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Three shows at Center for Book Arts; ‘Afro Blue’ at the Capri

ALSO: ‘Trick Boxing’ at Park Square; artists sought for Nicollet Mall project; and more.

Bookbinder Ethan Ensign's design for "Books Will Speak Plain."
Guild of Book Workers, Midwest Chapter

There are books you read on your Kindle, books you read on the beach, books you stack on your bedside table and books that rise up as works of art. The Minnesota Center for Book Arts views the book as a contemporary, evolving art form that takes many shapes, some not at all book-like. At MCBA, artists and book lovers learn and practice the traditional, deliberate crafts of papermaking, letterpress printing and bookbinding. Its street-level gallery hosts local, national and international and national exhibitions where it’s easy to spend hours bending over tables, peering onto shelves and studying minute details. Before you know it, you fall in love and start seeing books differently.

Three shows on now, all part of MCBA’s 30th anniversary celebration, focus on the art of bookbinding. Together they include nearly 100 works by more than 70 artists from the U.S., Canada and Europe. The juried traveling exhibition “Plainly Spoken” features 17 different treatments of the same book, Julia Miller’s “Books Will Speak Plain,” a 500-page handbook about book structures and styles written for conservators, collectors, librarians and book lovers. Bookbinders from across the country acquired the text in folded sheets and went to work. Some took a historical approach; some interpreted a concept from the text. They’re all the same book but astonishingly diverse.

Also in the gallery: “InsideOUT: Contemporary Bindings of Private Press Books,” a collaboration among 34 binders based in the U.K. and 25 based in the U.S. and Canada, and “Greg Campbell Fine Binding,” with work from the renowned Minneapolis-based bookbinder and proprietor of Campbell-Logan Bindery.

At a reception tonight (Friday, Feb. 6), you can view all three and hear a gallery talk by “Plainly Spoken” artists Karen Hanmer and Jana Pullman. 6-9 p.m., talk at 7:30. Free and open to the public. Caution: You might decide to take a class.

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Heads up, film fans. Local film hero Bill Pohlad, producer of “12 Years a Slave,” “The Tree of Life” and “Brokeback Mountain,” has moved to directing. His new film, “Love & Mercy,” is a biography of reclusive Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson, with Paul Dano as young Brian and John Cusack as older Brian. The film will close this year’s Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival with screenings at the Walker (Friday, April 24) and the St. Anthony Main Theatre (Saturday, April 25). Pohlad will be present at both for an introduction before and Q&A after.

Walker tickets go on sale March 3 to film club members, March 10 to Walker members, and March 24 to the general public. Film Fest tickets go on sale March 10 to members, March 24 to the public. Festival passes are on sale now at a 10 percent discount.

For you, artists. As part of the Nicollet Mall redesign and reconstruction, the City of Minneapolis is seeking artists for four projects. They are: 1) lead a team of local and emerging artists to create a series of small lanterns ($200,000); 2) create a large-scale iconic artwork ($50,000); 3) design a key feature in the overall mall design ($225,000); and 4) curate/integrate all public art into the overall mall design ($75,000).

The call is open to individual artists or teams who reside within the U.S. An informational meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 12, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Minneapolis Central Library, room S-275. The deadline for submissions is midnight Feb. 27, 2015, which is not a lot of time. Go here FMI or contact Mary Altman, public arts administrator.

The University of Minnesota Libraries has received nearly $170,000 in grant funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The money will be used to support the adoption, use and dissemination of the online search tool Umbra: Search African American History.

Free, shareable and easily embedded on any website, Umbra will give artists, educators, students and researchers access to digital materials on African-American history and culture from around the U.S. including photographs, books, manuscripts, scripts, notes, news stories and oral histories. Many of these materials are now hard to find and scattered across libraries, museums and historical societies.

The Umbra project is a partnership between the University’s Givens Collection of African American Literature and Performing Arts Archives and Penumbra Theatre Company. The first and second phases (2012-15) were devoted to research and development, including a series of national forums with leaders from over 50 theaters. The tool will be tested in 2015 and publicly launched in 2016.

Finally, Tuesday’s ghastly Metro-North train crash in Westchester, New York, touched us here. One of the six people killed was Walter Liedtke, a curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Liedtke, a renowned Vermeer scholar, was scheduled to lecture on “Vermeer’s Women” at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts on April 9. Hearing him talk about Rembrandt’s “Aristotle with a Bust of Homer” hints at his warmth, expertise and ability to speak both simply and eloquently about the art he loved.

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The weekend and a bit beyond

In case you’re new here: We post weekend picks all week starting Tuesday.

Tonight (Friday, Feb. 6) through Sunday at the Park Square in St. Paul: “Trick Boxing.” Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan do Fred and Ginger in this ever-evolving retro romance. Ends Sunday. Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).

Saturday at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis: Opening receptions for “Friction Fiction: Survey of Black Animation,” a collaboration with Obsidian Arts, and “The Party’s Over,” the culminating exhibition in a partnership with the Chicago Arts Coalition. 7-11 p.m. Free. Both through March 8.

Saturday at St. Mary’s Chapel at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul campus: The Society for the Doctrinal Affectation of Baroque Music Annual Program. Named in fun for a 17th-century philosophical doctrine (“Affektenlehre,” in case you want to look it up), this 20-year-old music organization performs early music with nonconventional instrumentation. Saturday’s program include works by Benedetto, Buxtehude and Vivaldi. St. Thomas art historian Michelle Nordtorp-Madson will present mini-lectures, with slides, about the art, clothing and architecture of Venice. 8 p.m. Free.

Saturday and Sunday at the Capri in Minneapolis: Bruce Henry: “Afro Blue: The Drum, The Journey, The Song.” We’ve heard the charismatic Henry sing “Afro Blue” several times, and he has made this iconic song his own. Here he accompanies it with history, storytelling, and more music. 7 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($25).

Sunday at the Hennepin History Museum in Minneapolis: “Fireside Chat: Always on Sunday” with food journalist Eleanor Ostman. A former food journalist for the Pioneer Press, author of the longest-running personal food column in the U.S. (“Tested Recipes”), Ostman will talk about her years as a food journalist, the food scene in the Twin Cities over the years, traveling and her books. 2 p.m. $5 at the door, $1 for seniors and children under 12.

Tuesday at McNally Smith in St. Paul: Live at Five. A free concert of movie music and jazz standards. At 6 p.m. faculty member and film composer Sean McMahon (“Spider-Man 3,” “Dreamgirls”) will lead a 25-piece orchestra in live performances of his cinematic compositions. At 6:30, faculty member, pianist and arranger (“The Voice”) Adi Yeshaya will take the stage with his 12-piece little big band for a program of jazz standards. A reception at 5 p.m. will include complimentary appetizers and performances by student ensembles.

Correction: An earlier version of this article had an incorrect date for the Soap Factory openings.