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Posts about Minnesota History

Minnesota photographer James Crnkovich launches new book

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: June 23, 2014 - 5:20 PM

"Reds, Virginia, Minnesota, 1985" by James Crnkovich

Former Minnesota photographer James Crnkovich returns to his home state for a five-day tour to launch a sweet book of his photos. Starting with a signing at the Saint Paul Saints game on July 1, the tour will include additional stops in St. Paul, Aurora, Gilbert, Virginia and Mountain Iron.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Crnkovich has been featured on CBS's Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt, has his work in the collection of the Minnesota Museum of American Art, and has exhibited around the world. Locally he's best known for his 1980s photos of the Iron Range which were included in the exhibition "At a Close Range," which traveled to colleges, universities and historical societies throughout the Midwest.

His new paperback, "Authentic Americana: The Art of Social Documentary," reprints about 50 of his color and black-and-white images dating from 1980 to the present. Taken in Minnesota, New York, Boston, Phoenix, Chicago and elsewhere, they capture the American scene in all its gaudy  vulgarity, latent violence, decay, cornball nonsense, and good humor. His commentary about the images is as insightful as the pictures themselves. There's a certain tenderness and big hearted acceptance of human frailty and loneliness that makes his photos very special.

Now a resident of Mesa, Arizona, Crnkovich will be back home in Minnesota to promote the book at the following events. The book also is available through: Naciketas Press, 715 E. McPherson, Kirksville, MO 63501.

July 1: 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Saint Paul Saints "Christmas in July" game, Midway Stadium, 1771 Energy Park Dr., St. Paul.

July 2: 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Common Good Books, Snelling at Grand, St. Paul.

July 3: 6 p.m., Aurora; 7 p.m., Gilbert. Patriotic Parades.

July 4: 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Aurora Public Library. 6 p.m. Virginia 4th of July parade.

July 5: 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Mac's Bar, 8881 Main St., Mountain Iron.

Editor Kevin Hoffman to leave City Pages

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: May 16, 2014 - 3:37 PM

Kevin Hoffman, City Pages' editor-in-chief since 2007, is leaving the alt-weekly. Hoffman confirmed the news Friday afternoon shortly before sharing the information with his staff.

Hoffman, who previously served as managing editor at the Cleveland Scene, said departing was his idea and that he gave his bosses at Voice Media Group his notice four weeks ago. Friday will be his last day.

Hoffman oversaw a news organization that lost a significant amount of its staff over the years. At the same time, he led Pages' transition into the digital world and oversaw coverage that won national awards.

But Hoffman said it's now time for a change. "It starts to feel like Groundhog Day after a while," he said.

Hoffman said he plans to stay in the Twin Cities, where his wife is a lawyer. He said he's primarily interviewing with companies that are at least somewhat journalism-related.

Victoria Theater to be rehabbed

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: January 16, 2014 - 9:47 AM

 The Victoria Theater at 825 University Ave. in Frogtown will be refurbished to put on live shows once more. Photo by Kimmy Tanaka.

If the walls of the Victoria Theater could talk, they'd sing. And dance. Singing and dancing will be happening there again if a neighborhood booster group can raise enough money. The century-old space with a colorful history in St. Paul's Frogtown won't become a parking lot, said writer/director Tyler Olsen, founder of the St. Paul troupe Dangerous Productions. The Twin Cities Community Land Bank will buy the Franklin Ellerbe-designed theater on behalf of the Victoria Theater Arts Initiative, a group that wants to restore the vacant eyesore, most recently a lamp store, and turn it into a combo-use space including an intimate (200-seat) theater and possibly elements of a community center.

Built in 1915, the theater originally showed movies before becoming a nightclub and then a speakeasy during Prohibition."Moonshiners' Dance: Part One," an historically influential song included in the American Anthology of Folk Music, was recorded there in 1927.The St. Paul City Council granted the Beaux Arts building historic designation in 2010.

The bank paid about $275,000 for what is “right now, a shell,” Olsen said. “No furnace, no bathrooms, but if you look hard, you can see a theater.” He said that while Bedlam Theatre’s move to Lowertown is a good thing, the closing of Gremlin Theatre on University last year leaves a need for another small performing space in St. Paul. “This brings theater out to a part of the city that thousands of people will be commuting through every day, the Central Corridor. Our goal is to engage those people as well as the neighborhood.”

A fundraising campaign is being planned, Olsen said.

Restored Schiller sculpture to be re-dedicated in St. Paul

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 26, 2013 - 4:59 PM
Photo by Kristin Cheronis).

A literary giant in life, the German poet and philosopher Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759 - 1805), stands as a bronze giant near the entrance to St. Paul's Como Park. Commissioned by a group of prominent German-Americans as a gift to the city of St. Paul, the sculpture immediately became a celebrated landmark at its dedication on July 7, 1907 when 5,000 people turned out to honor the writer and his legacy as an Enlightenment champion of freedom and democracy.

Recently restored, the sculpture will be re-dedicated at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 11. The Minnesota Chorale will perform "Ode to Joy," from Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the lyrics of which come from Schiller's 1785 poem "Ode an die Freude" (Ode to Joy). Officials from the city, park, arts and University of Minnesota will speak along with a counsular representative and students. The ceremony will occur at the Schiller sculpture site near the Como Park gateway at Lexington and Eastbrook Drive.

After a century in Minnesota's harsh weather, the sculpture was streaked with "green and blue copper carbonate corrosion and black, crusty sulfur-based deposits," said Public Art Saint Paul, a non-profit organization that oversaw the sculpture's restoration in 2012. Its bronze surface was pitted, the base unstable and the sculpture covered with graffiti and carvings. Conservator Kristin Cheronis and a team from Public Art Saint Paul cleaned and repaired the sculpture and its Vermont-granite pedestal.

A handsome figure, Schiller is dressed in the manner of 18th century intellectuals in a long frock coat over a shirt, vest and knee breeches above long stockings and buckled shoes. A sheaf of papers in his left hand signals his profession while his animated, confident stride telegraphs the vigor of his ideas and their inspiration to his countrymen.


Karlen recalls Minneapolis gangster heyday

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: April 19, 2013 - 2:22 PM





At Mill City Museum Thursday, author Neal Karlen gave an animated recounting of Minneapolis's Jewish-mafia era in the 1940s and '50s. That's club owner Augie Ratner on the right.   Photo by Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell.

Good thing for Neal Karlen that Israel "Icepick Willie" Alderman no longer roams Hennepin Ave. Ol' Icepick (photo below) -- whose specialty was ramming a you-know-what into the eardrums of his victims to avoid obvious signs of murder -- wouldn't have taken kindly to Karlen's spilling his secrets Thursday night at the Mill City Museum, where more than 120 people braved the spring blizzard to hear the author read from his new book,  "Augie's Secrets" The Minneapolis Mob and the King of the Hennepin Strip."  The event was hosted by its publisher, Minnesota Historical Society Press.

The "Augie" in the title, Karlen's great-uncle Augie Ratner, owned the strip club that still bears his name, though he sold it in the '60s. Karlen spoke of how Augie's, along with long-gone establishments like the Persian Palms and the 620 Club, was a watering hole for infamous mobsters including Isadore "Kid Cann" Blumenfeld (who got his nickname because he was always in the bathroom when the cops showed up, so the story goes) and gambling kingpin Davie "the Jew" Berman.

Kid Cann gave money not only to synagogues, but also Christian churches, because he said he "liked to play all the angles," Karlen said, adding that the Jewish mafia weren't alone in their shady deals: "There were some corrupt Scandinavians, too."

Israel "Icepick WIllie" Alderman 


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