If you are from Minneapolis, don’t take this the wrong way but I was NOT expecting the vastness of the opportunities for art and culture in your town that I discovered in a recent visit! As I pored over the options, I settled for visiting a few museums and checking out one show for this short visit knowing full well that there were a lot of options – just too little time (this trip!).
Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA)
In terms of art, I chose the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) not just because it was free but because it is vast in its scope and collection.
It was well laid out and quite manageable facing a nice park with the city’s skyline as its backdrop.
It has a large section on China, including reproducing the interior of a home, as well as art collections ranging from medieval Europe to contemporary “art” (some of which could be just from some yard in the mountains of the South; hence the quotation marks….).
In any case, one of my favorite pieces was the Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun by van Gogh. Oh, heck, I liked all the impressionist art – there is just something either appealing, reachable, or understandable about impressionist art for me. (I was reminded I like Signac but always forget him when I cite favorite impressionist painters…)
The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA)
Being a lover of Russian history, The Museum of Russian Art intrigued me and I was rewarded not just with art but also with a great exhibit about the Romanovs, thereby satisfying my eternal curiosity of Russian history – a great wealth of artifacts and video clips from the Russian monarchy.
They also had another exhibit about “Christmas” decorations from the Soviet era. I did not know about the New Year’s Tree, the Soviet re-invention of the too-religious Christmas tree. They had sample ornaments made during those times, some quite homemade and others of a little better professional manufacture…
American-Swedish Institute (ASI)
In this trip, I was seeking to learn more the history of the city and I was made aware of the American-Swedish Institute (ASI). Minnesota has a lot of Swedish blood and one of the Swedish families – the Turnblads- built a mansion in the Golden Mile district of the city in the early 20th century. The house eventually was donated by the family and now houses the ASI which is much more than a museum – it is also an important cultural center.
The house is open for visits and, during the time of the year when I visited, was decorated for Christmas. But it was not just decorated for the season but it did so in the styles not only of Swedish traditions, but also in the traditions of the other “Scandinavian” countries: Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.
A nice touch was that they also presented Mexican Christmas traditions given the strong Mexican presence in the area where the Institute is. I have to say that when I first walked into the Institute (not the house itself) and saw the cafeteria area on the left, I felt I had walked into IKEA! That soon passed though as, clearly, this was not an IKEA store.
Brave New Workshop
I did not have too much time left to squeeze in show but I had Saturday night open so I opted for the Brave New Workshop comedy theater as my show to see. This is the place where Al Franken from SNL fame started so I thought I’d check it out.
The cast was composed of 5 actors who were quite funny on their own merits but some of the pieces written for them were simply brilliant. The mix of their skills and the pieces exploded when it came to their spoof or “Royals” by Lorde and the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. The theater is cozy and after the function, everyone is welcome to hang around for a full session of improv. I had had a long day and, sadly, felt that it was time to leave to get a good hot shower and hit the sack. But if you go, plan to stay on as I can ONLY imagine what this cast got into after I departed!
Feel the need for fresh air and the outdoors? Well, in Minneapolis there is art outdoors too! The Walker Museum’s Sculpture Garden offers some interesting work near the art museum of the same name (which I will visit next time I go!). Just cross the bridge from Loring Park (perhaps, as I did, before or after stopping at Café Maude for brunch or dinner – I enjoyed the country hash for brunch!), the garden is free and offers not only great art but a phenomenal backdrop with downtown’s skyline and the Basilica of St. Mary.
Even in random places you may find art… As I made my way back to my hotel, I passed the U.S. Courthouse area – in its plaza, I found some really curious figures and landscape items. Though the work on the plaza is not explained via signage, the whole plaza evokes Minnesota’s land and its many types of inhabitants: wooden benches that are just logs, frogs, snakes, rocks, and many other cute characters. I can see kids loving this plaza! The plaza brought a large smile to my face as I headed to check out of my hotel and leave town.
If you head to Minneapolis, or if you want to explore arts and culture beyond the predictable places in the usual suspects (e.g., NYC), I think you should plan to explore these unique Minneapolis offerings (or the others I did not get to explore) – you will not leave disappointed!
The Minneapolis Convention and Visitors’ Bureau helped me plan my weekend based on my interests and kindly obtained visitor’s passes for me to these places.