Art isn’t always comfortable. It’s through art we confront the most difficult things in our community — like social or political issues, existential threats to our existence like climate change, and traumas that linger from the past. Whether it’s a visual artist confronting all of the above in her minimalist installations at NewStudio Gallery, or Brian G. Gilmore’s soulful reflections through poetry, or Laura Stearns’ brave confrontations with the trauma she experienced at the Children’s Theatre Company, there are numerous ways artists are taking an unflinching look at our world. Among the list is an older work by Louis W. Ballard, “Incident at Wounded Knee,” which is paired We have some lighter options on the list this week as well. “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” performing down in Lanesboro, is a real hoot, and the “Full Moon Puppet Show” is the kind of life-affirming joy you need in your life.
In “Living Traditions,” the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra partners with two Native-led galleries in Minneapolis — All My Relations Arts and Two Rivers Gallery. When you come to the show, you’ll see an exhibition curated by the two galleries, including photos by Dick Bancroft, who documented the American Indian Movement. On Friday and Saturday evening, come early for the pre-concert at 7 p.m., featuring Bryan Akipa playing a traditional red cedar flute. Then stay for a program featuring “Incident at Wounded Knee,” a piece commissioned by SPCO and Dennis Russell Davies in 1974 and composed by Louis W. Ballard, depicting the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890 and the Wounded Knee protests in 1973. That work will be on a program with Antonín Dvořák’s “Serenade for Winds,” Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s Sinfonietta No. 1 and Gabriela Ortiz’s “La Calaca.” After Saturday evening’s concert, stay for a discussion with Akipa, musician composer and activist Richard LaFortune and artist Gwen Westerman, moderated by SPCO’s Maureen Nelson. The performances take place Friday, Oct. 21 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. at the Ordway Concert Hall (Saturday’s performance will also be streamed). Then they’ll perform Sunday, Oct 23, at 3 p.m. at Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Mahtomedi ($11 to $50 for adults; free for kids and students). More information here.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
It’s not too late to sneak in a road trip to catch the beauty of Minnesota in the fall, and what better reason to travel than to see a bit of theater? Lanesboro is just a two-hour drive from the Twin Cities, and the Commonweal Theatre Company is a big draw. Located at the edge of Lanesboro’s charming downtown made up of galleries, boutiques, hotels and bicycle outfitters, Commonweal is an arts gem of southeastern Minnesota. This week and next, catch the delightfully over-the-top production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” a musical based on Charles Dickens last, unfinished novel. Written by Rupert Holmes and first produced in 1985, the piece asks the audience to vote on the ending. Commonweal’s production, directed by Craig Johnson, leans into the camp for a rollicking foray into tongue-in-cheek melodrama, with fun choreographic silliness by Laurie Roberts. Also playing at the theater is the drama “Good People,” by David Lindsay-Abaire through Nov. 6. The performances of “Drood” are Friday, Oct. 21 & Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 22 & 29 at 1:30 p.m., at Commonweal Theatre ($35). More information here.
Harriet Bart: Reckoning
The centerpiece of Harriet Bart’s “Reckoning” exhibition at NewStudio Gallery is a series of “Harrowed Objects.” Discs are arranged on the floor of the gallery, each presenting a collection of found objects: seeds, stone, steel, an animal skull, tree bark, and a miniature replica of a farmhouse, for example. In the center disk, Bart loftily piles slide film collected by Sister Mona Riley, who taught at St. Catherine University. Sister Mona would travel with another nun to Europe in the 1930s and ‘40s, and shared photo slides with her students. Bart suspends an archaic surveying tool above each of the discs, casting the installation with a feeling of precious balance.
It’s a haunting work of elements from the earth, warning the viewer of the consequences of our trends toward ecological havoc, war, and destruction. Also in the show, Bart exhibits a series of works that incorporate both English texts and texts in other languages — including hieroglyphics, Ethiopian text, and Japanese writing. Each is carefully printed on handmade paper and stamped with a golden symbol. Those works, as well as another installation called “Requiem,” (which incorporates text by Proust), and an installation called “safekeeping” made of stuffed backpacks pouring out of a giant safe — speak to a need for greater care for each other, particularly across cultures.
“Reckoning” runs through Dec. 3, with open hours 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at NewStudio Gallery (free). More information here.
Black Authors Expo
In Brian G. Gilmore’s 2020 book of poems, “Come See about Me, Marvin,” the law professor and poet reminisces on loneliness and feelings of being an outsider in the Midwest, having moved to Michigan from Washington D.C. The book imagines a dialogue between the poet and Motown singer Marvin Gaye, who also was from D.C. and wound up in Detroit, as the author copes with being in a place of disquietude. Gilmore is a featured author at the 2022 MN Black Authors Expo, the vision of DeVonna Pittman and Jasmine Tane’t Boudah, and now in its sixth year. This year also takes its theme “Inner City Brilliance, Books, Blogs, and Blues: What’s Going On?” from the album Gaye released 50 years ago, “What’s Going On?” Mining social justice issues, the celebration elevates Black voices in literature. As part of the Expo, Gilmore will be signing copies and reading from his book at Strive Book Store in the IDS building on Friday, Oct. 21 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. (Free). Check the website for additional events, including a virtual writer’s bootcamp.
Full Moon Puppet Show
Since 2008, Liz Howls has been wrangling together a puppet show timed with the full moon, bringing music, visual arts and creativity together for a night of the unexpected. Once housed at Bedlam Theater, The Full Moon Puppet Show is currently based at Open Eye Figure Theater, where a cohort of puppetry artists have been at work putting together their new works.
Among the puppetry artists that will be featured at Open Eye this weekend are Erica Warren, who brings her background as a graphic designer and illustrator into her typographically delicious puppet pieces, and the chemistry-leaning musical works of Kit Leffler. Other artists include Felicia Cooper, Brandon Sisneroz, Tri Vo, and Paradox Teatro. Saturday, Oct. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. ($18) More information here.
Book Launch Reception for SHATTERED, a memoir by Laura Stearns
The child abuse and sexual assault that happened at the Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis in the 1970s and ‘80s impacted a generation of artists in the Twin Cities. One of those deeply impacted was Laura Sterns, who was raped when she 15. In 2019, a jury found Jason McLean, who was an adult at the time, liable in the case. In “Shattered,” Stearns writes about her journey of trauma and healing in a call for reckoning in the Minnesota arts community. This Friday, Stearns will read from the memoir and there will also be a reception. Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. at Open Book (free). More information here.
Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to correctly state the composer of “Incident at Wounded Knee.”