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Arts & Entertainment

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

No Coast Craft-o-Rama

Over the years, craft shows have lost the cozy, crafty coolness they once had. Afghan toilet-seat covers? Lame. Lace tablecloths? Eh. Footrests for your tired feet? Not unless you're approaching 60. That said, crafts have resurfaced over the years with a new, hip attitude—a resurgence of stitch 'n' bitch sessions, subversive seamstresses, and ironic aprons being a few examples. At Craft-o-Rama, the creative and craft-innovative converge in one awesome shopping experience. In the last three years, the biannual event has grown in participants and shoppers, and it recently moved to Midtown Global Market. Local artists peddle impossibly neat things, including rock-show print art by Amy Jo, fused glass jewelry by Pam Loudy, vegan purses and wallets, organic beauty products, coasters with artwork by Adam Turman, and much more. Sure, you're probably not shopping for a new tea cozy, but Grandma would still approve.

920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis, 55407

It's a rare performer who can transmit the truth of his character while at the same time seeming to provide an anchor and touchstone for those around him on the stage. Penumbra stalwart James Craven consistently brings a soulful complexity to the roles he plays, while lending authenticity to every scene in which he appears by virtue of his studied, gravity-filled reactions. He lent a complicated mix of motives to his football coach in Redshirts at Penumbra in the last year, then mixed things up as a storefront dance teacher in Get Ready. It was his work as Doaker in August Wilson's The Piano Lesson, though, that stood out most of all. It was an authoritative, searching piece of acting to match the greatness of Wilson's text.


Sarah Agnew is the very definition of "range." In the last year she lent Shavian barbs to the Guthrie's Major Barbara, then anchored the Blue Battleship's nicely realized premiere of Brian Friel's The Home Place with a light touch that underscored the work's conflicted take on Irish sovereignty. Most recently she appeared in the one-woman The Syringa Tree at the Jungle, a completely assured and accomplished evening that compelled her to play a little girl, her mother, and myriad members of an apartheid-era South African household. Surely someone so versatile has boatloads of craft to draw on; Agnew's trick is to always make her work seem freshly inspired.


One of the great tragedies of the local talk-radio landscape is that the two lunatic geniuses of the AM dial both work their pathos from noon to 2 p.m. weekdays. This means that in the unlikely event you're actually near a radio during the midday hours, you have to choose between the maniacal ramblings of Tommy Mischke and the droll tomfoolery of Dan Cole. It also means there's undoubtedly more dead air and missed commercial breaks during this span of 120 minutes than during all other hours of the day combined. For reasons that we can't back up with any scientifically valid theories, we usually find ourselves gravitating toward the Common Man during our lunch break. Cole's shtick just seems better suited to the daylight hours. It's also fitting that the self-proclaimed laziest man in broadcasting insists on eating his lunch while fulfilling his two hours of daily labor. Cole's preposterous opinions about professional sports, backed up by an endless arsenal of clichés, are particularly amusing when rubes who don't get the joke call in to express indignation at his lack of sound reasoning. In recent months Dan from Woodbury has added the NostraCommonus bit, in which the host predicts—based on a Byzantine array of factors known only to Cole—the outcomes of sporting events. But basically he's been recycling the same vapid jokes since he joined KFAN 16 years ago. Remarkably, this somehow makes the Common Man's send-up of sports-talk radio all the more hilarious.

1600 Utica Ave. S, Minneapolis, 55416

Patricia Briggs knows what to say about art, but more importantly, she draws out the inner critic of viewers, too. In her talks in museums, classrooms, and galleries, her savvy, dynamic questions inspire audiences to talk about visual art from personal, local, and international perspectives. Briggs, an MCAD professor of art history and critical studies, independent curator, and local critic, approaches art criticism with an emphasis on conversation and collaboration. She makes regular visits to artists' studios and conducts interviews, then conveys the important issues and questions she discovers to her students and audiences. In addition to publishing her reviews in a number of local venues, including, Briggs gives a national and international voice to Twin Cities artists through her contributions to respected journals such as Artforum and Art Papers.


Few commercial ventures offer more risk than art galleries. Sure, paintings, sculpture, assemblages, and whatnot are solid long as you buy the right ones. They're also one of the first things even the most passionate aficionado passes on when times get hard. Factor in a fickle public and an extremely low looker-to-buyer ratio, and opportunities for ruination lurk in every clean, well-lit corner. Some local galleries—the mighty SooVAC and Midway Contemporary Arts, for example—fashion elaborate safety nets from private donations and foundation money, while the likes of Shoebox and Placement forge alliances with other local businesses. But First Amendment finances art with, well, art. The compact exhibition area in the gallery's northeast Minneapolis warehouse space opens onto graphic powerhouse Burlesque of North America's production facility, a huge room filled with the printing gear that helps pay the gallery's bills and provides added visual excitement when opening-night crowds inevitably spill over. First Amendment's principals—Mike Davis, Todd Bratrud, Lonny Unitas, Wes Winship, Aaron Horkey, resident DJ Mike the 2600 King, et al.—are all respected artists in their own right, with far-reaching connections, dead-on curatorial instincts, and a profound understanding of their clientele's budgets. To wit: You can walk out of First Amendment full-handed for less than you'd spend on a night of serious drinking. Add live entertainment from Calvin Johnson, Building Better Bombs, and a slew of other local and national luminaries, a substantial presence at SXSW 2008, a commitment to DJ culture demonstrated every Tuesday at the Triple Rock's Triple Double blowouts, and voila!—a formidable institution, built from the ground up by a crew that has been hanging out since high school, when a collective love of graffiti brought them together.

1101 Stinson Blvd. NE, Minneapolis, 55413

BEST CRAFT SHOW: No Coast Craft-o-Rama


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