The spring season enlivens our spirits and brings in renewed energy for changing the world. This week, get into the mood of social justice and making the world a better place by checking out a choir concert highlighting the voices of incarcerated women, or a big band concert that raises funds for people with food insecurity. Also this week, the New Arab American Theater Works brings together playwrights from around the country as well as locally for an explosion of new work. Also this week, New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast has an exhibition in Stillwater, Elizabeth Erickson is on view at Form + Content, and All My Relations Arts shows off new murals.
Roz Chast: Upper West Side Meets Upper Midwest
In 2014, New Yorker cartoonist and author Chast published a book called “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?,” a graphic memoir that details Chast’s experience living through the end of her parents’ lives. The book has been chosen for the NEA Big Read, a national program aimed at broadening and deepening literacy in communities, through partnership with nonprofits across the nation. In Stillwater, ArtReach St. Croix will be hosting an exhibition featuring Chast’s work as part of its NEA Big Read program. The exhibition features 21 original cartoons, addressing themes around aging as well as living in the Midwest (Chast’s husband is from Minnesota originally.) The opening reception takes place Thursday, March 30 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will be on view at ArtReach through May 6 (free). More information here.
The Laughter of Nature: New and Beloved Work by Elizabeth Erickson
Minneapolis College of Art and Design professor emerita Elizabeth Erickson will be featured in an exhibition at Form + Content, where recent work from her series “In the Boat,” along with the modular painting “Temple of the Ebb and Flow” will be on view. Erickson was co-founder of two important women-led organizations and programs — The Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota (WARM) — one of the first major feminist art cooperatives in the country, and the Women’s Art Institute at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and St. Catherine University, where she mentored emerging women artists. The works on view showcase Erickson’s gifts for colorful gestures and rich detail. The exhibition is curated by Joyce Lyon and Patricia Olson. The opening reception takes place Saturday, April 1 1 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., with the exhibition on view until May 6 (free). More information here.
New Arab American Theater Works: Playwright Showcase
Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) playwrights from Minnesota and around the U.S. descend on the Twin Cities for a groundbreaking showcase of plays across two days. It’s the culmination of a playwright development program, led by Kathryn Haddad, for early to mid-career playwrights who have been meeting since July of 2022 as they workshopped their plays and discussed issues important to the community. The showcase features eight plays that have come out of the process, with a discussion following each reading. Among the playwrights are Minnesota’s own Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, Ifrah Mansour, William Nour, Aamera Siddiqui, and Sana Wazwaz. Also featured will be Adam Elsayigh and SEVAN from New York, and Nabra Nelson from Seattle. Saturday, April 1 from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 2 from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Open Book (free). More information here.
Swing Sisterhood Big Band with Tammy Robinson
Treat yourself to jazz music while also helping to combat food scarcity when The Swing Sisterhood Big Band presents its benefit concert for the local chapter of Music for Food. Featuring a network of local instrumentalists playing jazz repertoire with improvisation elements, plus a new tune by Julie Zeidel, the concert’s proceeds go toward the food pantry at Keystone Community Services in St. Paul. Sunday, April 2 at 4 p.m. at the Brady Education Center at the University of St. Thomas (free, donations encouraged). More information here.
Rising Tide with ENCORE!, See Change Treble Choir, and Voices of Hope
A former education director at a women’s prison, Dr. Jim Verhoye, and a local conductor interested in social justice, Dr. Amanda Weber, first teamed up in 2015 to launch a choir that held rehearsal at a small prison chapter. They named the group “Voices of Hope.” Since then, the organization has grown, eventually expanding from just a women’s choral group to a men’s group as well at the Minnesota Correctional facility in Stillwater, led by MaryLynn Mennicke. During the pandemic, both choirs met virtually, returning to in-person programming earlier this year. They’ve also begun building a re-entry choir for women. This week, Voices of Hope collaborates with See Change Treble Choir and Her Voice Productions’ Encore! choir for a collaborative performance that highlights stories of incarcerated women through videos and voices of the Voices of Hope choral members. The program includes music by Abbie Betinis, Raffaella Alleoti, Melissa Dunphy, Alicia Keys, Lia Pearson, Linda Kachelmeier, and more. Sunday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Sundin Music Hall at Hamline University ($23). More information here.
“We Are Still Here” Mural Artists Celebration
For the past year, a cohort of Native artists— Racquel Banaszak, Summer Sky Cohen and Jearica Fountain— have been working with Thomasina TopBear learning the art of making murals. The artists have painted the walls of All My Relations as part of the program, a partnership between AMRA and Hennepin Theatre Trust. See how the artists have transformed the gallery at a celebration with light refreshments and goodies. Thursday, March 31 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at All My Relations gallery (free). More information here.