International Novelty Gamelan
Photo courtesy Walker Church
The church began in 1886. It was originally located on 32nd Street (two blocks from its current spot), and was called Bloomington Avenue Methodist Church. Over the years, the church grew to be so popular that it needed a larger building. Wealthy donors, including lumber baron T.B. Walker (as in the Walker Library and the Walker Art Museum) raised the money to move to a new site in 1910.
In the late 1960s and '70s, Walker Church began opening its doors to a wider range of folks in the community, including artists, social activists, grassroots organizers, Vietnam War resisters, and others. Under Pastor Bryan Peterson's leadership, the church hosted KFAI Radio, various theater companies (such as In the Heart of the Beast and the Palace Theater), and was very much at the center of the south Minneapolis progressive artsy/hippy scene.
That tradition continued, even after Pastor Peterson passed away in the 1980s. In the years leading up to the fire, the church hosted many organizations including Occupy, Women Against Military Madness, the Women's Prison Book Project, and others while also being a place for theater companies and musicians to perform.
In 2012, Munir Kahar began curating Beyond at the church, bringing in an eclectic mix of performers and musicians together. He's been called avant-garde and experimental, but he shies away from those kinds of terms. "I'm just open," he says.
Since the fire, Beyond has taken place at In the Heart of the Beast. Besides artists who have performed in previous installments of the series, Kahar says he's brought a bunch of new artists in as well for the benefits, and is hoping that the event will be of interest to people from the greater community.
According to Pastor Walter Lockhart, the church plans to have its grand opening in February 2014, with a soft opening hopefully on Christmas Eve. Since the fire, the congregation has had services at In the Heart of the Beast, eventually moving to Patrick's Cabaret in the fall of 2012.
Lockhart hopes that once the building is open, the church can continue its mission of providing a resource to the greater community, including having a theater in its main sanctuary which will be amenable to both proscenium and in-the-round style theater. There will be a light grid, and infrastructure for theaters to come in, though companies may have to rent their own instruments at first as the church doesn't have funding for that yet.
The church will also have flexible meeting space, video rooms, two grand pianos (so they can offer piano lessons to neighbors), and a commercial kitchen, which will be used for one free meal a week.
"I've got a lot of people working really hard," Lockhart says. "It makes me very proud. I'm very excited."
The many acts at this weekend's fundraiser include puppetry by Alison Heimstead, Olie Johnson, Steve Ackerman, and Daniel Polnau; theater pieces by Bedlam's John Bueche and Maren Ward; and lots of music with Free Range Music Co-op, International Novelty Gamelan, the Poor Nobodys, Transitional Species, and Savage Aural Hotbed. There will also be stilters, Butoh, drum sessions, homemade movies, art installations, and art for sale in the lobby. It's just going to be one big awesome hippy fest. You don't want to miss it.
7 p.m. to 2 a.m. (doors at 6 p.m.) Friday and Saturday
HOBT's Avalon Theater
1500 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
There is a $10 suggested donation