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Art Hounds pick their 2014 arts and culture highlights

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theater latte da master class cast
Andrew Bourgoin, Kira Lace Hawkins and Sally Wingert in Theater Latte Da's production of 'Master Class."
© 2014 Michal Daniel.

Our Art Hounds shared their Minnesota arts and culture highlights of the past year. Here are their top picks.

Sally Wingert in Theater LatteDa's "Master Class"

The acting was incredible. From the moment Sally entered the MacPhail auditorium, she had the entire audience in the palm of her hand. It is performances like this that remind me how strong the acting pool is here in the Twin Cities. We are so lucky.
-Bill Venne, recovering arts administrator

Nathan Barlow as the title character
Nathan Barlow as the title character in "Marcus; or the secret of sweet" being performed by the Pillsbury House Theatre in the Guthrie's Dowling Studio.
Travis Anderson / Courtesy Pills

The Pillsbury Theater/Mount Curve Production of "Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet" at the Guthrie Lab

Because Pillsbury Theater and producer Francis Wilkinson's commitment to making sure Twin Cities audiences experienced all three plays in this beautiful trilogy by the American Theater's next August Wilson never wavered and culminated in this play — the final one in the trilogy.

Because it was a sweet, brave play that handled the issue of homosexuality in the African-American community with wit and heart and pain.

But the real reason it was my "Yes!" moment in the theater this year was the chance to watch a new generation of hugely talented African-American actors — Nathan Barlow, Lauren Davis, Joy Dolo, and Mikell Sapp — step onstage with their distinguished and hugely talented elders. For a person like me who follows the eco-system of the Twin Cities theater scene with the love and interest some people reserve for their favorite sports teams, it was so exciting to see the rookies and the All-Stars playing a beautiful game together on the same field.
-Elissa Adams, director of new play development at Children's Theatre Company

Sha Cage in Frank Theatre's "Grounded"

Cage gave one of the most courageous, textured, and beautifully-structured solo performances I have ever seen in the Twin Cities. Sha fully inhabited that character's ambition, pride, disappointment and rage, and finally her understanding of her own complicity and her emotional breakdown. It was powerhouse acting, expertly shaped so that the audience witnessed a stunning transformation in the character and actress, beginning to end.
-Beth Cleary, director and Macalester theater instructor

Transatlantic Love Affair's "Ash Land"

This production was the figurehead of a wave of brilliant, new, homegrown theater created right here in our community. TLA told a breathtakingly beautiful story of loss and hope with no set, live music, and gorgeous movement from the cast. It was lovely.
-Heidi Halvarson, Savage Umbrella company member

"The Tempest of Franconia Island" at Franconia Sculpture Park

The play used the whole park as its set and we moved from scene to scene. The acting was wonderful, passionate and funny. The set — amid the sculptures — was an interesting way to view familiar ground. There was an element of racing — moving fast through the park, following the actors — to hit the last final scene at sunset standing under this huge circular sculpture.
-Rachel Coyne, writer

"Materiality" at Robbin Gallery

This gorgeous exhibition featuring Kit Eastman, Teri Power, and Alis Olsen transformed the unique gallery space into a wonderland of nature, pattern, texture, and warmth. The three artists have their own styles and processes, but together their work just hums with synchronicity.
-Bethany Whitehead, executive director of Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts

Matisse's 'Striped Robe, Fruit, and Anemones'
Henri Matisse's "Striped Robe, Fruit, and Anemones," 1940. From The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection.
Courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Matisse at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

I learned new things about him — the fact he was a risk taker, pioneering in his form, and "The Yellow Dress" painting had a cynical and yet constructive narrative. I have been thinking about parts of it ever since.
-Suzi McArdle, artist

"The Clock" at the Walker Art Center

I can't think of another exhibition that left me so transfixed, or that affected my daily life the same way. I found myself returning to the gallery again and again, at all hours, experiencing each moment of the day precisely.
-Amelia Foster, writer

The Clock
A view of "The Clock" when shown in London at White Cube Mason's Yard.
Image courtesy Christian Marklay

"The Magic Flute" at the Minnesota Opera

"The Magic Flute" was completely brilliant — a minute-by-minute breathtaking live-action animation of this fairy tale. One would not want every opera to receive this treatment, but this one was perfect. AND it packed the Ordway, night after night.
-Brian Horrigan, Minnesota History Center curator

The Minnesota Orchestra's performance of Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," with the James Sewell Ballet

This was an achingly beautiful, transcendent interpretation of the piece that tied together music, story, and song with brilliant choreography combining dance with ASL sign language. This is what art is for and can do at its best — awaken us to the beauties both within and beyond ourselves. One of the artistic highlights of my life as a spectator.
-Rolf Erdahl, bassist

Master drummer Alvaro Salas from Montevideo, Uruguay visiting Montevideo, Minn.

His visit was very moving, because he talked about the history of the Candombe style of drumming, how each drumming pattern represents a different group of now former African slaves who had been stolen from different parts of Africa and brought to Uruguay. The music is beautiful, electrifying, energizing and wonderful — and Alvaro gave many people a chance to try playing the drums he brought — that was the highlight for me.
-Emily Wright, composer and folk musician