Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Lyndel King’s Weisman legacy; Museum of Russian Art reopens

ALSO: Como Conservatory reopens; new dates for Hennepin Theatre Trust’s “Cats” and “Tootsie”; an online anthology of 55+ Black MN voices; and more.

Lyndel King
Lyndel King nearly tripled the Weisman Art Museum’s collections, oversaw hundreds of exhibitions, and made it one of the nation’s best teaching museums.
Photo by Rik Sferra

In June 2018, which now seems like a thousand years ago, Lyndel King announced that she would retire in June 2020 as director and chief curator of the Weisman Art Museum.

When King first joined the organization in 1978, it was called the University Art Museum and was tucked away on the fourth floor of Northrop Auditorium. When she became director in 1980, she had few peers. Many museums of all kinds are run by women today, but not in 1980.

When she raised $18 million for a new building and hired Frank Gehry to design it, that was before the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Disney Concert Hall. (Here’s one of Gehry’s original concept sketches.) The magnificent tangle of stainless steel and brick on E. River Road, built in 1993 and expanded in 2011 (for another $14 million), became an instant landmark.

The original Weisman popped up before the Walker’s shimmering Herzog & de Meuron expansion (2005) and the Guthrie’s shining Jean Nouvel-designed complex (2006), and you have to think it had some influence on them.

King’s legacy goes beyond the iconic building that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for her. She nearly tripled the museum’s collections, oversaw hundreds of exhibitions, made WAM one of the nation’s best teaching museums and has written or contributed to several books.

Between announcing her retirement and walking out the door, King raised $2.7 million as an endowment for her successor, who has not yet been named. COVID put the search on hold.

When you step down in the midst of a global pandemic and widespread civil unrest, you don’t get the notice you deserve, no matter the size of your legacy. Lyndel King changed the Twin Cities’ cultural and physical landscape. You might think of that the next time you cross the Washington Avenue Bridge from west to east and see the Weisman gleaming in the sun.

Article continues after advertisement

Arts news

The Museum of Russian Art reopened to the public on Monday. Current exhibitions are “Leaders and the Masses: Mega Paintings from the Soviet Ukraine” and “A Parliament of Owls: Children’s Art From Russia.” Visitors will be admitted at 25 percent of normal capacity. Masks are mandatory. Payment by credit card only. Contact tracing information will be requested upon admittance. Vulnerable populations will be admitted early on Tuesdays, first responders and medical personnel on Thursdays. FMI here about hours, admissions, what to expect – and what will be expected of you.

The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park has reopened to the public, in a limited capacity. Up to 250 people may visit at a time. The visit is a one-way walking path beginning at the Japanese Garden Gate, north of the conservatory’s main entrance. Advance reservations are required. Masks are required. Admission is free, but you must acquire your timed reservation confirmation from Como’s website. FMI. Como Zoo remains closed for now.

This is the first time the Defeat of Jesse James Days festival has been canceled since it began in 1948.
This is the first time the Defeat of Jesse James Days festival has been canceled since it began in 1948.
“Defeat of Jesse James Days,” Northfield’s popular annual event, one of the biggest outdoor celebrations in Minnesota, has been canceled because of COVID. Originally set for Sept. 9-13, it was crammed with events, including the famous bank raid reenactments, parades, tractor pulls, a daily carnival, a car show, a championship rodeo, a bike tour, and a fine arts festival. It can draw up to a quarter million people, a major economic boost for the small college town. This is the first time the festival has been canceled since it began in 1948.

Jay Mackbee, a sophomore at Washburn High School in Minneapolis, is Minnesota’s 2020 Poetry Out Loud champion. A partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation contest for high school students that takes place nationwide each year. COVID scrubbed this year’s national championships event, but Mackbee is receiving a $1,000 prize. Here’s a video of her reciting the poem “Worth” by Marilyn Nelson.

Hennepin Theatre Trust has announced new dates for “Cats” and “Tootsie.” “Cats,” originally scheduled for June 8-13, 2021, has been rescheduled for March 30-April 4, 2021. “Tootsie,” originally scheduled for July 27-Aug. 1, has been rescheduled to July 13-18, 2021. Ticket holders will automatically be seated into the corresponding performance of the rescheduled engagement. If that doesn’t work for you, contact your point of purchase. Both shows are part of the 2020-21 season package and are not yet on sale to the general public.

The picks

“A Moment of Silence”
“A Moment of Silence” includes new work by Toki Wright, Nothando Zulu, Alexs Pate, Stacey Rose, Sagirah Shahid, Marlon James; and more.
Tru Ruts has launched an online anthology, “A Moment of Silence: 55+ Black MN Voices in a Historical Moment of Transformation.” Edited by Shá Cage, developed in partnership with the Playwrights’ Center, it will include new work by Toki Wright, Nothando Zulu, Alexs Pate, Stacey Rose, Sagirah Shahid, Marlon James, Chaka Mali, Douglas Kearney, Valerie Deus, Harrison David Rivers, Sarah White, Carlyle Brown, Keno Evol and many others. “A Moment of Silence” went live last Friday (June 26). Check back often to see what’s new. Donations are welcome.

A still from “John Lewis: Good Trouble.”
Courtesy of the MSP Film Society
A still from “John Lewis: Good Trouble.”
Three new films have been added to MSP Film Society’s Virtual Cinema. Leslie Woodhead’s “Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things” follows the sublime jazz singer’s career through six decades in rare interviews and images. Through July 2. Brian Walsh’s “Beats” is a story of friendship, rebellion and the power of music set against the backdrop of the UK’s Criminal Justie and Public Order Act of 1994, which banned unlicensed raves. Through July 2. Dawn Porter’s “John Lewis: Good Trouble” chronicles the life and career of the legendary civil rights activist and longtime Democratic Georgia congressman. A prerecorded discussion between Rep. Lewis and Oprah Winfrey will follow each screening. Available Friday, July 3, through Thursday, July 9. FMI including times, tickets and trailers at the links.

When Crooners opened in 2014, Fridley seemed far to go to hear live music. Since the coming of COVID, which trashed all of our other plans, it’s been one of the only places to go. It helps that Crooners is located on a small, scenic lake with plenty of outdoor space and a big parking lot. The current calendar offers drive-in, stay-in-your-car concerts, a beer garden, tented table seating and a Lakeside Café, with live music almost every night. Plus the supper club is starting to book name acts from out of town, like Ann Hampton Callaway (July 17) and Marilyn Maye (Aug. 5-8). And our own Happy Apple (Dave King, Mike Lewis, Eric Fratzke) on July 10. Tables are spaced, and food and drinks are available for purchase. FMI and tickets ($20 and up).