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Archive for May, 2011

Northern Spark: a nuit blanche

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Northern Spark


This is just cool.

Northern Spark is a Twin Cities based dusk to dawn participatory art event along the Mississippi River and surrounding areas on the evening of Saturday June 4th from sunset at 8:55 to sunrise on Sunday June 5 at 5:28 am.

The concept of “nuit blanche”, meaning “white night” or “sleepless night” originated in St. Petersburg, Russia and Berlin, Germany in the mid 1990s. These art filled all-night festivals have subsequently spread to cities throughout the world.

More info from the Northern Spark website:

“Northern Spark will include a diversity of art forms and projects including multi-story projections, audio environments with vistas, floating works on barges, houseboats and paddleboats, headphone concerts, and the use of everything from bioluminescent algae and sewer pipes for organs to more traditional media such as banjos and puppets.

There is magic in the night, when the familiar, like the city skyline, becomes majestic, and a starry sky can transport the imagination. One’s senses are heightened, attuned to the slightest noise or even the smell of the nearby river in a way that seems not so common in daylight. One’s regular bus ride or walking over the threshold of a building visited hundreds of times before becomes exotic and otherworldly at 3 am.

It is in this context that more than 200 artists are presenting 100 installations and performances for Northern Spark from the top of the Foshay Tower to boat rides along the Mississippi to light sculptures and projections to performances galore, including car horn and brass band fanfares, color guards, river dancing, sewer pipe organs, lullabies, and storytelling. Perusing this site will introduce you to the rich variety of offerings that will bloom for one night only. It is not our goal to take over the night like some giant big top tent, but to join it. We meet the city halfway. As you walk or ride a bike or take the bus from one venue to another, see and appreciate your surroundings with new eyes and ears. Celebrate one of the great rivers of the world through two magnificent cities and enjoy the next artistic intervention you come across. It’s an adventure. You make your own journey.”

Hubert Humphrey’s 100th Birthday

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey (Minneapolis Tribune)Friday, May 27, marks a century since the birth of Minnesota’s Happy Warrior, Hubert Humphrey. He was the mayor of Minneapolis, a founder of the DFL party, a U.S. senator from Minnesota, the 38th vice president of the United States, an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency in 1968, and a tireless champion of liberal causes.

All this week Iric Nathanson, author of Minneapolis in the Twentieth Century, has been writing informative and thoughtful articles for that highlight significant aspects of this remarkable man’s career. And on Friday, St. John’s history professor Annette Atkins will talk about him on MPR’s Morning Edition with Cathy Wurzer.  If you hunger for still more, check out Carl Solberg’s great book, Hubert Humphrey: A Biography.

Celebrating Minnesota’s Native Heritage and Foods

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The Minnesota Ethnic Food BookThis Saturday, May 28, the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis celebrates  Minnesota’s Native heritage and foods: wild rice, maple syrup, and bison.

Interested in learning more about traditional Native American foodways? The Minnesota Ethnic Food Book begins with a chapter on the Ojibway:

“Traditionally, the Ojibway migrated in the spring to obtain sugar sap from the maples, in the summer to find berries, wild greens, and herbs, in the fall to harvest wild rice, and in winter to kill game and spear fish. Consequently the lunar phases of the yearly cycle were identified by food availability. For example, September was Moon of Ricing, and April was Moon of Sugar Making—names that modern Ojibway remember . . .

“Today, as in former times, important occasions in Indian life are associated with food—naming a child, marriages, deaths, the change of season, and religious events. Many aspects of food and diet are sacred to the Ojibway; they are intertwined with religion and provide a guide to the treatment of the land and its products. Plants, trees, animals, and grasses all have a purpose and are a gift that the Ojibway hold in reverence. Because this bounty was placed on earth to be used as food or medicine, it must be managed carefully to ensure its presence for generations to come. Wild rice, maple sugar, and various wild game are integral parts of religious feasts and private powwows. This sacred use of food is a personal matter that most Ojibway prefer not to discuss . . .

“In most instances, the men hunted and fished and butchered the meat. Women cooked, gathered berries, herbs, and wild greens, raised crops, processed the animal hides, and preserved the meat. Children helped in all of these activities, observing the procedures and practices and learning by doing it for their own later use as adults. The family as a whole was involved in ricing and maple-sugar making.

“Until the early reservation years, Indians in general used two thousand different foods derived from plants alone, not to mention the available wildlife. Nuts, berries, greens, onions, turtle eggs, camas bulbs, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, and numerous other foodstuffs formed part of the Ojibway diet.

“Because of the nomadic life the Ojibway led, they frequently prepared one-pot meals over an open fire. Whenever weather permitted, this fire would be outdoors, but on rainy days or in the depths of winter it was moved to the center of the large wigwams, which housed one or more families. Foods were cooked in a birch-bark container suspended from a tripod over a low fire that provided continuous heat. The cooks dropped hot rocks, taken from the coals, into the water-filled bark containers, which would not burn as long as there was still water in the vessel. The rocks brought the water to a low boil sufficient to cook all the ingredients of the one-pot meal. Later the manomin (wild rice) or napodin (dumplings) might be added.”

Winners of the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards Announced

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Paddle NorthLast night, the winners of the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards were announced in Duluth, and we at MHS are pleased to congratulate five of our authors: David LaRochelle and Joe Rossi, winners of the children’s literature prize  for Minnesota’s Hidden Alphabet; Layne Kennedy and Greg Breining, winners of the general nonfiction prize for Paddle North; and Anton Treuer, winner of a general nonfiction honorable mention for The Assassination of Hole in the Day. Check out the article in the Duluth News Tribune for the complete list of honorees.

Congratulations, all!

Minnesota’s Chinese American Community

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Bessie Moy, Judith Moy, and Mrs. Hum Gin, 1920s (MHS collections)Guest post by Sherri Gebert-Fuller, author of Chinese in Minnesota

One of the greatest rewards of working on the MHS Press book Chinese in Minnesota was meeting so many wonderful people in the Chinese American community.  But that reward also posed a challenge: how does one write about the history of a community and share the accomplishments of a multitude of individuals in an eighty-page book?  The answer?  It’s impossible.

That is why I was pleased to learn about a new project being funded in part by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund called “100 Years of Chinese American History in Minnesota from 1911 to 2011: A Story from Within.” This effort is being led by the Minnesota Chinese Cultural Services Center and several other Chinese organizations in the Twin Cities.

The project’s inspiration?  A 2010 Mother’s Day dinner.  Attendees honoring their mothers realized that their parents and members of the Chinese community had some pretty amazing stories that needed to be documented and shared.  It was time to, as project curator Ange Hwang describes it, “pick up the torch.”

Once the idea for the project was planted, Ms. Hwang set out to determine what kind of documentation about Minnesota’s Chinese community already existed. She conducted research at the Minnesota Historical Society and became familiar with the work of Professor Erika Lee, University of Minnesota, and Weiming Lu, a distinguished urban planner and longtime Twin Cities leader.  Ms. Hwang concluded that the project should focus on capturing stories and photos featuring Chinese American history from 1970 to 2010 while emphasizing how events in China, such as the June 4 Tiananmen Massacre, affected the Chinese community in Minnesota.

Fifteen leaders in the Chinese American community have been interviewed for the project. Individuals represented have advanced the study of science and technology at the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic, established Chinese language programs throughout the state, and contributed to Minnesota’s rich arts scene.  The “100 Years of Chinese American History” project also includes a photo and audio/video exhibition as well as an educational package for schools and organizations. The exhibit is on display, first, at the St. Paul Landmark Center through June 11 and, second, at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center, June 16 through July 16.

Several events are planned around the project.  To learn more, read this Asian American Press article, visit the Republic of China Centennial Celebration Commission of Minnesota website, or call 651-733-9827.

Norwegian American Women

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Norwegian community picnic, WI, ca. 1873. Used with permission from Wisconsin Historical SocietyNorwegian American Women: Migration, Communities, and Identities, a new book edited by Betty A. Bergland and Lori Ann Lahlum, explores the vital role of women in the creation of Norwegian American communities–from farm to factory and as caregivers, educators, and writers.

Meet Betty and Lori at The Best of Times Bookstore in Red Wing this Saturday, May 14, at 11 a.m. as they share their research into the lives of women in Norwegian America.

They will also be the keynote speakers at Norwegian Heritage Day at St. Olaf this Friday May 13th.

Below is an excerpt from the chapter “Women, Work, and Community in Rural Norwegian America, 1840-1920″ by Lori Ann Lahlum.

In addition to their work in the Ladies Aid, Norwegian American women participated in other community activities, and in many ways gender framed the nature of their participation. Indeed, it  was often women’s domestic skills that made community activities and events possible. When Norwegian Americans gathered socially to celebrate events, especially weddings, women  cooked, cleaned, brewed beer, and sewed in preparation for the event. In times like these, the exchange of labor and the sharing of resources became important. Weddings also represent efforts to retain  Norwegian cultural traditions as well as the acculturation of Norwegian Americans. Some Norwegian immigrants held to the tradition of hosting large wedding parties like those celebrated by well-to-do farmers in Norway. Other couples opted for small weddings at home with few guests or a ceremony before a justice of the peace.

The large weddings depended on the abilities of women. In 1880, Johanna Wroolie married Chris Weholt in southern Minnesota. As in Norway, the wedding was announced three times in church. Wroolie’s mother baked, cooked, and brewed beer, and guests danced “all night.” When Ane Vatne married near Cooperstown, North Dakota, in 1889, more than a hundred “Norwegians” attended the celebration. Vatne served veal for dinner and cold cuts for supper. Although the meal consisted of a variety of foods, they were foods unfamiliar to her family in Norway and Vatne did not know how to describe them. She also emphasized that guests feasted on grapes between dinner and supper, again, something not common in rural, Norwegian, peasant communities. A few years later, Vatne’s brother, Ole Lima, married. Vatne did the cooking and baking, and the meal consisted largely of American foods. According to Martha Lima (Ole’s bride), “To be sure we had neither ‘lefse’ nor ‘gome,’ but many fine cakes, fruit, and baked spare ribs, and mutton, and many other things.” At the time, Martha and Ole lived with the Vatnes, and Vatne also sewed Martha’s dress. Christine Dahl estimated that 350 people attended her daughter Martha’s 1880 wedding dinner in Texas, many of them staying for festivities in the evening and the following day. In Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota, wedding guests attended a morning ceremony followed by dinner and lunch. Whether a wedding included a dance varied, but when the celebration did so, guests frequently “danced till morning.” In some Norwegian American communities, hosts served alcohol to guests, adding to the festivities, and interestingly, in North Dakota this custom continued in some locales even after the state became dry in 1890.

. . .

Norwegian Americans also took part in more organized social activities. In 1884, Scandinavians in the Waco, Texas, area celebrated the new year with a masquerade ball. Because it was a leap year, the young women paid for the tickets. Such festivities were not common in all Norwegian American communities because some Norwegian immigrants objected to such behavior. Dancing was a popular but also a contested activity in Norwegian American communities. Members of the High Prairie Lutheran Church (LaMoure County, North Dakota), for example, opposed drinking, dancing, and gambling. Particularly pious Norwegian Americans objected to dancing, placing it in the same category as drinking excessively. Some ministers used the pulpit to preach against the twin evils of drink and dance. Thurine Oleson recalled that in one Wisconsin community, the church actually split over these issues. Those who objected to the minister’s position on drinking and dancing left and formed a new congregation so close that members of the two congregations could “hear each other singing.”

–excerpt from Norwegian American Women (source notes omitted), published by Minnesota Historical Society Press

Minnesota Spice!

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Photo at Manny\'s Tortas by Katie Cannon in Minnesota Lunch

Pack your weekend with all things caliente!

First, Friday or Saturday, head to St. Paul’s District del Sol for the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, the annual celebration of Mexican heritage. Activities include a parade, lowrider car show, performances, music, and food.

While you are in District del Sol, visit Don Pancho’s Bakery. Owner Efrain Perez is featured in the new book Minnesota Lunch, edited by James Norton of The Heavy Table blog, in a chapter titled “The Mexican Torta” by Susan Pagani: “If you go in the early morning, Don Pancho’s is steamy with the smell of fresh baked goods, yeasty and sweet. Racks of croissants–chocolate, jalapeno, feta!–fill proofing racks set at the center of the shop, which is lined with cases of doughnuts, cakes, pastry, and cookies. And, of course, the breads used to make tortas: bolillo and telera.”

To learn more about Minnesota’s Mexican community and history, check out Mexicans in Minnesota and Latino Minnesota.

Heat up your Saturday night at the Artists’ Quarter for a book talk and signing with Jay Goetting and Leigh Kamman for Jay’s new book, Joined at the Hip: A History of Jazz in the Twin Cities from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. Then stay at the club for a performance by Atlantis Quartet.

And finally, add a little spice to Mother’s Day by bringing Mom to the Minnesota History Center’s exhibit Underwear: A Brief History. (Exhibit opens Saturday, May 7, but on Mother’s Day, May 8, admission for moms is FREE!)

Munsingwear ad from In the Mood for Munsingwear

A History of Jazz in the Twin Cities

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Joined at the HipJoined at the Hip: A History of Jazz in the Twin Cities, by Jay Goetting with a foreword by Leigh Kamman, is the story of jazz music, musicians, and venues in Minneapolis and St. Paul from the early days through Prohibition and the Swing Era, then to bebop and beyond.

Jay and Leigh will be at the Artists’ Quarter this Saturday, May 7, from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. to discuss and sign their book. Books will be available for sale courtesy of Common Good Books. After the event, stay at the club to enjoy the music of  Atlantis Quartet. (Book event is free; $10 cover for the show.)

Listen to Jay on Minnesota Public Radio

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter titled “The Clubs”

Finding live jazz in the Twin Cities today requires some planning. Gone are the days when nightspots clustered in the two downtowns or in neighborhoods like the Near Northside. The Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis and the Artists’ Quarter in St. Paul have regular offerings, but what else? Rossi’s, Jazzmines, and the Times are past tense. Occasional venues include the Riverview Cafe, the West Bank School of Music, O’Gara’s Garage, Famous Dave’s, and the Capri and Old Log Theaters. There are others, to be sure, but most spots feature jazz interspersed with an eclectic mix of R&B, pop, rock, and hip-hop, sometimes to the confusion of would-be patrons who are not sure what to expect or who arrive expecting jazz and get something else. But there was a time when listeners knew what they wanted and where to get it, and they returned again and again to hear first-rate talent at well-known local clubs and large venues.

For a long time, the tiny community of Mendota on the river bluff was a locus for jazz. Jax Lucas, a professor and a stringer for DownBeat magazine, once dubbed Mitch’s “the Nick’s of the Midwest,” after the famous Dixieland house in Greenwich Village. Herman Mitch first opened the club in 1939, having previously run the Silver Stripe at Dale and Selby in St. Paul. Pianist Red Dougherty served as mayor of the hamlet in the late thirties and early forties. He also owned the popular Parker House restaurant, an upscale eatery that became Axel’s River Grille.

In 1949 Leigh Kamman’s Dixieland Caravan emanated from the reopened Mitch’s, run by Herman’s son, Bob. The program featured the Mendota Buzzards, Harry Blons’s band with Eddie Tolck on drums and vibes. Tolck said, “Those were fun days. Anybody that meant anything who was in town would be there. Bob Eberle, [Jack] Teagarden, [Lawrence] Welk’s sidemen. The program was somewhat scripted but informal.” Also in Blons’s new band were several players from the first Mitch’s, Hal Runyon, bassist Willie Sutton, and saxophonist Dick Pendleton. The newcomers included Lyle Smith, Russ Moore, and Warren Thewis, successively, on drums, Jerry Mayeron followed by Hod Russell on piano, and Bob Greunenfelder on trumpet. Shortly after, however, highway construction closed the club for good in October 1950.

Mendota had more than its per capita share of clubs over the years. There was Doc Evans’s Rampart Street Club (1958–61), which had been the Bow and Arrow and later morphed to become a rock club, Ragin’ Cajun. There was also the Colonial, Gay Paree, and the Hollywood. Listeners found the nearby River Road Club—known for its unruly clientele and the music of Cornbread Harris and Augie Garcia—by taking a shortcut through the Emporium’s parking lot. Prior to the club’s closing, several people misjudged the road and ended up in the river.

. . .

St. Paul also had its live-music clubs. It hosted the Dakota beginning in the 1980s before the club left Bandana Square for its posh digs on the Nicollet Mall. The city is still home to one of the Twin Cities’ premier listening rooms, the Artists’ Quarter, now in its second downtown location since leaving Twenty-sixth and Lake Street in Minneapolis. Drummer Kenny Horst, who runs the Artists’ Quarter, quipped during the recent economic downturn, “The good thing about jazz is you don’t notice the recession. It’s never great, but the audience is steady.” Horst also noted changes in the jazz-club scene: “You used to get Bill Evans or Dizzy Gillespie for two weeks. Now, you’re lucky if you can book someone for a couple of nights.” Horst adds that musicians call him from New York and elsewhere offering to play for a percentage of the door: “In our day, we wanted a guarantee. Now, club owners want a guarantee. There are not a lot of people out there that can draw.”

Jazz historian Kent Hazen says that Horst has had a keen sense for programming: “Kenny was very entrepreneurial in his ability to seek out a backer or talk some club owner into having a jazz quality. He was very persistent and has kept the public awareness of jazz at as high a level as it could be with little or no help.” Horst now co-owns the Artists’ Quarter along with musicians Billy and Ricky Peterson and Hod Boyen, plus Jerry Kennelly.

The Artists’ Quarter has managed to bring in some big names in jazz as well as some familiar visitors who were once a part of the local jazz fabric.

From Joined at the Hip: A History of Jazz in the Twin Cities by Jay Goetting