Vacant storefronts and other underused public spaces can be bleak, uninviting and off-putting. Fill them with art and the streetscape changes.
Artist and organizer Joan Vorderbruggen saw that firsthand when she launched the “Whittier Artists in Storefronts” project in her own city neighborhood in 2012. Three years later, as Culture District arts coordinator for Hennepin Theatre Trust – the nonprofit owner of the Orpheum, State, Pantages and New Century theatres and instigator of the West Downtown Cultural District (WeDo) – Vorderbruggen is still at it, on a fluid, ever-expanding scale.
Her studio now is downtown Minneapolis, specifically Hennepin Avenue (often spilling over into side streets), where a project called “Made Here” has been shaking things up since 2013, putting art by Minnesota artists into hundreds of window displays. The largest project of its kind in the U.S. has grown to include live performances, artist markets and pop-up galleries. Andersen Windows, headquartered in Bayport, continues to be the presenting sponsor.
The fifth iteration, “Reflection: Made Here,” launches tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 3) with a free event at the shiny new Mayo Clinic Square. The Wayzata High School String Ensemble will play at 5:30 p.m., and HIJACK (Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder) will dance. A program and remarks will follow at 6:15, after which HIJACK and Carl Flink’s Black Label Movement will dance. Guided walking tours of the 45 new window displays – work by more than 60 Minnesota artists and 20 students, all exploring the theme of reflection – will be offered from 7 to 8 p.m. DJ Venus DeMars will take over at 7:15.
Simultaneously, a new “Made Here” holiday market will be open from 5 to 9 p.m. in the City Center atrium, with its own entertainment, activities and work by dozens of artists.
But wait, there’s more. A “Made Here” art gallery at the Mall of America (in the new Central Parkway, Level Two section) invites visitors and shoppers to think about heading downtown. And still more: a series of four “Radical Recess” dance performances, curated by choreographers Laurie Van Wieren and April Sellers, begins at the “Reflection” launch (with HIJACK and Black Label) and continues with 12:30 p.m. lunchtime performances in the City Center Atrium on Jan. 9 (Taja Will and Dustin Maxwell), the IDS Center on Feb. 5 (Ananya Dance Theater, Ana Shogren and Robert Keo) and Loring Park on March 4 (Pramilia Vasudevan and Rosy Simas Dance).
Thursday’s launch party takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. at 600 Hennepin Ave. Light appetizers, cash bar. “Reflection: Made Here” stays up through March 30, 2016. The City Center holiday market continues on Dec. 10 and 17 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Now at the Weinstein Gallery: “Regarding Elliott: Photographs by Elliott Erwitt.” At 87, Erwitt continues to be one of the leading photographers of his generation. His career (so far) has spanned nearly 70 years of news, documentary and advertising photography. His bio on the Magnum Photos site says, “To this day he is for hire and continues to work for a variety of journalistic and commercial outfits.” Erwitt photographed Marilyn Monroe standing over the subway grate, Jackie Kennedy clutching a folded flag at JFK’s funeral, a hat-wearing Chihuahua beside a Great Dane’s legs, and more images you may recognize, many of everyday life. His work is full of charm, wit and personality, and for anyone interested in photography, it’s good to see as much of it as you can, up close and in person. FMI and online gallery (33 images). Tuesday – Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Free. Ends Jan. 9.
Tonight (Wednesday, Dec. 2) at a movie house near you: The Metropolitan Opera: “Lulu” Live in HD. Encore presentation. James Levine conducts William Kentridge’s production of Alban Berg’s opera about a murderous, sexually voracious femme fatale. That’s opera for you. With German soprano Marlis Peterson in the title role; she has performed it more than 90 times, and after this run, she’s retiring it. 6:30 p.m. Encore presentation in select theaters Saturday, Dec. 12 at 11:55 a.m. FMI and theater finder (click “Buy Tickets,” then enter your ZIP code). Ticket prices vary.
Opens Friday at Mixed Blood Theatre: “Purple Cloud.” Who are you – what are you – when you can pass for two separate ethnicities but feel like you don’t belong to either? Jessica Huang’s new play, developed in partnership with the Playwrights’ Center, is Mu Performing Arts’ 49th world premiere production and the latest entry in its ongoing work to produce new Asian American playwrights. With Megan Kreidler as Hapa (mixed race) Girl, Alex Galick, Rich Remedios, Jeannoe Lander, Kylee Brinkman, Stephanie Bertumen and Audrey Park. Randy Reyes directs. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20/$10). Ends Dec. 20. Here’s the trailer.
Friday and Saturday: Atlantis Quartet. The crowd-pleasing modern jazz quartet – Zacc Harris on guitar, Brandon Wozniak on saxophone, Chris Bates on bass, Pete Hennig on drums – plays all original music. Hear them on either side of the river: Friday at the Nicollet at 9 p.m., Saturday at the Black Dog at 8:30 p.m. $10 suggested both nights.
Thursday at Penumbra Theatre: Opening night for Black Nativity. Can we just say that everything about this is soulful, satisfying and uplifting? Penumbra’s 27th production of its holiday tradition is the rousing concert version, with Dennis Spears, Jamecia Bennett and the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Choir. It’s directed and narrated by Lou Bellamy, with musical direction by Sanford Moore, a live band, and something new this year: dancing and footwork choreographed by Uri Sands of TU Dance. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15-$40). Ends Dec. 20.
Friday at Orchestra Hall: “Merry and Bright: A Big, Brassy Christmas with Charles Lazarus.” A Minnesota Orchestra member who doubles as a jazz artist, trumpeter Lazarus brings his swinging holiday show to the big house, bringing Tonia Hughes and Bruce Henry on vocals, Tommy Barbarella on keyboards, Jeff Bailey on bass, Dave Schmalenberger on drums and percussion, and his group the Lazarus Brass including fellow orchestra members Manny Laureano, Michael Gast, Douglas Wright and Stephen Campbell. You can enjoy the concert, then bring the CD home. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25-$60).
If you’re not a fan of malls and big-box stores, more into artist-made gifts, this is a great weekend to go shopping. A few suggestions:
Friday and Saturday at Smith-Sharpe Fire Brick Supply: 2015 Holiday Show. Pottery by Robert Briscoe, Cindy Browne and Dick Cooter, hand-wovens by Debbie Cooter, leathers by Ken Dumbie, prints by Richard Stephens. Friday 4 to 9 p.m, Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free.
Friday through Sunday at Union Depot: European Christmas Market. Formerly at West 7th Place, now at the Depot for two full weekends. Handmade holiday gifts and decorations by local artists, spiced mulled wine, European-inspired edibles and entertainment including caroling, live reindeer, bell ringing, tree lighting, Norwegian dancers and Santa. FMI and entertainment schedule. Free. Friday 2 – 9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also next weekend, Dec. 11 – 13, same hours.
Saturday at Ramsey Middle School (St. Paul): Art at Ramsey. A perennially excellent, well-juried show with a wide variety of beautiful things – pots and photographs, turned wood and textiles, metal, leather, glass, jewelry, paintings, prints, fiber art and tiny fabric animals. Let’s just say we’ve done a lot of Christmas shopping at this show over the years and leave it at that. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free. Here’s a list of participating artists with images of their work.
Saturday at Grain Belt Brew House: American Craft Council + RSP Architects: Holiday Craft Hop. A new holiday-themed craft show with handmade items by more than 50 local artists and artisans. 1224 Marshall St. NE. Noon to 5 p.m. Free. Here’s a list of participating artists.
Saturday and Sunday at the American Swedish Institute: Julmarknad. A Handcraft Fair in the courtyard with work by 33 local artisans, musical performances, family activities and holiday cheer, Nordic winter snacks by FIKA, a Christmas Bake Sale (Saturday only) and visits with Tomte, the Swedish Christmas elf (who is so not the Elf on the Shelf). Plus the museum shop, the decked-out Turnblad Mansion and the annual holiday rooms. $10 adults, $5 ages 6-18, free for 5 and under. FMI including schedule. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, noon – 5 p.m. Sunday.