was a massive mechanical orchestra that Metheny controlled from his guitar). But I’m especially excited to hear him with the stellar saxophonist Chris Potter. The other band members are Ben Williams on bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums. The CD they’re touring behind is plain terrific. FMI and tickets.
Is music in one’s genes? It seems that way when a 29-year-old Swiss environmentalist chucks his perfectly good job, decides to pursue a career as a vibraphonist and signs up for jazz school in Lucerne. Perhaps John Dickinson’s decision has something to do with being the grandson of Marv Dahlgren, retired Minnesota Orchestra percussionist, and Betty Dahlgren, former Minnesota Orchestra harpist. Dickinson and his grandfather will play a concert at the Artists’ Quarter on Thursday (Sept. 5) starting at 9 p.m. Hat tip to Dick Parker for reporting this story in CODA, a member publication of the Twin Cities Jazz Society.
Thursday to Sunday, Ananya Dance Theatre performs the U.S. premiere of “Moreechika: Season of Mirage.” The third work in a four-part investigation into violence, trauma, resistance and empowerment experienced by communities of color, “Moreechika” is about oil and its human costs. Ananya Chatterjea co-directs the company she founded, known for its emotional intensity, physical prowess and resonant storytelling. “Moreechika” sounds sobering; it will probably be a knock-out. At the Southern. Tickets here.
Northrop King Building, California Building and Casket Arts Building, say hello to Solar Arts Building, the new kid in town. A rundown former manufacturing building has been rescued, refurbished, fitted with 108 solar panels on the rooftop, and rented out to 25 creative-artist tenants. A ribbon will be cut, refreshments will be served, and tours will be given on Thursday, Sept. 6, starting at 4 p.m. 711 15th Ave. NE, Minneapolis.