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R.J. Kern named 2019 State Fair Commemorative Artist; Jungle remounts ‘The Wolves’

R.J. Kern
R.J. Kern
The Minnesota State Fair has named its 2019 Commemorative Artist, and it’s someone we met at last year’s Fine Arts Exhibition. R.J. Kern is the first-ever fine-art photographer chosen to create the official State Fair art, which will be seen by kazillions of people. (Slight exaggeration, but hundreds of thousands.)

Kern has appeared in the Fine Arts show three times (2015, 2017 and 2018). His work explores ideas of home, ancestry and sense of place through the interaction of people, animals and cultural landscapes. His series of large-scale photographs, “The Unchosen Ones,” features animals and their young handlers from county fairs across Minnesota – losers, not winners, but radiant and dignified. He’s represented by Burnet Fine Art and Advisory and has been featured in National Geographic magazine. His first monograph, “The Sheep and the Goats,” won a big award in Germany. Kern also teaches taekwondo and is a fifth-degree black belt. In a statement, he hinted at what he might do for this year’s commemorative art:

I love seeing the spirit of competition alive and well today, as demonstrated through the hard work, pride and passion of the exhibitors at the Minnesota State Fair. Some of the earliest animal contests coincide with the first major exhibition of photography at the 1851 World’s Fair in London. Central to the Minnesota State Fair are livestock competitions. As the first commissioned photographer, I wish to pay homage to this legacy by documenting decisive moments in time and place focused on “the best of the best” in animal contests.

Kern’s art, to be unveiled at the State Fairgrounds in June, will be available as the commemorative poster, a limited number of signed prints and other merch. Proceeds will support the Minnesota State Fair Foundation’s mission to preserve and improve State Fair buildings, fairgrounds and educational programs. The original art will be on display in the Fine Arts Center. Here’s a gallery of all the past artwork.

We spoke with Kern last August, if you want to take a look.


An extension, a remount and a return

The Jungle has added seven performances to its run of Lucy Kirkwood’s “The Children,” a powerful post-apocalyptic play with an even more powerful cast: Leila Robins, Linda Kelsey and Stephen Yoakam. It’s like watching three lions on stage, one roaring (Yoakam), one circling (Robins) and one who rules the pack (Kelsey). “The Children” now runs through Feb. 17. FMI and tickets ($35-50).

Isabella Star LeBlanc in a scene from “The Wolves.”
Photo by Dan Norman
Isabella Star LeBlanc in a scene from “The Wolves.”
Meanwhile, the Jungle is remounting a hit from last season, Sara DeLappe’s “The Wolves,” at the Southern. Same all-women cast, same crew, different field. The two plays running simultaneously are a snapshot of today’s Jungle. On one stage, people in their 60s talking about science; on another, teenagers talking about sports. “The Wolves” opens Jan. 31 and also runs through Feb. 17. FMI and tickets ($32-37).

Plus, for three Fridays starting Feb. 1, the Jungle will host “Gender Goals,” a free panel series on gender disparity in sports and education. Panelists will include Fartun Osman, head coach of the Somali Women’s National Basketball Team; Veronica Nash, coach of Twin Cities Native Lacrosse; and women from Like a Girl, a Twin Cities nonprofit working to make girls’ soccer more diverse. Here’s the schedule.

The History Theatre will reprise “Glensheen” for the third time, and why not? How Jeffrey Hatcher and Chan Poling turned the true story of a shocking Minnesota double murder into a rollicking musical with funny parts (Wendy Lehr as “Beshmesher,” Dane Stauffer as bumbling, ineffectual Roger) is part mystery, part theater magic. July 10-Aug. 4. FMI and tickets ($30-58).

The picks

During our Arctic freeze, please don’t go anywhere without 1) first checking to make sure your event hasn’t been canceled or rescheduled (because many have) and 2) bundling up.

First: The Dave Eggers & Mokhtar Alkhanshali event at the Parkway scheduled for tonight (Wednesday, Jan. 30) has been postponed, new date TBA.

Wilbert Hazelzet and Jacques Ogg will be performing at the Lyra Baroque CD Release Party on Thursday at the Black Dog.
Photo by Tom Cabral
Wilbert Hazelzet and Jacques Ogg will be performing at the Lyra Baroque CD Release Party on Thursday at the Black Dog.
Thursday (Jan. 31) at the Black Dog: Lyra Baroque CD Release Party. Listen to the first track here. Then enjoy selections performed live by members of the stellar Twin Cities ensemble led by artistic director Jacques Ogg. For their first CD in 13 years, Lyra Baroque chose three elegant works by C.P.E. Bach and recorded them on period instruments in the warm acoustic of Vasa Lutheran Church in Welch, Minnesota. Soloists Ogg (harpsichord) and Wilbert Hazelzet (baroque flute) will both be there. Both are internationally renowned, with vast discographies. 5-8 p.m in the Zen Room. Free.


Opens Friday at the Illusion: Transatlantic Love Affair’s “The Devout.” Before she became a snake-haired monster who turned people to stone, Medusa was a priestess devoted to Athena. What happened?  Featuring an all-female performing ensemble, scored by composer/musician Walken Schweigert, this devised work reimagines the myth to explore power, betrayal, healing and rage. Directed by Isabel Nelson, assistant directed by Joy Dolo. FMI and tickets ($22-30).

Friday at Crooners: Lynne Arriale. She’s just so musical. From the bench, pianist/composer Arriale delivers story, melody, playfulness and emotion. A great pleasure to hear on recording – her 14th album as a leader, “Gives Us These Days,” includes her unique takes on “Woodstock”and “Let It Be,” along with originals – she’s even better live, especially in an intimate space like the Dunsmore Room. 6 p.m. (note the early time). Tickets here ($15-20).

Friday at the Weisman: Exhibition preview party for “Baggage Claims.” The show features work by an international group of 18 artists who use suitcases, trunks, and crates to express provocative ideas about commerce, immigration and the mobility of global culture. At the party, you can contemplate the meaning of “baggage” and how your own migration or travels have influenced your life. With songs by DJ Chamun and small bites. 7-10 p.m. Free, but please register.

On sale now

One word: wow! Mark your calendar for April 26 at the O’Shaughnessy. Musician Toshi Reagon and her mother, Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, have turned Octavia Butler’s dystopic science fiction novel “Parable of the Sower” into an opera. In the novel, originally published in 1993, society has collapsed because of climate change, wealth inequality and corporate greed, and a charismatic politician promises to “make America great again.” We’ll see the concert version, set to two centuries of black American music, featuring 20 singers and musicians. One performance only. FMI and tickets ($27-57).

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