Union Depot sporting massive new mural; ‘Hansel & Gretel’ to open

Courtesy of Union Depot
A color study for the Union Depot murals.

By the end of today, Union Depot in St. Paul will have a major new work of public art: a massive six-part mural on the west wall of the Waiting Room. Created by Atlanta-based muralist Ralph Gilbert, the painted panels, each 16 feet high, have historic, railroad-related themes: the impact of early settlers on the Dakota people, early immigrants to St. Paul, African-American roles on the railroad, the orphan trains, mail delivery by train, and Union Depot during the world wars.

Gilbert and his installation crew arrived Sunday; installation began Monday. Busy and colorful, figurative and narrative, the murals may remind viewers of those created in the 1930s by Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera: grand in scope and scale, of the people and for the people. Commissioned by Union Depot, chosen from among a pool of 69 proposals, paid for out of the $1.25 million the Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority (RCRRA) budgeted especially for public art at Union Depot, Gilbert’s work will become part of the fabric of St. Paul, seen by countless visitors who pass through Union Depot over the decades and locals who go there for events, who stop to wonder at Gilbert’s paintings and the stories they tell.

The murals will be officially presented to the public on Thursday, Nov. 6. Go first to the Minnesota Museum of American Art Project Space to view some of Gilbert’s preparatory drawings, watercolors and oil sketches and gain insight into his process, then walk the two blocks to Union Depot for a celebration. The public opening at the Project Space begins at 6 p.m., with a short program at 6:45. FMI. The celebration at Union Depot starts at 7:30 p.m. The MMAA exhibit continues through Dec. 7.

Mike Hodnick, Yohannes Tona and Aby Wolf have each won a 2014 Minnesota Emerging Composer Award (MECA), the American Composers Forum announced Monday. Each will receive $3,000 to pursue a new project that will help them take the next steps in developing their careers. Funded by the Jerome Foundation, the annual award is given to emerging Minnesota-based composers of jazz/improvisation, electronic, and world music. Past recipients include Davu Seru, JT Bates, Orkestar Bez Ime, Malamanya, M.anifest/Kwame Tsikata and Kevin Washington.

JT Bates, a drummer known to Twin Cities music fans of all stripes (he’s a member of Fat Kid Wednesdays, the Pines, and Alpha Consumer, to name but a few, and curates Monday’s late-night Jazz Implosion series at Icehouse), played an emergency gig earlier this month in Ghent, Belgium. When Doris Duke award-winning pianist-composer and ECM recording artist Craig Taborn found himself without a drummer for a trio date, he called JT, who hopped a plane, arrived a half-hour before soundcheck, then nailed Taborn’s complex, multifaceted music. They’ve known each other forever – Taborn is a Golden Valley native – but still. Bates’ MECA-funded album, “Open Relationships,” will be released sometime this winter.

ACF also announced the 2014 Jerome Fund for New Music (JFund) winners, which supports the production of new musical works by emerging composers based in Minnesota and New York City. This year’s Minnesota winners are Zack Baltich, Kari Musil and Natalie Nowytski. Baltich will write “Western Interior,” a work for percussion trio and two guitars inspired by the poetry of Alec Osthoff. Musil will compose “The Freedom of Jazz Is in the Flavors!” an evening-length cabaret. Nowytski will compose the music for “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” a theatrical work based on a Norwegian folk tale to be workshopped at Nautilus Music Theater. JFund awards range from $3,000–$8,500.

The Picks

Tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 29) at the State Theatre: David Sedaris. A few main-floor seats are still available for Sedaris’ annual visit to the State. The latest from the New York Times bestselling author and NPR humorist is titled “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.” 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($36.50–$46.50).

Thursday at the Amsterdam: Ben Frost: “Aurora.” Don’t think; listen. Don’t listen; feel. Frost’s music comes in through your skin and rattles your bones. Rolling Stone said this about the latest album by the Aussie-born Icelander: “unrelentingly menacing … VHS grinding, wistful ‘Blade Runner’ synths, howling white noise and broken Detroit techno.” Andrew Broder opens. Presented by the Amsterdam and Kate Nordstrum Projects. Doors at 7 p.m., Broder at 7:45, Frost at 8:30, post-concert DJ set. Tickets here ($15).

The weekend

Friday at the Park Square Theatre: “The House on Mango Street” opens on the brand-new Andy Boss Thrust Stage. It took 10 years from concept to completion, but Park Square finally has its second stage, funded almost entirely by private donors, which says a lot about how well this theater is loved. Adapted by Amy Ludwig from the novel by Sandra Cisneros, “The House on Mango Street” is a story about a young girl growing up in a Latino neighborhood in Chicago. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($38/$58). Through Nov. 9.

Friday at the Playwrights’ Center: Frank Theatre’s “Grounded” opens. In George Brant’s prize-winning play, Shá Cage gives a solo performance as fighter pilot whose unplanned pregnancy leads to a desk job. By day, she fights a war, remotely operating drones in Afghanistan from a windowless trailer outside of Las Vegas; by night, she returns to her family. Her two lives collide in a play about moral responsibility, choices and modern warfare. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20/$25). Through Nov. 23.

Saturday at Minneapolis Central Library: Family History Fair. Learn how to use state, local and library resources to explore your family history. Expert-led workshops and resource tables staffed by genealogical, historical and heritage groups will guide you, answer your questions and share information. Library staff will give an optional tour of the genealogy and government documents area. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free, but please register.

Saturday at the Ordway: The Minnesota Opera’s “Hansel and Gretel” opens. Two children and a gingerbread house in the woods? Try two children and a candy-colored carousel in the city. It’s still Engelbert Humperdinck’s music, but the setting and the presence of the Zenon dancers make you hear and experience it differently. Soprano Angela Mortellaro (“Silent Night,” “The Dream of Valentino”) is Gretel, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Lauricella is Hansel in a new Minnesota Opera production staged and choreographed by Doug Varone. Both singers have performed their roles before, opposite each other at Sarasota Opera in 2010. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25–$200). Through Nov. 9.

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