Artists of the Year

Makers who mattered in 1995

Which doesn't mean Kubeczko's sleeping more. Finances for the nonprofit Cedar remain perilously close-to-the-bone despite full houses and stepped-up fundraising efforts. But like the artists he presents, Kubeczko has been engaging the local community. Abetted by a crew of dedicated volunteers, growing audiences, and grateful musicians (the local improv phenomena Eight Head recently gave back their performance fee to help support the club), the guy with the coffee and the Robitussin keeps on keeping on while keeping the whole thing together. And to say the very least, there's an art to that.

SIRIUS B

by Caroline Palmer

Representing a panorama of dance, music, theater, poetry, visual artistry and philosophy, the members of Sirius B have pooled their considerable talents to achieve empowerment through collaborative action. In creating a venue to respond to a country which judges by demographic, the group has found one way to give voice to African American men. While October's Million Man March brought this issue to the national table, collectives like Sirius B hope to inspire a continuing awareness--and change--in their own communities and beyond.

Organized by Keith Antar Mason, cofounder of Los Angeles's Hittite Empire performance group, Sirius B sprang to life this year through a residency sponsored by Intermedia Arts, Walker Art Center, and Pillsbury House. Its namesake is the companion star to the brilliant Sirius, a celestial body whose appearance every 50 years is celebrated in several African cultures. Sirius B took this reverence for ritual as a starting point in constructing a context for the past, present and future of the African American community. They found profound encouragement not only from Mason and the Hittites, but also local elders who continue to lend their help to this day.

Out of these efforts came a gripping saga performed on the Walker stage. The Punic Wars evoked the rites of passage both endured and engendered by African American men, from the opening montage in the bowels of a slave ship, through the racially biased court system presided over by "Judge Remus Turnus Thomas," to the climactic chants of "We have to stop killing ourselves" and "No Justice. No Peace. Freedom."

Mason returned home, but the process he began continues. Sirius B is currently headquartered at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, and finished out the year with a residency in Northfield. To quote GambaHondo's parting words from The Punic Wars, "Rise up Black Man and make what is wrong in this world right..." Sirius B's work has only just begun.

Caroline Palmer is a Minneapolis writer.

DJUNA BARNES

by Dara Moskowitz

Poor Djuna Barnes. A writer so forgotten that only academics recognize her name, but whose Nightwood was praised as one of the best novels of the century by T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, and William Burroughs. Perhaps Barnes's obscurity has something to do with the violence T. S. Eliot wreaked on that great text, cutting 5,000 words' worth of homosexual references and general ribaldry (Barnes writes the most elegant scatology) to pacify the censors (though, in a climate that outright banned Ulysses and Sons and Lovers, Eliot's compromise must have seemed necessary).

Nightwood is the story of the troubled loves of heartsick Robin--her husband Felix, her true love Nora, and the all too convenient Jenny--as told to the proud, gay, alcoholic, self-pitying, and frequently brilliant Dr. Matthew O'Connor. It's a story of sex, self-hatred, frustrated desire, mystery, and vast beauty. Dalkey Archive Press and Editor Cheryl Plumb deserve champagne and roses for undertaking the difficult task of restoring Nightwood to its pre-Eliot version. They've given us a book that is funnier and stronger than we knew, which retains all the exquisiteness of the original, yet is graced with an American footlooseness that makes the book feel as modern as it no doubt did when it was Modern. Hopefully, nearly 60 years after its debut, Nightwood will find the audience it deserves; thoughtful readers will find the difficult but supremely rewarding book they deserve; and someone somewhere will send the editors of the Dalkey Archive those flowers.

Dara Moskowitz is a Minneapolis writer.

RAFALA GREEN

by Andrew K. Kim

Today, on the corner of Franklin and Chicago in south Minneapolis, where once a liquor store stood next to a detox center and Four Winds School, there's a bold and graceful archway into the Phillips Neighborhood. Five stone mosaic pathways, representing the cultures of the community, meet at the arch and open into a performance and gathering space surrounded by four large, richly sculpted concrete benches which will soon be covered with bright tile mosaics.

The Phillips Neighborhood Gateways Project is the work of artist Rafala Green, several mentor artists, about 76 teenagers from the neighborhood, and some mighty grassroots organizing. Green challenged the kids to put some stake in this corner, to be a part of something large and permanent, to be heard. They accepted the invitation, rolled up their sleeves, and set off on the long task of sorting and setting tons of stones and tiles, one piece at a time.

South Minneapolis is much more than the fear fed by the 10 o'clock news. The Gateways Project stands as proof of what people working together can do, calmly stating: There is beauty here. Go and see for yourself. Park the car, walk on the pathways, pass through the arch, and sit still for a moment. Let Rafala Green and her crew surprise you with something close to hope.

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