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A "Paint the Pavement" project drew lots of neighborhood participation during last year's first Arts on Chicago program. It's coming back this summer. Photo by David Joles.
After a successful first run last summer, Pillsbury House Theatre and other partners are bringing back the Arts on Chicago program, featuring artists engaged in interactive work designed to draw in people who live in, work in or pass through a ten-block stretch of Chicago Avenue (32nd St. S. to 42nd St. S.) in south Minneapolis.
Three new artists who live or work in the area have received $5,000 each for their ideas. Ester Ouray is going to get giggly, hosting a series of "laugh-ins" as well as random appearances by a laughter flash mob. Peter Haakon Thompson is going to cart around a pop-up ping-pong park (aka temporary table tennis trailer -- say that fast three times) to different yards and public spaces in the neighborhood to encourage spontaneous games and conversation. David Luke will animate poems -- created by participants in the Upstream Arts program for people with disabilities -- into short movies.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is funding the program,which focuses on stimulating physical activity as well as art appreciation.
Arwen Wilder, left, and Kristin Van Loon of the Minneapolis dance company HIJACK performed excerpts from"redundant, ready, radish, reading, Red Eye" in the atrium at City Center on Thursday.
Lunchers and shoppers at City Center are gettng an eyeful this week, as the main-floor atrium, usually a dead space that gets little traffic, became the site of some noon performances by local dance companies. Titled "Luncheon: Mid-day Modern Dance Series," the performances are intended in part as an ode to Valentine's Day week and also "to show people City Center is still alive," said Jaime Carrera, who curated the series and will perform a jazz dance on Friday. "Putting art in unconventional spaces is a goal of mine. People who haven't been exposed to modern dance can see some, free and accessible."
On Tuesday, Laurie Van Wieren raised a few brows by costuming herself in a mattress. On Wednesday, Sally Rousse showed off something more traditional, a bit of ballet. On Thursday, the two-dancer company HIJACK performed a piece they premiered at Walker Art Center in December, now and then turning heads by creating unusual movement up and down the escalators.
Some people glanced toward the dancers as they rolled, spun and interacted with chairs, then looked away, quickening their steps as they passed. Others stopped, with a range of expressions from consternation to befuddlement to smiles.
"It's a little weird, but that's good," said Target employee Kelly Gray.
"It's awesome," said Michael Flora from his perch looking down from the railing at skyway level, where most observers were congregated."A public space like this is so transitory, most people are only seeing it for about 30 seconds, but they are seeing it."
The program was paid for for by City Center and facilitated by Hennepin Theatre Trust, which operates its administrative offices and the New Century Theatre just off the atrium.
Melissa Ferlaak, director of education and community engagement for HTT, called it "an experiment. It gets people out of their comfort zone, which is what City Center needs."
Asked what he thought was going on in HIJACK's piece, Nathan Reed, the center's general manager, said "I'm not sure, but we like bringing the arts downtown."
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."
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