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Bell Museum planetarium to reopen; which Historical Society sites are open/closed

ALSO: JT Bates is featured on Taylor Swift’s “Folk Music”; “Not in Our Neighborhood!” from the History Theatre; and more.

The Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium will open with two all-ages programs, “Minnesota Night Sky” and “Out of This World!”
The Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium will open with two all-ages programs, “Minnesota Night Sky” and “Out of This World!”
Photo by Joe Szurszewski

The Bell Museum will reopen its Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium on Thursday, Aug. 6. By now, we know the drill: limited days and hours of operation, limited capacity, advance reservations, timed tickets, physical distancing, and everyone over 2 years old must wear “a face covering that covers the mouth and nose.”

(Language seems to be shifting from “mask” to “face covering.” Whatever you call it, please wear it. As of July 22, Gov. Tim Walz has ordered that masks be worn in indoor public spaces across Minnesota.)

The planetarium will open with two all-ages programs, “Minnesota Night Sky” and “Out of This World!” With NASA’s Perseverance rover heading for a February 2021 Mars landing, the red planet will be a special focus of the second program.

The Bell’s planetarium is the only dedicated public planetarium in Minnesota. There was a popular planetarium in the old Minneapolis Central Library, but when the library was torn down in 2003, so was the Minnesota Planetarium. Plans were made for a new planetarium on the roof of the new library, but it never happened. In 2011, the Minnesota Planetarium Society merged with the Bell Museum, and when the new Bell was built, the Twin Cities metro had a planetarium again – after 15 years.

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Denise Young, the Bell’s executive director, said in a statement, “For me, a visit to the planetarium is a chance to be in awe of our universe and Earth and to explore those big questions of life we all ask from time to time. It’s an opportunity to step back and experience something bigger than myself – to see the interconnectedness of all things.”

FMI and tickets (gallery $12-9, UMN students with ID free; planetarium only $8-6; combo $17-12).

Arts news

Guitarist Zacc Harris hadn’t played a live date with other musicians since March 15, when he, bassist Matt Peterson and drummer Pete Hennig gave their final pre-COVID performance at the Riverview Café, their regular Sunday gig for 13 years.

Two nights ago, on Sunday, the three met in Zacc’s front yard in Minneapolis for an evening of live music. The appropriately distanced audience of friends and neighbors numbered close to 70. The music was a mix of standards, tunes by Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk, and originals by Harris. It made us miss every concert, play, opera, dance, musical, and reading the virus has stolen from us over the past four and a half months.

Pete Hennig, Matt Peterson and Zacc Harris played in Harris’ yard on Sunday afternoon.
MinnPost photo by John Whiting
Pete Hennig, Matt Peterson and Zacc Harris played in Harris’ yard on Sunday afternoon.
Summer’s window won’t be open much longer. Artists and venues (Crooners, Icehouse and others), please keep up the outdoor concerts, so we can store memories like tears in a bottle.

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The Joyce Foundation’s Joyce Awards is the only program dedicated to supporting artists of color in major Great Lakes cities, including Minneapolis/St. Paul. It does this by funding collaborations between artists of color and leading arts, cultural and community-based organizations.

Starting in 2021, the Joyce Award will increase to $75,000, with at least $25,000 going directly to the artist(s). This decision recognizes both the ongoing critical work of BIPOC artists and the challenges faced by artists and cultural organizations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. New applicants should plan to attend a webinar on Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 1 p.m. Register here.

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We’ve seen the dark prediction from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) that a third of American museums won’t survive the year. How many make up a third? Twelve thousand, if you count history museums, children’s museums, science centers, natural history museums, arboretums and zoos as well as art museums. That’s 12,000 places with curated collections, cultural significance, educational value, economic importance and employees. Children’s museums and science centers are at greatest risk.

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The Minnesota Historical Society is way more than the Minnesota History Center on Kellogg Blvd. in St. Paul. The society owns and operates almost 30 historic sites and museums throughout the state. Which are open, which are trying to reopen, and which won’t open at all in 2020?

Birch Coulee Battlefield (Morton), Lower Sioux Agency (Morton), Marine Mill (Marine on St. Croix) and Traverse des Sioux (St. Peter), all self-guided sites, are open for visitors. So are Split Rock Lighthouse (Two Harbors) and Jeffers Petroglyphs (Comfrey), but to limited numbers, and tickets must be purchased online in advance.

MNHS is close to announcing a series of public Saturdays at the Oliver Kelley Farm (Elk River) which would run from August through October. And it hopes to open the Minnesota State Capitol (St. Paul) in September for self-guided tours. It’s working on plans to reopen the History Center (St. Paul) and Mill City Museum (Minneapolis) in 2020.

Historic Fort Snelling (St. Paul) and Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post (Onamia) are closed in 2020 but are working on limited offerings, including programs that could accommodate guests on site.

But the Alexander Ramsey House (St. Paul), James J. Hill House (St. Paul), Charles Lindbergh House and Museum (Little Falls), and 11 other MNHS sites will not open at all to the public in 2020.

FMI, visit the Historical Society’s open/close grid and link to specific sites.

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Maybe you’ve heard of “Serial,” the 2014 true-crime podcast from public radio’s “This American Life” that “exploded the medium” (per Vulture) and got a lot of people hooked on podcasts. (We’re latecomers to podcasts, but we just finished the original “Serial” and are midway through “Caliphate” and will never look back.)

“Serial” went on to two more seasons and was recently acquired by the New York Times. The latest series, “Nice White Parents,” premiered on Sunday, July 30. It’s about inequality in education.

And there’s a bonus for music fans: The original score was written and performed by The Bad Plus. That’s Reid Anderson’s bass you hear, and Dave King’s drums, and Orrin Evans’ piano. (Evans joined the Bad Plus in 2018, after original pianist Ethan Iverson left the band.)

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Another bonus for music fans: Taylor Swift’s smash hit surprise CD, “Folk Music,” features a drummer many of us know very well: JT Bates. Who didn’t realize, when Aaron Dessner (The National) asked him “to record some drums on a few songs” that the songs were by Swift, who was working with Dessner, who wasn’t allowed to tell.

JT Bates
MinnPost photo by John Whiting
JT Bates
“It was very hush-hush, the whole thing, and obviously not really letting out any information as to who this person was or anything like that, and so yeah!” Bates told the Current’s Jill Riley in an interview last week. Listen and/or watch it here.

Is Taylor Swift the millennial Bruce Springsteen? We don’t have an opinion one way or the other. But for sure, JT Bates is the only JT Bates, fierce, versatile and beloved by many.

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The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, Aug. 4) at 7 p.m.: “Owls of the Eastern Ice” virtual book launch. A page-turner of a story about saving the world’s largest owl, the book by wildlife biologist and Minneapolis author Jonathan Slaght is blowing up, with rave reviews in the Wall Street Journal, the Star Tribune, the Times (U.K.), the Guardian and more. Tonight’s official launch will be hosted by the Museum of Russian Art (TMORA), the only museum in North America dedicated to Russian art – which fits, since the owls Slaght has given years of his life to are in Russia’s Far East. Register here. P.S. By Monday afternoon, almost 400 people had registered, including several from Russia and Canada. TMORA expects “a virtual international gathering.”

Cody McKinney in the studio.
Photo by Mariah Crabb
Cody McKinney in the studio.
Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 1:30 p.m.: The Walker’s Instagram Live Artist Talks: Cody McKinney. The Minneapolis-based composer and musician will speak with Doug Benidt, the Walker’s associate curator for performing arts, about how musicians in the Twin Cities have adapted to making art in the time of COVID. The Walker recently commissioned McKinney to score short silent films for its “Sounds for Silents” program. On the Walker’s Instagram. Free.

Wednesday, Aug. 5, through Sunday, Aug. 23: Music in the Vineyards. Each summer, SPCO violinist Daria Adams and her husband, violist Michael Adams, organize and host a chamber music festival in Napa Valley. This year, Music in the Vineyards will go virtual, and anyone can watch from anywhere. There will be concerts, interviews with musicians, winemaker conversations and videos from winery venues. Here’s the calendar (remember to adjust for CST) and here are the concert programs. Performers are from the SPCO, the Minnesota Orchestra and all over. On YouTube.

Thursday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m.: North American Livestream Premiere Screening of “The Wild.” The latest award-winning documentary from Michael Titus (“The Breach”) chronicles the race against time to save America’s last place for wild salmon. The virtual screening will be followed by a celebrity panel discussion. FMI and tickets (sliding scale; $12 suggested). Proceeds will be shared with the Parkway Theater.

Starts Thursday, Aug. 6, at 7:30 p.m. and streams through Sunday, Aug. 16: Illusion Theater: “In This Moment.” Illusion’s Fresh Ink Series of new works, a 32-year tradition, has moved online. “In This Moment” features T. Mychael Rambo, Aimee K. Bryant, Brittany Delaney, Kimberly Elise, Michael Keck, Peter Macon, Katie Robinson, Lester Purry and Regina Marie Williams, each responding from the heart to the current climate of affairs. Reservations are required. Free, with donations welcome; $15 suggested. FMI and reservations.

Starts Friday, Aug. 7, and streams through Thursday, Aug. 13: History Theatre: “Not in Our Neighborhood!” In 1924, William and Nellie Francis, civil rights advocates and leading citizens in St. Paul’s growing African-American community, moved from Rondo to the “home of their dreams.” Neighbors burned a cross in their front yard. Directed by Richard D. Thompson, this work-in-progress by Tom Fabel and Eric Wood tells the story of housing segregation in St. Paul’s Groveland Park neighborhood. Part of the History Theatre’s Raw Stages: New Works Festival 2020. FMI and tickets ($15-50).