The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library have named Alexs Pate the winner of the 2021 Kay Sexton Award for his significant contributions to and leadership in Minnesota’s literary community. The award will be presented at the 2021 Minnesota Book Awards, to be held virtually on Thursday, April 29.
Pate is a New York Times bestselling author, teacher, mentor and artist. He has written five novels, including two Minnesota Book Award winners, two works of nonfiction and a children’s book. The editor of “Blues Vision: African American Writing From Minnesota,” he has taught at Macalester College, the University of Minnesota, Naropa University in Colorado and the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Creative Writing Program.
One of his students at Macalester was poet and author Bao Phi, who said, “It was inspiring for me to see a Black author who was not only successful, but who was shaping the discourse on how art from his community should be engaged.”
Pate developed and hosted the NOMMO African American Author Series through the Givens Foundation at the University of Minnesota and served on the boards of the Givens Foundation and the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries, on the Minneapolis Arts Commission, the Arts Midwest Censorship Task Force and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Committee. He was president of the board of the Loft Literary Center and the Great Midwestern Bookshow.
Pate has challenged racial stereotypes throughout his career and supported the work of BIPOC writers. Currently he’s president and CEO of Innocent Technologies and creator of the Innocent Classroom, a program for K-12 educators that aims to transform U.S. public education.
The Kay Sexton Award is an honor reserved for one individual or group each year. Here’s a list of all the past winners, testimony to how vibrant and visionary our book scene is.
The first winner was Sexton herself, in 1988. A former vice president of B. Dalton Bookseller, she was instrumental in making the Minnesota-based company the dominant bookseller in America for its time. Her weekly “Hooked on Books” newsletter was required reading. Sexton helped create the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and served on the Graywolf board. A mentor to many, she died at 91 in 2019.
This will be the second virtual Minnesota Book Awards ceremony. Anyone may attend, with registration required.
New book club to explore race, racism and anti-racism
In October, Myron Medcalf became the Star Tribune’s first-ever Black local news columnist. In December, he wrote a column called “How can Minnesotans face the truth about racism, past and present? Start with a book.”
And now he’s part of a new book club, a collaboration with the Hennepin County Library, Friends of the Hennepin County Library and the Star Tribune. Named for Medcalf’s great-great-great-grandmother, who was 14 years old when William B. Key bought her for $1,000 at a slave auction in Georgia, the Mary Ann Key Book Club will explore themes of race, racism and anti-racism.
The club’s first book will be Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.” Sign up here for the newsletter and updates. Then read the book, if you haven’t already. The library will be adding print and eBooks in response to demand. Use available resources (linked on the web page) to spark thinking and discussions. Facilitated events, virtual discussions and other programs will be announced soon via the newsletter. A second book will follow in fall 2021.
Your poem on a St. Paul sidewalk?
If you’re a writer – amateur or professional, published or not yet – who lives in St. Paul, here’s your chance at semi-immortality, because sidewalks can last a very long time. Public Art Saint Paul is accepting submissions to its 2021 Sidewalk Poetry Contest.
Poems should be short; up to 300 characters, including spaces. They should be appropriate for anyone of any age or background who’s out for a stroll or a roll. You may write in English, or in Spanish, Somali, Hmong or Dakota; if one of the latter four languages, please also send the English translation. You may submit up to two poems for consideration.
Today, everyone in St. Paul lives within a 10-minute walk from a sidewalk poem. Coming across a sidewalk poem – walking along as usual, dum-de-dum, then looking down and seeing one – can be a real day brightener. Why doesn’t Minneapolis have sidewalk poems? Good question.
St. Paul Public Works repairs 10 miles of sidewalk each year. This year’s curators are Bao Phi and Sagirah Shahid. Submitting is as easy as filling out a form. (Well, and writing a poem.) If your poem is chosen, you’ll also receive a $100 prize. Remember: You must live in St. Paul.
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
L Now at Mia: Piotr Szyhalski: “COVID-19: Labor Camp Report.” Starting on March 24, 2020, just 11 days after COVID closed almost everything and sent almost everyone home, artist and MCAD professor Szyhalski drew what looked like a propaganda poster, using pen and ink. He posted it on Instagram with the title “COVID-19 Labor Camp Report: March 24, 2020.” Every day for the next 224 days, he created and posted another drawing, responding to the crisis in real time. Szyhalski now has more than 14,000 Instagram followers, prints of his black-and-white drawings have been spotted from coast to coast, he’s selling prints to benefit Honor the Earth and Juxtaposition Arts, and he has a book coming out. Meanwhile, Mia has acquired the whole collection, on view now through Aug. 15 in Gallery 370. FMI. Free, but you’ll need to reserve a timed ticket. Mia is open Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
V Streaming Thursday, April 1, 12 noon: Schubert Club: Courtroom Concert: Clara Osowski and Jeffrey Van. The mezzo-soprano and the guitarist perform Van’s “A Ring of Birds” song cycle, with texts by Whitman, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Stephen Crane and Amy Lowell. Osowski’s many honors include a McKnight Artist Fellowship for Musicians, second place at the International Das Lied Competition in Heidelberg, Germany, (the first-ever American prize winner) and the Richard Tauber Prize; Van has premiered more than 50 works for guitar. This concert will be an audio presentation of an archival program. If you can’t catch it tomorrow, you can listen on demand through May 1.
V Livestreaming Thursday, April 1, 7 p.m.: Walker Art Center: Insights 2021 Design Lecture Series: Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Chelsea Manning. Dewey-Hagborg is an information artist and biohacker who creates speculative projects that critique issues of technology, surveillance and image culture. (Her 2013 project “Stranger Visions,” a series of portraits created from DNA she recovered from discarded objects, is currently on view at the Walker in the “Designs for Different Futures” exhibition.) Manning is the former U.S. intelligence analyst and whistleblower who disclosed nearly 750,000 U.S. military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks; she is now a leader in the movements for transgender justice and government accountability. In this live and no doubt lively conversation, the two will discuss their collaborative project “Radical Love.” Free with registration.
V Streaming Friday, April 2, 8 p.m. on TPT 2: American Masters: “Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story.” The wildly attired trumpeter spent 25 years as music director of “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.” Then he spent 14 years as principal pops conductor for the Minnesota Orchestra (1993-2007) and has been conductor laureate ever since. Severinsen last played with the orchestra on July 22, 2017, celebrating his 90th birthday. A lot of orchestra fans have fond memories of his many appearances here. Do you miss his trumpet? His stage presence? His banter? His clothes? Tune in and you’ll get all of that, plus his colorful life story.