In celebration of what would be photographer Gordon Parks' 100th birthday, the Gordon Parks Foundation - along with the Museum of Modern Art in New York - threw quite a party, drawing such big names as actress Sarah Jessica Parker, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld and photographer Annie Liebowitz.
In Southwest Minneapolis Weinstein Gallery is hosting its own celebration, offering a more intimate look at Parks wide-ranging photographs.
Parks had a career that any photographer would dream of, but it came from the roughest beginnings. Born in Kansas, he was forced to drop out of high school when his mother died, and moved to St. Paul to live with his aunt. However her husband kicked him out shortly thereafter, leaving him homeless until he found work, first as a piano player in a brothel, and then later as a waiter on a train.
As the Minnesota Historical Society details, Parks loved to tell the story of how he got his start as a fashion photographer:
It was 1938 when he walked into Frank Murphy's, an exclusive women's clothing store in downtown St. Paul, and asked if they needed anyone to take photos of the store's runway models. He didn't mention that he didn't own a camera and that his only experience with models was a recent perusal of Vogue magazine. Frank Murphy turned him down, but on his way out of the store, Mrs. Murphy suggested that Parks return after the store closed. "Later I asked her why she took a chance on me, and she said she had just had an argument with Frank and was trying to get under his skin," Parks recalled. "Actually, I think she was just a woman who had a great heart."
From Frank Murphy's he eventually moved to Chicago, and went on to work with the Farm Security Administration, the Office of War Information, Vogue, Glamour, and for over two decades with Life magazine. He excelled at documenting the hardships of race and poverty.
Poverty Board, 1968
All of the more than forty images on display at the Weinstein were printed during Parks' lifetime, and came to the Weinstein from the Gordon Parks Foundation. They feature portraits of Martin Luther King, Duke Ellington, and Gloria Vanderbilt, as well as street photography of life in Harlem, landscapes and war scenes.
As Weinstein Gallery director Leslie Hammons put it, "he was around for everything."
His images reveal a photographer both insatiably curious and deeply nuanced. His portrait of Ingrid Bergman, in the midst of her affair with Roberto Rossellini, captures both how society was judging her, and her own unease.
Ingrid Bergman at Stromboli, Italy, 1949
It's also important to remember while looking at these photographs that they represent just one facet of a multi-talented man. He was a writer, a composer, and the director of the classic film "Shaft."
At a time when so much was judged by the color of one's skin, Parks managed to gain people's trust and tell stories that laid bare the human condition. Sadly, many of those social ills are still prevalent today.
Self Portrait, 1945
This week MPR's Nikki Tundel has been looking at diversity, and how it's reflected in houses of worship. While there's a small but growing movement in the United States to make Sunday morning church services more culturally diverse, Tundel reports the vast majority of the nation's religious services remain monocultural, with just one language, race or ethnic group represented.
The congregation at Mindekirken is comprised of Norwegian immigrants. Some arrived in recent years. Others are the descents of those who made their way to Minnesota in the early 1900s.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel
On a Sunday morning at Saint Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, the first service lets out. In a few hours, a Latino congregation will fill the pews. But right now, an Ethiopian preacher takes the pulpit.
The sanctuary is certainly large enough for all three ministries to worship together in one combined service. Nearly all the congregants can speak English. But each group prefers to praise God separately.
Roland Wells, pastor at Saint Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church says that "typically churches tend to be very culturally, linguistically isolated because people want to be with people who are like them."
Wells has been preaching at St. Paul's for over 20 years and is an expert on diversity in the nation's churches. He says that despite the image of the American melting pot, monocultural congregations have always been a part of the country's immigrant heritage.
"You can imagine how hard this would be for an immigrant if I said, 'Today you're going to go join a Korean church.' How long is it going to take you until you can understand the sermon, until you can know what to cook for a potluck and before you can be in a Bible study, speak heart to heart, face to face, faith to faith," Wells said. "The immigrant church for many people is their one experience during the week where the other people get them 100 percent."
You can read the rest of the story, and check out an excellent slideshow, here.
Posted at 12:09 PM on June 8, 2012
by Chris Roberts
Filed under: Arts around the state
Veteran Minnesota rock musican Kevin Bowe has given himself a gift. It's a new album, of his own songs.
By any measure, the 51-year-old Bowe has had quite a successful music career. He plays guitar in Paul Westerberg's band. He's written songs which were included on multi-platinum albums by blues artist and North Dakota native Johnny Lang, and a Grammy winning record by blues legend Etta James. Bowe's band, "The Okemah Prophets," also serves as songwriter Freedy Johnston's back-up group. Bowe's songs have turned up in movies, TV shows, and soap operas. Lately he's turned his talents to producing and mixing albums.
He's spent so much time working with and for other artists, he hasn't had any time for his own songcraft.
Bowe's new album, "Natchez Trace," which he's releasing with a show tonight at the Varsity Theater alongside Alison Scott, puts him back in the spotlight as a songwriter and frontman. It's his first album in ten years, and it features a star studded cast in supporting roles, including Freedy Johnston, fiddle player Scarlet Rivera, members of The Meat Puppets, Nels Cline of Wilco, Chuck Prophet, and Mr. Westerberg himself.
Bowe sat down with me for an extended interview about the somewhat unusual trajectory of his career. He spoke of the superstars he's worked with, his feelings about being an outcast in his own Twin Cities music scene, and his overall satisfaction with what he's accomplished so far.
Throngs of art loving night owls are expected in Minneapolis this Saturday for the second "Northern Spark" all-night art festival.
From sundown to sunrise Sunday morning, there will be images projected onto buildings, performances, installations and a level of interactivity rarely experienced at other art events.
'Scattered Light' was a display by Jim Campbell at Northern Spark 2011 in St. Paul. This year the festival is taking place only in Minneapolis.
Poto courtesy of NorthernSpark/Dusty Hoskovec
Northern Spark founder and artistic director Steve Dietz says the festival has faced huge challenges this year, but the biggest disappointment has been having to pull out of downtown St. Paul in 2012.
Dietz spoke with Chris Roberts of MPR News, and you can listen to their conversation by clicking on the link below.
In anticipation of this Saturday night's art buffet, I asked Twin Cities arts lovers for their best bets for this year's Northern Spark. Here's what they said they were most excited about:
From Scott Pakudaitis:
I'm excited to use the bat detector at the Weisman, visit the All About Owls exhibit, and see what Vanessa Voskuil dreamed up in Shift at the Barker Center. I've always found Vanessa's performance projects enthralling (remember "En Masse?") and I anticipate this to be a creative and fascinating experience.
From Dawn Frederick:
Most definitely the Paper Darts event. Titled "Your Guide to Captured Dreams," it combines writing, dreaming (which we'd usually be doing at night if we weren't up all night at Northern Spark), and a film of recorded dreams; presenting an overall mixed media experience. I'm especially excited the event is happening at the Loft, and that there will be writing prompts taken throughout the evening. Afterwards, there will be special edition of Paper Darts magazine available that commemorates this interactive experience. Being a devout booklover, I'm hoping others are equally excited (And yes, I'll be getting the special edition magazine).
From Molly Priesmeyer:
I'm super excited about Molly Balcom Raleigh's FEED/FEED event, not just because we share a first name or because I will get to dine on gourmet food. I love the idea that we can take this necessary and often overly accelerated task of eating and instead focus on its ability to connect us and make us present, aware, and conscious in new ways.
From Heid E. Erdrich:
Near to the Paper Darts event at Mill City, you must take a moment for Cloudy Waters by Mona M Smith. You think you know the river, but knowing the river through Dakota voices is a whole new thing that is old as the Milky Way.
So what will you be doing Saturday night?
Posted at 2:00 PM on June 8, 2012
by David Cazares
Filed under: Music
If given his first choice of an instrument, Brandon Wozniak might be a violin player today.
After a teacher announced that his school would be provide violins to students who were interested, he badgered my parents to take him to school that night for one.
"Unfortunately they had no more violins by the time we got there and I was devastated," Wozniak recalled. "I have no idea why since we have no musicians in our family and I don't remember giving it any serious thought before that day. The next day we were brought in to the gym where they had many different instruments set up for us to try. I tried the trumpet first and couldn't make a sound so I moved on to the saxophone and I've been playing it ever since."
That's good news for jazz fans in the Twin Cities, who have a chance to regularly hear Wozniak play the saxophone in a number of ensembles, among them the Atlantis Quartet, the Bryan Nichols Quintet and the Zacc Harris Group.
The instrument has also been good for Wozniak, who appreciates its rich and varied tone.
"I think I would have played anything they told me to but as I've gotten older I've grown to appreciate the saxophone for its obvious blending and voice like qualities to its sound," he said. "Think about all the different saxophone sounds throughout the years, no other instrument affords the player as wide a range of personal sound and expression in my opinion."
That said, Wozniak's favorite instrument isn't the saxophone. Instead, if he could he'd play the drums. It's too late for him to pick them up seriously, but the saxophonist can do the next best thing: play with an incredible drummer.
He'll have the chance to do so Saturday at St. Paul's Artists' Quarter, when he performs with bassist Adam Linz and drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt.
Wozniak is particularly enthusiastic about the show as it will be the first time he has performed with Gravatt, a spectacular musician who has recorded with Joe Henderson and McCoy Tyner - and powered some of the early Weather Report recordings in the 1970s.
"Eric brings a lot of experience and musicality," Wozniak said. "He's someone I've wanted to play with for a long time."
The two musicians also will share a stage on June 30 during the Twin Cities Jazz Festival.