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Weekend picks: Brave New Workshop is back (live!), and art festivals are in bloom

Plus: Art-A-Whirl, Poem-a-Whirl and WhirlyGig, Cey Adams in a solo show, Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival, PaviElle French and Friends at the Fitz, and Kurt Vile and the Violators.

Brave New Workshop’s “Back to Workshop, or Everything’s Fine!” cast, from left: Taj Ruler, Denzel Belin, Lauren Anderson and Doug Neithercott.
Brave New Workshop’s “Back to Workshop, or Everything’s Fine!” cast, from left: Taj Ruler, Denzel Belin, Lauren Anderson and Doug Neithercott.
Photo by Dani Werner

Update: Brave New Workshop’s shows this weekend have been canceled due to several cases of COVID-19 among the company.  

Art festival season has begun. It’s a beautiful time to get some fresh air, walk around, discover new artists, perhaps have a beverage, enjoy music and let your fancy guide you as spring paves the way into summer. Whether you head to Art-A-Whirl this weekend in Northeast Minneapolis, or check out the goings on at the Creative Enterprise Zone (including the opening of a solo exhibit featuring Def Jam Records founding creative director Cey Adams) at the 2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival, it’s a wonderful time to be out and about. Also this week, PaviELLE French will be conducting her new piece at the Fitzgerald, and next Wednesday, Kurt Vile hits First Avenue.

Brave New Workshop

The funny folks at Brave New Workshop have had over two years to prepare jokes for their audiences, after being shuttered with the first governor’s order back in 2020 and not reopening their doors until this month. It’s worth the wait. Yes, some of the jokes are about things that seem so long ago, like toilet paper shortages, but they still ring fresh. In a way, “Back to Workshop, or Everything’s Fine!” acts as a kind of biennial review show, with reminders about all the things that have happened since 2020 (remember when the entire continent of Australia was on fire?) in ways that will have you chuckling.

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The show marks a new chapter for BNW, in its first live production since the death of founder Dudley Riggs in September 2020, and as it operates under the umbrella of Hennepin Theatre Trust. (Previous owners  John Sweeney and Jenni Lilledahl sold BNW to HTT in December, though the artistic leadership, including artistic director Caleb McEwen, remains the same.)

The comedic actors are up to the task, putting on a show that is goofy and political, filled with music, and with moments that capably play the line between serious social critique and inanity. Lauren Anderson is a Twin Cities comic gem, while Denzel Belin, Doug Neithercott and Taj Ruler all bring smarts and occasional poignancy to the show. “Back to Workshop OR Everything’s Fine!” performs at 7:30 p.m Fridays and 4:30 p.m and 7:30 p.m Saturdays through Aug. 6 ($35-$40). More information here:

“Blossoms,” Jody Reeb
Courtesy of Kolman and Reeb
“Blossoms,” Jody Reeb


The largest open studio tour in the country, Art-A-Whirl, tornadoes into Northeast Minneapolis this weekend, with over 1,000 members of the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association showing off their work. Whether you are in the mood for layered, text-based works pondering the notion of communication by Loretta Bebeau in the Northrup King Building, new art by BIPOC artists at PF Studios, also in Northrup King, or signature jewelry pieces by Susan Horowitz in the Food Building, Art-A-Whirl is a great time to see tons of art, meet the folks that make it and follow your curiosity.

Besides artist studios, there are galleries to check out too, like the reliably excellent Kolman and Reeb Gallery in studio 395 of the Northrup King Building. Also you might like to visit Poem-a-Whirl, from 1-3 p.m. at the Solar Arts Building, featuring Michael Kleber-Diggs, Kara Olson, Danika Stegeman-LeMay, Annette Schiebout and host Paula Cisewski.

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There’s of course lots of music all weekend, including WhirlyGig at Indeed Brewing Company (yes, you do want to see the Twin Cities Gay Mens Chorus and drag show at 11:30 a.m. Sunday) and the outdoor Art-A-Whirl Weekend outside the 331 Club and Sheridan Room. Watch out for Black Velvet Punks at 7 p.m. Saturday, and Venus DeMars & All The Pretty Horses will play an acoustic set at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The festival runs 5-10 p.m. Friday, noon-8 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday, May 20-22 (free). More information here.

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Public opening of ‘Cey Adams, ETCetera: Forty Years of Art and Design’

Def Jam Records founding creative director Cey Adams returns to the Creative Enterprise Zone in St. Paul, where in 2019, he created a bright orange and yellow “Love” mural on the north wall of Hampden Park Co-op. Adams, who has brought a hip-hop sensibility to his four-decade creative career, and who has exhibited work at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum and MoCA Los Angeles, is featured in a solo show at NewStudio Gallery called “Cey Adams: ETCetera, 40 Years of Art and Design.”  The exhibition has Adams looking back at his varied career, which spans making logos and album covers for groups like the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Jay-Z, as well as brands like Pabst Blue Ribbon, Pepsi, Levi’s, and Bombay Bramble. The new works reflect on Adams’ past work, colors, shapes and textures. The show opens 5-8 p.m Saturday, May 21, at NewStudio Gallery, and he will be part of an artist talk at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at 1:00 p.m., also at NewStudio Gallery. You can pick up copies of his books as well, like the recently published Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap. The exhibition runs May 21-Aug. 12 at NewStudio Gallery (free). More information here.

Mural by Reggie LeFlore in progress.
Photo by Julie Ann James
Mural by Reggie LeFlore in progress.

2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival

When Cey Adams (see above) last visited the Twin Cities, he was a part of the Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival. As it happens, this year’s festival kicks off this weekend with a street festival filled with live painting, bike and bus tours, DJ sets by Beatrix*Jar Studio at The Wycliff, nusic by brass band Prelude to a Blizzard, pottery demonstrations by Deneen Pottery, craft beer at Urban Growler Brewing and Bang Brewing Co., plus snacks by El Burrito, Urban Growler, Northern Fires Pizza, Icy Icy Baby and Jinx Tea. 12:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at 2325 Endicott Street (free). More information here.

PaviElle French
Courtesy of the Schubert Club
PaviElle French

An Evening with PaviElle French and Friends

PaviELLe French premieres her jazz, soul, hip-hop and classical music-infused “The SOVEREIGN Suite” at the Fitzgerald Theater this weekend. French composed the work about Black liberation and youth empowerment through a commission by the Schubert Club, with transcription and editing support by Michi Wiancko. French also conducts an ensemble made from members of her six-piece band, student musicians of the Walker West Kamoinge String Ensemble, and additional local performers. Doors at 6:30 p.m., music at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at the Fitzgerald Theater ($32.50). More information here.

Kurt Vile

Former War on Drugs guitarist Kurt Vile’s latest album “(watch my moves),” highlights the dreamy lyricism of the singer — songwriter, instrumentalist and producer. The synth-infused pop-rock sound eases into a highly listenable feel-good experience. Catch the vibe as Kurt Vile and the Violators are joined by opening band Natural Information Society at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, at First Avenue ($30-$32). More information here.