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10 days in Grand Marais: Outdoor painting, Unplugged fest and more

ALSO: Nichols + Bates + Bates at Studio Z; Julie Schumacher reads from “Dear Committee Members”; Dylan tickets to go on sale; and more.

The Grand Marais Art Colony’s weeklong Plein Air Competition, now in its 12th year, will lure painters outdoors to capture the beauty of the North Shore landscape.
Courtesy of Grand Marais Art Colony

You might have heard that Grand Marais is an artsy, creative town. Writing for Northern Wilds magazine, editor/publisher Shawn Perich notes that “statistics, believe it or not, bear this out. The USDA has a Creative Class index for counties. Cook County, where Grand Marais is located, has the highest Bohemian share (artists and artisans) of any Minnesota county.” Take that, Hennepin and Ramsey.

Art happens year-round in the little town on the big lake, but Grand Marais is going all out for 10 days starting this Friday (Sept. 5). The Grand Marais Art Colony’s weeklong Plein Air Competition, now in its 12th year, will lure painters outdoors to capture the beauty of the North Shore landscape. At 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, the 60 participating artists will gather at Artists’ Point on the east bay for a 90-minute paint-a-thon that will begin and end with a shotgun blast.

From Friday, Sept. 5 through Sunday, Sept. 7, the annual Radio Waves Music Festival, now in its seventh year, presents three days of music, over 30 acts, kids’ activities, on-site food and a dance floor. Here’s the daily line-up. Sponsored by community radio station WTIP, the festival spotlights area talent, which Sam Miltich & the Clearwater Hot Club (4:55 p.m. Sunday), who are great favorites down in the Twin Cities. At Sweetheart’s Bluff in the Grand Marais Recreation Area on the shores of Lake Superior. $5 per day, $10 for the weekend, at the gate. FMI.

From Thursday, Sept. 11 through Saturday, Sept. 13, the Unplugged XIII Fall Festival takes place at North House Folk School. Performers include Dan Wilson, Chris Smither, the Don Juans (featuring Don Henry and Jon Vezner, a Grammy winner and Unplugged’s founder), David Lindley, Pert Near Sandstone, Carrie Newcomer and Judith Owen. 7 p.m. each night. FMI; tickets here ($20–$50). West Virginia Public Radio’s “Mountain Stage Radio Show,” heard nationally, will broadcast live from Unplugged on Thursday and Friday nights.

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If you go, and if you’re from out of town, give yourself time to stroll the streets, take in the views, try the restaurants and explore the galleries; we can personally recommend the Sivertson Gallery, with quality work by regional artists as well as Canadian Inuit, Alaskan native, and Native American art. And next time we’re there, we’re definitely going to the Art Colony Gallery Store.

The Picks

Tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 3) at the Elmer L. Andersen Library on the U’s West Bank:  Julie Schumacher reads from her new novel, “Dear Committee Members.” The story – of a professor of creative writing and literature at a small, undistinguished liberal arts college in the Midwest whose life is a tale of woe – is told in a series of letters of recommendation he’s endlessly called upon to produce. An epistolary novel! It’s been a while since we’ve seen one of those. Schumacher is a faculty member in the U’s creative writing program and English department who probably writes a lot of letters of recommendation. 7 p.m., followed by a reception. Free.

Thursday at Studio Z in Lowertown: Nichols + Bates + Bates. Trumpeter Steve Kenny’s 10-week “All Originals Jazz series” is nearing an end; this is the penultimate week, with the Adam Meckler Orchestra providing the big finale next Thursday, Sept. 11. Pianist Bryan Nichols, bassist Chris Bates and drummer JT Bates have all known each other forever, and it shows in their playing; they’re easy together, and playful, and listen hard and challenge each other. Because it’s jazz, plans for Thursday are still a bit up in the air. “The original goal was to play music by all three of us,” Nichols said on Tuesday. “All originals, like the title of the series. We’ll see if that happens. We’ll for sure play songs by Chris and I, but I haven’t heard confirmation from JT that he will bring anything along.” We do know that JT has been writing music; in 2012, he won a Minnesota Emerging Composer Award (MECA) from the American Composers Forum, and he’s been working on a CD.  8 p.m., doors at 7:30. $10 at the door.

The Weekend

Saturday and Sunday at Centennial Lakes Park in Edina: Fall into the Arts Festival. Around 200 sculptors, glassmakers, jewelers, photographers, painters and makers of other wonderful things will line the paved walkways of the park a few blocks south of Southdale. 7499 France Ave. 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday.

Saturday at noon is when tickets to Bob Dylan’s upcoming Minneapolis shows go on sale. If you haven’t heard – because you’ve been deep underground in a cave or deep underwater in a submarine, about the only places left on Earth without the Internet – Hibbing’s favorite son is returning to the Orpheum, a place he and his brother used to own, for three concerts: Tuesday-Thursday, Nov. 4-6, all at 8 p.m. Here’s the link to tickets ($55–135). Or buy them at the State Theatre Box Office (open Saturday from noon until 3 p.m.) and avoid service fees. Nov. 4 is the same date Columbia/Legacy will release Dylan’s “The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11,” which includes the 1967 recording sessions with members of his touring ensemble, later known as The Band.

Plan Ahead

If you like your music edgy, intense, eclectic and thought-provoking, Meshell Ndegeocello is for you. Ever-changing and unpredictable, she’s worth going out to see whenever she comes through town. A singer, songwriter, and one of the few female bassists, Ndegeocello (en-deh-gay-o-chel-o) verged on pop stardom when she was signed to Madonna’s Maverick label in the early 1990s. For her first album, “Plantation Lullabies,” she wrote all of the songs, played most of the instruments, and had an MTV hit, “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night).” She has since earned nine Grammy nominations and has performed with a lot of interesting people: the Stones, John Mellencamp, Santana, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Chaka Khan, Ledisi, and Joshua Redman, to name a few. The acclaimed pianist Jason Moran tapped her for his most recent project, a recasting of the music of Fats Waller. She’s touring behind her latest, “Comet, Come to Me,” which includes a cover of a rap song, a song co-written with My Brightest Diamond (Shara Worden), two songs with lyrics by poet Kenneth Fearing, and reggae. If you can’t quite classify or categorize it, and that makes you uneasy, remember what Duke Ellington said: There are only two kinds of music, good and bad. Here’s a video of “Shopping for Jazz” from the new album, “Comet.” She’s at the Dakota Tuesday, Sept. 16, for one set only at 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($42–$35).