Every other month or so, we invite a small handful of music and performance groups to tpt‘s Studio A over the course of a week to record live performance videos for future MNO segments. Studio A is the largest broadcast TV studio in the state — essentially one big, open space for us to mold into different and unique treatments for each group we work with. These performances have resulted in visually creative and elaborate performance videos.
In contrast to the intricate and highly-crafted videos we produce in Studio A, MNO On The Go presents a new music web series, Skyway Sessions. The premise is simple: one camera, one mic, and one take to record a stripped-down, acoustic performance of some of the Twin Cities’ best music groups in the Saint Paul skyway. After performing in Studio A, the Greycoats were kind enough to volunteer as the first group for a Skyway Session. So without further ado, please enjoy Greycoats performing “Hideaway” during the lunch-hour rush just a few steps away from tpt headquarters, and right outside of the Union Depot.
Interested in seeing more from our most recent Music Week? Check out this behind-the-scenes photo gallery of Southside Desire and B-Boy dancer J-Sun performing in tpt‘s Studio A.
For the latest installment of artist-curated virtual episodes of MN Original, we enlisted the help of one of the busiest, most connected, and most stylish musicians in the Twin Cities. We’re of course talking about none other than John Munson, bass player for local iconic bands Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic, and a MN Original alumni from our profiles of The Twilight Hours and The New Standards. With such a thoroughly established musical background, Mr. Munson’s picks for his virtual episode of MNO — which highlight the visual arts, sculpture, and theater, but not a single musician — are delightfully unexpected. Then again, this diversity of interests further underscores Mr. Munson’s multifaceted role as a creative force, artist and arts supporter, a fact which should come as no surprise to those who also know Mr. Munson from his work with the radio variety show Wits. Read on for John Munson’s virtual episode of MN Original!
John Munson:Keri Pickett is a pal of mine. She shot my wedding. But I chose her because I really relate to her mission of representing family and community — different communities and families — but those differences illustrate commonalities. I love how clearly she thinks about her work. Plus her pictures are lovely!
Michael Sommers from MN Original #211 (original air date: October 21, 2010)
John Munson: I saw Michael Sommers do a a performance in a friend’s yard a few summers back. Once again, I have an appreciation for not only his artistry, but also the way that he presents his work in the community, seeking to build new communities and to find new audiences. But Kevin Kling’s comment in the piece really says it all: “He’s a genius, just look at his work!”
John Munson:Michael Kareken is an instructor at MCAD in the painting department. We met at Children’s Home Society when we were both getting ready to adopt. At that time Michael was doing very emotional figures and nudes. It’s exciting to see how his work has changed. His current subject matter of detritus is so intensely complex! His craft and curiosity inspire me.
John Munson: I love love love Lisa Elias‘s work. I will never forget seeing her gates at Crema the first time, back when I lived in South Minneapolis. And then seeing her work along the entrance to Highway 94 thrilled me — the idea of the river grasses flowing was so harmonious with the flow of traffic. So beautiful. She is such an unassuming person and so creative. How does someone make metal feel so soft?
For the next three Sundays, MN Original will be taking a break while our Twin Cities Public Television cohorts take to the airwaves for the Spring Pledge Drive. So for a fresh perspective on some segments from the MNO collection, we let Gregory Euclide get behind the looking glass of the MNO On The Go Blog. Mr. Euclide was profiled in the third season of MN Original, and we asked him to curate a virtual episode of MNO. In four-plus seasons of MN Original, we’ve exposed Twin Cities arts fans to over fifteen-hundred local artists, all of whom inspire us through their art and creativity. We always love knowing what art and art-makers also inspire the artists we’ve featured. So without further ado, Gregory Euclide presents his MN Original.
Gregory Euclide: When I was in college I was in a band called Sheepometer (music to make sheep to). We opened at The Unicorn in Milwaukee for Low. Zak was in Low at that point. It was a pivotal moment for me in my life. I have always had an unhealthy obsession with music and this was a big moment for me. Years later, I faked being a journalist to get back stage to take photos of Sonic Boom and Low at the 7th Street Entry. I still have those photos of Zak, Alan and Mimi leaning against the walls of the entry.
When Zak left Low, he focused more on his visual art. I stopped playing music to pursue visual art as well. I see Zak at MCAD off and on. He has no idea who I am. I just remember being in awe of him and the music that they brought into the world. This MNO segment helped me catch up with a figure that I have long respected.
Gregory Euclide: Although Pitchfork reviewer David Raposa gave this album a 5.5 because it rocked too much, it is one of my favorite albums. Yes, they played faster and harsher on this album and they were a slow band to start with, but that is what made it so timely for me. It felt as if it was the right time in history for this to happen and the way they did it seemed logical to me. There is a lot of tension in this album. Listening to this segment from 2011 just reminds me what effect this album had on me when it came out. “When I Go Deaf” is the Low jackpot. You get the best of both worlds; the beautiful entry and the crush that follows. As a kid, hell, even now… I want to be playing that guitar – with that feedback coming out from behind me. It must feel so exhilarating to be able to perform and make something with such honesty , such emotion… such force.
Gregory Euclide: Kate is another artist who works across platforms. The work is a force that finds an outlet in whatever best fits the idea. It’s not, “How can I make a painting about this?” Or, “How can I make a sculpture about that?” It’s more like, “What is the best way to express this idea?”
Gregory Euclide: David and Ben do what they do really, really well. In the segment they talk about wanting their music to be a resting place from the modern world. I feel like I know what it is like to have the rural in your subconscious. When I listen to this music, it just feels like home to me. It feels like fireflies, cornfields and the quiet of rural summer nights.
MN Original: Suggestion for who you’d like to see profiled on MN Original?
Gregory Euclide: Sure… I’ve got one for you. A student of mine from way back: a musician, artist, teacher, David Andree.
Lite-Brite volunteers help build the installation.
The artist behind this audacious feat is none other than MNO alum Ta-coumba Aiken! Over the course of three weeks, Ta-coumba led a small army of more than 600 volunteers—everyone from federal court judges to homeless people—in the completion of the 12-by-24 foot installation, an original work entitled Forever Saint Paul.
Next Thursday, February 28 from 7-9 p.m., join us at the Minnesota Humanities Center for a lively discussion and interactive art project which will explore our similarities and exalt our differences!
Ta-coumba T. Aiken
The event is open to the public but particularly interesting to educators who can earn 2 CEUs. The cost is $10 and includes light snacks and materials. Participants will also leave with a DVD copy of MN OriginalEpisode #220 and a set of corresponding activity guides to use in the classroom.
If you’re impressed by Ta-coumba’s Lite-Brite finesse, you won’t want to miss him speak in person! Hope to see you there!
With Twin Cities Public Television entering the second week of The Great Sustainer Challenge 2012, MN Original will take another break from the tv airwaves this Sunday evening. To help fill the void, we’re handing the keys to our blog over to Alison Scott, who appeared on MNO in its second season. We asked Alison to curate her own episode of MN Original and share a little bit about her choices:
Davina & The Vagabonds from MN Original #202 (original air date: August 19, 2010)
Alison Scott: I met Davina when she had just moved here. I’ve always found her story really fascinating. The fact that she up and moved here on a whim was really a gift for the Minneapolis scene. I love that MNO explores her writing space and the piano that fell off of a truck. She’s doing something different than any other musician in town, and this segment shows you why she is the way she is.
Alison Scott: This guy is a freak of nature. Any vocalist will tell you so. I’m not a particularly religious person, but Robert Robinson can make me a believer any day. I also love that the choir (Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir) in this segment is made up of all sorts of folks. All kinds of music lovers will love this one.
Alison Scott: I know I am in this segment, and I almost didn’t choose it for that reason. However, Darin Back is a genius, and I’m happy to recognize him any chance I get. MNO shows you exactly how he got where he is today, his background, his thought process, and how he shoots. If I was an aspiring photographer, I’d be taking notes.
Alison Scott: This segment is sooo cool! I need to hire this girl to do my next photo shoot. I’ve never seen photos quite like this before. Who knew clothes looked so cool under water!?! I enjoyed that MNO followed Rhea Pappas and her mom through the whole process, coffee and all. I love that her whole vision is about women, beauty, and empowerment. Very refreshing.
MN Original: What an awesome episode, Alison! Who would you like to see appear on MN Original that has yet to be featured on the show?
Alison Scott: I’d love to see the Minnesota Boychoir featured on MNO. My band and I have collaborated with them in the past and it was one of the highlights of my career. I also know that Kevin Bowe just shot his segment, so I’m really looking forward to watching that one when it airs. Kevin is always good for a crazy story or two!
MN Original: In 1982, did you imagine that Zenon would be thriving 30 years later?
Linda Andrews: Y’know, I really didn’t. I had no idea. You know, it’s never been easy, it’s always been a struggle to stay in business. Any time you have a modern dance company in America, it’s tough to get support, to always keep paying your staff and paying the dancers, paying the artists. From the very beginning, I thought I could do it. I was a little bit cocky. And I had a very clear mission all the way through. My vision and mission have not changed, it’s absolutely the same, fundamentally the same as when I started. But it’s become enhanced and it’s expanded, so that makes me feel really good. I think those roots are still really strong. I think I’ve been really lucky: I’ve had three decades of dancers who have constantly inspired me with their artistry. I have just worked to keep challenging those artists and to keep a lot of creative growth alive for dancers at Zenon.
I guess the main thing that has propelled me through all these years is always focusing on artistic excellence, trying to reach for the impossible: for perfection. I am a perfectionist.
Linda Andrews and choreographer Danny Buraczeski, 1989.
MNO: You mentioned that your mission has not changed in 30 years. What is Zenon’s mission?
LA: Right, I do think it’s a lot about spirit that’s carried Zenon throughout 30 years. And my vision and mission is to strive for artistic excellence in our main stage performances, and also in Zenon’s outreach. I want to expose as many people to dance, to this artistic excellence in dance, as possible. The way that I do that, that I’ve developed throughout the years is presenting main stage performances, but also doing really intensive educational outreach into the schools and communities across Minnesota. And then the third prong, the third part of my vision is to have a very diverse and comprehensive dance school that has the best instructors available. I think this three-pronged approach to the community serves us well. And I never once thought that I wasn’t serving the Twin Cities and the State of Minnesota – that’s been clear to me from the beginning; that we are truly a non-profit arts organization. I think that mission gave us a lot of strength and ability to expose dance. And dance is still the one art form that is under exposed and under funded in America.
I think one of my chief messages to any of our audiences is that what Zenon presents — a mixture of current, modern, jazz and ballroom dance in this country — it’s educating youth and adults that this is part of culture as Americans, this is what’s happening with dance right now in America. I strive to work with a lot of emerging artists. This keeps Zenon right at the forefront of what’s happening in dance.
MNO: What would you view as the biggest accomplishment of Zenon in the past 30 years? What’s been the biggest surprise?
Zenon Dance Company publicity photo, 1986. Photo courtesy of Zenon Dance Company.
LA: The biggest accomplishment, I don’t know! In terms of biggest accomplishment, there have been so many accomplishments that it’s difficult for me to choose one over the other. I think the biggest accomplishment is the development of the dancers. I’ve been able to create careers for these wonderful performers. I’ve been able to really develop actual careers for these artists, and to do it consistently. So I’m extremely proud of that. Along that line is our work, what we’re able to do in the schools. I have a 100% success rate with this residency model that we use, which is very comprehensive and creative. We choreograph based on curriculum. How many times I’ve been brought to tears watching these children perform, and how many times the teachers have cried watching this. I am a lucky woman because I am able to actually do what I love and have a passion for, and touch people’s lives in a positive way.
I guess I’m surprised, I think it’s too bad that we can’t be further along economically. I’m still kind of surprised, partially, that for as much work as I put into this, it’s still difficult to build an audience and get funding. So a lot of that is still a very basic struggle, even in our 30th year.
MNO: How has the Twin Cities dance scene changed in the past 30 years? And in that evolution, how is Zenon continuing to push the envelope?
LA: I think the main thing is that the level of the dancers is so much higher than when I started this. That was one of my goals: to get a real, New York-level of dance here. I think there are more choreographers working. There aren’t a lot of choreographers that come out of the Twin Cities that are known. But I think the Twin Cities has developed into a very positive climate for dance, and we have a good reputation nationally. Choreographers love to come and work in Minnesota. It’s one of the few spots in the U.S. that has a lot of stuff going on in dance, a lot of energy. And we’ve got The Cowles Center for Dance, an actual dance theater. Very few cities in the U.S. have that, so I think that’s just amazing. Now we just have to settle in and really work at building that dance audience, which is really needed here in the Twin Cities. It’ll take a while, but I think that will come as well.
MNO: Can you give us a preview of the first show of your 30th season? How did you choose the pieces and the choreographers? What does this show represent for you?
"Storm" by Daniel Charon for Zenon's 30th Fall Season, photo by Stephanie Colgan.
LA: It’s two separate weekends of dance, with the second weekend being more of a retrospective of classic Zenon, some of the pieces that have stood out. I think for me, always, when I choose my seasons, it’s very much my instinct. It’s something that I feel, or that comes to me. I definitely wanted to present [dances from] Luciana Achugar and Netta Yerushalmy. These two women are doing really interesting work. Luciana, the way she works is so primal and so different from everybody. That type of modern [dance] you don’t see that much outside of New York and that’s what Zenon does. So we’re bringing in this more post-modern, quite experimental, abstract work. I try to balance it out with a piece like “Storm,” which was insanely popular and well-received; a very epic and American, big movement and modern dance piece, something very inspiring and people get very inspired watching it. And then also premiering this new tango piece. I wanted to premiere another piece by Mariusz Olszewski because he’s so good with what he does with Latin. So it’s just a very interesting fit.
This combination, it’s not out of bounds for my company. So other people would say, when I started Zenon, “You can’t mix modern and jazz, what are you doing?” And I said, “Why the hell not, they’re both so American.” And Zenon really is the epitome of American, modern, jazz, ballroom dance: the whole contemporary dance scene. So in that way, we’re continuing to really push dance. And that’s what exciting about American dance – just continuing to push the boundaries, and we’re part of that out here in the Midwest.
"Structures of Feeling" by Luciana Achugar for Zenon's 30th Fall Season, photo by Steve Niedorf.
It’s like live performance, there’s always that quest for the moment of spirit, the technical, everything coming together, to create an evening of transcendent dance. This doesn’t happen every night but it happens a lot. It’s those moments that really inspire me. And that is artistic excellence, and it is the human spirit, and the spirit of Zenon.
Eagle eared listeners to The Current just heard MNO’s very own Dan Huiting sparking up the airwaves with Dave Campbell on The Local Show, we were able to double up this Sunday evening! Our Director of Photography’s interview ran right after MN Original wrapped up on tpt2, giving public media lovers a full hour of MNO-related fun. To celebrate Dan’s appearance on The Local Show, we’re releasing a couple of his edits before they hit the the TV on MN Original. Listen to Dan’s interview to hear him talk more about the inspiration behind these performances from Alpha Consumer and Astronautilus, and stay tuned to MN Original this Fall to see these performances on your TV screen!
On a beautiful June day in 2011, MNO filmed Visual Artist Gregory Euclide swinging from a vine, collecting garbage in the woods and creating one of his evocative paintings in the blink of an eye. Euclide’s MNO profile premiered in November 2011 and he’s been busily creating new work since then in preparation for a multitude of events this summer including: a Rural Art show at MCAD, a Jerome Foundation Fellowship show at MCAD, a solo show at David B. Smith Gallery, a group show at Artisphere in Virginia and PULSE Art Fair in Miami.
In the midst of that he’s just completed another school year as an art instructor at Prior Lake High School where he spent the last few months creating – and erasing – lunchtime masterpieces on his white board. We reached out to Euclide to find out more about this impermanent body of work.
MNO: Please tell me about the white board series – how did that begin?
GE: After teaching 38 students an hour, five hours a day, for 8 months… I started to get a little restless. So, during my lunch break I would start these drawings on the white board. It was a kind of stress release. I would give myself 25 minutes to finish something. They were just sketches that I enjoyed doing.
MNO: What tools did you use?
GE: I was using sumi ink, brushes, spray bottles, erasers, paper towels… anything I could find around my desk.
MNO: These projects were presumably all washed away – what appealed to you about creating a completely impermanent work?
GE: I could make them in 25 minutes, so they were not too incredibly precious to me. Yes, they were all washed away. I was kind of showing students what could be done with 25 minutes of time. They would come in from the previous day and be like… “what happened to that drawing that was up there yesterday?” I would explain that I washed it off and they would just be floored that someone would make something and then destroy it. Part of the exercise was to create something… to stay active while I was at school. Part of it was also to demonstrate something to my students…I was trying to convey something about value, something about impermanence and maybe something about using time to better oneself…to possibly interest them. Many of them were interested in the process.
MNO: Now that the school year is over, I see (via Facebook) that you’re working on similar pieces on porcelain-coated steel and that they’re being framed. Can you discuss this progression?
GE: From the beginning I have always done what feels interesting to me- what’s fun and sometimes that play becomes something else or takes on a new meaning once I understand why it was fun. Sumi is a great material to work with. It’s an organic material being made from the roots of pine trees I believe. The way it moves on the dry erase board was very interesting to me. Equally interesting was the fact that they would be washed away… or in the case of the new works NOT washed away. I have always been interested in subtleties of meaning and the origins of materials and in this case there was something there that just kept me coming back to it. So, I didn’t fight it. I just trusted that there was some reason why I was interested in it.
MNO: Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or events that you’re excited about?
GE: We have been working on the release of a new series of prints called Laid Down & Wiped Away, from these white board sketches. They turned out wonderfully. I wanted to somehow document the Sumi drawings and make them available to people who wanted them. There was such a big response to these works that it seemed like something I would be okay with doing, since they were flat to start with and there was no longer an original. They will be available through my website www.gregoryeuclideprints.com and the David B. Smith Gallery as of July 10, 2012.
I’m also happy to say that we have raised over $13,000.00 for charity through the sale of the Bon Iver Prints. David B. Smith Gallery and I have been very pleased with the results of this project.
MNO: Bon Iver recently released the single Towers featuring album art that you created. How was the collaboration process different this time?
GE: When I made the works for the Bon Iver, Bon Iver album I had not known that they were going to use crops of the works for the singles. There have been three singles and each of them contains a portion of the main album as the cover. Calgary, Holocene and Towers are all from the first batch of paintings I did for them. So the collaboration process was quite non-existent. I would find out about it from Pitchfork or Stereogum and be like “Cool, they used the art again.”
MNO: And now for something different – skill you wish you had?
GE: I wish I could sew. I have always admired people who can make their own clothes.
MNO: Childhood ambition?
GE: I found a sheet of paper from second grade that said that I would like to be a fire fighter. But I really wanted to be a soccer player… neither of those panned out for me.
MNO: What do you do when nobody’s watching?
GE: Take two or three extra deviled eggs….
MNO: Personal motto?
GE: Work hard Play hard
MNO: Finish this sentence: “What if we….”
GE: Could end domestic abuse, child abuse, sex trafficking ………..
MN Original creates 30 minutes of new arts coverage every week, a task made possible through the efforts of our staff of 15 employees. In an effort to pull back the curtain on the people behind MN Original, MNO On The Go introduces Associate Producer, Kate McDonald who was also recently featured on the651.com.
What are you working on RIGHT NOW?
I was transcribing an interview with rapper Astronautalis, who shook up our studios with a fiercely talented performance last week. I must say that in addition to performing, the guy has a way with words, so keep an eye out for his interview airing on MNO this fall.
What does an Associate Producer do?
Well, usually we are the ones asking the questions (so this is weird). However, our job is split relatively equally between office work and field work. We spend a fair amount of our time in the office researching and contacting local artists before pitching them to the group of producers who make the final call on who we profile.
Pre-production begins once the artists are selected and then I work with a producer to coordinate the best way to showcase the artist’s work and process. We usually spend about a day with the artist, filming their work and interviewing them about their craft and creative process. Once the shoot is complete we come back to the office and I help collect and organize the different elements needed for the editing process.
What aspect of working in production has been the most surprising or unexpected to you?
Just how much time, effort and collaboration it takes to produce a weekly half hour series! Lucky for us we have an amazing team here at MN Original all of whom make it possible for the show to get onto the air every week.
You’ve acted as Associate Producer for all of MN Original‘s studio music shoots over the last two years, including the performance below from The Cactus Blossoms. Walk us through your duties throughout that day’s shoot.
Music week is the best. Even though my day starts at 7:30 a.m. I basically get to see two free concerts a day for an entire week.
Schedule goes a bit like this:
7:30 a.m.: Arrive and make sure the day’s schedule is out for the crew. Set up coffee and craft services for the first band.
8:00 a.m.: Crew for the day arrives. We usually have 10-12 people working on each music week (aside from the producers). The crew includes a floor director and three photographers in addition to lighting, photography and sound directors and assistants.
8:30 a.m.: The first band of the day arrives (at an ungodly time for anyone to perform). We load in instruments to Studio A and our sound engineers start setting up microphones. During this time the band gets to drink coffee, eat food, hang out, change, and sign paperwork.
9:00 a.m.: Band has sound check and then we reset cameras. We also use this time to give the musicians water if they need it and apply face powder and makeup, since it can get quite hot under those studio lights.
9:30 a.m.: Once we are set, producers file into the control room (where they can watch all the action happening) and the crew gets on headsets. The producer will use the three monitors in the control room (one for each camera), to call out shots during the performance.
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.: We ask musicians to preform two songs for us, and we usually run through each song at least 5-6 times so we can record all the different camera angles that we need. During this time it is up to me to take careful notes on what the producer, band, and the audio engineers thought of each take.
11:45 a.m.: We have a quick interview with the band and then rush to pack them up so we’ll be ready to record with the next band, who arrives just half an hour later. Then we do it all over again in the afternoon!
What is the most exciting part of working on MNO?
The most exciting part of working on MN Original is all the awesome artists that I get to meet on a daily basis. Also since part of my job is knowing about the art related events going on in town, I find that I always have something to do on the weekends for research. Definitely not a bad perk of the job.
It can’t all be fun and games. Tell us about some of the less savory parts of AP work.
There are so many little details that need to be kept straight for each segment. I spend way too much time thinking about whether or not a band meant to misspell the title of their song they performed for us. Sometimes it feels like they must be doing it on purpose because they know I am mildly dyslexic!
You recently spent a great deal of time in a hearse for an MN Original shoot. Can you explain more of what that experience entailed?
Apparently hearses come in handy in a variety of art mediums. Rumor has it they are especially great for hauling band equipment, but the reason I was in one last month was for a segment I was doing on the ridiculously talented sculptor, Michael Thomsen. He uses a hearse to transport his large assemblage sculptures, created out of antique objects and furniture that he picks up all over the city. Make sure you keep an eye out for him around town – he recently redid the hearse’s inside fringe.
What’s your favorite TV show (aside from MNO of course)?
My PBS faves include Art21 and Downton Abbey. However in order to eliminate all sense of professionalism I have built up in your minds during the course of this interview I will also admit I recently have made a guilty pleasure out of watching singing competition shows, in particular The Voice. Sometimes you can’t deny talent, no matter what form it takes. Also I can’t get enough of the interview cutaways of Cee-Lo petting his Turkish Angora Cat. It’s no MN Original but it’s pretty priceless.