Art Shanty Project 2017

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Art Shanty Projects 2017 (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

I might have mentioned this before, but one of my favorite annual events celebrating two of the great stereotypes of Minnesota, our winters and our quirky artistic side, is the Art Shanty Projects. Back in 2014, it was the first adventure that I wrote about for this blog and I continued the tradition with my fiancee this year. Each year sets up a community of immersive shanties on the ice of a metro area lake – White Bear Lake for the past several lakes – always a new and unique  experience to explore, though some favorites remain beloved standards.

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Dance Shanty! (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

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View of the Shanty’s from the top of the Welcome Shanty, with Lindsay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year, unseasonably warm temperatures beached the shanty’s on our visit, but this year we got to explore it on the ice. This year’s unseasonable temperatures, though, made it a bit of a slippery affair, the warmth having melted a layer that subsequently refrozen when conditions dropped under freezing. Lindsay still hasn’t mastered the art of walking on ice yet, but we shuffled our way from ice shanty to ice shanty, taking in the interesting and inspired interactive activities. Dancing in the Dance Shanty, making our voices known in the Justice Shack (very topical), and time traveling with the Sci-Fi Book Club’s spaceship shanty, among others. I particularly liked the Vehicle of Expression, which gives you a chance to warm up in a converted bus and contribute some writing to notebooks from various genres, along with a storytime. With some colder weather this week (and maybe snow?) this weekend is the last chance to check out the artwork before next winter, though the chillier temps have not come in time to keep the shanties on the ice, so this weekend they will be on the shore of the lake at White Bear Lake County Park.

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Slippery ice (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

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Tryorama: Grown Up Club

Back in January, Lindsay and I attended a really fun monthly event in Minneapolis, the latest activity organized by the Grown Up Club.  Really a genius idea, the people behind Grown Up Club have been putting together fun, nostalgic things to do hoping to “inject fun and adventure back into adult life” since 2013. That’s definitely a sentiment I can get behind! Obviously… I don’t need much excuse to indulge in youthful shenanigans in spite of that slowly creeping maturity that one is forced to take on after a certain age, and it seems that I am far from alone, there!

How had I not heard of them before Lindsay signed us up for their latest awesome extracurricular, Tryorama: A Diorama Fair for Grown Ups? I recall making dioramas (dinosaur centered) in my own elementary school experience, so it was really fun to get into this with the full command of adult faculties! The theme for this one was fascinating in particular, creating a vision of “American Lyfe: 50 Years in the Future.” What good can come of the horrifying present we find ourselves in? Will the year 2067 be a desperate hellscape or a technological wonderland. Will we even still be around? It was up to the participants of the fair to express their hopes and fears of the future in a 3d display, as well as vie for the coveted prize ribbon of Empress o’ Effort (or at least the title of Official Trier?). Not to mention the $100 prize or the complimentary tickets to the Minnesota Zoo’s adult night for the winners. The competition was on.

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Our completed diorama! 

 

Lindsay and I pooled our talents and built a Library of the Future to describe what the library will be like in half a century. Of course, in my professional opinion the profession will be more important than ever in guiding a lost public through the vast seas of information, especially when private interests make it more difficult to access this info, but as can be seen, we took it to some new places, too! After much cutting, gluing, and scribbling, we got it all together and lugged it on the bus to Minneapolis!   

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Held at Sisyphus Brewing, a cozy little brewery near Dunwoody (and a short walk from my old stomping grounds near Loring Park), the tap room was soon filled with all manner of elaborate dioramas and cool set ups. Along with Sisyphus’ rich and delicious beers, the participants were free to scope out the competition, play shuffleboard, and color awesome extreme coloring pages just like when you’re parents dropped you off at one of those kids care places when they went to see a movie. Except with beer!

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Photo from Grown Up Club

In the end, in spite of some really fierce competition, our diorama got third place, which came with a prize of two free beers! Hey, at least it was something! The next Grown Up Club event sounds fun, too! On Tuesday, February 28th, they will be hosting The Singles Exchange, “Offline Online Dating via Proxy,” at Bauhaus Brewlabs in Northeast Minneapolis. Here, participants will prepare a powerpoint presentation on one of their single friends, being sure to point out their prospective dater’s strengths and weaknesses. The subject is banned from attending. In any case, watching such a display sounds fun, though neither Lindsay or I know any single searchers we could spotlight, but maybe you do?

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Lindsay shows off our winnings! 

Camping in the Metro

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Canoeing the St. Croix- photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Throughout the summer, Lindsay and I took advantage of our year long Minnesota State Park sticker, as can be seen during our voyages outstate, but there are plenty of Minnesota State Parks within a short drive from Minneapolis and St. Paul. Two of the nearby state parks we took lovely, relaxing weekend camping trips to over the summer were William O’Brien State Park and Wild River State Park. Each are situated just along the border with Wisconsin, along the scenic St. Croix, probably my favorite river in Minnesota, and offer plenty of hiking trails through mixed deciduous and conifer forests, prairies, and swampy lowlands. We wandered along some of them, plodding through the green, buggy summer woods and fields of these wonderful natural areas, encountering ghost towns and the occasional squirrel or deer. As I mentioned in a previous blog, though, even wearing plenty of insect repellent, it proved too much for us- the mosquitoes were particularly horrible at Wild River, hideous clouds that beat even those we encountered earlier in the year at Bear Head Lake. We had to run back to our campsite in terror! We were also horrified to find a deer tick on Lindsay at William O’Brien, but were quickly able to remove it thanks to the tick removing devices sold at the park.

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William O’Brian State Park

On the whole, though, our favorite times were the pleasant hours of grilling veggie dogs, making s’mores, and reading next to the campfires I managed to start (I guess those years of Boy Scouts were good for something), watching the sun set and the stars come out as fireflies flitted in the woods.

William O’Brien is, in particular, a very popular park for campers from the Twin Cities, especially due to its proximity to the charming tourist town of Stillwater, a place where one can find no shortage of antique stores, bookstores, boutiques, and other high end shopping. I could not help but drag poor Lindsay to yet another brewery, Maple Island Brewing, during our afternoon in Stillwater. We shared plenty of tasty brews, even finding a few that she didn’t think were too bad! I particularly enjoyed the Cup of Joe Freakshow, a dark, roasty oatmeal coffee stout. Also, Stillwater has plenty of places to get candy, from the Twin Cities’ standard, Candyland to the local Tremblay’s Sweet Shop, which contained the most peanut brittle I’ve ever seen outside of Christmas. Because of all of these attractions nearby, most summer weekends at William O’Brien are pretty well booked, so it’s a good idea to take a look at sites early through the online booking system. This allows you to have a better choice of sites, so that you can avoid the one right next to the bathroom but also make sure its not all the way on the other side of the camping area!

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On the river- Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Up the road a bit at Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls, we went on a canoeing adventure down the St. Croix. Renting a large canoe from Taylors Falls Canoes and Kayaking for a reasonable rate, it was a lovely afternoon for a river voyage. Along with a small fleet of other renters, we floated down the mostly unpeopled river, occasionally paddling. I was bit a rusty in my canoe steering (or maybe I never really developed that skill at all), but the current and river were not too demanding. After a few hours of listening to the wind, and the waves thump up against the sides of our canoe, we reached our destination, a park on the Minnesota side across from Osceola, Wisconsin. From there, we waited for a rental bus to return us to Taylors Falls.

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Franconia Sculpture Park

Just outside of Taylors Falls, we encountered one of the Twin Cities weird, hidden gems, one I had never been to before (though I had heard things), the Franconia Sculpture Park. Wow! The sunny fields and shady woods of the expansive grounds were packed with strange and monumental works of art from artists all over the world. Founded just twenty years ago (just twenty years!?), judging by the dates the works were installed, they are always growing. Lindsay and I were not prepared for just how huge the place was, and just how many bizarre, innovative sculptures were tucked away all over the place. It would definitely warrant another visit, I think! The place is open 365 days a year, so I’m intrigued by the idea of checking it out during the winter!

Northern Spark 2016: Climate Chaos, Climate Rising

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I attended the Northern Spark for the fifth time this year, and it was quite the adventure as always. Checking it out with my sister and aunt as well, it was Lindsay’s first time experiencing this idiosyncratic standard of the Twin Cities summer! Spending a sultry summer night experiencing the many wonders brought to you from the innovative and diverse minds on the streets of Minneapolis has always felt like a magical night to me. Wandering around, there were new and strange wonders to experience everywhere. This year, the majority of the festival centered exclusively in the Mill District, utilizing facilities at the Mill Ruins Park, Mill City Museum, and the Guthrie, so Lindsay and I biked in from St. Paul. As the twilight faded and night arrived, haunting images were projected up on the old grain elevators and factory chimneys and eerie music began to drift up from some undersea dance.

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The glowing sea creatures of the Illuminated Reef. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

The theme this year’s Northern Spark was climate change and the future, “Climate Chaos and Climate Rising,” a theme that is continuing on to next summer as well, and if you’ve followed my other blog, Reading Rainstorm, you know this is a topic I find fascinating. Many of the events and exhibits brought a makeshift, tongue in cheek “apocalypse” to the Mill District, fitting in well in the industrial ruins of the former milling capital.

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The flags indicate jars of water and their quality from various bodies of water around the Twin Cities, from Lake Calhoun to a puddle from a dog park. 

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Entrance to the Night Library

Having a couple of librarians with us, we of course started out at the Night Library, the Hennepin County Library’s interactive performance celebrating the role of libraries in the community. Nestled under the Stone Arch Bridge, the Night Library imagined a post-apocalyptic future swampland in Minneapolis, plagued by mutant mosquitoes and moose, as scavenging librarians hoped to piece together the knowledge of the past to share with the future. A little weird, but a lot of fun!

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The Minnesotan Ice bartering storefront. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

The Minnesotan Ice concessions stand seemed to come from the same world, a traveling caravan carting potable Minnesotan Ice to the parched lands of the future, allowing festival goers to trade random objects for some object frozen in a block of ice, 2.5% of which were edible. While we didn’t come away with a treat, Lindsay did get a cool

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Treasure from Minnesotan Ice. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

“grandma” card frozen in an ice cube!

Over in the Guthrie, the Nerd vs. Nerd event, sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Advanced Study, was another festival highlight, in which local scholars present short papers while a local artist interprets them. A good way to sit down for awhile while learning some interesting things. Over in the Mill City Museum, we also got some rest watching the intriguing Wayang kulit, the shadow puppet art form from the island of Java in Indonesia in its traditional all night length. A new story, Bimo Gugah, depicts a hero realizing that various climatic calamities were the result of his country’s poor leadership, the lush show featured guest artists from Indonesia and the rest of the U.S.  

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Late Night in the Mill District. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron.

 

As we paused to listen to the music and watch the screen and behind the scene working of the music and shadow puppets, we noted climatic changes of our own as lightning began to arc across the sky above the Minneapolis skyline, followed by distant thunder. Realizing the night was nearly over, as the rain began to fall, we began pedaling our way back to St. Paul, getting soaked during the journey. The wet bike ride was an exciting end to a fun night!

 

Light up the Night at the American Swedish Institute

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Rupert Angeleyes performs in front of Turnblad Mansion

Where does the time go? Last time I wrote, an entry for my “Where U Wanna Eat?” segment, I wasn’t even in Minnesota, but spending a couple weeks in southern California. Spring popped up while we were gone, and now it’s practically summer! We got back some weeks ago, and adventures were had, but what with the move to St. Paul and my goodbye to living in Minneapolis, I’ve had my hands full. Better late than never, over the next few entries I’ll write up accounts of a few fun things I’ve done recently, and some fun traditions and new things that I’m looking forward to in the next few months!

Last spring, I attended one of the elegant American Swedish Institute’s fetes, Cocktails at the Castle, an intermittent event in the spring. I attended again this year on May 6th with my girlfriend Lindsay, her first time visiting the American Swedish Institute’s “castle,” Turnblad Mansion. The theme this year was “light up the night,” and we arrived early and spent the entire evening there, eating Scandinavian delicacies like herring and potato salad and drinking some of ASI’s special cocktails on the mansion’s lawn. The entertaining local “music project” Rupert Angeleyes performed on the steps of the mansion, setting up an awesome vibe. Lindsay and I have seen them perform before and they always put on a great show, one that really suited the festive atmosphere.

 

After the show, we painted a watercolor together, explored the mansion from top to bottom, searching for clues for the scavenger hunt, and then got a tour of the entire universe courtesy of the Bell Museum’s traveling planetarium. It was a lovely, warm night and a great time. Like last year, though, it was definitely a bit on the steep side, with a ticket price of $22 each, not counting the food or drink.

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Our watercolor masterpiece! 

As the summer progresses, some of my favorite local events are coming up, many of which are free to experience! Northern Spark is approaching in just a few weeks and looks wonderful, as usual. I’m also looking forward to visiting the Floating Library again later in the summer, and to the many Open Streets events that occur throughout Minneapolis. There will be new events to report on this summer as well, and I’m so excited to experience all the great things Minneapolis and St. Paul pull out for these months of warmth in Minnesota.  

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Enjoying a Scandinavian beer at Cocktails at the Castle. Not a cocktail, I know! 

Art Shanty Projects, 2016

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Big White Bear bike on White Bear Lake (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

Last Sunday, Lindsay, my sister, and I were fortunate to experience the last day of the Art Shanty Project 2016 at White Bear Lake, returning to one of the first adventures I recorded here on MSP Adventure Time in 2014. Back in January, on one of the coldest days of the winter we attended the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the art shanties at SooVac, which really pumped us to experience this wonderful Minnesotan celebration of art, winter, and our lakes. Viewing the photos and ephemera of past Art Shanties, innovative and expressive interactive shacks on the ice that we attended in the past, we painted some flags to display on this year’s frozen lake.

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Matoska Tonka Shanty (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

Once February was on us, though, busy schedules and warm temperatures made it seem as though we would not be able to make it as White Bear Lake became unstable. It was with great excitement when we heard that, for the last weekend, the projects were moved to the frozen beach and we could check it all out! Celebrating the strong community of artists, craftspeople, and general creativity of Minnesota along with our love of winter and our

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Lindsay displays her heart-fish at the Catch Your Limit Shanty

tradition of putting little houses out on frozen lakes, I was so happy to introduce it to my lovely Californian for the first time.  

 

Arriving as a light snow fell down from the late February skies, we were overwhelmed by the vibrant, active colony of art shanties set up on the beach this year. We first stopped in at the Catch Your Limit shanty, which seemed an appropriate place to start! Exploring the tradition of ice fishing with memoir comics and art fish, we got to experience a little of the classic, 1960s Minnesota experience. Lee wrote a comic and Lindsay made a cute, heart scaled fish. After pausing inside the Aurora Shanty to view the solar powered light show inside the darkened shack, calling to mind the shifting night displays of the Aurora Borealis.

 

img_20160228_115408The occult cat themed teeter totter, the Ouijatotter Shanty allowed us to predict the future and answer pressing questions in the most fun, childlike way imaginable! Lindsay was relieved to learn that her cat would in fact survive his upcoming surgery, which partially true, as the surgery was deemed unnecessary the following day. Speaking of childlike, we then worked off some energy in the Dance Shanty, with its manic “forever young” vibe, Lee, Lindsay and I explored our inner children and displayed our great dance moves! Not many other places can I feel so free to just dance.

Lured away from the dancing by the barking of a giant bike-operated seal, the kindly man driving the cute and endearing sea creature gave us a ride over the colony to the Matoska Tonka hut. Inside, we explored the Dakota heritage of the region, learning the pronunciation of the Dakota words for local towns. Matoska Tonka, for instance, means “big white bear.”

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view from Seal bike!

All that dancing made us a bit hungry and parched, so we next stopped in a couple of what became our favorite shanties of the year; the Botanical ShanTea and the Chef Shanty. Lindsay and I were talking about foraging wild food earlier in the week and Lee and I have always been great devotees of tea, so this was quite an enjoyable stop for all three of us. The pair of wild, herbal tisanes harvested from local weeds the curators of the ShanTea offered us were very unique; each representing a season; we had spring stinging nettle (an almost buttery, light flavor) and the chamomile like flavor of the autumnal goldenrods. Little hot cups of refreshing herbal beverages made for a great stop in the cozy and cutely decorated shanty. Next, we stopped in the Chef Shanty to experience some delicious home crafted snacks expertly prepared and described by local chefs from the Third Bird. Pickled eggs, beets,and cauliflower were served up along with a flight of vinegar shrubs, old fashioned fruit drinks made with a hint of vinegar (all the rage these days), which could be mixed with “gin, gin, or gin.” The recipes are shared on one of the chef’s blog, Eat on the Loose, so check it out!

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Awaiting some stinging nettle tea (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

Finally, we again expressed our creativity in the AstroLounge, learning about our astrological signs and posting wishes under our appropriate zodiac. It seemed that several participants’ greatest wish was only that the world of Pokemon could be real. If only. In the PeaceTrain Shanty, we created our own works of art to take home thanks to the printmaking supplies and stamps created by the artists. A lovely way to finish up the day.

 

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Displaying some works of art from the PeaceTrain (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

While, due to the shift from the ice to the shore, we could not experience all that the Art Shanty Projects had to offer this year (several were unfortunately locked up due to their land locked status), it was still a great experience. I am hoping that the shanties return to the lake next winter and we can spend more time walking on water.

 

 

My First Tattoo!

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June Osaki with ink (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

So, Monday, I embarked on a new adventure and got my very first tattoo! It was a great experience and I am already considering another one! They say you can’t get just one, right?

I had talked a lot with my cousin over the years about getting a tattoo, but for various reasons, never got around to it in the past. He was a great proponent of tattoos, getting some pretty awesome ones and we talked about what I would get if or when I got a tattoo. When he put his zine together, Out of Context, among the collages he created was an archaeopteryx from one of my old dinosaur books I shared with him from when I was a kid.

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Famous archeopteryx fossil, Berlin

So, I decided that it would be cool to celebrate his creativity (and his love of tree climbing and exploring) by getting an archeopteryx backed by geologically accurate ginkgo leaves, in autumnal foliage. An archeopteryx, for those less well versed in childhood dinosaur obsession, was the “first bird,” discovered in 1897 in Jurassic formations in Germany, known as the “Urvogel.”

Finally, this year, I got my stuff together and actually strove to make this idea a reality, and I stumbled upon a great artist to put the thought on my skin, June Osaki, at Twilight Tattoos. I first encountered her work at the Creative City Market back in August and, looking at her work, her style seemed ideal for creating my idea. Working with her was great, and soon she sketched out a wonderful piece of art for my arm, advising me and making the whole process very helpful and easy! She had such helpful information and guided me through the process, as a first time tattoo getter, very nicely.

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Warmer days, Creative City Market, August 2015

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Well, it didn’t hurt that much! (Photo courtesy of Lee Burkhalter)

So, this Monday, I came into Twilight Tattoo in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood in south Minneapolis for the major part of my tattoo. Donning the Kate Beaton t-shirt my sister bought me for the occasion, I took June’s advice, got plenty of sleep and drank plenty of water and, with Lindsay and my sister to support me/watch me suffer, I sat down for the first session with June. I have to say, it was a lot easier than I had imagined, feeling like a series of light scratches. In no time at all, June got everything etched into my upper arm, so that I have officially joined the guild of tattooed librarians! It was all awesome and I can’t wait to go in to get the colors in a couple months!

If you are interested in June’s work, check out her website here!

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Finished tattoo! (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

 

Holiday Craft Show Madness: A Reflection

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European Christmas Market at Union Depot, St. Paul

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Enjoying some Gluhwein at the European Christmas Market

Along with my family, I went a little wild on the craft shows last Saturday, hitting up a few I mentioned last week, along with another bonus one! In what has become a new tradition for us, it beats heading to the mall, that’s for sure. Here’s a taste of what we saw-

Starting in St. Paul, we swung by Art at Ramsey first. This one seems to be pretty much the same every year, and runs towards the pricier end of stuff.

Heading into downtown St. Paul, we stopped by Union Depot to see the European Christmas Market for the first time. It was the first time I visited the depot since it’s awesome renovation, renewing its place as a hub of travel and exploration. Made me want to jump on the Empire Builder to Seattle, or even a bus to Duluth! The market was held outside, in the unseasonably warm weather, and was quite small, seeming to deal mainly in food items, like some quality maple syrup and Surly brewing’s Glühwein.

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Grain Belt Brewhouse exterior

We then went over to Northeast Minneapolis to check one I missed the other day, the American Craft Council’s Holiday Hop. This was definitely my favorite of the day. Held at the Grain Belt Brewhouse, home of the American Craft Council, it was a great opportunity to visit this great local organization, visit their lovely library, and shop for vintage Minnesota stuff, as well as all sorts of other goodies, from local organic vegan barbecue sauce to local cheese. This one was also free to visit, and will definitely be one I’d recommend for next year.

 

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Finally, we finished up at my favorite, the No Coast Craft-O-Rama, which is always among the most interesting collection of cool stuff. I’m pretty set for gifts now, making for a less stressful finish to the year.

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Shopping at No Coast

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Midtown Global Market

Twin Cities Holiday Craft Market Bonanza

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Minneapolis Craft Market, at Sociable Cider Werks

It may have come as kind of a surprise to me, but it has become obvious everywhere you look that the “holidays” are coming. It is December now, unbelievably, so I feel I can brook the topic a little. It seems like every year, my family is all like, okay, this year we’re not doing presents, alright? Only for people to ask each other what everyone else wants for Christmas by the time Thanksgiving comes around again. I guess traditions die hard, especially for “the kids.” Fortunately, over the next few weekends, plenty of events are popping up all across the Twin Cities to celebrate local makers, artists, and craftspeople and support them through buying their wares.

Last Sunday, I stopped by a new one that just began this year, the Minneapolis Craft Market at Sociable Cider Werks, an event inspired by similar craft markets across the pond in London. Along with cidreries’ hot mulled wine, a few tents were set up in front of Sociable, making for an intimate and cozy little show, in spite of the chilly temperatures. Seriously, though, it’s been super warm this year, so far, hasn’t it? I picked up some nice gifts here, along with some of Sociable delicious Nice Ride rye cider, cider with a bit of body to it! There was plenty of parking available, whether for cars or bikes, and it will be continuing for the next few weekends, so take a look!

This Friday and Saturday in particular, there will be a veritable cavalcade of events around town offering all sorts of arts, crafts, and delicacies. I stopped in last year at a few of them, the Julmarknad at the American Swedish Institute and the Holiday No Coast Craft-O-Rama at Midtown Global Market. This year will be the No Coast’s 10 year anniversary, as it started way back in 2005! Wow, that was the year I graduated college. I’ll definitely be checking that out again this Saturday!  

I’m also planning to head over to St. Paul on Saturday for another one I’ve never visited before, the European Christmas Market at Union Depot, inspired by the Christkindlmarkts in various Germanic countries. It also boasts Glüwein, a spiced mulled wine. Nothing better than a little alcoholic beverage to help you through the madness, eh? It seems if you’re interested in Euro-style Christmases, you’ve got Sweden, Germany-Austria, and the UK to choose from in Minneapolis this weekend. I’ve always maintained the desire to spend the holidays in Europe some time, so this is at least a taste of that.

Finally, the Art at Ramsey event in St. Paul, held at Ramsey Middle School will be returning on Saturday as well, which I talked about last year. This one seems to have the “highest end” crafts, though plenty of affordable gifts as well.

Art at Ramsey, Saturday December 5th, 10-5, free

Ramsey Middle School, 1700 Summit Ave, St. Paul

European Christmas Market, Friday December 4th 2 – 9, Saturday December 5th, 10-9, Sunday December 6th 10-3, plus the next weekend at same times, free

Union Depot,  214 4th St E, St Paul

Holiday No Coast Craft-O-Rama, Friday December 4th, 3-8, Saturday December 5th, 9-5, free

Midtown Global Market, 920 E Lake St, Minneapolis

Julmarknad- ASI Christmas Market, Saturday December 5th 10-5 and Sunday December 6th 12-5, $10 admission

American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave S, Minneapolis

 

Minneapolis Craft Market, Sundays in December, 11-5, free

Sociable Cider Werks, 1500 Filmore St. NE, Minneapolis

 

 

Free Art and Black Fridays

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Still recovering from hammering out slightly more than 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo over the month of November, I find some of the most relaxing places to visit to unwind are some of the Twin Cities art museums. There are a couple of very interesting exhibits in town right now that you should definitely take the chance to see, both exploring very different but equally creative times in art history- the shift into impressionist and modernist art in France between the 1860s and the 1900s, and the rise of contemporary art a century later in the 1960s. Both of these exhibits, Delacroix’s Influence at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Hippie Modernism at the Walker, explore shifting ideas of artistic expression, whether through painting or through other creative pursuits.

Celebrating their 100th anniversary this summer with a huge bash last August, the Minneapolis Institute of Art re-branded itself as Mia, and slated all sorts of awesome programs in the coming months, including Delacroix’s Influence: The Rise of Modern Art from Cézanne to Van Gogh, a unique and exhaustive celebration of the work of Eugene Delacroix, a painter from the Anglo-French Romanticism school whose groundbreaking work in color and optical effects inspired much of the next generation of European painters, who in turn revolutionized the art world by the 20th century; people like Cézanne, Manet, Renoir, and all of those other big names.

Following the my new personal holiday tradition described last year, Black Friday at Mia, so much more relaxing a reason to get up early on the day after Thanksgiving. For those who still needed to do some holiday shopping, the museum store was 20% off, but the real draws were free coffee and cookies from Agra Culture, and, of course, free admission into the special exhibit. I would definitely recommend taking advantage of the event next year.

I personally do not know too much about art history, but as a history major, I enjoy looking at pieces from certain periods and imagining how they fit into the cultural and social world of the time, and the curators at Mia did an awesome job putting together an informative and thought provoking collection, drawing in works from Delacroix and those he influenced from museums and private collections throughout the United States and Europe, including Mia’s own collections. It seemed that none other than James J. Hill himself, in that mansion over in St. Paul, was among the foremost collectors of Delacroix’s works in the US and many of the pieces in his collections made their way to Mia. While you’ve got to buy tickets for Delacroix’s Influence during the rest of its run, until January 10th, the rest of the museum is, of course, always free.

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Meanwhile, the other week I took advantage of the Walker Art Center’s Free Thursdays to visit the latest cool looking offer organized by the Walker, Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia. Centered around a decade’s worth of artistic output from the North American and European counterculture from 1964-1974 Hippie Modernism is a pretty stimulating exhibit. Showcasing artistic takes (or aesthetic radicalism) on how to live in the contemporary life, whether an idealized future and the nostalgic past, it is easy to see the tense period of history reflected in these myriad works. The sheer variety of items and ideas shared, from vehicle diagrams, to plastic suits, to orange trees reflected a truly creative era. It was amazing how innovative and strange the represented works were, and I especially enjoyed the vintage furniture you could relax on.

The Walker Art Center, including its special exhibits, are always free every Thursday night from 5-9, as well as on the first Saturday of every month. Oftentimes, these times coincide with other events as well. Hippie Modernism will be at the Walker until February 28th.