Art-A-Whirl turns 20 this year. The nation’s largest weekend-long open studio tour is expected to draw some 30,000 visitors to 60 locations throughout Nordeast, where more than 500 artists will show and sell their work.
Studios in private homes and businesses, galleries, and whole buildings full of art and artists – including the Northrup King, Solar Arts, Casket Arts, Thorp, Grainbelt Studios and Q.arma – will be open starting tonight. There will be live music, activities, performances, demonstrations, installations, collaborations and tons of art: paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, pots, jewelry, fiber, metal, glass, furniture, films, mixed media and more.
You can’t see it all, but you can try. Or you can saunter, wander, take it slow and save the rest for next year. It’s hard to have a bad time in what USA Today recently named the nation’s Best Arts District.
Art-A-Whirl is presented by the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA), founded in 1995 by a small collective of artists, now a nonprofit with more than 700 artist members. In the early 2000s, NEMAA worked with the City of Minneapolis, the McKnight Foundation and local businesses to establish the geographical area – and the brand – now known as the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District, 12 square miles some people call “the art and soul of Minneapolis.”
Guided by an Arts Action Plan [PDF] born from a study steered by artists, funded by foundations and supported by community organizations and neighborhood groups, Northeast is committed to remaining a place where artists actually live and work.
Noodle on that as you ride the trolley, bike or walk your way through the Whirl. If you want to plan ahead – a good idea, considering the enormity of the event – the website is ready with a detailed FAQ, helpful tips, a downloadable map, a printable free Metro Transit pass, a list of special events and an artist directory. Once you’re there, you can pick up a printed “Artist Directory and Guide 2015,” also free, at one of the information booths or buildings.
Or just look for big red Art-A-Whirl dots. When you see one on a building or door, go on in.
Art-A-Whirl hours: Friday (May 15), 5-10 p.m., Saturday noon-8 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m. Free.
Jon Hassler (1933-2008) wrote more than 15 novels about small-town Minnesota life including “Staggerford,” “The Love Hunter” and “Rookery Blues.” He grew up in Staples and in Plainview, now home of the Jon Hassler Theater. He spent 12 years as an English instructor at Central Lakes College (CLC), formerly Brainerd Community College, before becoming writer-in-residence at Saint John’s University in Collegeville.
Hassler wrote and published “Staggerford” during his time at CLC. Its library houses all of his published works, several unpublished works, artifacts and copies of his early writings. The year he died, the library was renamed the Jon Hassler Library. It was designated a National Literary Landmark in 2014.
On June 14-15, CLC will host a Jon Hassler Festival. For educators, and for fans of his heartfelt writing, it sounds like Hassler heaven. Conceived and planned by a group of Hassler’s former colleagues and friends, events include a keynote speaker, a Reader’s Theatre presentation of his novel “Grand Opening,” a gallery walk of his artwork (many people don’t realize he was also an artist), a tour of the library’s Hassler artifact collection, a dinner celebration followed by readings and live music, and lots of personal stories and reminiscences from people who knew him well. Register by May 31 ($100).
The weekend and a bit beyond
Today (Friday, May 15) is Museum Day. Get in free at the Walker all day and enjoy discounts and one-day amenities there, at the Weisman and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. At the Walker, be sure to visit the “International Pop” show. The MIA unveils its second surprise “Masterpiece in Focus” painting today; we’ll tell you about that later. (The first surprise painting was Vermeer’s “Woman Reading a Letter,” so our expectations are way high.) The MIA is open late on Fridays. At WAM, “Artful Giving: Lillian (Babe) and Julius Davis” honors two supporters with a show of artwork they gave to the museum over the years.
Tonight in the Promenade Ballroom at the Saint Paul Hotel: JoAnn Funk “Jazz in the Lobby Bar” CD Release Concert and Party. Just when you think you never want to hear another version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” along comes jazz singer and pianist JoAnn Funk with one so idiomatic and enchanting that it seems like a brand-new song. Her voice, her arrangements, and her timing are sui generis, and she has the ideal musical partner in bassist Jeff Brueske. The CD is named for the place they have performed most Fridays and Saturdays for the past seven years, the elegant lobby of the Saint Paul Hotel. Guests on the CD (and tonight) are Richard Kriehn on violin and mandolin, Nathan Norman on drums and Pete Whitman on sax. Together they turn a lot of old standards – “Moon River,” “Tea for Two,” “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” – into songs that are suddenly interesting again. For tonight’s event, the Ballroom will be set cabaret-style, with tables. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30. No cover.
Tonight and Saturday on the radio: Live MPR broadcasts from Cuba of the Minnesota Orchestra’s historic concerts in Havana. A live broadcast from anywhere is no big deal these days, right? Read this. Tune in at 7 p.m. either or both nights to KSJN 99.5 FM or classicalmpr.org. Find program details here. This whole thing – our orchestra, in Cuba, playing Beethoven and Bernstein and Prokofiev – is so amazing for so many reasons that we should all fall to the ground and weep.
Saturday and Sunday in St. Paul and Minneapolis: Minnesota Bach Ensemble: “Out of the Depths.” We’ll let conductor and artistic director Andrew Altenbach describe these concerts: “We have a wonderful program with two stunning cantatas of Bach plus the Brandenburg Sixth. We are also pairing the ‘Aus der Tiefe’ setting by Bach with the ‘Aus der Tiefe’ setting by Schütz, a composer whose music Bach knew and studied. Cantatas 106 and the Brandenburg also feature recorders and viola da gambas, so these concerts will have a special timbral difference from previous concerts. Moreover, we will have a chamber chorale of some of the best singers in the Cities.” 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Nativity of Our Lord Church in St. Paul, 3 p.m. Sunday at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. FMI and tickets ($25 general admission, $10 student).
Monday at the Cabaret at Camp Bar: “Titanic.” A large staged reading of a reworked version of the Tony-winning musical by Maury Yeston and Peter Stone. The story focuses on a cross-section of passengers (first class, second class and steerage); the score includes “Godspeed Titanic” and “I Must Get On That Ship” (uh, maybe not). Presented by Second Fiddle Productions in partnership with Actors Theater of MN, one night only. FMI and tickets ($10).
Tickets go on sale to the general public Monday at 10 a.m. to Mill City Opera’s “The Daughter of the Regiment” performances on July 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21. In the company’s first three seasons, tickets sold out quickly. Buy online ($35-$100) or call 1-800-838-3006. Opening night tickets ($195) are available now; they include a pre-opera reception at Sea Change, the performance and a tax-deductible donation. Buy here or call 612-875-5544.