Minnesota-related arts coverage from the Twin Cities Daily Planet.
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Skinny-dipping with Sparky the Seal
Rooftop cocktails at the Metrodome
Rollerblading on I-94
Mosquito-sting endurance contest
Feng shui-ing your fans in a non-air-conditioned apartment
Reading Garrison Keillor’s new book
Snorkeling in Lake Nokomis
Central Corridor trainspotting
Trying to smoke on the patio of an organic restaurant
Rainy-day picnic at a Pier One store
Surfing at the Bunker Hills wave pool
Geocaching at the Walker’s Open Field
Doing coke backstage with the BoDeans and an orangutan
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Artists who work crummy jobs to pay the bills have a unique perspective as opposed to non-art-making workers: “People who make art don’t consider their other job to be their career and they have distance from it, so they’re an artist primarily,” says Oakley. “The people who are actually making work consider that to be their job and the other things kind of fall by the wayside.” The joy and meaning in life for many artists comes from their art, the job is just what keeps the joy sustainable. Sure, it’s not the most glamorous lifestyle, but if it keeps you in art supplies, what’s so bad about it?
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Homelessness is not what it used to be. Nowadays you can find families with one, two wage earners, some working extra jobs, who simply cannot pay what landlords are charging for rent. Not even at so-called affordable rates. So, people who, before the economy went to hell, managed to make ends meet even if they did have to keep an eye out for the wolf coming down the block, headed for their door, these days have neither a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out.
Which makes producer Tyler Blanski’s compilationThink Out Loud: Music Serving the Homeless in the Twin Cities (Ezekial Records and Creative Group) a recording worth paying attention to. Every dime it brings in, as the liner notes say, goes to those in need. Of course, another reason is the lineup of local heavyweights like Blanksi, Chastity Brown, Cloud Cult, members of Trampled by Turtles, Charlie Parr and more. National artist Pieta Brown’s on board, too. In all, 15 alternative acts weigh in, contributing their chops to the cause. With singer-songwriter-guitarist-arranger Tyler Blanski doing, by far, the lion’s share of the work.
Tyler Blanski is not to the most arresting vocalist in the world or the most interesting lyricist, but does have a nice feel for a laid-back groove. Worthwhile examples are the Cajun-blues spiced “Bourbon” and “Peter Pan,” an intricate piece of somber reflection. An initial inclination is ask what in the holy hell is he doing playing a hillbilly rendition of the Ray Charles classic, “Hallelujah.” Until you remember, Charles started out as a country singer. Amazingly original singer-songwriter, steadily rising star Chastity Brown, who usually plays guitar, switches to piano for “Woke Up This Morning.” It’s characteristic of Brown, mournful without getting maudlin, a beautifully raw-edge ballad that stays with you long after the listening is done. Anyone who dug seminal L.A. rockers Love will perk up their ears to Cloud Cult’s “A Place,” revisiting the heart and mind of Bryan MacLean. It’s an ethereal delight. Pieta Brown coyly intrigues with “King of My Heart,” a quiet cut with her on vocals and guitar accompanied by Don Was (who produced this number) on acoustic bass.
Were it not for a worthy cause, Think Out Loud: Music Serving the Homeless in the Twin Cities still should move you to pony up and reach in your wallet. This is not just a reason to do the right thing. It’s an opportunity to take enjoyable sounds home and give them a good listen.
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In the early morning hours of June 4, a crowd gathered around a van parked in a downtown Minneapolis parking lot for a spontaneous performance by some of the Twin Cities’ top MCs—including Astronautalis, a longtime Seattle resident who’s just moved to Minnesota, drawn by our strong indie hip-hop scene. Astronautalis’s move is a coup for the Twin Cities, and on Saturday morning the crowd clapped and cheered as the new arrival improvised a rap about his new home town. Afterwards, Twitter exploded with echoes of the refrain, “I love this town!”
Not that Twin Cities residents need much excuse to sing the virtues of the Twin Cities. This is sometimes in the form of insecure justification (“New York thinks they’re a big deal, but we have…”) and sometimes in the form of positive celebration (“There’s so much going on this weekend!”). At its best, though, discussion of our local lifestyle and arts scene is constructive. The Twin Cities are what we make them: our hip-hop scene didn’t just erupt fully formed, it was built over many years by many musicians and fans.
What can we do, constructively, to help make sure that our cultural life remains strong and diverse—and becomes even stronger and more diverse? There are many things we can do, but here are five big ones.
1. Maintain strong public funding for the arts. In the past, I’ve had mixed feelings about public funding for the arts: can we trust a public entity to make risky, progressive choices about what projects to support? Minnesota’s recent experience with the Legacy Amendment suggests that the answer is yes. We can and should remain vigilant to wasting or misappropriation of government funds for the arts, but overall I’ve been very impressed at how many adventurous projects I’ve seen that have received Legacy Amendment funding. Let’s make sure this law stays in effect, and that our elected representatives don’t use its existence to argue for cuts in other appropriations to support the arts and arts education.
2. Maintain strong private support for the arts. One reason our cultural life is so strong is that historically, big corporations like Target, General Mills, and 3M have made a point of contributing to the community—specifically the arts—through financial and in-kind donations. Let’s continue to acknowledge and celebrate those corporations that invest in our community’s cultural life.
3. Enact progressive legislation. It goes without saying that keeping our community healthy, welcoming, supportive, and livable for all will enhance the quality of life for everyone. Let’s continue to invest in education, transportation, health care, and support for those who need it. Let’s fight legislation that demonizes those who help make our community strong. And for God’s sake, let’s take another look at those bummer laws that keep liquor stores closed on Sundays and close bars at 2 a.m. Let’s allow art gallerys to serve wine; let’s keep 18+ shows legal for the benefit of bands, venues, and our huge young adult community; and let’s encourage the sustainable development of new venues and public spaces where art can happen.
4. Explore. Our most prominent cultural institutions—the Guthrie, the Walker, the MIA, First Ave—are pillars of our community and deserve our enthusiastic support. That said, it does you and our arts scene good every once in a while to venture off the beaten path! There are dozens of theater communities presenting seasons of work, dozens of art galleries displaying cool stuff, and dozens of music venues hosting bands. Check publications like the Daily Planet, Vita.mn, the A.V. Club, City Pages, MinnesotaPlaylist, and CakeIn15 for fresh ideas about things to do. Here at the Daily Planet, we especially try to highlight the rich cultural life of the Twin Cities’ ethnic and immigrant communities.
5. Keep our eyes open. The Twin Cities are great, but New York isn’t all that bad either. Neither is Chicago, or L.A., or Austin, or (believe it or not) St. Louis. Let’s not be insular—let’s keep our eyes open to see what’s working in other cities, and take that as inspiration for our own beloved Twin Towns.
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