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New MacArthur Fellows have Minnesota ties; ‘Sweet Land’ goes virtual

ALSO: Talk of the Stacks features Julia Alvarez on Zoom; Bloodline with Diane Miller + Big Shoe 4tet in the courtyard at Icehouse; and more.

Artist Ralph Lemon is generating interdisciplinary modes of artistic expression to communicate stories, emotions, memories and identities that don’t conform to standard categories of representation.
Artist Ralph Lemon is generating interdisciplinary modes of artistic expression to communicate stories, emotions, memories and identities that don’t conform to standard categories of representation.
Courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation

Of the 21 MacArthur Fellows for 2020 announced yesterday, four have Minneapolis ties, two of the four are professors at the University of Minnesota, and eight are artists. Over the next five years, each will receive $625,000, no strings attached.

The MacArthur is commonly known as the “genius” grant because it’s given to people who are considered exceptionally creative.

Paul Dauenhauer is a chemical engineer at the University of Minnesota, where he develops new technologies for converting renewable, organic materials into chemicals used in products such as plastics, rubber and detergents. Damien Fair is a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Minnesota Medical School, where he studies the developing brain. Nels Elde is an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Utah, where he investigates host-pathogen interactions. Elde grew up in Minneapolis, majored in biology at Carleton College in Northfield and worked for Medtronic in Minneapolis before grad school.

Artist Ralph Lemon is generating interdisciplinary modes of artistic expression to communicate stories, emotions, memories and identities that don’t conform to standard categories of representation.

Lemon lives in New York City but grew up in Minneapolis in the 1960s and ’70s and received his BA from the University of Minnesota. He has had a decades-long relationship with the Walker Art Center and performing arts curator Philip Bither. The Walker has supported him through numerous residencies, commissions, performances, exhibitions and acquisitions of his digital art pieces. Lemon has had several conversations with Philip Bither over the years, including most recently this one from Aug. 27, the first talk Lemon agreed to do after COVID hit.

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We asked Bither to comment on Lemon’s win. His response: “I was ecstatic about the news.”

Bither continued, “Ralph Lemon’s creative investigations of memory, loss, history, race and cross-cultural collisions have been profoundly inspiring, deeply human and broadly influential across multiple artistic fields. He so deserves this recognition, given his constant, courageous reinvention of artistic forms, which span dance, performance, installation, conceptual art, sculpture and video.

“I feel very honored to have curatorially supported many of his key works over the last 23 years at the Walker, and I think the Twin Cities should be proud that one of our greatest living artists grew up and spent his early formative artistic years here in Minneapolis.

“Besides his brilliance, Ralph is also one of the most deeply caring, generous and wise people I know, so I couldn’t be happier for him.”

The MacArthur Foundation has always recognized the importance of the arts and culture. Since the fellowship launched in 1981, nearly 350 individual artists have received the life-changing “genius” grants.

Along with Lemon, this year’s complement includes Larissa FastHorse, an L.A.-based playwright who is creating new work for the Guthrie; N.K. Jemisin, a writer of speculative fiction; Fred Moten, a cultural theorist and poet whose first book, “In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition” was published by the University of Minnesota Press; fiction writer Cristina Rivera Garza; jazz singer and composer Cécile McLorin Salvant, a three-time Grammy winner who last performed at the Dakota in June 2019; documentary filmmaker Nanfu Wang; and writer Jacqueline Woodson. Stages Theatre had planned a spring 2020 production of “The Day You Begin,” a play based on one of Woodson’s many books, but had to cancel.

In more awards news, three books from two Minneapolis-based publishers were on the National Book Awards 2020 Longlist for Poetry when it was announced in September. One made the cut to the shortlist, revealed Tuesday (Oct. 6): Natalie Diaz’s “Postcolonial Love Poem,” published by Graywolf. The winners will be announced in a virtual ceremony on Nov. 18. The ceremony will stream live on YouTube and the National Book Foundation’s website.

NOTE: This section has been updated with new information.

The picks

There’s an abundance of arts-and-culture things to do, tonight and coming up.

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

Julia Alvarez
Photo by Brandon Cruz González
Julia Alvarez
V Tonight (Thursday, Oct. 8) on Zoom: Talk of the Stacks: Julia Alvarez. The international bestselling author of “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents,” “In the Time of Butterflies” and “Afterlife” will speak with Anika Fajardo, author of the Minnesota Book Award finalist “Magical Realism for Non-Believers.” 7 p.m. Free. FMI and registration.

L Tonight (Thursday, Oct. 8) in the courtyard at Icehouse: Bloodline with Diane Miller + Big Shoe 4tet. One of four McKnight Musician Fellows for 2020 (the others are José Antonio Zayas Caban, PaviElle French and Kirsten Whitson), Diane Miller, aka D Mills, is a singer, rapper, looper, beatboxer, songwriter and guitarist whose songs are about love, personal growth and struggle. She’s also the music programmer at Icehouse, and she knows everyone, so it’s not surprising that tonight’s lineup is strong. Bloodline is Cody McKinney, John Keston and Peter Hennig with guest D Mills; Big Show 4Tet is Joey Van Phillips, Clay Pufal, Joe Mayo and Ted Olsen. 7 p.m. Cover $20. Wear a mask.

V Tonight (Thursday, Oct. 8) on Zoom: Graywolf Literary Salon: Conversations from Home. With Natalie Diaz (“Postcolonial Love Poem”), Roy G. Guzmán (“Catrachos”), Khaled Mattawa (“Fugitive Atlas”) and Kevin Young (“Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News”). 7:30-8:30 p.m. Admission of free; donations of $25 or more are encouraged to support the press. Register here.

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V Friday (Oct. 9) on Mandolin: The Bad Plus: Live from the Bijou Theatre. In September, Reid Anderson, Orrin Evans and Dave King played together for the first time since Jan. 12. That’s a long time away for this group of road warriors. Presented by the Big Ears Festival, a recording of their live performance at the historic Bijou in Knoxville, Tennessee, will stream on Friday night and remain available to view until 11 p.m. CST on Sunday (Oct. 11). 7 p.m. CST. Tickets here ($15 advance, $18 on Friday).

Ann Michels and Robert Berdahl star in “Sweet Land, the musical.”
Photo by Rick Spaulding
Ann Michels and Robert Berdahl star in “Sweet Land, the musical.”
V Starts Friday (Oct. 9) online: History Theatre presents “Sweet Land, the musical.” Filmed before a live audience at the History Theatre during the 2017 world premiere. “Sweet Land” is the story of a young German woman who arrives in Minnesota shortly after World War I to marry a Norwegian bachelor and is shunned by the community. Based on the indie film inspired by Minnesota author Will Weaver’s short story “A Gravestone Made of Wheat,” it stars Ann Michels and Robert Berdahl. (P.S. Michels was Marion the Librarian in Chanhassen’s production of “The Music Man,” which opened on March 6 and closed almost immediately to COVID.) Book by Perrin Post and Laurie Flanigan Hegge, lyrics by Hegge, music by Dina Maccabee, directed by Post, with choreography by Joe Chvala and music arranged by Robert Elhai. FMI and link to tickets ($15-100). Available for viewing Oct. 9-22.

V Starts Friday (Oct. 9): Decameron Opera coalition: “Tales from a Safe Distance.” Coalition members – 10 creative teams and 9 indie opera companies from across the U.S. – are calling this “the future of opera.” Maybe it is. Each company has contributed a new 10-minute opera to a monthlong event based on Boccaccio’s 14-century “Decameron,” a set of tales told by 10 characters who are quarantined together outside of Florence during the Black Plague. Participating companies include Fargo-Moorhead Opera, New York City’s Bare Opera, Chicago’s Fringe Opera – and An Opera Theatre (AOT), formerly Arbeit Opera Theater, founded by Kelly Turpin and based in Minneapolis. The opera will be presented in four episodes over four Fridays, Episode 1 on Oct. 9 and the other three on Oct. 16, 23 and 30. All will be released at 7 p.m. CST on the premiere dates. Go here FMI and tickets ($15 for all four episodes).

L and V: Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 10-11) in Red Wing and online: Red Wing Arts Festival. For the pandemic edition of this Red Wing tradition, one of the oldest juried art fairs in Minnesota, the event size and number of artists has been reduced, the footprint has been expanded for physical distancing, and a virtual festival has been added, with online activities throughout October and a marketplace through December. This is a beautiful art fair in a beautiful town at the peak of fall colors. FMI. Free. Wear a mask.

V Sunday (Oct. 11) on the Schubert Club website, YouTube page and Facebook page: Gilbert Kalish, piano, and friends. This Music in the Park series concert was supposed to be a live performance by Imani Winds from the St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ. When they had to cancel, the Schubert Club turned to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Front Row National series for this concert featuring pianist Gilbert Kalish. The music is by George Crumb, Schubert and Brahms. 4 p.m. Free. FMI. This concert will be available for viewing until Nov. 11.

V Monday (Oct. 12) on the Schubert Club website, YouTube page and Facebook page: Accordo. Remember, the Schubert Club presents several different series. The renowned chamber ensemble, made up of present and former principal string players of the SPCO and Minnesota Orchestra, will perform live at the American Swedish Institute without an audience. The program will include music by Beethoven, Arthur Lourie, Ravel and Mozart (the eternally uplifting “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”). 7:30 p.m. Free. FMI. This concert will be available for viewing until Nov. 12.