2012 Artists of the Year

From poets and directors to comedians and dancers, the Twin Cities are teeming with creativity

Eric Lorberer is the editor of Rain Taxi Review of Books and director of the Twin Cities Book Festival.

Carl Flink

By Linda Shapiro • Photo by Bill Cameron

Kate Casanova's Mushroom Chair
Kate Casanova's Mushroom Chair

Terpsichorean colossus Carl Flink straddles worlds. Dancer, choreographer, dance company director, former attorney, current head of the University of Minnesota Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, social activist, and frequent collaborator with scientists, Flink is a postmodern Renaissance man on a mission.

His restless mind and creative energy have fueled some remarkably diverse projects. Aesthetically committed to physical and emotional risk, Flink has created no-holds-barred dances for his company, Black Label Movement (BLM), that deal with everything from the sinking of an iron ore ship in Lake Superior to using dancers to convey catastrophic changes in human cells. His work with U of M biomedical engineer David Odde and science writer John Bohannon led to a TED Talk, "A Modest Proposal," that went viral. During a company residency at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, BLM dancers and scientists explored "bodystorming," modeling molecular collisions by finding nonlethal ways to hit and tackle one another. A dance piece that came out of these experiments, HIT, was praised by one critic for "its exploration of the unexpected poetry within aggression." Science Magazine recently published an article about bodystorming, and an online article by Odde in Trends in Cell Biology suggests that scientists could use dance to prototype their hypotheses. Other accolades include a 2012 Ivey Award for Flink's choreography for Spring Awakening, in collaboration with Theater Latte Da, and a Sage Award nomination for HIT. With his life and artistic partner, Emilie Plauché Flink, Carl continues to widen the scope of dance and its interconnectedness with science, and to probe the outer limits of the body in motion.

Linda Shapiro is a Minneapolis-based writer and frequent contributor to City Pages.

Brian Frink

By Susannah Schouweiler

Sluggish economic recovery or not, it's been a great year for independent art startups. Recent months have seen plenty of DIY gallery launches: David Peterson Gallery, TuckUnder, Public Functionary, the Bindery Projects. Among these can-do ventures, my favorite is a mostly online, artist-run outfit: Rural America Contemporary Art, the brainchild of Mankato-based painter Brian Frink.

A couple of years ago, Frink had an epiphany: With the advent of social media, artists don't need to strike out for the coasts or big Midwestern metropolitan areas for cultural exposure anymore. By connecting with the larger art world and each other online, artists can now make a name for themselves, cross-pollinate ideas, and even garner critical attention if they have enough talent and hustle, and a bit of web savvy. And with a fast internet connection, artists can do so from any home base they choose. Serious-minded, country-mouse contemporary artists just needed a virtual watering hole, a place to network with one another and share ideas, he figured. So he created RACA (pronounced rawk-a), a Facebook group with the cheeky aim of "making nowhere into somewhere."

Artists flocked to the group, and it quickly took off as a place for members to share artwork and common cause, in time becoming a real community in digital space, bringing together far-flung but like-minded artists across the country. Spurred by the enthusiastic groundswell of interest in the Facebook group (888 artist members strong at last count), Frink set up an eclectic offline exhibition last winter in the Arts Center of St. Peter, with enough accomplished talent on view to upend even the snootiest urbane preconceptions equating "rural artist" with farm kitsch. Then, over the summer, with the assistance of writer and Twin Cities-to-Mankato transplant Stephanie Wilbur Ash, Frink launched a flagship website for Rural America Contemporary Artists and a sharp, biannual art magazine, RACAonline, which just put out its inaugural issue last month. With entrepreneurial vision and follow-through, Frink is helping to realize the potential and untapped esprit de corps among artists who happen to work off of the usually urban art grid.

Susannah Schouweiler is an arts writer and editor for the statewide online arts hub MNartists.org at the Walker Art Center.

Levi Weinhagen

By Mike Fotis

There is no shortage of busy comedians in the Twin Cities. Turn to the left. Now turn to the right. Assuming you're in a public place, you saw at least two people who really want you to come to their show. It's safe to say that the Twin Cities is a comedic hot bed right now. Yet very few of the shows are appropriate for and amusing to younger audiences. That's where Levi Weinhagen comes in.

Weinhagen and Joshua Scrimshaw are the brains behind Comedy Suitcase, a comedy collective dedicated to creating comedy for all ages. In the past year, Comedy Suitcase has done its best to keep the kiddos happy and entertained at a staggering pace, producing four original shows and a podcast. But it's not the quantity that's impressive, it's the variety. Comedy Suitcase's Fringe Festival hit, The Gentlemen's Pratfall Club, played to young audiences' love of physical humor and still managed to squeeze in some valuable lessons. Then there's the Saturday Morning Submarine Adventure Show, an improv-variety show that makes kids part of the performance by encouraging them to try their tiny little hands at standup comedy. Brilliant. But that's not all.

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