Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
From its humble beginnings as a neighborhood art crawl, the annual event known as Art-a-Whirl has expanded at such an exponential rate that it's now billed as the largest open-studio and gallery tour in the United States. Organized by the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, Art-a-Whirl draws from the enormous pool of artists who have set up shop in the neighborhood. Old-timers might bemoan the neighborhood's recent hip cachet, but it's hard to argue against the eclectic vibrancy that defines the area. Featuring over 500 artists exhibiting a staggering range of disciplines (and skill levels), Art-a-Whirl allows for such odd juxtapositions as masterfully lavish landscape paintings positioned next to antique motorcycle parts repurposed as household appliances. Backyard galleries mix with cavernous studios, emcompassed by a carnivalesque atmosphere of vendors hawking homemade jewelry, vintage clothing, original music, and just about any other wares that can be displayed on a folding table. Scheduled for May 20 to 22, the 2011 Art-a-Whirl is sure to offer far more diversions than can be experienced in a single weekend. Should fatigue set in, however, the neighborhood's copious restaurants and bars welcome visitors with live music and refreshing drinks. Rejecting any notion of pretension, this is one art festival that feels like the host neighborhood: thrillingly diverse, wildly creative, and exceptionally hospitable.
In today's screwed-up world, we need good investigative journalism more than ever. It's a shame, then, that these deep-dive stories seem to be the exception rather than the rule. That's why we appreciate Mark Albert from KSTP. He may look like a nice enough guy, but don't be fooled. He is one cold-hearted dude. Albert recently won a Peabody Award for his investigative report about a soldier who was electrocuted by a faulty shower while serving in Iraq. The story unearthed damning evidence against the soldier's commanders and has changed how the military keeps tabs on soldier deaths. Albert has taken on lawless cab drivers, politicians, welfare recipients, homeless sex offenders, and more. He holds people accountable, and that's just the type of journalism we need these days.
Okay. We admit it. Every time KARE 11's weather stud Sven Sundgaard appears on camera with his spiky blond locks standing at attention in Norse-god glory, we want to reach through the TV screen in a moment of virtual ecstasy and just muss the heck out them. It's distracting, really, and it leaves us consumed with guilt. Shouldn't we be admiring his acumen with all those dancing icons and animations on the weather map? Shouldn't we be tuning in to see him brave real Minnesota weather? Yes, we should. And we tune in for another reason, too: Sven is so utterly and completely the embodiment of those myths we keep telling ourselves about who Minnesotans are supposed to be. He grew up in St. Paul and the suburbs. He went to college in St. Cloud. He got his first job in Duluth. He vacations in Scandinavia. He speaks Norwegian. When he warns us about a twister or impending Snowmageddon, the guy practically oozes lutefisk.
In a carousel category that has revolved between four men over a decade or so, it's been far too long since WCCO's Mark Rosen has been recognized as the lead rider among TV's sporting thoroughbreds. To be sure, TV newscasts afford little time for sporting pith, which is why the long-running Rosen's Sports Sunday should be appreciated. The program allows enough time for guests to actually talk, and Rosen continually proves both a quality listener and a formidable sounding board. His show runs concurrently with ESPN's Sunday night SportsCenter, and the two programs are an ideal clicking complement of national and local sports. And while Rosen has been a station stanchion since working with 'CCO as a high schooler in the late '60s, he has accepted the evolution of new media with a Twitter account (@WCCORosen) that isn't afraid to mix it up with a younger set that generally favors smarm over charm. Rosen's radio work and foray into movie reviews can prove challenging at times in their geniality, but the Sunday night show is a consistent reminder that nice guys can finish well while serving as more than just another talking head.
It seems that almost every discussion of public TV eventually devolves into talk of highbrow snobbery, pledge drives, and the always-popular subject of Caucasian corniness. But let's throw all that aside to take note of how much TPT has done for our state with the Minnesota-centric offshoot of the PBS affiliate. While the mothership station offers the internationally focused news, education, and entertainment programs that have defined public television since the '60s, TPT MN's local variation serves up close-to-home programming that spotlights everything from indigenous politics (Native Report) to outdoorsy travelogues (Venture North) to showcases for area music and art figures (Minnesota Original). And if you want to get a direct line to what's going on at the Capitol, the station's weekday feed of the Minnesota House of Representatives and State Senate is our very own C-SPAN analogue.
Getting up in the morning is a little easier since the advent of the Current's regular morning team, especially with the addition of Steve Seel (co-host Jill Riley is no slouch either). Seel brings decades of experience in radio and has a deep passion for all types of music—he cut his teeth as a classical music host in the 1990s—and tempers that with an equally deep knowledge of the music, musicians, and even instruments behind the songs that are played. Want to know how Keith Emerson achieved the whirling keyboard solo at the end of "Lucky Man"? Seel is your source.