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Minnesota Historical Society: Mill City Museum – Minneapolis, MN

Minnesota Historical Society: Mill City Museum – Minneapolis, MN

The Minnesota Historical Society opened Mill City Museum in 2003.

Mill City Museum was built within the ruins of the Washburn A Mill, the flagship mill of the Washburn-Crosby Co. (later General Mills). It was the largest and most technologically advanced flour mill in the world when it was completed in 1880.

Millers at the Washburn mills in the 1870s perfected a new process for milling, a revolution that made fine wheat flour available to the masses for the first time. Soon thereafter Minneapolis became the flour milling capital of the world, a title it held from 1880 to 1930.

Plan Your Visit

Mill City Museum is an architectural showpiece, rising eight stories within the limestone ruins of the Washburn A Mill — a National Historic Landmark and once the largest flour mill in the world.

Architecture

The Washburn A Mill was designed in the late 1800s by Austrian engineer William de la Barre. After its completion in 1880, it was declared the world’s largest flour mill. It operated for 85 years, expanding into a complex of over a dozen buildings and surviving a 1928 fire. The mill shut down in 1965, and the abandoned mill was gutted by another fire in 1991.

In the mid 1990s the city of Minneapolis cleaned up the rubble and stabilized the mill’s charred walls. Shortly thereafter the Minnesota Historical Society announced its intention to construct a milling museum and education center within the ruins.

Faced with how to preserve the ruins of this historically significant site while building a modern museum, MNHS turned to Thomas Meyer, principal of Minneapolis architectural firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. (MSR). Meyer developed a concept that melded the historic integrity of the mill structures with modern components. Construction began in March 2001, and the museum opened to the public in September 2003.

Meyer’s design left intact many features of the original mill, including flour bins, milling machinery, the engine house, rail corridor, and a wheat house. A glass curtain wall facing the Ruin Courtyard has etchings from an 1898 building cross section showing the location of the milling machinery. With multiple entries on two levels, the museum functions as a porous link between downtown Minneapolis and the Mississippi River.

Mill City Museum has won numerous awards, including the AIA Honor Award for Architecture, AIA Minnesota Honor Award.

Art

Woven throughout Mill City Museum and its exhibits are unique works by the local and regional artists:

 

Two large colored glass art installations crossed with steel.

Between Now and Then, Minnesota

JoAnn Verburg, St. Paul, Minnesota

St. Anthony Falls, long considered a sacred place, is a the only waterfall on the Mississippi River. The Twin Cities were created here as the result of a great collage of forces: the spiritual regard for this location on the part of the Dakota and Ojibwe people, the power and energy of falling water, the strength and intelligence of immigrants, new possibilities of movement via the railroad, discoveries in the technology of milling, innovations in growing wheat, giant expanses of open fields, and long summer days of sunshine. This collage is made of glass, photographs, steel, and cement, and measures 14 feet tall by 25 feet wide. As you view this artwork, you stand where trains used to pass through the building. This artwork invites you to look out through images of wheat, water, tree, and sky, and from this sacred and historic location, contemplate the ever-changing present we are creating together.

 

Backdrop showing field of wheat and sky.

Panoramic image of a wheat field and sky

Tom Maakestad, Marine-on-St Croix, Minnesota

Landscape artist Tom Maakestad painted this image to serve as the backdrop for a late-19th-century traction engine, a major fixture in the Harvesting Wheat exhibit. Maakestad’s original artwork was reproduced on a larger scale (10 feet by 20 feet) to create a context for the traction engine and suggest the vastness of the wheat-growing fields in Minnesota.

 

A large-scale model of a Bisquick box with a stack of model pancakes.

Bisquick box and pancakes

Kim Lawler, St. Paul, Minnesota

For the Promoting Mill Products exhibit, scenic painter and muralist Kim Lawler produced a 15-foot, freestanding Bisquick Box with an image of the packaging as seen in 1931 on one side and 1981 on the opposite side. Visitors are invited to step inside the box to experience signature advertising campaigns from the past and present through TV and radio commercials. Lawler also produced a 6-foot-wide stack of pancakes for a hands-on activity area where children are encouraged to design their own mill product packaging.

 

Wheat emporium sculpture with four large columns inscribed with text.

Wheat Emporium

Kim Lawler, St. Paul, Minnesota

Lawler designed a three-columned, freestanding structure for the Wheat Emporium, an exhibit that explores how wheat imagery has been used as a potent symbol throughout the ages. Each column is actually a case that displays everyday objects, such as paintings, currency, clothing, and dishware that incorporate wheat as a decorative motif.

 

Wood carving of man standing.

Wood sculptures

Paul Wrench and Becky Schurmann, Minneapolis

Husband-and-wife team Paul Wrench and Becky Schurmann brought characters introduced throughout Mill City Museum to life. The 13 figures were hand-carved from salvaged white pine from Humboldt Mill, a neighboring mill of the Washburn A Mill. Each sculpture has been stained and finished, and represents an individual who played a role in the flour milling story. The sculptures include William de la Barre, the Austrian engineer who designed Washburn A Mill; Jean Spielman, a labor organizer; Mary Dodge Woodward, a cook on a bonanza wheat farm; and boxcar loaders and female flour packers.

 

Soon after Minneapolis was born on the Mississippi’s west bank, the city’s flour milling industry skyrocketed. Powered by the mighty river and fed by boxcars of grain rolling in from the plains, the industry gave Minneapolis bragging rights as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World.”

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Minnesota Orchestra: Bittersweet Series of Lasts for Osmo Vänskä

Minnesota Orchestra: Bittersweet Series of Lasts for Osmo Vänskä

It’s been a bittersweet series of lasts for Osmo Vänskä; he led his final This Is Minnesota Orchestra livestream last Friday, and gears up to lead Gustav Mahler’s 8th Symphony in his final performances as music director this weekend. As we get ready to witness the end of an era, we’re sharing our final farewells—check out Osmo’s own reflections on an incredible tenure.

You can watch Friday’s entire This Is Minnesota Orchestra broadcast on our digital concert hall free of charge until June 13!

A Salute to Osmo Vänskä

This June, a remarkable era in the Minnesota Orchestra’s history comes to a close, when Osmo Vänskä conducts the final performances of his 19-year tenure as the ensemble’s music director. To mark the occasion, we’ve invited a cross-section of Orchestra musicians, staff and board members to share their favorite memories of the tenure and reflect on the legacy Osmo will leave in Minnesota for the years ahead.

“Of the many, many memories I have of Osmo’s time with the Orchestra, the three that are most potent for me are the silence after our concert in Ted Mann Concert Hall, the jubilation of the National Anthems in Cuba, and the deafening joy in Soweto, South Africa. Each highlights the true power of music, and each happened largely thanks to Osmo. Thank you for challenging us to be better every time you’ve taken the podium and for leading us to ever greater heights over these past 19 years. I wish you much luck and continued success in all that you do!”

 —R. Douglas Wright, principal trombone 

“Osmo will be remembered not only for his deep respect for the musicians of our enormously talented Orchestra, but also for his willingness to get everyone out of their comfort zones and try new things.”

—Joseph T. Green, Board chair 

“One of Osmo’s underrated talents has always been the way that he transfers his enthusiasm for particular composers and works directly to the audience. Watching him conduct is a visceral experience, and his intensity on the podium is both a magnet for the audience’s eyes and a mirror of the Orchestra’s collective intensity. You can never come away from an Osmo Vänskä concert with any doubt about how hard everyone on stage is working to convey the emotional content of the music.”

—Sam Bergman, viola 

“The relationship with BIS recordings will be an enduring legacy of Maestro Vänskä that will be spoken of for many years to come. This Orchestra grew tremendously making those recordings. The tours come next, as they were important and helped shape the way orchestras in the U.S. think about touring and how our goals have changed to the good.”

—Manny Laureano, principal trumpet

“When I was serving as concertmaster of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, a community orchestra in the Twin Cities, I asked Osmo if he would participate in conducting the Symphony in an outreach side-by-side service with a Bloomington youth orchestra. He was very gracious and accepted the invitation—despite turning down work with the San Francisco Symphony. Imagine how thrilled all involved were to have Osmo as their conductor! Osmo has always been dedicated to community outreach, working with young performers, and holding fast to his commitments. I have always appreciated his selfless focus on making music and sharing it with others!”

—Milana Elise Reiche, violin 

—Helen Chang Haertzen, violin

“I will always remember the first European tour with our final stop at Sibelius Hall in Lahti, Finland. The tour schedule had been relentless and the timing for the last leg was tight. We boarded the plane in Glasgow, Scotland, and the plane announced a delay that lasted a couple of hours. We landed in Helsinki with snow falling and we were quite delayed. Buses arrived in Lahti, stage crew swiftly set-up; musicians quickly grabbed a bite to eat while changing into concert attire; Osmo was swept away for some quick media interviews and to get ready. In the whirlwind, I took my seat with a huge exhale and listened to one of the most memorable concerts by Osmo and the Orchestra—it was a magical moment to be there, and it set the tone for what Osmo had in store for all of us. Osmo’s legacy will be one of deep commitment to the Minnesota Orchestra family and audiences.”

—Michael Pelton, artistic planning manager and executive assistant to the music director

“Any music director could have come in and made wonderful music with a fantastic orchestra like the Minnesota Orchestra, but I think Osmo will be remembered for always pushing the orchestra to do more and be more than it already was, being both a champion and a leader at every opportunity to make our orchestra grow, from within and from without.”
—Greg Milliren, associate principal flute

“Osmo’s legacy is reflected in the membership of the Orchestra itself. He has brought so many talented musicians into the ensemble, developing a remarkable artistic cohesiveness and integrity, which will carry forward for years to come. What a great gift for all of us.”
—Michelle Miller Burns, President and CEO

 

 

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Fort Snelling Reopens After Revitalization Project

Fort Snelling Reopens After Revitalization Project

Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is announcing the reopening of Historic Fort Snelling after a two-year renovation project,
which includes a refurbished visitor’s center inside a 1904 cavalry barracks.

“Our guiding vision for the Historic Fort Snelling revitalization has been to inspire a better future by providing a place to learn, share and connect to all of the complex stories that shape history in Minnesota,” said Kent Whitworth MNHS director and CEO in a statement. “Historic Fort Snelling has been a site of diplomacy and conflict; pride and tragedy; service and sacrifice. Today, the site reveals more of this remarkable history with spaces for visitors to study, reflect, connect and learn.”

The first National Historic Landmark in Minnesota, Fort Snelling underwent $34.5 million in improvements—$19.5 provided by State of Minnesota appropriations and $15 million in private funding. The new Plank Museum and Visitor Center was originally constructed in 1904 as U.S. Army Cavalry barracks and later converted to an outpatient VA Clinic forty years later, but has been vacant since 1989 without power, water, or an HVAC system. According to the Historical Society, floors were covered in asbestos and lead paint adorned many walls. Water damage accrued throughout the building from roof leaks, causing wood floors to warp and ceilings to cave in.

The renovation now includes more than 19,000 square feet of public accessible space, event and meeting spaces, an upgraded museum store, and a gallery for traveling exhibits.

With scenic views located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, known as Bdote, the Fort became a point of convergence—for the Dakota, Ojibwe, and enslaved people, to fur traders, immigrants, soldiers and veterans—all contributing to its complicated history.

 

 

Fort Snelling was the site of a concentration camp for 1,600 Dakota after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. While Minnesota was a free territory, federal army officers enslaved African Americans, including Dred and Harriet Scott, within the Fort’s walls. It was also where the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment launched, with 25,000 soldiers who fought against slavery in the Civil War. Fort Snelling was also an induction center for more than 300,000 soldiers in World War II, and home to a Military Intelligence Service Language School where Japanese Americans, many whose families were held in domestic concentration camps, used language skills to aid the war effort.

While Fort Snelling is normally closed in winter, the new visitor center will host “expanded musical and theatrical performances and explorations of the site’s changing landscape throughout the seasons.”

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Milan Village Arts School: The Spoon Gathering – Milan, MN

Milan Village Arts School: The Spoon Gathering – Milan, MN

Sharing the knowledge of carving spoons and related handcrafts, while creating an inclusive gathering for all!

Milan Village Arts School: Join us June 2nd, 3rd & 4th in Milan, Minnesota for 3 enjoyable days of wood spoon carving, green woodworking, demonstrations, workshops, presentations, networking, and friendship. Check our website for pre-event courses.

What started as a small gathering of passionate wood spoon carvers in St. Paul, Minnesota has evolved into a vibrant festival of spoon carving, green woodworking and the decorative arts. Attracting spoon carvers from across the United States and abroad, the Spoon Gathering today offers a family friendly event catering to both novice and experienced carvers.

Apart from ample carving time, expect to experience a variety of demonstrations, workshops and presentations from some of the best in their field, including bowl carving, kuksa carving, kolrosing, chip carving, incising, tool sharpening, and of course spoon carving.

Free camping facilities are available. The Spoon Gathering is a carving weekend, so bring your spoon blanks and carving tools or just come to watch and enjoy the weekend. Blanks are available on site.

Register at: milanvillageartsschool

About

MVAS

The Mission of the Milan Village Arts School is to engage people in the practice of traditional, contemporary and folk arts, fostering prosperity, community and culture in our region.

History Of School

The idea of an arts school in Milan began at a 1988 community economic planning meeting hosted by Community Education Director, Bev Struxness. Milan was no different then many small rural towns in western Minnesota that were losing population to better economic opportunities elsewhere. Local businesses were closing as the economic realities of agriculture called for larger and fewer farms. But, Milan residents were determined to keep the quality of life they valued alive and flourishing.

Citizens throughout the region valued their Scandinavian heritage and the artists who practiced the ethnic folk arts that was a part of this heritage. A decision was made to help the many artists in the area by starting an arts school. The husflids or folk schools of Norway became the model for the Milan Village Arts School. Since 1988, the school has hosted classes for over fifty teachers, with student enrollments well into the thousands.

In 1995, Milan Village Arts School purchased the District 49 country schoolhouse built in 1915 for $50. The city of Milan generously donated land and the school was moved to its current location. Volunteers spent hundreds of hours helping to refurbish the old schoolhouse. Aaron and Arvid Swenson of Flom, MN, refurbished the school’s porches and bell tower in traditional Norwegian style. Dr. Frank and Linda Brathen donated the country school bell that adorns the building. Metal worker, Gene Sandau of Madison crafted the clapper. Area artists painted the building in its attractive Scandinavian inspired colors.

Through class tuitions, grants, memberships, donations and volunteer energy, the school has brought people to the community, helped to make it a better place to live, and made the appreciation of art an integral part of the community. The school offers a venue for local citizens and people from all over the United States to take classes. MVAS also participates in community events such as Syttende Mai in May to highlight the creative heritage of our community, and the Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl in the fall to build a market for our region’s arts.

Browse through this year’s list of classes, sign up and join in the appreciation of the prairie, its heritage and take the opportunity to learn and practice creative and artistic pursuits of all kinds.

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Construction On New Bde Maka Ska Concessions Pavilion Area Begins – Minneapolis, MN

Construction On New Bde Maka Ska Concessions Pavilion Area Begins – Minneapolis, MN

This image is an illustration of the final design of the pavilion area, created by project architect @cuninghamcreates.

Minneapolis Parks: Construction on a new concessions pavilion area at Bde Maka Ska begins next week! The project will create two new buildings, including new, all-gender accessible restrooms and ample outdoor public seating to replace the building that burned down in 2019.

Work will start Monday, May 23 at the site of the former pavilion and continue throughout the year. The new buildings are scheduled to open next summer. Please stay away from construction areas and follow all onsite signs.

The boat launch next to the construction site will be closed June 6-September 16. No trailered boats will be allowed on or off the lake during this time period. The boat launch is currently open every day 6 am-10 pm through May 30, then 2-8 pm May 31-June 5.

@sailmpls and @wfrminnesota will remain open this season.

About

The former Bde Maka Ska concessions pavilion, also called a “refectory,” was built in 1930 and was operated seasonally until it burned down in 2019. The site was paved over to provide a temporary gathering space at the popular northeastern corner of the lake and utilities were repaired to allow vendors to continue operating.

The Bde Maka Ska-Harriet Master Plan, approved in 2017, provided guidance for the pavilion site improvements. The new pavilion concept was designed by a team led by Cuningham after working with Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff and numerous stakeholders. MPRB Commissioners approved the project’s concept design in May 2021 and a construction contract was awarded in May 2022.

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