Arts Briefs: Concerts and celebrations

A graphic with the state of minnesota and pieces of art
The MPR News arts and culture team's arts briefs offer a weekly guide to the ever-evolving art scene in Minnesota.
Sam Stroozas | MPR News

It's been three years since the Minnesota Zoo canceled its popular Music in the Zoo series. This week, the zoo began a new music series, called “Wild Nights.”

Each show will have its own theme, such as Indie Rock and Global Beats & World Music. Each night will have at least five acts on the zoo's various stages. 

The shows are 18-plus and include access to animal trails.

Brass band bonanza

Northfield's Ameriikan Poijat band is the subject of a new documentary. The 35-minute film is called “Revitalizing Finnish-American Music: 30 Years of Ameriikan Poijat.”

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It tells the story of Paul Niemisto, who assembled the brass band with the intention of reviving an almost-lost tradition of 19th and early 20th-century Finnish music.

“As the process of assimilation continued it nearly became lost,” said the filmmaker Sam Temple. “So one thing that Paul said, when they first started, and they were playing it for folks, they said, ‘Well, you might not recognize it, but your grandparents would know it.’”

The documentary is available on YouTube.

Someone plays an instrument
A member of the Finnish-American brass band Ameriikan Poijat plays.
Courtesy of the 1855 History Team

From footlights to farewell

The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis announced Thursday that Managing Director Robin Gillette is stepping down. Gillette has been with the theater since 2015. 

In a post on the theater’s website, she wrote “I've been part of seismic shifts that included two artistic director transitions, the arrival of COVID and civil uprising on Lake Street, right outside the Jungle's doors. I'm proud of the work we all did to weather truly unprecedented times, without wavering on our mission to tell stories and take care of our people. Now it's time to cede my front-row seat to others to continue our vibrant work in ever-changing ways.” 

Robin Gillette.
Marianne Combs | MPR News

Papaya contests and traditional beats

Songkran is the start of the new year in Thailand, and the Thai Cultural Council of Minnesota is hosting a free event this weekend.

The event will take place at the state Capitol and includes music performances and traditional dances. There will also be other cultural activities, including a papaya eating contest.

Other Briefs

  • Rochester’s Down by the Riverside Festival has announced its 2023 lineup. The vocal group En Vogue were scheduled last year but canceled due to inclement weather. Other headliners are Eve 6, Charlie Parr, Avery Anna and Vanilla Fudge. The festival begins July 9.

  • In other concert series and festival news: St. Paul’s Como Zoo’s concert series, Groovin' In The Garden runs Wednesdays in June and July; Grand Old Days in St. Paul returns June 4 and includes performances from The Jayhawks and many others; St. Peter’s Minnesota Original Music Festival July 19-23 features 17 different performers and groups. 

  • The Red Eye Theater in Minneapolis is in its Works in Progress 2023 series Thursday with performances by Rebecca Nichloson, Sam Aros Mitchell, Margaret Ogas and Atim Opoka. The series will continue through June 17, with a new lineup of performers each week.

  • Minneapolis’s Brave New Workshop recently closed a show with a decidedly unpleasant title, “Smelling Elon’s Musk,” and will open a new show with an appropriately summer-y title, “It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Stupidity.” The show opens June 1.

Absolute Bleeding Edge

The MPR News arts team offers suggestions for the best in avant-garde, experimental and off-the-beaten-path arts and culture.

Exhibit: ‘Waiting for Beds’

“People will be told you have to wait for a bed when you are literally in an emergency in your life,” Moira Villiard tells MPR News.  

Villiard’s experience at a shelter is at the heart of “Waiting for Beds,” a touring “experimental” art exhibition and project from Duluth-based artist Villiard and artist Carla Hamilton (formerly of Duluth, now based in Pittsburgh), now on view at the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids through June 30. 

Villiard draws on her time working at a Minnesota domestic violence shelter where she says the staff had to turn away hundreds of people a year. 

The exhibition is “weaving together all of these components and approaches to looking at the issues so people can just notice it,” Villiard says. “Because I think at the end of the day, having to wait for a bed is just a normalized phrase that people hear every single day.” 

The project feels like something out of cultural critic Olivia Laing’s collection of essays, “Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency,” which held up the late artist and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz, who spent many years homeless.

“Wojnarowicz was driven to document the undocumented, to record and bear witness to scenes that most people never encounter,”an essay reads.  

With “Waiting for Beds,” Villiard and Hamilton are bearing witness, and asking you to not look away. 

"Waiting for Beds" showcases paintings and multimedia artworks by Villiard and Hamilton, as well as poster displays of national, state and local data related to the root causes of the issue.   

Perhaps the most poignant part is the community element. In each community the show travels to (previously Duluth, and now Grand Rapids), the artists invite folks to share their own stories or objects. Villiard’s favorite is a metal shoulder brace that a woman submitted. 

“She had gotten into an accident, and after that, she got addicted to pain medications. And that piece of metal inside of her,” Villiard says, “led to the first steps into a journey into addiction. 

Villiard has gotten grant funding to turn “Waiting for Beds” into a website. A local university has contacted Villard about incorporating it into the curriculum.  

“Largely, we're really just trying to get people to just denormalize it for now,” Villiard says. “Waiting for Beds” runs through June 30 at the MacRostie Art Center. 

Art piece
Multimedia artwork "F*** Off" by Carla Hamilton is on view in the touring "Waiting for Beds" exhibition.
Courtesy Moira Villard
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.