Each week, I share some great things to do in this great town. We have some great ways to connect with our neighbors and friends and what it means to be in Saint Paul. They are suggestions. It is great if you can do some of them, but sometimes life is just too busy. But there is one thing I really urge you to do if you live in Saint Paul on Tuesday. VOTE! This election, we are choosing four school board members and our city council representatives. With so many efforts creating barriers to exercising this most basic right of citizenship, we can’t really take any opportunity to vote for granted. If you need to know more about where and how to vote, check here. Just like with art, the more of us who show up, the better Saint Paul will be.
On Tuesday, we vote with our ballot. The rest of the week, we can vote with our feet. Vote for art in Saint Paul.
This week starts out with the next installment of the Saint Paul Almanac Literary Festival at Trotter’s Cafe on Monday, November 2, for the eighth reading of Saint Paul Almanac: A Ten-Year Retrospective. I will be reading at this event and will be joined by five writers who have a Saint Paul voice, including poet and writer Linda Back McKay, the author of several books, including the poetry collection The Next Best Thing and the nonfiction Out of the Shadows: Stories of Adoption and Reunion; Harley-riding media activist David McKay, who has a special interest in Saint Paul history; longtime Frogtown resident Sheronda Orridge, a mother, community organizer, spoken word artist, and holistic life coach; Patsy Kahmann, whose memoir, House of Kahmanns, is about tender family bonds, forged and fractured through hardships and happenstance; and Carolyn Williams-Noren, the author of a chapbook of poems about motherhood, Small Like a Tooth, and the steward of a free poetry library in her Minneapolis neighborhood. Trotter’s Cafe is at 232 North Cleveland Avenue, at Marshall Avenue. The reading starts at 7 p.m. I would love to see you.
On Sunday, November 8, head to Claddagh Coffee for the ninth reading of Saint Paul Almanac: A Ten-Year Retrospective. Reading Sunday is Matthew Van Tassell, who retired from the army two decades ago and enjoys spending time with his four children and fourteen grandchildren and having time and freedom to do things like write; Kim Ode, who is a veteran newspaper reporter and former columnist for the Star Tribune and loves firing up her wood-fired brick bread oven in the back yard; sidewalk poet Louis DiSanto, a retired keeper from Como Zoo who enjoys photography, writing children’s stories, and classical music (especially Debussy) and who has also worked as a newspaper reporter, as a playground assistant, and one summer at a cemetery; Dennis Kelly, who grew up in Saint Paul hopping trains on the Short Line, vaulting the fence at the state fair, playing outdoor hockey at Dunning Field, and shooting pool at Sarge’s Billiards; Sarah Elizabeth Turner, who spent four years investigating complaints against the police in New York City and whose work has appeared in Sleet, Versus, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, Hamline University’s Water~Stone Review, and the Brevity blog; and Pamela R. Fletcher, associate professor of English at St. Catherine University, senior editor of the Saint Paul Almanac, senior editor of the landmark publication Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota, and co-editor of the groundbreaking compilation Transforming a Rape Culture. The reading starts at noon. Claddagh is at 459 West Seventh Street.
Use Your Words
I first met Rob Hubbard at precinct caucus years ago before he moved out of our neighborhood into one that couldn’t possibly be as cool. Well, maybe. Both are in Saint Paul, and we are glad he kept his good humor in town. The longtime arts writer and Saint Paul resident will be at SubText Books on Wednesday, November 4, to present his new book, Brave New Workshop: Promiscuous Hostility and Laughs in the Land of Loons. Brave New Workshop is that Twin Cities comedy mecca that rivals Chicago’s Second City and has produced famed comics such as Al Franken, Lizz Winstead, and Louie Anderson. Rob’s art scene cred, along with his happy air of mirth, make him a perfect chronicler of BNW, which he calls “a fun house mirror to the world around it.” The reading starts at 7 p.m. SubText is at 6 West Fifth Street in Downtown.
Go back to SubText on Friday, November 6, when Lon Otto and Sharon Chmielarz read from their recently published works. In her collection of poems The Widow’s House, Chmielarz draws from the heart to create a body of text that Jonis Agee calls a “fearless journey into the mystery of grief and love and loss.” Chmielarz has penned several collections of poetry, and her work has received wide recognition, including being the recipient of a Jane Kenyon Award from Water~Stone Review. She is a dean of Minnesota poetry, and this new collection will not disappoint. Lon Otto is a master of the craft of short story. In his story collection A Man in Trouble, Otto--like Chmielarz--connects with the theme of loss, and he also writes stories that peer behind the veneer of materially conspicuous exteriors. This event is also at 7 pm.
Later that night, head down to Bedlam Theatre for The Moth StorySLAM: CRUSHED. This edition of the renowned Moth Radio Hour asks folks to “prepare a five-minute story about the smack-down, whether brought on by defeat or challenge, objects moving at high speeds, goals toppling down, lovers running off, etc. Experiences that have demolished you, or victorious moments in which you were the wrecking ball.” I know some folks who have created some great stories for this show, and I can’t imagine being disappointed. So head down on Friday, November 6. The doors open at 9:30 p.m. with the show at 10. Bedlam is at 213 East Fourth Street in Lowertown across from Union Depot.
Saint Paul has ballet in places ranging from Union Depot to the O’Shaughnessy to the Ordway. On Thursday, November 5, the University Club will host Ballet on the Hill, a lunchtime performance from Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota. It is a small stage for ballet lovers as well as curious kids. The dancers will perform excerpts from upcoming performances in full costume. There will be lecture demonstrations in this program that includes interaction with the dancers and participation in ballet technique. It begins at 11 a.m. The University Club is at 420 Summit Avenue.
Taiko drumming has roots are believed to date back to the sixth century. Mu Performing Arts will give a modern version of the Japanese percussion art form for at least four more days (and five performances) this week with Taiko Groove. Mu stretches the boundaries of the art form and contributes to the innovation of American taiko. The show promises “visceral excitement and chest-rattling of our big drum numbers that audiences love,” a promise Mu has been fulfilling for almost two decades. Evening performances are Thursday, November 5, through Saturday, November 7, at 7 p.m. There are also 2 p.m. performances on Saturday, November 7, and Sunday, November 8. All shows are at the E.M. Pearson Theatre, Concordia University, 312 Hamline Avenue.
McNally Smith College of Music’s production of Green Day’s rock opera American Idiot is more than intriguing. It is a story that the students of the Music Theater Ensemble are eager to tell. It is one with which many of the performers can identify. It is an intense drama about youth getting lost in the deepest and tragic ruts of life in an attempt to find themselves. Maybe it is a bit of method acting or just a narrative that engenders strong identification. American Idiot, as the ensemble puts it, “is certainly set in a different time in our country for young people but there is so much resonating with the wars, impending elections, debates, and trying to decide what kind of American you are and what kind of America this should be. Do you feel the same way?” Stories get told about young people. The troupe feels this is an opportunity to tell the story themselves. Performances are Friday, November 6, Saturday, November 7, and Sunday, November 8 at the History Theatre performance space, 30 East Tenth Street, in the same building as McNally Smith. All shows start at 7:30 p.m.
What are you doing for lunch this week? Maybe spend it at Landmark Center with contemporary composers. On Wednesday, November 4, the American Composers Forum’s Landmark to Lowertown Lunchtime Music Bistro series features vocalist and songwriter Aby Wolf with hip hop and laser artist Joey Van Phillips. This is one of those combinations that is really what American music is about. The genre blending makes an impact worthy of the two artists. The Landmark to Lowertown series is one of several initiatives that not only provides a stage for new music but also does it in venues that intersect with an audience who might not otherwise be aware of it. This mini concert begins at noon. Landmark Center is at 75 West Fifth Street in Downtown, across from Rice Park.
The next lunch hour, Thursday, November 5, head back to Landmark Center for the Schubert Club’s Courtroom Concert series offering Music of Edie Hill. Hill is a Twin Cities composer whose work has been performed solo and by orchestras and in venues that range from Lincoln Center in New York to Musis Sacrum in the Netherlands. Performing her works will be tenor Gary Ruschman and Kristian Anderson on guitar, along with the First Readings Project, a choral collective founded in 2012 by composer, conductor, and singer J. David Moore. They will present an array of short pieces by Hill. The concert begins at noon in Courtroom 317.
Cornbread Harris is in his eighties with seven decades of pianos under his fingers and a longer history of American music in our ears. James Samuel “Cornbread” Harris Sr. is a bona fide Twin Cities blues legend. Among the influences that have created his very American sound are Hank Williams and Gene Autry, as well as the crack of the ruler from the hands of nuns. On Thursday, November 5, the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar will host the Cornbread Harris Trio. If you want some good music and the chance to touch a legend, head down to Lowertown for this 7:30 p.m. show. The Black Dog is at 308 East Prince Street.
On Friday, November 6, get a dose of Broadway musical fun mixed with Saint Paul history in Cabaret! at Central Presbyterian Church in Downtown. The church has been around since 1852, and through song and fashion, it will give us a taste of what it was like back in the day and a little bit of the legacy of a church that has been working for good for more than a century and a half. No tickets are required for this 7 p.m. show with a dessert buffet after. The church is at 500 Cedar Street.
It is time for Lowertown Classics No. 14 at the Lowertown Lofts Artist Coop. Series curator and premiere classical guitarist Eva Beneke will perform along with fellow McNally Smith instructors Chris Olson, whose jazz guitar and improvisation talents expand beyond the genre, and Jennifer Scovell-Parker, a jazz writer and arranger who leads the Jennifer Parker Quartet. Also at this month’s performance will be the unique choral group Hymnos Vocal Ensemble. The program will include works from Bach and Rodrigo, jazz standards, originals by Jennifer Parker, chansons by sixteenth-century French composers, polyphonic folk music from the Balkans and the Republic of Georgia, and drinking songs from Britain. This Classic is a little more jazzy and a little more local and still sporting some of the most skilled musicians in this intimate, informal, and cozy-for-the-season setting. Bring some friends. Enjoy the art, some wine, and a little candy at Lowertown Lofts Artist Cooperative, 255 East Kellogg Boulevard. (Enter through the well-lit, passable, and safe alley between Wall and Wacouta Streets.) They start sharing at 8 p.m.
On Saturday, November 7, the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra presents “The Wind and the Water” at Sundin Music Hall at Hamline University. The program is an exploration of forms of water music, from Handel to Elizabeth Maconchy’s Proud Thames Overture and Libby Larsen’s Symphony No. 1. The music of these River Thames–inspired pieces begins at 7:30 p.m. Hamline University is at 1531 Hewitt Avenue.
What is American art? That is a question the Minnesota Museum of American Art asked with its new exhibit, American Art: It’s Complicated. The museum invited artists Seitu Jones, Oskar Ly, Maria Cristina Tavera, and Dyani White Hawk Polk to join Executive Director Kristin Makholm to curate an answer with over 30 works from the MMAA’s collection, national galleries, and local public and private collections. Seitu Jones, the creator of CREATE: The Community Meal, brings us a capsule show of work on loan from the Minnesota Historical Society by sculptor Maurice Carlton. With her selections, Maria Cristina Tavera interrogates the notion that the idea of “American” relates to a united people and geographic specificity. Kristin Makholm selected works from the MMAA collection to “open up cracks in the concept of who belongs and by whose hands, eyes, and minds those ideas of inclusion are manifest.” Oskar Ly, who heads up the effort behind Little Mekong Night Market, invites a broader discussion with her selections about dialogues and monologues within and among communities outside the museum walls. Dyani White Hawk Polk reminds us that this discussion is more complex, weighty, and vast than any of us can have in one episode. This is an exhibit of new and familiar voices. The opening reception is on Thursday, November 5, at 7 p.m. MMAA is at 141 East Fourth Street, at Robert Street.
Did you get enough history with Central Presbyterian's Cabaret!? If not, stop by Landmark Center’s, Once Upon a Time Gala: Celebrate the Roaring Twenties! Evoking Saint Paul’s gangster past and its share of speakeasies, this event recalls those days when flappers with short bobs danced the night away and the Charleston and tango were the steps of the day. This is a benefit for the Landmark Center that will help them continue providing a vast array of accessible public arts and culture programming throughout the year. I’m sure it will be a blast, coming from the folks who bring us the Gangster Ghost Tour. Be there Friday, November 6, for a reception starting at 5 p.m., dinner at 7, followed by music from Butch Thompson. Period dress is encouraged. Landmark Center is at 75 West Fifth Street in Downtown.
Have you been to The Show Art Gallery in Lowertown? It is a great project that displays the works of many Lowertown artists, as well as that of emerging artists with disabilities. It is also the place where the “Mayor of Lowertown,” Ta-coumba Aiken, will open a solo show, “Intricate Simplicities of the Spirit.” Aiken is legendary for his murals, commissions, craft, and distinctive style that have spawned a critical mass of followers among art collectors. Sometimes, fetching a scrap he has scribbled on with a paint marker is a fix for the desire of consumption. This month, there will be a whole show. On Friday, November 6, it opens at The Show in the Jax Building, 253 East Fourth Street in Lowertown from 6 to 9 p.m.
The Como Conservatory turns 100 years old on Saturday, November 7. To mark the milestone, Como is holding a two-day party with its Marjorie McNeely Conservatory Centennial Celebration. They are calling it a weekend of “live music, vow renewals (calling all couples!), a time capsule, cake, Muddy Waters, poetry, prose, and much, much more.” Both Saturday and Sunday, November 7 and 8, will feature anniversary cake (while supplies last). Saturday features an event for couples to renew their vows (and given that a whole lot more people can do it, maybe make some new ones; I’m sure that’s okay, too). There will be a talk on the history of the conservatory from 1 to 3 p.m. and live music at 4:30 featuring the Detroit Don King Blues Band playing music from blues greats born in 1915, such as Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor, and Robert Lockwood Jr. Sunday morning, the Conservatory will open early, 8 a.m., for artists and photographers to set up their easels and tripods to capture the spectacular structure and the life inside. From 2 to 3 p.m., catch “LYRIC: Poetry, Prose, and Music for the Conservatory’s Next Hundred Years.” Performers include Ed Bok Lee, Angela Pelster, Katrina Vandenberg, and Ben Weaver. The Conservatory is at 1225 Estabrook Drive.
This week starts the season of Saturdays for the Twin City Model Railroad Museum’s Night Trains. The museum provides a spectacular display of dozens of model railroad layouts: “the lights are turned down, the buildings and street lights glow warmly, setting the scene for specially lighted models of vintage passenger trains.” The museum is at 1021 East Bandana Boulevard, Suite 222. The display will run each Saturday until February 27 from 6 to 9 p.m.
On Sunday, November 8, head to Landmark Center one more time for Sundays at Landmark: Saint Martin's Day. Presented by Twin Cities German Immersion School and the Germanic American Institute, this event celebrates the spirit of Saint Martin with lantern making and a parade through Rice Park at dusk. There is a real horse to lead the parade and a real-enough Saint Martin riding. The event starts at 4 p.m. They are also asking folks to bring donations for Joseph’s Coat, an organization that provides essential goods and services to individuals and families in need. Again, Landmark Center is at 75 West Fifth Street.
Another fine autumn week. There’s more to it than this. Check out the Almanac arts and culture calendar. Share it with your friends and share some experiences with your neighbors. Have a great week!