Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


What you need to know to make the most of the American Craft Council show

ALSO: The latest from “MN Original”; National Native American Ten Minute Play Festival at Bedlam; Christ Church Cathedral Choir; and more.

Designer Carter Averbeck of Omforme in the room he designed at the ACC.
MinnPost photo by John Whiting

Overheard at countless craft shows and art fairs: “I really like that (pot, painting, print, sculpture, rug, lamp, table), but where would we put it?” Or “I love that (jacket, scarf, hat, necklace, dress, wrap, bag), but how would I wear it?” Good questions.

The American Craft Council (ACC) show — which opens today (Friday, April 8) at the RiverCentre, with 225 exhibitors from across the U.S. offering high-quality, one-of-a-kind, handmade work — has answers, or at least suggestions.

Article continues after advertisement

Now in its fourth year, the “Make Room: Modern Design Meets Craft” exhibition features items from the show in themed room settings created by local designers. Seeing pottery, sculptures, textiles and handmade furniture in context invites you to imagine how craft might look in your home.

New for 2016, “Style Slam” invites you to picture how wearables at ACC might fit your personal style. At least half of the exhibitors make clothing, jewelry and accessories. “These are all pieces you’re never going to find at any department store,” said ACC marketing director Pamela Diamond.

MinnPost photo by John Whiting
Stylist Grant Whittaker and models in statement pieces at the ACC.

The ACC turned to Twin Cities stylist Grant Whittaker, who recruited four more local stylists. They selected pieces from the show to use in hip, trendy ensembles. “This is about teaching people how to incorporate these pieces into their existing wardrobe,” Diamond said. “People think, ‘If I buy one piece, I have to wear all craft!’ Not true. Combine it with your everyday things. These are all statement pieces. When they’re allowed to breathe, they shine.”

Whitaker and the stylists will be at the “Style Slam” booth during ACC. Stop by to see what they’re up to, watch ACC member makeovers, and get advice and ideas for including artist-made pieces in your look.

We asked Whitaker for some ACC shopping tips.

• “A good first purchase, if you’re just getting started, is an accessory. Get a bag, a wallet, or a scarf. Find something that’s really practical and affordable. When you use it all the time, you’ll see the value of your investment.”

• “If you’re passionate about a nail color, find something that goes with it. I call this the Hollywood statement.”

• “One thing I’m seeing a lot at this ACC is felt. It’s being used in jewelry, in clothing, in pins and scarves. Unconventional materials are some of the best fashion statements. Don’t be afraid of them. Try felt, try neoprene. That’s what will make your statement for you.”

• And, if you’re feeling extravagant: “There’s nothing more flattering than a great coat. You never know when you’re going to have to throw something on and run out of the house, and it might as well be fabulous.”

Whitaker loves what he and his stylists have to work with at the show. “These are all very intricate pieces, and they’re done by hand. This is the haute couture of craft. There are so many great things here.”

The ACC runs Friday-Sunday at St. Paul RiverCentre. Along with the 225 juried exhibitors, the show features work by emerging artists (“Hip Pop” booths); work by student artists at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (the “School-to-Market” booth); Scotch whiskey tastings from the Balvenie; and “Let’s Make Inspiration Stations” with artists from the American Association of Woodturners, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Northern Clay Center and other organizations, with demonstrations and hands-on activities. Show hours: Friday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Advance tickets here ($11), on-site admission $12. On Friday evening only, get in for $5 after 5 p.m.


TPT’s “MN Original” is not just a documentary series about the arts and artists in and around the Twin Cities. The episodes themselves are works of art, with beautifully filmed visual essays and ear-pleasing soundtracks of music by Minnesota musicians. The more you watch, the more you see how elegantly crafted they are.

In this week’s episode, we meet lucky visual artist Alyssa Baguss – lucky because “I have a job that feeds my artwork, and my artwork feeds my job.” As the arts program coordinator at Silverwood Park in St. Anthony, she uses art-making to teach about environmental science. In her own art, seen at places like SooVAC, Rosalux Gallery, MMAA and the Burnet Gallery, she explores how we travel in the digital age, and how technology influences how we see and access the world. What she calls the “blurry boundary between my artwork and my work-work” allows her to create and help others create.

Painter Aziz Osman trained as an artist and an architect in Florence, Italy, and lived there for several years before returning home to Somalia. “Then, the civil war,” he says. His family scattered to Ghana, Italy, London … and Minnesota. Unable to afford canvases when he first arrived in the U.S., he painted on cereal boxes. His fine-art oil paintings and sculptures are on display in the African Development Center. Guitarist and composer Glen Helgeson (of Axis Mundi and Gypsy Mania) provides the perfect soundtrack for this profile of a soft-spoken, immensely talented man.

Jeff Rathermel, executive director of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, takes us inside a treasure in our midst: the largest, most comprehensive visual arts center of its kind in the world. “We have a really broad definition of book,” he says. No kidding. At MCBA, a book is still a book when it’s a box, a wall, a sculpture and almost anything else an artist can imagine. Preschoolers and master artists learn and practice there, discovering and putting their own spin on papermaking, binding, printing and the other crafts that go into making a book. “Our mission is to lead the advancement of the book as an evolving art form,” Rathermel says. MCBA’s annual Winter Book is always a masterpiece.

Courtesy of MN Original
Russell Harjo

Russell Harjo, Pawnee/Seminole; Jennie Kappenman, Ojibwe; and Leya Hale, Dakota/Diné are Native American dancers who design, sew and decorate their own regalia. “It feels really good to dance and to know that everything I am wearing, every design, was made by me,” Harjo says. Kappenman is a jingle dancer, the metal cones on her dress making music as they bring healing to the community. Hale performs a women’s traditional dance wearing broadcloth. “I like to remember my ancestors, especially the women, to show their strength and courage,” Hale says. Their dancing will take your breath away.

These are people we live among. We can see and hear their work in galleries, at festivals and powwows and art shows, in coffee shops and clubs.

“MN Original” airs Sunday at 6 and 10 p.m. on TPT 2. It goes live on the website today (Friday).

The picks

Tonight (Friday, April 8) at Hamline Church United Methodist: The Christ Church Cathedral Choir. The stupendously famous all-male 500-year-old choir from Oxford’s 12th-century Cathedral is touring the U.S. with its organist, Clive Driskoll-Smith and director, Stephen Darlington. 7:30 p.m. Tickets here ($20-$40). Presented by the Oratorio Society of Minnesota.

Tonight through Saturday at the Bedlam: National Native American Ten Minute Play Festival. New plays by Native playwrights – local and national, emerging and mid-career – include stories from tribes in Minnesota, the Upper Midwest and around the country. Saturday’s performance is followed by a concert of live music by local Native musicians. 7:30 p.m. tonight; 7:30 and 9:30 Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets here or at the door ($20) or pay-what-you-can every night.

Opens tonight at the Edina Cinema: “Born to Be Blue.” Ethan Hawke is jazz legend Chet Baker in this highly anticipated, much talked about and (so far) very well reviewed film from writer-director Robert Budreau. On opening night, jazz pianist/vocalist Larry McDonough, whose show “Chet – The Beautiful Music and Tragic Life of Singing Trumpeter Chet Baker” has played to full houses in Minneapolis clubs, will be joined by trumpeter Tim Martin for live music before and after the 7 p.m. screening. Buy tickets in advance ($10) or at the door.

Saturday at Burroughs Community School: 60 Artists on 50th. The ACC (see above) is the weekend’s big craft show. If you’re looking for a smaller one – also juried, with excellent artists and free admission – try this, held in the halls and gymnasium of a Minneapolis public school. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Saturday at Studio Z: Jazz at Studio Z: Zacc Harris’ American Reverie. For his new project with Matt Peterson on bass and Lars-Erik Larson on drums, guitarist Harris explores jazz interpretations of Americana and songs that evoke an America gone by. Masterclass at 6 p.m., concert at 7. Tickets here ($10 advance) or at the door ($15).

Hot tix

On sale today at 10 a.m.:

Don Henley at the Grandstand. The first night of this year’s Minnesota State Fair ends with a concert by the founding member of the Eagles (the biggest-selling American band ever) and successful solo artist who’s sold more than 10 million albums, had eight Top 40 singles and won two Grammys. All you’ll want to do is dance. Tickets ($65/$50) online, by phone (800-514-3849) or in person at the Fairgrounds ticket office from 10 a.m. – noon.

“Disney’s The Lion King” at the Orpheum. The highest-grossing Broadway show of all time debuted right here at the Orpheum in 1997. It’s back for the fifth time for a five-week run (July 5 – Aug. 7). Are we tired of it yet? We are not. FMI and tickets ($49-$154). Buy at the State Theatre box office, save on fees.