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National Gallery lucky to get Kaywin Feldman

ALSO: David Harrower’s “Blackbird” at Grain Belt Warehouse; Yarnado 2018 at Rogue Buddha Gallery; and more.

Kaywin Feldman
Kaywin Feldman has been named the new director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts

She’s not stepping down. But she’s definitely stepping out – and up. Kaywin Feldman, who has led the Minneapolis Institute of Art since 2008, has been named the new director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. – the nation’s museum. She’ll be the fifth director in its 77-year history and the first woman.

The Gallery announced in Nov. 2017 that Earl A. Powell III, its director since 1992, would step down in 2019 after more than 25 years. An extensive search began in April 2018. Feldman will start at the National Gallery on March 11, 2019.

Feldman said in a statement, “The National Gallery of Art is arguably America’s greatest treasure. To be chosen to lead it into its next decades is a profound honor … I am eager to work with the talented team at the Gallery in taking the institution to even greater heights.”

The National Gallery will be lucky to have her. During her watch, the Minneapolis Institute of Art became more community-focused, forward-thinking and modern-feeling. Attendance doubled from 425,000 in the year she arrived to 891,000 in 2017. The museum rebranded as Mia and celebrated its 100th birthday in unexpected ways: wrapping water towers in art, carving art into farm fields, flying in three priceless “mystery masterpieces” from Europe for short times (including one of 34 known Vermeers in the world) and making them available to view for free.

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The special exhibitions – the ticketed ones – have been both scholarly and delightful, ranging broadly (very broadly) from “The Hapsburgs: Rarely Seen Masterpieces from Europe’s Greatest Dynasty” to “At Home with Monsters,” featuring the art, collections and journals of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. (As you approached the arched entryway, eyes blinked at you.) The dense-with-information “Martin Luther: Art and the Reformation” drew crowds. Offering sights, sounds and smells but not one word of explanation on a label, “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty,” designed by avant-garde theater artist Robert Wilson, was a whole new way to view objects in Mia’s extensive collections.

The current exhibition, “Egypt’s Sunken Cities,” is a stunner, filled with ancient objects and giant statues found on the ocean floor. In June, the easily accessible, always free first-floor Cargill Gallery featured a show of 15 works created by Twin Cities artists in response to the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.

Thanks to Feldman, Mia now has a Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts that is exploring ways to use art to bring people together and help us understand each other’s feelings and experiences. It has a contemporary art department and new, immersive galleries for showcasing the art of Africa. The Japanese collection has more than doubled in size. The period rooms are no longer preserved in amber but instead are places to engage with history in new ways. The lobby is brighter, airier and more inviting.

Feldman has been a champion of using digital technology to expand access to art. Interactive technologies are part of the African art galleries. The next time you visit, try “Riddle Mia This,” a recently launched escape-room app (a free download) that puts you in the center of a drama and leads you through the museum in search of clues.

At the National Gallery, the scale of Feldman’s responsibilities will increase dramatically. While Mia’s busiest year brought nearly 900,000 visitors, the National Gallery sees 5.2 million. Mia’s operating budget is $35 million, the Gallery’s $168 million. Mia’s collection numbers some 90,000 objects, the Gallery’s 124,000. Mia has a full-time staff of 265; the National Gallery employees 1,000 people.

Admission to both is always free.

In a statement, Nivin MacMillan, who established the endowment for Feldman’s position as Nivin and Duncan MacMillan Director and President, noted that “under [Feldman’s] tenure, the museum has become a vital thriving organization with programs which matter for all kinds of audiences … Kaywin is a person of enormous talent who has a devoted following in our community. We wish her every good thing in her new opportunity, but she will be sorely missed in Minnesota.”

Michelle Obama to bring her hit book tour to St. Paul

Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming” is the best-selling hardcover book of 2018. More than 3 million copies are in print. The reviews are glowing. Her book tour is selling out arenas and she keeps adding more dates.

On Tuesday, Obama tweeted, “I’m having so much fun with all of you on my #IAmBecoming tour that I decided to do one final round of events to see folks in some cities we missed!”

Michelle Obama
REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
Michelle Obama will be at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Wednesday, March 13, for “Becoming: An Intimate Conversation With Michelle Obama.”
The Twin Cities made the final round. (Also Milwaukee.) On Wednesday, March 13, she’ll be at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for “Becoming: An Intimate Conversation With Michelle Obama.” If you want a chance at tickets, register now as a Ticketmaster Verified Fan. (Registration opened Tuesday at 7 a.m. and ends today – Wednesday, Dec. 12 – at midnight.) That won’t guarantee you a ticket, but it will put you in line for an invitation to shop for tickets. The Ticketmaster Verified Fan presale starts Friday, Dec. 14, at 10 a.m. and ends that day at 10 p.m. Prices haven’t yet been published. Obama will be in Milwaukee on Thursday, March 14.

From the Washington Post’s review: “As first lady, every word Michelle Obama uttered and every action she took received advance scrutiny for signs of potential damage to her husband’s presidency. Now, freed of the constraints of the White House, she is ready to tell it as she sees it.”

The picks

Thursday at the Hennepin History Museum: Bill Lindeke: “Minneapolis-St. Paul: Then and Now.” An urban geographer, tour guide, writer (for MinnPost, among others) and author, Lindeke will show and discuss historic and current photographs from his new book about the Twin Cities, sibling rivals from the start. This event will be held in the museum’s cozy fireplace room around a crackling fire. 6-8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($5, $3 seniors and students; members free). The book will be available for purchase and signing.

Luverne Siefert and Sara Marsh
Photo by Megan Engeseth
Luverne Siefert and Sara Marsh star in David Harrower’s play about a man and a woman, a sexual relationship years in the past and its devastating consequences.
Opens Thursday at the Grain Belt Warehouse: David Harrower’s “Blackbird.” We are so looking forward to our annual holiday dose of disturbing, deliberately non-chipper theater from Dark & Stormy Productions, the company founded and led by Sara Marsh. For sure, go see “A Christmas Carol,” “The Wickhams” and other holly-jolly shows, but leave room on your plate for something bitter. Marsh and Luverne Siefert star in Harrower’s Olivier Award-winning, Tony-nominated mid-2000s play about a man and a woman, a sexual relationship years in the past and its devastating consequences. Michaela Johnson will direct. 77 13th Ave. NE, Studio 202. FMI and tickets ($15-39). Closes Jan. 19.

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Friday at the Turf Club: Halloween, Alaska “Le Centre” release show. Halloween, Alaska was electronic with live instruments before that became a thing. “Le Centre” is the band’s fifth record and their first full album of original music since 2011. The band is James Diers (voice, guitar, keys), Dave King (drums, keys), Jacob Hanson (guitar) and William Shaw (bass). With Alan Sparkhawk (Low). 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12 advance, $15 day of show).

Saturday at Rogue Buddha Gallery: Yarnado 2018. Mutti’s Annual Knitting Trunk Show (and sale) is a holiday tradition at the gallery down the street from the Ritz. Artist and Rogue Buddha owner Nicholas Harper’s mom Louise is back with handcrafted scarves, afghans, leg warmers, wrist warmers, beanie caps, shawls, washcloths and more. Harper says, “She might be 91 years old but she still knits like a young 70s-something whipper-snapper.” Noon-8 p.m. FMI. Free and open to the public.

Saturday and Sunday: Giving Voice Chorus Winter Concerts. These concerts are probably more for loved ones and friends of the singers in the chorus, all people with Alzheimer’s and their care partners. But if you want proof of the power of music and the potential of people with dementia, you’ll find this event moving, inspiring and joyful. Giving Voice was the first chorus of its kind; similar choruses have since been launched across the U.S. and around the world, using tools and training from Giving Voice. 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday at MacPhail’s Antonello Hall; 2 p.m. Sunday at Hamline’s Sundin Music Hall. FMI and tickets ($12; ages 12 and under free); 612-321-0100.