Artists of the Year 2015

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Kate Worum

As 2015 draws to a close, it's time to give some recognition to the artists, authors, filmmakers, and party hosts who made this year special. Despite hitting career highs, we're placing our bets on these talents continuing to grow in new and exciting ways.

In anticipation of what 2016 will bring, let's revisit the people who had a banner 2015.

Kate Worum

Art

You may know Minneapolis-based illustrator Kate Worum from her sassy portraits of pop-culture icons, or her abstract artwork for Live Current Volume 11, but hopefully what you'll remember from here on out about this bold 27-year-old artist are butts.

Worum, an MCAD grad, became fascinated with painting posteriors, using her boyfriend as a model. "Boobs are all over the market right now, but I don't see asses anywhere. Let's put some butts out there," she says. The butts, which include a wide variety of body types, have appeared on wall installations and as prints in her Etsy shop right alongside greeting cards that proclaim "Eat a bag of dicks" and a floral collage that spells "Fuck."

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Andy Erickson

On her way to becoming an artist, she took a detour to Winona State to pursue soccer for two years. However, her schedule was filled with art classes. "I was in this snowed-in town and bored out of my mind," she says. "I needed more of a challenge." Despite the financial burden, she eventually returned to the Twin Cities and enrolled at MCAD where her brash, colorful aesthetic was born from "making a lot of horrible artwork."

Worum hit her stride after being introduced to digital technology. "You don't have to create this amazing illustration from start to finish," she says. It was more her style to scan in handmade elements and play with their limitless variations.

For her senior piece, she worked on a 40-portrait series while living in a shipping container for two weeks for Project M in Frankfurt, Germany. The subjects were other participants of Project M, where artists come together to share ideas and work on various projects."They had these insanely different personalities," she says. "I found myself overwhelmed by being exposed to so many different people at once." By painting one portrait a day, "I found this groove," she says. "I guess you find consistency when you repetitively force yourself to create."

Worum's more recent portraits — which have featured the likes of Iris Apfel, Caitlyn Jenner, and Hillary Clinton — are born of fascination. "If there's some person that's interesting, it's a fun outlet for me to try to capture a personality."

In the coming year, Worum, who works for Target's home goods design division, is eager to find more ways to collaborate in her freelance work. She'll also have a new series of affordable prints available at Parc Boutique. "That's really rewarding; being able to share something on a local level," she says. No buts about it.

Erica Rivera

Chad Kampe of Flip Phone

LGBTQ/Dance Party

Flip Phone, a popular LGBTQ-friendly dance party, has been spinning throwback hits from Nicki, Brit-Brit, and RiRi since 2012. However, 2015 was the year it became the queen of Minneapolis' party scene. Flip Phone began as a Thursday night happening, laying down #TBT beats and beckoning hipsters, queers, and friends to Honey in northeast Minneapolis. But with recent expansions and added production value Flip Phone is — dare we say it? — moving out of the flip-phone era.

Chad Kampe, the main organizer and DJ, has steadily upgraded the party since last spring. In addition to the once-a-month event at Honey, Flip Phone started producing nights at Union, Mattie's on Maine, and Loring Pasta Bar. First Avenue's Mainroom happenings were especially grand, packed with light shows, local drag queens, and guest spins (including DJ Shannon Blowtorch).

Flip Phone's success is due to its mix of nostalgic throwback hits paired with smart, forward-thinking event planning. One week Flip Phone will feature a night of Adele and NSYNC, and the next it will host the avant-garde "drag terrorist" Christeene. In a scene that is often saturated with unapproachable EDM and expensive vodka cranberry cocktails, Kampe consistently produces parties that are creative, playful, and fun.

Outside of established venues, Flip Phone has produced Queer Bombs, a.k.a. pop-up dance parties where queer revelers crash traditionally straight clubs and spaces, like the Pourhouse and the Minnesota State Fair. The dance night even received a little national attention when Seth Meyers stumbled into a Queer Bomb at his hotel, resulting in a rave on Late Night.

While finger snaps, tongue pops, and "yas kweenz" are welcome, the party's vibe is focused on celebrating everyone and avoiding cliquishness (although that's often inevitable with anything cool). Flip Phone reminds the smartphone culture that a night out isn't just about cultivating Instagram followers and crafting memorable Snapchat stories. It's also about building communities and friendships.

Chase Burns

Marlon James

Literary

This is the year of Marlon James. In October, James became the first-ever Jamaican writer to win the Man Booker Prize — which is basically like winning the Best Picture Oscar of the literary world — for A Brief History of Seven Killings. And you know what? James calls Minnesota home.

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Arik Cannon

A Brief History, James' third novel, has earned him international acclaim. Since the book's publication in 2014, his essays have popped up in the New York Times and the Guardian, and he's garnered praise from the likes of Vogue, Rolling Stone, and Seth Meyers, whose late-night talk show he appeared on in March.

So what's all the fuss about? James' epic, 700-page book chronicles the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley. It's a dizzying crime novel, covering ground from Jamaica to New York, that makes readers feel the journey as James taps into issues of post-colonialism, violence, politics, and drugs.

However, it's impossible to summarize this grit-fiction triumph in just a few short words. The sprawling piece breathes life into dozens of characters, each with vivid voices. You won't find a chapter named after Bob Marley, though; he's referred to only as "The Singer." James skillfully hovers around the topic of Marley, giving the spotlight instead to other fascinating and frustrating personalities.

It's not difficult to see why readers the world over are enraptured by the thousands of words — which include English, patois, and Spanish — in A Brief History. The novel has even caught the eye of HBO, which is adapting the book for television.

When he's not writing award-winning novels, James teaches creative writing at Macalester College. Students who were vying for his classes already had a hell of a time getting in when he first arrived at the school in 2007. But the wait-list for James' classes — and readings — is about to get a whole lot longer.

This may be James' most victorious year so far, but we're certain his ascent into literary history will be anything but brief.

Tatiana Craine

Justin Colucci

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Britni West’s film Tired Moonlight

Comedy

When it comes to celebrity gossip, the internet is just one giant, never-ending heap of false accusations and slander. And no one is better at filling that trashcan than local comedian Justin Colucci. His blog, appropriately titled the Trashcan, features himself posing as shamed celebrities like Jared from Subway, Hulk Hogan, and Martin Shkreli (the pharma-bro who jacked up the price of the AIDS drug), adding in a sprinkling of food reviews and digs at fellow comedians.

While there are plenty of anonymous internet trolls looking to take down famous people, Colucci has established himself as an alt-comedy artist not just because of the hilarity of his posts; his celebrity essays are so realistic that he's managed to raise the ire of several real-life targets.

This past spring, when Simpsons voice actor Harry Shearer announced he would be leaving the show, Colucci wrote a blog post as Shearer where he shared the intimate — yet clearly fabricated and over-the-top — details of his reasons for leaving the program. The blog quickly went viral, and soon people well outside of Colucci's circle of friends were talking about the Trashcan — including Shearer himself. The actor's legal team sent a cease-and-desist letter, forcing Colucci to clearly spell out the fact that he wasn't actually Shearer.

A few months later, the internet was buzzing when a mysterious Craigslist ad surfaced, offering buyers the chance to own a second-hand, "Playstation 4 controller that may have been used by Craig Finn." Not surprisingly, it was not the Hold Steady frontman who posted the ad, but the internet troublemaker Colucci. Finn himself got in on the joke, however, announcing on Facebook that his new band would be called "The Uptown Controllers."

Colucci has gone on to skewer everyone from the Grand Wizard of the KKK to Dick Cheney, all while finding time to continue his standup career on stages around town. While anyone with a computer and too much time on their hands can use the internet to pick on celebs, Colucci has proven that it takes a true artist to get inside their heads.

Patrick Strait

Andy Erikson

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Chad Kampe of Flip Phone

Comedy

If focused audiences and unanimous laughter are the capital of a comedian, Andy Erikson is on her way to an embarrassment of riches.

When she's performing, the air in the room is electrified. It's easy to get the sense that even Erickson doesn't know what she's going to say next, and she often laughs at her own jokes as if she's part of the audience.

After honing her skills on the Twin Cities open-mic circuit, she recently made the leap to the highly competitive L.A. scene, where she continues to cultivate her particular brand of awkward comedy. Her affable disposition brought her to the finals of Last Comic Standing's ninth season, which has been her biggest career break yet. Although she lost to Clayton English, she consistently wooed the judges with her genuine personality. "I see a lot of comedians try to be characters, but you are just being you," said LCS judge Keenan Ivory Wayans. "You are the character."

It's been exciting to watch Erikson's career trajectory, but her motivations don't appear to be based on garnering attention or fame. She's most interested in inspiring others. Earlier this year, we asked Erikson what she hopes aspiring comics will learn from her. "I hope they learn that it's okay to be different," she said. "I never really thought I would be a comedian. I was a weird kid, and I wore a back brace. I didn't feel like anyone would ever love me. When I started doing comedy, I started liking who I was. I found this respect for myself and this new confidence. I gained a new outlook on life."

Andy Erikson continues to perform at venues across the nation, and occasionally posts podcasts and blog posts expounding on unicorns and squirrels.

Joseph Buccholz

Sean Connaughty

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Jenn Schaal

Art

As truth-tellers, artists are uniquely positioned to shine the light on grim realities. They leverage their ability to communicate to illuminate issues in innovative ways. Sean Connaughty is an artist, but his recent work transcends mere aesthetics. He uses his skills to bring awareness to environmental issues that hit close to home.

Connaughty lives in south Minneapolis near Lake Hiawatha, where he noticed a proliferation of trash accumulating in the water. He decided that he would clean it up by filling bags with debris. But the more he collected, the more he found. Eventually, he discovered that the storm-sewer egress on the north side of the lake did little to prevent junk from entering it.

Throughout his career, Connaughty has been interested in science. In addition to applying scientific principles and methods himself, he has often used scientists as consultants in his work. With Lake Hiawatha, Connaughty conducted an experiment where he took a ball he found in the lake, wrote his address on it, and placed it in the gutter outside of his house. Two weeks later he found it in the lake, proving that mitigation steps the city has taken for trash are ineffective.

In September, Connaughty held an exhibition at the Sandbox Theatre storefront space, sharing the trash he had collected as a kind of encyclopedic display. Titled "Lake Hiawatha (anthropocenic midden survey)," the exhibition alluded to the refuse left behind by ancient cultures later dug up by archeologists. The exhibition acted as a metaphor of sorts, prophesizing a future in which archeologists will look back at our society and see just how badly we treated our natural environment.

Connaughty went beyond using his tools as an artist to frame an environmental issue. He also took up the Lake Hiawatha trash problem with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, advocating tirelessly for better systems to protect the city's water resources. Beyond that, he continues to clean up the lake with friends and colleagues. Using social media to track his efforts and recruit others to the cause has become a kind of performance art, one that brings awareness to a vital local issue.

Sheila Regan

Transatlantic Love Affair

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Julie Schumacher

Theater

You can describe Transatlantic Love Affair's approach in one sentence: It's theater created by actors using only their bodies as props and sets. You need a door? A pair of actors will position themselves and even provide a verbal "creeaaaaak" when their arms swing open and shut. A rocking chair? One actor leans back, while the character takes a seat and eases back and forth.

That makes for intriguing concepts, but it can only carry TLA so far. It's the compelling tales and deep characters that inhabit the empty stages that bring audiences back, over and over again, to the company's work.

Under the direction of founders Isabel Nelson and Diogo Lopes, TLA has built an impressive catalog of shows in a few brief years. While they often offer revisions and remounts of past shows, it was two original works that drew our attention. At the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival — the starting point of many past TLA shows — they gave us 105 Proof, or the Killing of Mack "The Silencer" Klein. As the hard-boiled title indicates, this short and sharp show starts with some bootlegging in southern Illinois, and ends with a trail of corpses up and down the state. Think Breaking Bad merged with Boardwalk Empire, with a helping of homespun small-town life tossed in for good measure.

In contrast, the company's fall show at the Illusion, Emilie/Eurydice, was a meditation on loss, grief, and finding your way home. If you remember your Greek mythology, you'll recall that Eurydice was chased to and almost rescued from the underworld by her newlywed husband. Emilie is a New York City artist who gets hit by a bus. She winds up in a coma, which drives her lesbian lover and her father deep into despair, as they wait and hope that she will recover. The play splits its time between moments in the hospital room (or other locations around New York City) and Emilie's time in the underworld as she tries to find her way out.

In both cases, TLA's unique approach made the shows memorable. There is a focus that comes when you don't have any tangible props, beyond the actors' bodies. Once you get used to the idea that one of the actors has gone from being a doctor to a piece of medical equipment, there are no distractions. In 2015, it was all about the shows, and they, like many of TLA's past works, were stupendous.

Ed Huyck

Mark Benninghofen

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Justin Colucci

Theater

Actors love playing the bad guys, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Over the past 12 months, Mark Benninghofen has taken on a trio of characters who either ride the line between good and evil or fully embrace the dark side. In turn, it has been a tremendous year for the veteran performer, who went from strong supporting work to what might be the defining role of his career.

Late in 2014, Benninghofen played Gibbs in Dark & Stormy Productions' The Hothouse. This early Harold Pinter play is loaded with menace, and a lot of that comes from Benninghofen's role. The production offered plenty of challenges for the actors, including a difficult Pinter script and a staging that spread the action throughout a vast atrium. Through it all, Benninghofen remained magnetic.

He played a different kind of villain later in the spring when he took on Joxer in Joe Dowling's swan song at the Guthrie, Juno and the Paycock. Joxer was a jovial type, and the best mate of the main character, Jack. Yet as the play unfolded, the light touches in his performance gave way to something more sinister. Joxer only cared about himself, and Benninghofen made that crystal clear.

But it was Benninghofen's turn as the title character in Theatre Latte Da's Sweeney Todd that sealed the deal. The actor was a musical theater novice when he was thrust into one of the most challenging roles in Stephen Sondheim's songbook. He didn't just play the part; he took the sinister barber to astonishing depths and heights. He made the audience feel every cut of his razor, and walked a brilliant fine line between sympathy and outright madness. He may not have had the fully trained pipes of past Sweeney Todds, but the roughness in his singing fit the role perfectly. Benninghofen was magnetic throughout, and his performance helped to make this Sweeney Todd one of the musicals of the decade.

Ed Huyck

Shannon Forney

Art

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Karla Grotting

Shannon Forney's irrepressible creativity has taken her into clowning, theater performance, advocacy on behalf of artists, and, this year, the founding and curation of the smallest museum in the metro.

Six years ago, when she began work as a program director at the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) in St. Paul, Forney noticed a new sort of artistic synergy happening around the Green Line, especially at the Raymond Avenue stop (adjacent to the Creative Enterprise Zone). She wondered how she could further innovate and raise the artistic profile of the area.

Then she and her partner, Ty Barnett, decided to open Workhorse Coffee Bar in a building with a 24-inch by 35-inch vintage fire-hose cabinet outside. Eureka. With funds from a Knight Arts Challenge grant, Forney transformed the cabinet into the Smallest Museum in St. Paul.

Thus far, the mini space's enticing and engaging exhibitions have included a shadowbox of paper cutouts reimagining the history of Prospect Park's Witch's Hat Water Tower. A collection of micro-printed exhortations, quotes, and images, with contributions by such print luminaries as Gaylord Schanilec and Chip Schilling, was by turns hilarious, poignant, and captivating. Visitors spent hours in front of Jill Waterhouse's "Cabinet of Wonder," replete with tiny books, teeth, shells, and other artifacts and iconography. More recently, Yousif Del Valle turned the museum into a tiny movie theater, showing a film of a Green Line train. Forney's curatorial ambitions have since expanded to include the coffee shop, where Donald Stephens' whimsical treehouse drawings were featured.

The museum has generated an artistic energy unique to the area, infused with community engagement and a sense of fun and the fantastical. Forney has said she considers clowning to be an artistic social practice, engaging audiences in small acts of curiosity. The Smallest Museum does so as well.

Camille LeFevre

Pete Driessen

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Kate Worum

Art

Pete Driessen's Franconia Boat Tower was something of a — ahem — towering achievement. The massive, site-specific sculpture, funded via a 2015 Jerome/Franconia Sculpture Park Residency Fellowship, included four vintage boats stacked on an armature that allowed rainwater to flow through the piece as waterfalls. It was breathtaking. In its construction, materiality, and insight into the transformative properties of decay, the tower was an extension of Driessen's ongoing TuckUnder Projects, a multidisciplinary, multi-space gallery he operates out of his home.

Driessen's midcentury bungalow gallery in southwest Minneapolis, an area rife with teardowns and characterless McMansions, testifies to the artist's perseverance, independence, creativity, and dedication — not only to his art, but to other artists in the community. His garage (a traditional white-cube gallery), basement bathroom (a.k.a. the Leaky Sink Gallery), and yard (featuring a raspberry patch, water pump, and other lawn ornaments) are research, collaboration, and exhibition spaces. During TuckUnder receptions, which showcase the work of emerging and established artists, the place is abuzz. Payment for work sold goes directly to the artist.

Driessen's artistic practice — which includes abstract and sociopolitical paintings, found-object installations, and conceptual work — has been widely exhibited. A recent show, "Floor Plan," with fellow artists/curators Jehra Patrick and Sean Smuda at Gallery 71, furthered the national discussion about the influential, fundamental roles artists play as curators.

In total, Driessen's artistic practice is about liberation, creative freedom in the midst of corporate control, and the potency of a David in a world of Goliaths. 

Camille LeFevre

Julie Schumacher

Literary

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Mark Benninghoffen

This year was a year of firsts for Minnesota-based author Julie Schumacher. Not only did her novel Dear Committee Members win the Thurber Prize for American Humor, but Schumacher was also the first woman to receive the award in its 19-year history. "It never dawned on me that I would win it," she says. "It was a massive thrill. I was bowled over by it."

The book is written in the form of recommendation letters by protagonist Jason Fitger, a professor at Payne University. The concept came to Schumacher, herself a faculty member in the creative writing program and the English department at the University of Minnesota, while teaching an undergrad creative writing class about the different forms stories could take: a to-do list, a recipe, a boardgame, or, as Schumacher realized, recommendation letters.

"The more I mulled it over, the more I thought it could be interesting," she says. "The challenge of doing it would be: How do I portray a main character if my main character is always writing letters about other people? I would do it by having him insert himself in all these places he should not insert himself. That was the push I needed to make this guy an egotist, kind of a jerk, and a really inappropriate sort of person."

Schumacher says Fitger is not based on anyone she knows; if anything, he contains aspects of the author herself. "All the things you think during the day when you're in a bad mood but you would never say out loud? I thought, 'Okay, those are going right in his mouth.' It was cathartic fun."

At the Thurber Prize awards ceremony in September, a woman with the New York Times asked Schumacher to write a comic essay for the Private Lives column. Her topic? Divvying up her late mother's belongings.

"It proves the point that, in general, I'm not that funny," she says of the piece, titled "What My Mother Wanted Us to Pack," which ran in early November. "Dear Committee Members is the only novel I've ever written that could possibly be considered a comic novel. But I don't think about it that way. I don't want to pigeonhole it into the label of a 'comic novel' or an 'epistolary novel' or an 'academic novel' or a 'novel by a woman.'"

As for her next piece? She's tight-lipped. "I'm fiddling around with something. But I hate to talk about a book when it's possible that it's not going to function out in the world."

Erica Rivera

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Pete Driessen’s Franconia Boat Tower

Britni West

Film

Her first feature film might be called Tired Moonlight, but Britni West is a shooting star. This year the MCAD grad burst onto the international scene, showing her film all around the globe — including the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Festivales De Buenos Aires, and the Filmfest Munchen in Germany — and picking up a slew of awards along the way.

West has also gotten mad props from the likes of the New York Times, which reviewed the film twice (once when it was included in the prestigious New Directors/New Films Festival, and later when it ran for a week at MoMA). "Tired Moonlight has some of the romantic melancholy promised in its title," A.O. Scott wrote, "but it's also full of the oddness and vitality that are essential to the continued promise of American cinema (and American life)."

Known locally for her involvement with the Twin Cities indie scene (she used to co-host the IFP's Cinema Lounge at Bryant-Lake Bowl), West traveled to her hometown of Kalispell, Montana, to shoot Tired Moonlight, mining the rich rural landscape as the backdrop for her film. For the cast, West brought a number of Minnesotans onto the project, a few young children from Montana, and Alex Karpovsky (known for his role as Ray on HBO's Girls).

The piece follows the stories of multiple characters, all of whom fight loneliness in one way or another amid the brutal and gorgeous setting of a small town in Montana. The film incorporates realism and a nonlinear format, resulting in a hypnotizing meditation on the human condition. Punctuated by the gritty poetry of Paul Dickinson, the work is darkly humorous, probing the ways the characters seek out hope in dire and melancholy conditions.

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Sean Connaughty

West is now based in Minnesota and New York, and has recently been busy working on a number of independent films, including 7 Chinese Brothers, starring Jason Schwartzman and Olympia Dukakis, and the Independent Spirit Award-nominated film Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter. Here's hoping she picks Minnesota for the location of her next opus. 

Sheila Regan

Jenn Schaal

Comedy

Minneapolis' Jenn Schaal has had quite the year. In 2015, she was named by City Pages readers as the best local standup comic for the second time, made Growler Magazine's "Five Minnesota Comedians to Watch," and co-hosted the XOXOJK podcast. As if that weren't impressive enough, Schaal is also a kick-ass CrossFit powerlifter.

Her unlikely entry into comedy began eight-and-a-half years ago, when she signed up for Acme's Funniest Person contest. The headliner was none other than Tig Notaro. "I was that annoying person at parties who was always 'on' and doing bits," she says. Though Schaal had never tried standup before, she did three minutes onstage at Acme and was hooked.

"When you walk into a room full of strangers, and you get them to laugh with you about things that you think are funny, there's nothing like that rush," she says. "Every time I get onstage I feel that. I love that, and I want to keep doing it."

In her comedy, Schaal excels at capturing thirtysomething struggles. This year has been particularly challenging for the 38-year-old, who juggles a full-time job in sales, an intense workout regimen, and dating. "I used to get so much material from online dating, but I've gotten much better at picking out decent people," she says. "There's no crazy-town dimension to it."

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Shannon Forney

To fit it all in, Schaal has cut back on open-mic nights. "I felt like I needed to put myself first," she says. "The more I value myself, the less I want to do comedy. I'm still trying to figure it out." And while she admits to feeling guilty about backing away ever-so-slightly from the limelight, she's determined not to lose the momentum she's built up thus far.

"I'm trying to launch a new business that makes days 30 hours long," Schaal says. "I really want to get a Kickstarter going for that. The world would be a much better place if we could sleep 10 hours a day, work 10 hours if we want, and still have an additional 10 hours to do whatever the hell we wanted. That's my plan. If someone would fund it, I think 30-hour days could be the next thing." 

Erica Rivera



Karla Grotting

Dance

Two years ago, Karla Grotting began a project to reconstruct dances by a group of choreographers who had died of AIDS. She teamed up with the Twin Cities' jazz-dance company Eclectic Edge Ensemble to piece together works by William Harren, Jeffrey Mildenstein, Clarence Teeters, and David Voss. Originally commissioned by Zoe Sealy for her Minnesota Jazz Dance Company in the 1970s and '80s, these important milestones of jazz had vanished into the ether.

As a dancer with MJDC, Grotting had worked with all four artists and was able to pass on the nuances of their styles, which the contemporary jazz dancers hadn't encountered. She did a lot of sleuthing, often unearthing fragile or damaged tapes of dances and music, then coerced recalcitrant old reel-to-reel machines to hum. Corralling Sealy and former MJDC dancers to help with the reconstructions, Grotting also pieced together information from oral histories, old photos, program notes, and reviews.

In the process, she discovered what happened to a number of MJDC dancers who she knew had contracted AIDS or were HIV-positive, and interviewed friends, families, colleagues, and even the choreographers' doctors. She also forged a partnership with Open Arms of Minnesota and the Aliveness Project to improve HIV/AIDS awareness. Finally, she produced a concert in July that rocked the dance community and resuscitated a lost brand of jazz. A video documentary is in the works, and the archiving of information continues on the project's Facebook page and the Eclectic Edge website, eclecticedgeensemble.com.

Grotting is far more than a reviver of a lost art, however. While she's dedicated with scholarly tenacity to the legacy of the past, she continues to nudge jazz and percussive dance into the future. As a performer, choreographer, and associate artistic director of Joe Chvala's Flying Foot Forum, she brings enormous range and personal charisma to everything she does. She can tap up a storm and embody characters. As a faculty member in the University of Minnesota's Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, she continues to mentor students and pass on the encyclopedic knowledge embedded in her body.

Grotting incarnates the artist as creator, preservationist, and cultural activist. Long may her entrepreneurial spirit prevail.

Linda Shapiro

Arik Cannon

Wrestling

In its purest element, there may be no greater platform for artistic expression than professional wrestling. It is theater, performance art, mythology, and storytelling, all demonstrated through captivating characters with tremendous physicality and a thirst for violence. In other words, it's the fucking best.

While there are many iconic mat heroes who have laced up their boots in Minnesota, no warrior of the ring currently embodies the spirit of pro wrestling like Arik Cannon. For years, the "official PBR pro-wrestler" (the only one in existence, to our knowledge) has made a name for himself competing all over the world. His punk-rock look, everyman demeanor, and impressive athleticism have made him a fan favorite, despite the fact that he doesn't grace television sets.

In recent years, Cannon has become synonymous with the fantastically schizophrenic spectacle known as Wrestlepalooza, a series currently ramping up for its seventh installment at First Avenue this January. As the event organizer, Cannon has managed to combine the very best in wrestling, burlesque, and music into a three-ring circus. In 2016, he will take his show on the road for the very first time, spreading the insanity to Des Moines, Iowa, for the first-ever Wrestlepalooza outside of the Twin Cities.

Patrick Strait



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