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Cultural preservation expert Cori Wegener
With the George Clooney film "Monuments Men" now in theaters, the topic of cultural preservation in war zones and other disaster areas (manmade or natural) is a hot topic. The Clooney film tracks a group of art historians, restorers and aesthetes charged with saving cultural treasures in Europe, Japan and elsewhere during WWII.
The need for such skills remains, especially in the Middle East which is about equally rich in archeological artifacts and violent conflicts. Former Minneapolis Institute of Arts assistant curator Cori Wegener, a U.S. army vet, was an "Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer" stationed in Iraq for 11 months during 2003-04 following the looting of the national museum and other cultural repositories there. She now bringsl that experience to bear as a cultural heritage preservation officer in the Office of the Undersecretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smthsonian Institution in Washington, D. C. A major in the U.S. Army Reserves, she retired from the service in 2004 after 21 years.
Wegener will talk about her experiences at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21 in the O'Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium, 2115 Summit Av., University of St. Thomas campus, St. Paul. The event is free. For accessibility information call 651-962-6315.
Abdulkadir Said played traditional Somali music during the grand opening of a Minneapolis Somali musuem in October. A new grant will bring more Somali musicians to town. Photo by Kyndell Harkness.
The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art has given the Cedar Cultural Center and Augsburg College $200,000 to bring internationally known Somali musicians to Minneapolis over the next two years. The grant, one of only six given nationwide, is intended to fund efforts to promote understanding of Islamic cultures through art. This one will be used not only to present concerts by Somali musicians based as far away as London and Kenya, but to connect them -- as well as local Somali musicians -- with Augsburg students and faculty.
The cultural center and Augsburg are located close to each other on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota, which has the highest concentration of Somali residents in the Twin Cities. Dubbed "Midnimo," the Somali word for unity, the goal of the Cedar's project is to not only expose students and the broader community to a traditional Somali music art form, but to have them jam together as well, said Adrienne Dorn, director of development for the Cedar. After the deadly New Year's Day fire that destroyed a nearby apartment building, the Cedar hosted a benefit concert with Somalis singing and an American jazz band playing along.
"People just loved it," Dorn said. "Somali music is traditionally heavy on vocals without a lot of instrumentation so it was great to get them together."
A bonus of the project might be helping to reunite musicians who have been dispersed by the ongoing civil war in their native land.
"Music was seen as a form of protest and often suppressed," Dorn said. "I hope we can get some old bandmates who are living far apart from each other to play together again."
The Walker Art Center is bringing back its cat-video festival back to its Open Field, were this family of feline fanciers were photographed at the fest's 2012 debut.
Cats may roam, but eventually they come back home.
On Aug. 14, the Walker Art Center will reprise its stunningly popular Internet Cat Video Festival for a third year -- this time back on Open Field, the rolling green expanse next to the museum where 10,000 people gathered for rhe first fest in 2012.
Intended only as an experiment at first, the festival became a stellar example of togetherness in the Internet age, a place where people fond of viewing cat videos, one of the most universally popular online time-wasters, could gather IRL (in real life) for communal enjoyment of the same thing on a giant screen.
The event drew international media attention from sources as varied as the New York Times, the BBC and CHEEZburger, a website largely responsible for popularizing cat videos in the first place. The fest has also helepd to make stars of Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub and other furry little divas, as well as spawned several -- ahem -- copycats, but do not be fooled: The Walker can rightfully lay claim to conceiving the original animal.
Last year the fest was moved to the Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair, because construction at the Walker made field access problematic and they anticipated an even bigger crowd. The move drew criticsm from purists who felt the magic would be lost due to both the less-than-sylvan venue and the cost. The first fest was free, but last year attendees had to pay $10 on top of fair admission.Still, it drew an even bigger crowd of 11,000.
Sarah Schultz, the Walker's director of education and curator of public practice, called the State Fair "an excellent alternative venue to host a large crowd" but said that a return to Open Field was always the plan, now that construction is complete.
This summer’s fest will be programmed by inaugural Golden Kitty (people's choice) award-winner Will Braden, the video producer behind perennially angst-filled Henri le Chat Noir. Information about video submissions and event details will be announced next month.
Some observers wonder whether the cat-video supernova burned too bright, too fast, to last. The Walker folks aren't worried about its enduring appeal.
"Cat video fans are a passionate bunch,"said publicist Rachel Joyce, noting that the festival's tours to other cities has increased the fan base. "I don't think it's time for the cat to jump the shark just yet. But it might make a cool video."
Fionn Meade @ Guillermo Riveros
Walker Art Center has hired two new curators including a Senior Curator of Cross-Disciplinary Platforms, a new post designed to reflect the center's focus on artists who work in many fields ranging from film, video and music to dance and such stationary visual arts as painting, printmaking or photography. That post will be filled by Fionn Meade starting May 5.
Meade is presently a curator, writer and faculty member at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and Columbia University in New York City. His expertise is in film, performance and museum practice. He will also be Interim Head of the Walker's Visual Arts Department while a search continues for someone to replace Chief Curator Darsie Alexander who is leaving to become executive director of the Katonah Museum of Art in suburban New York City.
Meade's first task will be to oversee the presentation of Radical Presence, an exhibition about black performance in visual art from the 1960s to the present. One of his future shows will focus on the work of visual artists who collaborated with choreographer Merce Cunningham whose archive the Walker owns.
He previously worked as a curator at the Sculpture Center in New York City and at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. He has a M.A. degree in creative writing from Columbia and a M.A. from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard.
Isla Leaver-Yap, photo provided by Walker Art Center
The second appointee is Isla Leaver-Yap who will take the new post of Bentson Visiting Film Scholar starting March 3. Presently living in Glasgow, Scotland she is expected to do research on the Walker's Ruben/Bentson Film and Video Collection which has a high concentration of avant garde films dated from 1943 - 1985. She will report to Meade but also work closely with Sheryl Mousley, the Walker's film curator.
Leaver-Yap has extensive experience with film groups in London and New York. She has an MA in art history and English and a MSc in Art History Research from the University of Edinburg, Scotland.
Soprano Renee Fleming and Piotr Beczała in "Rusalka," which is broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera House in HD on Saturday. Photo by Ken Howard for the Met.
More than 100 million saw her sing the National Anthem at the Superbowl recently. Now you can catch soprano Renee Fleming in Dvorak's "Rusalka," the opera that helped launch Fleming 25 years ago. That was when she won the Met's National Council Auditions singing the "Rusalka" aria "Song to the Moon."
The Met's HD livecast of "Rusalka" begins at 11:55 a.m. Sat., Feb. 8,at various Twin Cities movie theaters. Tickets and theater details are at the Fathom Events website.
The Met's revival of "Rusalka" with conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin received a mixed review in the New York Times. The story revolves around a water nymph who falls for a human. Uh-oh.
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