Art in Bloom 2019

The crowd gathers near the entrance to the special Egypt’s Sunken Cities exhibit

Winter’s been overstaying its welcome again this year, but as always there are things to keep us occupied indoors. Lately, my wife and I have been organizing all our books. But when it’s time to get out of your house and a spring blizzard has covered the ground in a gross slush for another week, what to do?

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A bloom to match Chihuly

We hadn’t yet seen the Egypt’s Sunken Cities exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, so last weekend we decided to check it off of our to do list before it closed later in the week. Like many of Mia’s traveling exhibits, it was very interesting to see such ancient, important artifacts so far from home. Lindsay’s a big fan of Ancient Egyptian stuff and this exhibit had a lot to offer on the unique cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, underwater for more than a millennia and a half. We particularly enjoyed it’s focus on Egyptian religion and the interesting melding of Greek and Egyptian mythology in the temple city of Canopus. A good tip to remember, if you wait until the last minute to get in before the special exhibit’s last day, you can get some good deals on the related merch!

Upon arriving at the museum, it seemed we were far from alone from deciding that a Friday afternoon was a good time for a visit. The day coincided with one of Mia’s most popular yearly events, Art in Bloom. The museum was filled with the intoxicating perfumes of various blooms, as well as packed with people admiring local florists arrangements in homage to Mia’s collections. The colorful bouquets can make even the most miserable, slushy April feel like the spring we are all craving. Outside, a wintry mix was falling from a dreary sky onto grimy streets, but inside, fresh flowers allowed us to imagine the coming time of year. Art in Bloom is always a fun time to visit Mia, still free for the vast, shifting collections the museum boasts and the intricate, innovative floral arrangements paying tribute to some of the museum’s beloved works of art are different each time. It’s definitely a great time to check out the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

I’d recommend taking public transit or walking, the parking in the whole area was wild, with the museum offering valet parking for full lots. We parked a few blocks away without too much trouble, though, making a perfect opportunity to bring home some donuts from Glam Doll on Nicollet for a nice donut dinner. The many restaurants on Eat Street, only a couple blocks away, are a nice way to end any visit to Mia.

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Flowers inside, snow outside

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MSP Reading Time: Pioneer Endicott Building

 

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view of First National Bank Building from Pioneer building apartment (courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

My wife and I changed our addresses two times last year, which was a bit of an adventure by itself. Among the places we inhabited was the Pioneer Endicott building in downtown Saint Paul, which was fun place to live for a bit. It’s a great base to experience the other downtown, or as my wife calls it, the “real” downtown!30227599

As I was moving out of the building, I discovered this recently published book, Heart of Saint Paul by Larry Millett, discussing the history of the place, and I really enjoyed reading it!

 

A concise but informative work, Heart of Saint Paul is packed full of interesting factoids and lush period and contemporary photos of the Pioneer and Endicott buildings, one of the historic landmarks that have been revitalized in recent years in downtown Saint Paul. Now housing the newly renovated Minnesota Museum of American Art and a brewery, we may perhaps being seeing life in downtown Saint Paul after so many jokes of being “dead” after 4:30. As a former tenant, I appreciated the detailed research and background info provided by Millett on this historic dwelling. Taking the glass fronted elevators up through the atrium as I arrived home each day, for instance, it was interesting to learn how rare this once common feature of 19th century office buildings is to have survived.

2244347709253925315From the architectural history and designs of both the Pioneer Building (built in 1889 to house the Pioneer Press newspaper and the tallest building west of Chicago for a few years), and the connected Endicott Building (designed as an indoor shopping arcade by a young Cass Gilbert), to some of the tenants who also called it home, like Northwest Airlines and Ecolab, there was a lot of fun info here. The most interesting to me were the personal perspectives of the elevator operators, office workers, and shop owners who worked there during its century long history (especially the story of the young women who hid from the rather disturbing actions of rampaging Vulcans during a 1940s era Winter Carnival). While perhaps most interesting to tenants (current or former) of the Pioneer Endicott, Heart of Saint Paul definitely has something to offer anyone interested in the architectural history of the Twin Cities.

Now that we have finally gotten to visit the new Minnesota Museum of American Art after months of seeing its construction, we’ll look back on our time downtown with nostalgia. I’d recommend checking out MMAA (aka The M), too, as they are going to be displaying some of the museum’s interesting, and long unseen, collections, and it’s always free! After the tour, you could even stop by 12welve Eyes Brewing in the Endicott. for a pint commemorating one of local sculptor Paul Manship’s works, Group of Bears. 

 

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elevator atrium, Pioneer Endicott building (courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

Foci

img_4679A few weeks ago, on that last blistering hot September weekend we had here in the Twin Cities, I tried out a new and interesting experience.

Throughout my childhood, I knew that my mom was a very creative and crafty person, and she had a lot of handcrafting hobbies she became very skilled at. For a long time, she was a master at basket weaving, spending a lot of time at the Minnesota Textile Center and even running my whole boy scout troop through the basics for that coveted Basket Weaving merit badge. In recent years, though, she has become obsessed with fused glass. 

To celebrate a recent milestone birthday, we thought it would be fun to learn some new crafting skills with her and bought us all a Groupon for a glass paperweight making class at Foci, a local non profit celebrating the medium of glass. In the end, it was a fun and rewarding activity I would definitely recommend.

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Foci has been present at numerous local art events and festivals, demonstrating the tools and skill of glassblowing to the community, including the Northern Spark, so the name was definitely on my radar and I jumped at the chance to share the new experience.

Foci (pronounced, we discovered, as “fo-sigh”), the home of the Minnesota Center for Glass Arts, is housed in a repurposed and sprawling old factory building in the Como neighborhood of Minneapolis, near the Mid City Industrial. Displaying the finished products of member artists as well as the artists at work in the studios Foci provides, it is a pretty cool place. I always like to  see such urban ruins being put to new creative and collaborative uses. The only issue is the accessibility, which the organization is trying to change. Currently, the building is not ADA accessible, with two sets of steep stairs being the only way to access the studios and glass working areas.img_4681

While the weather was stifling outside, the glowing infernos inside the brick building made the interior even hotter. If you are taking a class, bring plenty of water. We signed up for a Paperweight Experience and with the assistance of a professional glassblower we got a quick rundown of the tools and techniques we would be using to make our very own fused glass paperweight. With the temperatures and heavy metal implements being used, it was great to have such a thorough and helpful guide to using them, assisting us in some of the somewhat intimidating tasks.

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With kilns firing away at almost 2000 degrees fahrenheit, we were assisted in grabbing a blob of molten glass. After this, it was up to us to choose our colors among varying shades and opacities of glass fragments (or frit), fusing into our glass and using pliers and tongs to shape our white hot blobs to our desired shapes before adding another dollop of molten glass. This we shaped into the final form of our future paperweight using a moistened wooden cup or our own hands protected by a wet newspaper. Feeling the extreme heat radiating off your work, hearing and feeling the hiss and pop of steam coming off the newspaper as you manipulate the odd consistency of the glass, smelling the slight woodsmoke smell, was a quite intense experience. Once we detached our finished spheres or cones of glass from the pipe and stamped our initials on it, we felt quite accomplished. We then just had to wait forty eight hours for the glass to cool completely for us to take our creations home and see their final appearance, as the temperature of creation makes everything glow orange or red.

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A few days later, as the temperatures dropped, we came in to collect our own handmade paperweights and were pretty gratified by the results.

All in all, it was a very exciting, if sweaty, experience that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a fun, creative experience.

 

 

Summer Fun 2018

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Northern Spark begins, June 2018- photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

It’s been a fun summer, but busy – but that’s another story. We didn’t get to go on as many fun adventures this year, but we did manage to attend a few favorites and a couple new ones, as well. As the Minnesota summer ends and the autumn, my favorite time of year, begins, I thought I’d review my summer in MSP.

We again attended the Pride Dabbler, which I always enjoy. As part of the exciting Twin Cities Pride Fest celebrations, it packs Loring Park with all manner of GLBT inspired beers and people excited to try them. Truly a worthy celebration of our state’s innovative brewing scene and strong GLBTQ+ community, it is the most fun and interesting of the beer dabblers, I feel. I always appreciate the chance to return to my old neighborhood for a bit as well. This year we enjoyed cool local all trans band 4thCurtis perform. Check out my account of my first visit here.  

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Pride Dabbler 2018- Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

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Stop on the Weird Nicollet tour, the – photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

After missing last year, we were excited to again experience The Northern Spark, among the Twin Cities most unique and always surprising art events of the year. This year, the spark took on downtown Minneapolis, at the Commons outside the ominous, looming form of US Bank Stadium (death bringer to birds, crowder of the train lines), and all down the newly renovated Nicollet Mall (finally!). While, unlike previous years, the festival did not stay out all night, the more compact location allowed participants to conveniently to experience more of the events and performances, though it also felt a bit more crowded than in prior years. My favorite was the super awesome Weird Nicollet Walking Tour, presented by a local urban geographer guiding us through some of the weird and lost history of Downtown Nicollet Avenue, from the largest gathering of tap dancers in world history, to the old skid row, to the first skyway.  I blogged about my experiences in 2014, 2015, and 2016 as well.

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Open Streets Hiawatha

We checked out a few of the Open Streets Minneapolis festivals we had not attended before; Hiawatha and Franklin. It was cool to go to two of them this year! These events are always fun, allowing pedestrians and non motorized vehicles to take to some prominent Minneapolis thoroughfares to experience the city and its neighborhoods in a much more immediate way, interacting with the community and environment up close.

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Open Streets- Lake and Hiawatha

Lake and Minnehaha was very cool, delving into the Longfellow neighborhood, and we began by enjoying a few drinks at the Longfellow Craft Beverage District. Right outside awesome local indie bookstore, Moon Palace, the local distilleries, cidery, and brewery Lawless, Du Nord, Urban Forage, and Arbeiter Brewing offered some delicious and refreshing libations.

After our enjoying our drinks (especially the cocktails from Lindsay’s favorite, Lawless), it was nice to wander down Hiawatha and check out some of the weird vintage and antique shops full of strange and bizarre items that have popped up along the avenue, ending with some interesting dumplings at Dumpling.

A few weeks later, we attended the Franklin festival, walking down Franklin in the heart of the Seward neighborhood and enjoying baked goods from Mon Petite Cheri, learning more about pedestrian concerns in Minneapolis, and enjoying the historical hidden gem of Milwaukee Avenue. Back in 2016, we explored the Lake Street Open Streets, and in 2015 I visited Central Avenue in Northeast.

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Open Streets Franklin

Finally, we returned to the Minnesota State Fair for it’s busiest day ever! In hindsight, maybe not the best choice. In spite of the oppressive heat, I had never seen crowds so huge, which crawled to a tangled mess whenever they tried to bypass the huge lines of people trying to grab one of this year’s touted new concessions food. Turned out the French Meadow’s “Earth Wings” were pretty good, but we were slightly disappointed by the smoked ice cream at Blue Moon Dine-In Theater. After riding, per tradition, the Old Mill (surprisingly not crowded) we went for some beers at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, before trying out a couple of state fair exclusive specialty beers at O’Gara’s. Busing back home, we tried to cool off and unwind from the hoards we squeezed our way through. My visit in 2016 can be found here

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our cornucopia of State Fair goodies, 2018- photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

As the days and nights cool off, I’m looking forward to some autumnal adventures soon!

 

Art-A-Whirl 2018

 

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Outside of Rogue Buddha Gallery

I’m excited to start up a new year of adventures here in MSP, after some long months of stasis. Before I wrap up some last favorites of 2017 and some of the reasons I’ve taken a writing break, I’d like to post about a fun new experience from this weekend.

After a long, cold winter that seemed to overstay its welcome by a few months, the warm temperatures of spring are sure to make any citizen of the Twin Cities look for some fun things to do outside. We look for any excuse to leave the skyways and our comfy winter lairs. Lindsay and I have been obsessed in recent weeks with tackling the walks featured in the book Walking Twin Cities; some of which we walked before the snow from the last blizzard even melted away.

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Art-A-Whirl venues in Northeast Minneapolis

This last weekend, we took the opportunity to check off the “Nordeast” walk, a 2.5 mile stroll through the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District, which just happened to be the Art-A-Whirl, Northeast Minneapolis’ annual open studio tour, the largest in the country. Art-A-Whirl was always something I was aware of and interested in checking out sometime, but for whatever reason I never ended up going, so it was fun to finally experience it. In it’s 23rd year, there was so much cool stuff happening all throughout our walk, from local artists displaying their work to local bands performing at neighborhood restaurants, it was almost overwhelming! Here is a few of my impressions from our afternoon of walking the Art-A-Whirl.

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Some curing salumis in the Food Building

The day was perhaps not the most spring like, with a brisk wind and temperatures in the low 50s making it feel a little more like October, belying the sweet perfume of the blooming lilacs as we walked through the vibrant Northeast neighborhoods. Beginning near the Pierre Bottineau Library, built into the old Minnesota Brewery building, we explored the old brewery buildings, once packed full of bottles of Grain Belt, now filled with all manner of paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other interesting things, and crowded with patrons of the arts. In the Food Building, we saw more artists amid the baking bread and curing salumis of Red Table meats and Baker’s Field Bakery.

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A few of the many whimsical creatures at Betty Danger’s (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

Some of the local restaurants were also in on the festivities. We had lunch at Psycho Suzi’s, celebrating an Art-Thou-Luau and puppy pageant, enjoying our tropical drinks on the decidedly untropical porch with it’s view of the rolling Mississippi, and some cute dogs. Still, we were happy to be outside in spite of the chilly temperatures. A few blocks up the street, we indulged a little round of mini-golf at Psycho Suzi’s sister establishment, checking out more unique and interesting pieces along the way. I will discuss more about the kitschy and very midwestern sport of minigolf in an upcoming entry.

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Walking Twin Cities with the authors!

Heading down into the heart of the Art District, we stopped at a few interesting places, making our way through the crowds. At Rogue Buddha Gallery, we saw some spooky art by curator Nicholas Harper and other local artists, and then caught some more music behind the Sheridan Room and the 331 Club. As Lindsay consulted our copy of Walking Twin Cities, looking for where to turn next, we were surprised to bump into the author’s themselves, who were themselves surprised to see their book! So far, it’s been a great resource, as we learned a lot on our strolls, including how Northeast Minneapolis was once a national leader in casket production and it was fun to be able to show our appreciation in person.  

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The sun sets in Northeast Minneapolis (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

 

After our brush with literary fame, we stopped for a peanut butter porter at Dangerous Man as the sun began to set behind the looming clouds. Finishing up our walk, we went off the route to make our way over to Central Avenue for the finale for our evening, Har Mar Superstar at Bauhaus Brew Labs, part of the brew lab’s Liquid Zoo lineup. As among the most stylish breweries in the metro, as usual for events at Bauhaus, there was a bit of line to get in but once inside, it was a great venue for Har Mar’s brand of energetic, catchy dance pop. After a fun set, it was a long bus and train ride back to downtown St. Paul, encumbered with beer and art, but it was a great day and definitely worth the fatigue! Northeast Minneapolis is a fun, dynamic, and idiosyncratic area and I really enjoyed the chance to explore it up close.

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Har Mar Superstar performing at Bauhaus Brew Labs (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

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)

 

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! 

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!

 

Madison Bound

 

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Stained glass, Winona County Historical Museum

Over the next few days, I will be tackling a small backlog of adventures I missed writing about back in February. The first adventure is a fun road trip for those times when you might require a change of scenery from the Twin Cities. Over Valentine’s Day weekend, Lindsay and I crossed state borders for a little trip to Madison, Wisconsin, a fun college town that makes a nice weekend getaway from the Twin Cities. Here are a few highlights and recommendations from the trip!

Taking the scenic route down the Mississippi from St. Paul, we stopped for lunch in the sleepy but interesting college river town of Winona, Minnesota. This is the town where my grandparents lived, so I spent a lot of time here growing up, but it had been awhile since I visited so it was fun to stop again, see how things changed, and introduce Lindsay to another weird Minnesota town.

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Riverboat exhibit, Winona Historical Museum (Courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

We had a delicious lunch at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, one of my favorite restaurants in the state. In addition to the yummy food and friendly, laid back artsy vibe, they share a space with a used and new bookstore, The Book Shelf, which always has good finds. We then explored the recently renovated Winona County Historical Society Museum, which I’ve found to be one of the best local historical museums in Wisconsin, displaying a variety of interesting artifacts from one of the oldest cities in the state. After climbing into a reproduction steamboat and marveling at some preserved storefronts, we then took the opportunity to explore some art in the collection of Winona’s ambitious and newest museum, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. It may seem like an unusual location for the collection, but Winona does have a historic port supplying lumber and flour for shipment down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. The Marine Art Museum explores the “historic human relationship with water,” an apt mission for a museum set on the banks of the Mississippi River. Featuring contemporary photography as well as work spanning the artistic movements from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, including such luminaries as Monet and Picasso, it is one of Minnesota’s hidden gem museums.

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Capitol District Madison being transformed into a skiing track.

Crossing the border into Wisconsin, we were in Madison by early evening, where we had a date to catch comedian and actor David Cross perform at the Orpheum Theater, located on State Street, the epicenter for entertainment in Madison. The humor of Cross, of Arrested Development fame among others things, was a great way to kick off the trip, especially when he upset the more religious portion of the audience.img_20160213_133136

Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin and home of the University of Wisconsin, is always an entertaining place to visit. Situated on an isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, with the Capital building sitting on top of a hill, it is a compact, walkable city that seems to pack a lot into a relatively small area. We were in town during the last big cold snap in the Upper Midwest, and it came just in time for the Madison Winter Festival, though a lack of snowfall required the city to haul in a layer of snow to surround the Wisconsin State Capitol building for racing cross country skiers. With folksy fiddle music playing on the loudspeakers and a few quirky little snow sculptures, downtown Madison became a wintery wonderland.  

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Spending the weekend exploring the isthmus area over the weekend was a fun and relaxing way to brave the cold and enjoy each others’ company. Particularly with the Winter Festival going on, parking was difficult downtown, but most things are in easy walking distance of each other. At the center of Capitol Square is, of course, the Wisconsin State Capitol building, a pretty impressive edifice of state government. They offer a free and quite informative tour throughout the building, visiting the executive, legislative, and judicial branches where we marveled at the ornate interiors and fossils embedded in the stone walls. It was pretty interesting to be standing right there behind the leather upholstered chairs where the Wisconsin state legislatures make laws (rather poorly, under current administration, eh?). The tour was full of the usual list of notable “bests” that Wisconsin’s capitol building can boast (taller than the US Capitol Building, largest granite dome in the world, etc.) Some of which seem a little questionable, perhaps, but now I am looking forward to touring the Minnesota State Capitol building, to see what we can boast!

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Wisconsin State Capitol building interior (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

In addition to the Wisconsin State Capitol, we also visited the Wisconsin History Museum and its entertainingly goofy exhibit on Wisconsinites in Hollywood. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is also a good place to check out, which hosted several fascinating collections, including a surreal and energetic collection of 1970s prints by Wisconsin artist Warrington Colescott inspired by Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. That’s one for the reading list! The exhibit goes on until April, so if you’re in town, stop in!

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Sculpture Garden roof of Madison Contemporary Museum of Art, enjoying the snow

Strolling along State Street, we stopped in a variety of charming boutiques and shops, either just browsing or in full shopping mode. Of course, the bookstores were where we found the most to peruse. Browzers Bookshop is a maze of used books, with plenty of weird things to look at and you’ll probably get quite the deal there too! At the venerable independent feminist bookstore A Room of One’s Own, one can browse a very wide selection of new and used books. This was a very nice bookstore to spend some time hanging out and picking out a new book or two (or, hell, more).

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Some of Wisconsin’s fine beers, at the Old Fashioned

 

Of course, nothing says Wisconsin like enjoying an alcoholic beverage and we certainly had our fair share, so leaving the car behind was a wise choice. The charming, quirky, and rowdy bars of State Street and the Capital Square serve up some tasty Wisconsin beers and delicious cocktails. The Old Fashioned, a bar and restaurant specializing in Wisconsin’s food and drink specialties is a good place to start. Offering more than a hundred Wisconsin beers and a half dozen versions of the Old Fashioned, along with cheese curds, cheese plates, and many other tasty treats, it is a good place to go to be overwhelmed by choices. Just arrive early, the place is packed to gridlock by 6 on weekends. Breakfast, though, is a more relaxing time to visit. We had a perfectly decadent Wisconsin breakfast: A rich cheese plate, giant (and affordable) apple fritter, a breakfast old fashioned, and a pint of Tyrena Brewing’s Devil Made Me Do It Coffee Imperial Oatmeal Potter.  

Paul’s Club, on State Street, is another good place to stop in for a drink. Where else can you go to a bar that has a full side tree inside of it, along with a good beer and cocktail list?The Great Dane Pub is a pretty cool place to stop by in the Capital Square area as well, a brewpub that offers a nice rotating selection of brews, including the Stone of Scone scotch ale. Also come for the shuffle boards (Wisconsinites are super serious about this game).

If you find yourself famished while shopping on State Street, a nice place to stop by for very filling Laotian and Thai cuisine is at Vientiane Palace Restaurant, which has a lot of delicious food for reasonable prices, including some very tasty pad thai noodles. My eggplant dish was also very tasty. Graze is a romantic and atmospheric choice for dinner. A new restaurant specializing in farm to table cuisine, we had a very lovely meal here and I would recommend it for a fancy evening out, with nice views of the Wisconsin State Capitol and very good food. Again, the cheese plate is highly recommended, as is the oyster plate.

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Some of the collection of the National Mustard Museum (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

On the way out of town, we stopped by one of Wisconsin’s many “quirky” attractions. Where else, for instance, could you visit a museum devoted entirely to a condiment? Located just outside of Madison in Middleton, Wisconsin, the National Mustard Museum is worth a stop for anyone with even a little appreciation for mustard. An exhaustive selection of gourmet mustard varities from across the world upstairs, and a tongue in cheek celebration of the history and art of mustard downstairs, it is a cool and funny place to stop to sample some tasty sauces. After picking up some mustard for upcoming gatherings, we left Madison for St. Paul. A quick stop in Osseo, Wisconsin, for some top notch pies at the Norske Nook  Restaurant and Bakery rounded out or trip (and our bellies). All in all, it was a great weekend sampler of a winter town in Wisconsin, and I am looking forward to returning.  

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Did you know Tony Shahloub was from Green Bay? Display at the Wisconsin History Museum (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

 

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.