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Doors Open Minneapolis is a key to the city; ‘The Vikings Begin’ at the American Swedish Institute

ALSO: Art4Shelter at the Machine Shop; Lizz Wright at the Dakota; St. Paul’s Music in the Parks kicks off; and more.

430 Oak Grove
The building at 430 Oak Grove in Loring Park houses apartments, but at one time it had a recording studio for Prince.
Photo by Mark Teskey

Have you ever wanted to see inside the Federal Reserve? Go backstage at the Ritz Theater? Climb to the top of the Witches’ Tower? Peer down a manhole? Tour the Van Dusen Mansion? What about the Hennepin County Jail? Would you like to walk in, look around and walk right out again? Tip: Don’t bring a cake.

For history buffs, architecture fans, arts supporters and city boosters, the curious and the just plain nosy, Doors Open Minneapolis, which debuts this weekend, is a key to the city. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (May 18-19), some 120 buildings and sites downtown and Uptown, from 49th Ave. N. to Fort Snelling, the western edge of Cedar Lake to the banks of the Mississippi, will open their doors to the public. No tickets, wristbands or reservations required. Just show up. You can even visit Mayor Jacob Frey’s office in City Hall without an appointment.

The concept has been a big success in other cities including New York, Chicago, Milwaukee and Buffalo. We can thank Scott Mayer for bringing it here. He’s the mover-and-shaker who started the Ivey Awards and the Charlies.

“I thought it would be great to have some kind of event to celebrate the city and get to know the city better,” Mayer said by phone earlier this week. “I approached the mayor first, and he was enthusiastic. Then I approached the AIA [American Institute of Architects Minnesota] and they came on board.

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“In every other city, this event is produced by the local architectural organization. Here it’s a collaboration between the mayor’s office and the AIA. So it’s more civic-oriented than it is in other cities.”

We asked Mayer for some arts-related recommendations.

“I’d say 430 Oak Grove. It’s now an apartment building in Loring Park, but at one time it had a recording studio for Prince. The Homewood Studios and Gallery, and Plymouth Avenue Art Studio in north Minneapolis. Lundstrom Performing Arts, a phenomenal center on the near north side. Wing Young Huie’s Third Place Gallery. The Ritz Theater. The Orpheum Theatre.” (The Orpheum is available for tours on Sunday only. Check in at 900 Hennepin Ave. next door.)

What are Mayer’s personal favorites?

“I’d like to go to the Scottish Rite Masonic Center. It’s on everybody’s list, and it’s only open Sunday, so it’s going to be a mob scene. I’d like to see the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Cedar-Riverside. It’s not architecturally significant, but it is culturally significant. The Minneapolis Federal Office Building would be interesting; I’ve never been there. And I want to go behind the scenes at the Minneapolis Main Post Office. The lobby is one of the most gorgeous spaces in the city, and I want to know what happens in the rest of that massive building. And my dad was a postmaster, so it’s a nod to him.”

Another reason to try to squeeze into the Scottish Rite: “There’s going to be a pop-up concert by the Metropolitan Boys’ Choir.” No news on when. Be surprised.

Scott Mayer
Photo by Bill Kelley
Scott Mayer: “I thought it would be great to have some kind of event to celebrate the city and get to know the city better.”
A few more sites that caught our eye: the Fast Horse building, because it looks cool. Fort Snelling Open Post, built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, soon to be redeveloped into affordable housing. The Manhole Entrance at 505 Nicollet Mall. The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder Building, home of our historic black press. A Frank Gehry-focused tour of the Weisman (1 p.m. both days). And the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, where you can walk around the top of the highest lock on the upper Mississippi and talk to park rangers.

Doors Open Minneapolis is free to all. And there’s just one way to jump to the front of the line: volunteer for a shift at one of the venues. “Sign up to be a greeter, and you don’t need to go to the back of the line when you visit other venues,” Mayer said. Volunteers are still needed.

Plan your weekend with the detailed program guide. This is also the web page where you’ll find interactive maps, access to free MetroTransit bus passes (the light rail lines will not be in service) and updates (example: the Suburban World Theater has dropped out). Pick up a printed copy of the program at a City Pages rack or one of the venues (limited quantities).

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The picks

Tonight (Wednesday, May 15) at the Machine Shop: Art4Shelter. Buy art, give shelter. It sounds easy. It is easy. This big-hearted annual event will feature hundreds of original works of art by these artists. Whose will you end up buying? You won’t find out until you pay for it and read the signature on the back. It might be a piece by a name you know. Or it might be a piece by an emerging artist. But since you just picked something you liked enough to buy, it’s a bonus if the artist is a bigger deal and proof of your own good eye if the artist is just starting out. Every 5×7 work costs $35, every 8×10 costs $90. To date, Art4Shelter has raised more than $610,000, which translates to 17,000 nights of shelter for Simpson Housing Services, which provides shelter and supportive housing programs to people experiencing homelessness in the Twin Cities. Art preview from 6-7 p.m., art sale from 7-9. FMI. Free and open to the public.

Tonight at the Dakota: Lizz Wright. Everything about this Georgia preacher’s daughter is exceptional: her music choices, her stage presence, the way she tells a story with every song she sings. And that voice — a lush contralto both spiritual and sensual, radiant and smoky Her latest album, “Grace,” a return to her Southern roots, came out in Sept. 2017 to high praise. Maybe she’s touring with that, or perhaps she’ll dip into one of her five earlier albums. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($45-65).

Lizz Wright performs tonight at the Dakota.
Photo by Jesse Kitt
Lizz Wright performs tonight at the Dakota.
Thursday at Como Lakeside Pavilion: Music in the Parks. St. Paul’s free outdoor summer music series will begin, getting an almost two-week jump on Minneapolis. (Its 2019 Music and Movies in the Parks season will start May 27.) On both sides of the river, all summer long, you’ll have several choices for free entertainment almost nightly. Grab the kids and the (well-behaved) dog, pack some snacks and blankets and enjoy what the cities are giving. St. Paul’s kick-off is the Bethel Jazz Orchestra Spring Swing Dance. Start time 7 p.m. Get the full schedule here as a PDF. Tickets $20; no one turned away for inability to pay.

Thursday through Sunday at the East Side Freedom Library: The Black Ensemble Players Present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” This will be the Bard as you’ve probably never seen him before. An all-black cast and creative team will bring Shakespeare’s play to life through West African movement, music and spirituality. Directed by Ashawnti Sakina Ford, with live drumming by Umar Malik Williams. 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Also Thursday, May 23 at the Minneapolis Central Library and Friday through Sunday, May 24-26, at the Sumner Library.

Friday at the American Swedish Institute: The Vikings Begin. In 1981, an exhibition called “The Vikings” brought more than 212,000 people to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. That was huge at the time. It’s possible “The Vikings Begin” will blow the grassy roof right off the ASI’s new Nelson addition. This collection of objects – dozens of early Viking artifacts from boat graves, organized by Uppsala University in Sweden and its museum, Gustavianum, based on cutting-edge research and never outside Scandinavia until this year – includes finds dating back 1,400 years. From battle helmets to swords, jewelry to a replica boat, this promises to be mind-boggling. Friday is a regular museum day, Saturday is Viking University Day (requires registration), Sunday is the Viking Family Day Festival (included with museum admission), and if you prefer something a bit less crowded, the show will remain open until Oct. 27.

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Heads up

The Rose Ensemble will perform its finale concert on Saturday, June 15, at 8 p.m. in the Basilica of St. Mary. Financial straits have forced the Rose to take the road increasingly traveled by arts organizations, following Intermedia Arts, Patrick’s Cabaret and Bedlam Theater into the sunset. But what a glorious goodbye it will be. Founded in 1996 by Jordan Sramek, artistic director and music scholar, the Rose won praise for its ambitious programming and repertoire, fine recordings and sublime sound. Tickets are still available in Section C, the back half. $15 general admission, $10 students with ID, free for children 12 and under.

Doomtree will play just one big show this summer, as the headliner for the Common Sound Music Festival in St. Louis Park on June 30. Now in its second year, Common Sound is co-presented by neighbors Beth El Synagogue and Benilde-St. Margaret’s Catholic High School. Also on this year’s program: Jeremy Messersmith, Stereo Kitchen, the New Grey and Koo Koo Kanga Roo. FMI and tickets ($30 general admission, $35 day of show, $150 VIP).