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Seitu Jones wins McKnight grant; 'The Color Purple' to open

Seitu Jones, speaking at the final Talk-It Hennepin forum
Photo by Bill Kelley
Seitu Jones, speaking at the Talk-It Hennepin forum

St. Paul visual artist Seitu Jones has won the 2015 McKnight Project Grant from Forecast Public Art. He’ll use it to build ARTARK, a floating platform for artistic and scientific experiences that will document St. Paul’s 13-mile-long Mississippi River watershed segment with writing, visual art and performance. ARTARK will be built during a six-month residency in a public exhibition space; youth from the Kitty Anderson Youth Science Center and Urban Boatbuilders will collaborate in its design and construction.

Previous winners of the $50,000 Project Grant, now in its fourth year, are Randy Walker, Melisande Charles and Mankwe Ndosi.

In September 2014, Jones brought 2,000 Twin Cities residents together for “CREATE: The Community Meal” in St. Paul’s Frogtown, an “artistic intervention in the food system” made possible by his $50,000 2013 Joyce Award from Public Art Saint Paul. Other prior honors include the 2005-2006 Bush Leadership Fellowship and the 2005 Sally Award for Vision. As a scenic designer, Jones has created sets for many theaters in the Twin Cities and elsewhere; he’s the set designer for Park Square’s “The Color Purple,” which opens Friday.

Forecast awarded $5,000 McKnight Professional Development Grants to Christopher Lutter-Gardella and Tamsie Ringer. Olivia Levins Holden and Witt Siasoco both won $8,000 Jerome Project Grants for Emerging Artists to create publicly accessible temporary or permanent artworks. Four emerging public artists – Benjamin Moren, D.A. Bullock, Edward Euclide and Sarah Nassif – have each received $2,500 Jerome Research and Development/Planning Grants. 

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Based on the book by former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, directed by Clint Eastwood, the Oscar-nominated film “American Sniper” has raised a firestorm of criticism and controversy while breaking box-office records. (The book made headlines in 2014 when former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura sued Kyle’s estate for defamation, and won; he’s now suing publisher HarperCollins.) Don’t be bringing up any of that if you attend “An Evening with Taya Kyle and special guest Jim DeFelice” at Beth El Synagogue in February. Booked before the movie opened, it’s part of Beth El’s “Heroes Among Us” series, and the focus will be on the spirit of service and the challenges facing veterans, first responders and their families. Sunday, Feb. 8, 7-9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($18 military general admission – $360 VIP). Taya Kyle is Chris Kyle’s widow; he was shot and killed at a Texas shooting range in 2013. DeFelice is the book’s coauthor.

Minneapolis children’s author Kate DiCamillo is an Energizer Bunny for books and reading. Currently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for the Library of Congress, a two-year appointment, DiCamillo just became the first-ever National Summer Reading Champion for the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP). That’s the unsexy name for a program that provides public libraries with high-quality reading program materials. (The idea was born here in 1987, when 10 Minnesota regional library systems developed a summer library program for kids.) The author of 18 books and the Star Tribune’s 2014 Artist of the Year, DiCamillo received her second Newbery Award in 2014 for her novel “Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures.” Her next novel hits the shelves in spring 2016. In her new role with CSLP, she’ll encourage young readers “to go and find themselves at the library, to find books that capture their imaginations and to spend time with others who love good stories.”

For artists: Don’t miss this Friday’s “Flourish! Resource Fair.” Presented by Springboard for the Arts and the James J. Hill Center, it’s a chance to talk one-on-one with professionals about resources for funding, legal advice, health care, working spaces, insurance and opportunities; get free blood pressure and HIV screenings and help signing up for discounted health insurance; and attend presentations about publishing, crowdfunding, coworking spaces and other topics. Come anytime between 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. At the James J. Hill Center, 80 W. 4th St. in downtown St. Paul. Free, but registration is requested.

The picks

Tonight (Thursday, Jan. 22) at the Landmark Center in St. Paul: Music and Tales from the Schubert Club Manuscripts. Tenor Vern Sutton reads between the lines of letters from Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Grieg, Beethoven and other composers in the Schubert Club’s manuscript collection, after which he and soprano Maria Jette perform their music. This event has been moved from the Schubert Club Museum to Courtroom 317, but tickets ($10-$12) are still squeaky scarce.

The weekend

Several noteworthy productions open this weekend. We’ll list them in order of what closes first.

• In a garage in south Minneapolis, Off-Leash Area presents “SAMO: Like a Fiery Comet, Jean Michel Basquiat Shoots Across the Sky.” Off-Leash Area’s co-artistic director Paul Herwig and Stuart Pimsler principal dancer Brian Evans have refreshed and expanded their 2012 show about the 1980s art star. Evans is the painter, Herwig is Death. Opens Friday (Jan. 23) at 8 p.m. in Herwig’s heated, surprisingly theater-like garage. Six performances; ends Feb. 1. Reservations encouraged. $10-$20 suggested donation at the door.

• At the Ordway in St. Paul, the Minnesota Opera performs Donizetti’s comic opera “The Elixir of Love.” (This is the one where Nemorino sings “Una furtiva lagrima.” Here’s Pavarotti in Milan.) It’s about a poor peasant, a wealthy young woman, a quack and a questionable potion. No one dies on stage. Opens Saturday (Jan. 24) at 7:30 p.m. in the music theater. Five performances; ends Feb. 1. FMI and tickets ($25-$200).

• At the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, the musical of “The Color Purple,” based on Alice Walker’s famous novel and the movie version, features the largest all-African-American cast in Park Square’s history. Opens Friday (Jan. 23) at 7:30 p.m. on the proscenium stage. Ends Feb. 15. FMI and tickets ($48/$68).

• At the Southern Theater in Minneapolis, Theatre Novi Most presents a newly reworked version of its original play “Rehearsing Failure,” about Bertold Brecht rehearsing “The Life of Galileo” with his wife and two of his former lovers. It’s billed as “equal parts physical theatre, music concert, and psychological drama,” and it certainly sounds intriguing. Opens Saturday (Jan. 24) at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Southern’s new ARTshare program. Runs in repertory with two other groups; ends Feb. 22. FMI and tickets ($8 members/$24 general admission).

• At the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, “Gertrude Stein and a Companion” returns – for the eighth time. The most popular production in the Jungle’s history, Win Wells’ play about the writer, her lover and their famous friends was last seen here in 2001. Claudia Wilkins and Barbara Kingsley reprise the title roles they have performed all along. Opens Friday (Jan. 23) at 8 p.m. Ends March 8. FMI and tickets ($25-$43).

Save the date

Feb. 2 and 3 at the Dakota in Minneapolis: Chris Potter Quartet. This was originally booked for this coming Sunday, but a scheduling snafu resulted in a bonus for Twin Cities jazz fans: two nights of Chris Potter instead of one. So let’s make the most of it. One of the top minds in modern jazz, saxophonist and composer Potter will be here with Adam Rogers, Fima Ephron and Nate Smith. Two shows each night, 7 and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25/$15). 

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The Color Purple

I saw a preview last night. GO SEE IT!

The Twin Cities has an amazing array of musical theater performers, and a number of the very best are in this show, including Regina Marie Williams, T. Mychael Rambo, Aimee K. Bryant, Thomasina Petrus, Dennis Spears, Ginger Commodore and Joetta Wright to name just a few. Spectacular music and performances.