The State Theatre remains closed. But its boarded-up windows have come to life with big, colorful portraits that hint at a story to come.
Visual artist and muralist Reggie LeFlore spent two weeks painting “The Overseer, Divinity and Humanity” beneath the State’s wide marquee. LeFlore is also part of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s “Art Connects Us” project; his “Essential Workers Tribute” was among the first wave of digital billboards released in April.
A self-described “visual artist, influenced by street art and illustration, Omaha born and raised, new MPLS dude since ’15,” LeFlore was asked by HTT’s public art program, led by Joan Vorderbruggen, to create a commission on the boarded-up State. He wasn’t asked or instructed to paint anything specific. The story of the Overseer, part of a mythology he’s creating, has been in his mind for decades.
LeFlore describes the triptych as “a take on the existing gods and goddesses and how they felt about humanity. They saw humans as lowly creatures who were destined for guidance and control.” He links those themes to what’s happening today in politics, religion and what he calls “this chaos that people are living through.” He promises, “Short story coming soon!”
Meanwhile, HTT is continuing other public art programs along Hennepin Avenue and across the region. “It’s the People” is an outdoor gallery of large-scale fine-art portraits by Minnesota photographers that capture the life of the avenue. And “Art Connects Us,” the billboards project, is broadening its scope to include systemic racism.
All this at a time when its core business is shuttered — presenting big touring shows in big venues (the State, the Orpheum and the Pantages) before big crowds, plus maintaining an events center in a historic building it acquired only recently – and Hennepin Ave. is undergoing a major reconstruction project, HTT has increased its public art efforts. That’s kind of amazing.
Doors Open Minneapolis to stay closed until May 2021
It’s no longer even mildly surprising to learn that an event has been postponed, rescheduled or canceled. Often, it is not gone but changed, metamorphosed from physical to virtual, relocated from a dot on the map to a land called Zoom or Facebook Live, YouTube, Crowdcast or Twitch.
Take Doors Open Minneapolis. New last spring, the citywide, weekend-long free event featured more than 100 buildings and sites not usually open to the public, or that people wouldn’t normally think of visiting on a Saturday or Sunday. Architecturally, culturally, historically and/or socially significant, they included the Minneapolis Main Post Office, the Federal Reserve, the Scottish Rite building, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder Building and the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam. More than 17,000 people fanned out and lined up, curious to go behind the scenes.
Not this year. Originally scheduled for May 16 and 17, rescheduled for Sept. 12 and 13, Doors Open has now been bumped to May 15 and 16, 2021. And it won’t be the same. Many of the venues from 2019 will return, but about 30 percent will be new.
We’re told that “Doors Open Minneapolis is also working on integrating the events that have transpired in recent months to become part of the story told through venues and buildings in 2021.”
You can take a look at what was planned for 2020, then check back next spring to see how the event has evolved.
Available now: The Public Theater: “Richard II.” Because COVID, New York’s famed Public Theater can’t perform its free summer Shakespeare in the Park season. So the theater reimagined “Richard II” for radio broadcast and teamed up with WNYC for a four-part serialized broadcast that aired this week. The play is a tale of lost sovereignty, political intrigue, a fractured society, revolution and regime change. (And it was written when???) Saheem Ali directs a production dedicated to Black Lives Matter, led by André Holland as King Richard II, performed by a mostly BIPOC ensemble. Listen on the Public’s website or wherever you get your podcasts. FMI including the radio play script and synopses.
While movie megaplexes remain closed, the MSP Film Society is acting like it’s business as usual, only virtual. It continues to cycle films through its Virtual Cinema and has launched series including “We the People: Required Watching” and (new this week) “Burning Bright: New French Filmmakers 2020.” Available now or coming soon: “The Bare Necessity (Perdrix)” (French; through July 20), “Strong Island” (July 19, free) and Damon Gameau’s environmental documentary “2040” (opens today, Friday, July 17). Plus several more films that started earlier. Here’s the calendar. FMI including times, tickets and trailers at the links.
Starts Friday (July 17) on YouTube: Fred Hersch: “My Coma Dreams.” The elegant and expressive pianist is at the keys in the filmed version of the jazz theater piece based on his own near-death experience. In 2008, Hersch, who had been living with HIV/AIDS since 1984, went into septic shock and was put in a medically induced coma for two months. Conceived, written and directed by Herschel Garfein, based on a series of dreams Hersch experienced during his coma, featuring singer/actor Michael Winther and an 11-piece ensemble, “Coma Dreams” includes original music by Hersch, narrative, song, animation and computer graphics. Hersch has many fans in the Twin Cities and has performed here at the Dakota – and, years back, in a late-night solo piano concert at Orchestra Hall.
Friday and Saturday (July 17 and 18): Live Streaming at the Vanguard: Terell Stafford Quartet. The acclaimed trumpeter will be joined by Bruce Barth on piano, David Wong on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums on stage at the storied New York jazz club. 8 p.m. CST both nights. FMI and tickets ($10). We are really enjoying this series. Coming up, if you’re curious: July 24 and 25: Ron Carter’s Golden Striker Trio; July 31 and Aug. 1: Fred Hersch Trio; Aug. 7 and 8: Bill Frisell Trio; Aug. 21 and 22: Andrew Cyrille Quartet (with Frisell); Aug. 28 and 29: David Murray and Lafayette Gilchrist.
Saturday (July 18): Black Lives Matter Mural. Brought together by the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG), 16 artists will paint “Black Lives Matter” on the street on Plymouth Ave. N. between Penn and Newton. Each artist will create their own unique design on a letter. The public is invited to come out, watch, support and celebrate Black lives. From the Facebook event page: “Please wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.” 9 a.m.-5 p.m. FMI and RSVP.