Arts bloom again

Artist: Sergey Sychenko (Ukraine/Israel)


Like spring’s promise, the arts are re-emerging from COVID-19, featuring inventive styles, new narratives, and live music, from local to international. The pandemic-enforced pause made for introspection that has been integrated into theatrical innovations and led to an inclusion that has transformed whose art is included, and how. The result is a delightful diversity, welcoming everyone to experience museums, theaters and beloved music venues.
The Minneapolis Institute of Art continues its recent years of work to expand representation. Now, exhibits by people of color are anticipated. On view through June 26, Jovan C. Speller’s “Nurturing, and Other Rituals of Protection” uses photographic collage underscored by a “sonic landscape” of sound put together by local hip-hop artist I Self Devine, illuminating Black resilience and community. Drawing on family stories within American history, Speller’s fragmented images with words and music uncannily re-create what memory feels like.
Mia’s permanent collection has changed, with three galleries of Indigenous/Native arts housing “traditional crafts” (beadwork clothing, baskets, etc.) side by side with contemporary art. The “Shifting museum space to native place” blog explores how this expansion was made. No art degree is needed to wander this museum, which includes a suite of period rooms from medieval England to American revolutionary, Victorian and 20th-century Prairie School architecture; the wonders of the huge Asian art collection; and ancient to contemporary art in every medium from across the world. FREE. Closed Mondays.
Lauren Yee’s play “Cambodian Rock Band” (June 11 through July 31) marks the Jungle Theater’s leap forward in a story going back and forth in time. Thirty years after the Vietnam War, a Khmer Rouge survivor returns to his home country as his daughter prosecutes war crimes. A live rock band leavens this heavy topic, playing Dengue Fever hits and Cambodian oldies.

Artist: Sergey Elkin, Russia/Bulgaria

Pillsbury House + Theatre celebrates 30 years of groundbreaking storytelling, with Ivey Award winner Mikell Sapp’s debut as a playwright, “Charlie Brown Black” (May 28 through June 5), an autobiographical one-man show. Sapp’s decade-long acting resume includes Penumbra Theater, a wow performance as escaped slave/abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Park Square’s “The Agitators,” and PBS’s “39 Seconds” (2022), an extraordinary documentary about the Negro Baseball League.
“There’s a beautiful connection between me and Charlie Brown. Lucy and the football, the Charlie Brown Christmas – what would that be like if it were me? I didn’t leave my Alabama upbringing on the plane when I moved to Minnesota!” Sapp chuckles. A “comic-strip-style of theater” structures the play. Sapp promises “humor as much as hard times to tell my journey of being a Black actor with some bumps in the road.”
The Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series is resuming live readings. Minnesota proves “real Americans” reflect the Middle East to Scandinavia, Mexican-Irish, and South Korean adoptees. Fridays, May 27 and June 3 at 7 p.m., $10
On May 21 at 7 p.m., All My Relations gallery will host “Voices Rising,” Native women’s writings of poetry, fiction and memoir. FREE on Zoom, registration required.
The Cedar Cultural Center remains the most eclectic musical hub in town. On May 6, see Kassa Overall perform with Sarah Maricha White. Overall, a hip-hop producer and percussionist, has been called “one of jazz music’s most audacious futurists.” On May 7 you can hear Iris Dement, a country-tinged singer with solo guitar. On May 14, it’s Sweden’s pop-indie-electronic musician, Jens Lekman. And on May 19, IDR_Italian Doc Remix, founded by Italian guitarist/composer Marco Capelli and Italian American percussionist Jim Pugliese, performs with Dan Newton’s Café Accordion Orchestra.
The West Bank’s legendary Palmer’s Bar kicks off the season with live music nightly, from garage-punk to honky-tonk – and everything in between.

Artist: Oleksiy Kustovsky, Ukraine

The Museum of Russian Art, known as TMORA, presents various mediums from Russia and 15 former Soviet countries. For their 20-year anniversary, “ID Art/Tech” (through Aug. 14) showcases 45 Ukrainian and Russian artists. From 1930s “Soviet Realism” portraits to contemporary artistic gadgets – like motion-activated machines that draw! – and explosive paintings from the arts underground of the 1960s to 1991.
Also at TMORA is “An American in Siberia,” on view through Aug. 21. Minnesota resident Charles Lane shares his engineer grandfather Carl Holschuh’s 1931-32 photographs of working on a Siberian steel plant. Rural peasant life contrasts with Stalin’s turbo-charged industrialization, aesthetically echoing classic Great Depression-era black-and-white documentary photography. In TMORA’s Fireside Gallery is a selection of paintings by the Crimean-born artist Alek Buzhaker, who now lives in Minnesota. The works in “Still Life” (through Aug. 14) explore light, anchored by earth tones in a 19th-century style.
“Say No To War” (on view until Russia’s war on Ukraine ends) is a pop-up show of political cartoons. “This is a tragic opportunity,” observes TMORA curator Maria Zavialova. “Their responses reveal things we wouldn’t normally see. Like Putin on ice skates! But the skates are TANKS. I think it’s in-built for certain people to respond to politics in this way. These images are funny and sad and sharp at the same time.” She notes that most of the political cartoonists represented don’t have formal art training, with the show’s creators including a physics professor, a pilot and an engineer.
TMORA also hosts concerts, and their permanent art collection is glorious.
Check websites for COVID-19 safety requirements.
Or go outdoors to hear music from bluegrass to every shade of rock performed in city parks, beginning Monday, May 30 and continuing through Labor Day. See the full schedule at

Lydia Howell is a Minneapolis journalist.

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