Fitting namings for Joan Mondale, George Latimer; ‘Cold Mountain’ to be an opera

Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Then-Sen. Walter Mondale and Joan Mondale posing for a portrait in 1972.

A tulip, a gallery at the Textile Center, and now Macalester’s studio art building all have something in common: Joan Mondale’s name. The studio art building reopened in January after an extensive renovation and expansion. In April, the college’s board of trustees unanimously approved naming it the Joan Adams Mondale Hall of Studio Art. Joan graduated from Macalester in 1952 with a degree in history; her father served as chaplain there, and her future husband graduated two years ahead of her. In a statement issued in April, Walter Mondale said, “This decision perfectly fits [Joan’s] years at Macalester, what Macalester meant to her, the role of her family and the years she spent on the Macalester Board and the other ways she remained deeply involved in the life of Macalester College.” The former vice president attended the official naming ceremony on Monday and spoke briefly to the crowd.

Dubbed “Joan of Art” for her lifelong support of the arts, Joan Mondale passed away in February at the age of 83. In 2004, the Textile Center named its largest exhibition space the Joan Mondale Gallery. During Walter Mondale’s vice presidency, the Dutch tulip breeder J.F. van der Berg named a tulip after Joan, and bulbs were planted at the vice president’s residence in 1980.

The St. Paul Central Library will be renamed the George Latimer Central Library in honor of the former mayor and St. Paul icon, Mayor Chris Coleman’s office announced Thursday. “George continues to reflect Saint Paul’s unique spirit,” Coleman said. It is only fitting that one of our most beautiful and historic buildings, committed to the education and enrichment of our residents, bear his name.” A new plaque will be unveiled at an event at the library on June 10, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

First “Cold Mountain” was a book by then-unknown author Charles Frazier. It topped the New York Times best-seller list for 61 weeks and won the National Book Award. Next it was a film starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renée Zellweger; nominated for seven Oscars and eight Golden Globes, it won one of each. Let’s hope the winning streak continues, because “Cold Mountain” is about to become an opera. Minnesota Opera has announced that it will co-commission a new opera version of the Civil War tale with the Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia. Pulitzer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon will write the music; she has already partnered with librettist Gene Scheer. Santa Fe Opera will perform the world premiere in August 2015. “Cold Mountain” is part of Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative, which also commissioned “The Manchurian Candidate” (due March 2015) and “The Shining” (May 2016). We’ll see “Cold Mountain” here in 2018.

Penumbra’s 2014-5 season, announced earlier this week, shows the clear influence of the theatre’s new co-artistic director, Sarah Bellamy. The season is titled “Womensong.” Every play but the holiday show, “Black Nativity” (Dec. 12-22), illuminates the struggles of women; all were written by women. Beginning Oct. 16: “On the Way to Timbuktu,” a one-woman show written and performed by Petronia Paley. Nov. 6-16: “HappyFlowerNail,” a look at how gentrification affects a multicultural neighborhood and the women who hold it together, written and performed by Radha Blank. Opens Feb. 5, 2015: “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” a play about being black in Hollywood in the 1930s, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Notage. April 23-May 17: “Detroit ’67” by Dominique Morisseau, winner of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama. Continuing Penumbra’s strong commitment to education, each play will be accompanied by post-play discussions, “Bookends” events that explore the script and the production, “Let’s Talk Theatre” social gatherings, study guides and showings of films related to the plays. If you want, you can truly immerse yourself in one or more.

At this year’s James Beard Awards, held in New York City, a Minnesotan did not win Best Chef Midwest. Although the Bachelor Farmer’s Paul Berglund, Salty Tart’s Michelle Gayer, and Heartland’s Lenny Russo were all up for the honor, it went to Justin Aprahamian of Milwaukee’s Sanford. In the Broadcast and New Media category, “This American Life” beat out “The Splendid Table.” But Minnesotans brought home two awards: Mirra Fine and Daniel Klein for their video webcast, “The Perennial Plate,” and Amy Thielen for her cookbook “The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes,” which will now sport a handsome James Beard Award sticker and make its way to many Christmas lists.

Photo by Andrea Canter
The Jazz Central All-Stars: (left to right) Tanner Taylor, Zack Lozier, Graydon Peterson, Mac Santiago, Dave Graf, Doug Haining

The Twin Cities Jazz Festival is taking part of its show on the road. Starting Friday, May 16, it’s sending the six-member Jazz Central All-Stars – pianist Tanner Taylor, saxophonist Doug Haining, trombonist Dave Graf, trumpeter Zack Lozier, bassist Graydon Peterson and drummer Mac Santiago – on a tour of greater Minnesota that includes live jazz performances at the Paramount Theatre in Austin (May 16), the Historic Palace Theater in Luverne (May 31), the Hollywood Theater in Montevideo (June 7), the Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre (June 14), St. James Memorial Park in St. James (July 17), and Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault (Sept. 25). Founded by Taylor and Santiago, Jazz Central is a nonprofit performance/educational space in northeast Minneapolis with live jazz five nights a week. Legacy funds and the NEA are supporting the tour; Jefferson Lines is providing the transportation. This year’s Twin Cities Jazz Festival takes place June 26-28.

Minnesota Citizens for the Arts reports that Minnesotans “increasingly love the Legacy Amendment.” The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which funnels tens of millions of dollars each year into arts, arts education, arts access and preservation statewide, passed in November 2008 with 51% of the vote. In a recent poll by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, 71% of responders said they now favor the amendment. Meanwhile, according to the Minnesota State Arts Board, attendance at arts events has increased by 21% since the amendment was passed.

Violist Stefan Hersh hadn’t played with the Minnesota Orchestra for 19 years when he returned as a substitute for last weekend’s “Echoes of History” concerts at Northrop. In a post for Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog, Hersh wrote, “When I was a member of the Minnesota Orchestra some 20 years ago, I felt I was playing in the best orchestra I had ever been a part of. Last week I played in an even better group.”

Here’s one way to lure the public to an exhibit of early 20th-century medical books and artifacts: name it “Downton Abbey: Behind the Scenes of Health and Illness.” Co-curators Lois Hendrickson and Emily Hagens are both fans of the show; the labels used to describe the exhibit weave in characters’ names and events from the popular series, along with a few quotations. According to one visitor, the exhibit includes “a lot of pokers and tweezers.” And according to the U, more than 1,000 people have stopped by to see it. At the Wangensteen Historical Library at the University of Minnesota, through May 16. FMI.

An editorial in the Star Tribune on Thursday called on the Minnesota Legislature to save the Bell Museum on the University’s campus: “The Bell’s 75-year-old facility has been treated as a near-orphan in recent years, excluded from university funding requests and denied state funding via gubernatorial vetoes and legislative parsimony.” It’s not even on U of M President Eric Kaler’s list of top six funding requests – because, as the editorial pointed out and a lot of people don’t know, it’s not a university facility. Created by the state, it’s a responsibility of the state, and as the writer noted, “The Legislature has demonstrated considerable creativity in adding buildings to the Capitol complex … The Bell is a state facility, every bit as much as a new state Senate office building will be. Surely, legislators … can be as creative with Bell financing as they have been with their own office needs.” On display at the Bell through June 8: “Audubon and the Art of Birds,” a rare chance to view a large selection of Audubon’s hand-colored engravings, now restored. FMI.

Our picks for the weekend

Friday at the American Swedish Institute: Cocktails at the Castle: Swedish House Party. Celebrate Europe Day at an event with so much going on it makes us dizzy to write about it. A dance party featuring DJ Jake Rudh. Live local music. Crafty goings-on with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. European street food by FIKA, specialty cocktails and beer. A chance to tour the galleries, see a new exhibit before it officially opens, watch “Papercut!” come to life thanks to Minnesota Dance Theater, learn German drinking games, play ping-pong and see film shorts curated by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul. Sorry, no elephant rides. 7-11 p.m., 21+. FMI and tickets ($15).

Friday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: “Godzilla: The Japanese Original.” Stomp! Stomp! Roar! The 60th anniversary restoration of the 1954 sci-fi masterpiece features the director’s original cut including 40 extra minutes of scenes chopped from the original US release. Not dubbed, but presented in Japanese with revised English subtitles. Here’s the teaser trailer. FMI and tickets ($8.50-$5). Through May 15.

Saturday in Minneapolis and St. Paul: Twin Cities Bungalow Home Tour. Especially in the age of teardowns, it’s refreshing to see these smaller, well-built homes and how their owners have made them livable for the 21st century. Start at the first house, 4231 Blaisdell Ave. S., where you’ll pick up a map with the addresses of the other five. Last year, some 500 people took the tour. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. $5, free for club members. FMI.

Saturday at Gamut Gallery: Opening reception for “If These Walls Could Talk.” Photographer Cameren Torgerud explores early and mid-century American ruins, some since demolished. His use of HDR imaging captures details that would otherwise be lost and makes each image almost tactile; you want to touch the decaying velvet chair backs, peeling wallpaper and crumbling plaster. It feels a bit dangerous, kind of creepy, profoundly sad and deeply peaceful, all at the same time. 7-11 p.m., 1006 Marquette Ave. S. in Minneapolis. Through May 31.

Saturday at Hamline United Methodist Church: “Let My People Go! A Spiritual Journey Along the Underground Railroad.” Presented by the Oratorio Society, Donald McCullough’s concert-length oratorio weaves African-American spirituals into a historically-based story about how slaves used hidden messages in their music to pass along instructions about the Underground Railroad. Narrated by T. Mychael Rambo and Aimee K. Bryant, sung by Elisabeth Stevens, Yolanda Williams, Tesfa Wondemagegnehu and G. Philip Shoultz. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10-$30). 

Photo by Ingrid Werthmann
Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands

Saturday at the Ordway: TU Dance. The 10th anniversary concert by the celebrated St. Paul dance company includes the Ordway-commissioned world premiere of “Hikari,” choreographed by Uri Sands in collaboration with master wood block print artist Hiroki Morinoue; Alvin Ailey’s duet “Twin Cities”; the Minnesota premiere of Uri Sands’ “One,” commissioned by Dance St. Louis to honor the legacy of Henrietta Lacks, whose story was told in the New York Times bestseller “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”; and “Lady,” an early work by Toni Pierce-Sands inspired by the couple’s travels in South Africa. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($23-$53). Come early for a pre-show presentation in the lobby (6:30 p.m.), stay after for a party.

Monday at the Rarig Center: Wendy Lehr’s “My Life in the Theater: I Always Said Yes!” The beloved Twin Cities actor, director, teacher and recipient of the McKnight Distinguished Artist Award will talk about her life in what is certain to be a smart, illuminating, warm and witty program. Presented by the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Reception with hearty hors d’oeuvres, soft drinks and cash bar at 6 p.m., program at 7:30. FMI and tickets ($5-$25, free for U of M students).

Monday and Tuesday at the Nautilus Music Theater: Rough Cuts. The monthly series features samples from professional-quality musical theater productions in the works, plus free cookies and milk. This month’s offering is “Twisted Apples: Stories from Winesburg, Ohio” by Jim Payne (libretto) and Robert Elhai (music), based on the novel by Sherwood Anderson about small-town life at the turn of the last century. The setting is intimate and informal, and the tickets are $5 or pay-as-able. 7:30 p.m. Monday in the new Nautilus Studio on the first floor of the Northern Warehouse, 308 Prince Street #190 in St. Paul’s Lowertown; Tuesday in the Music Building on the campus of Augsburg College, 22nd Ave. at Riverside in Minneapolis. 7:30 p.m. Email for reservations or call 651-298-9913. 

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