Archive

Current events

15_smm_02

++ A PROPOSAL FOR CREATIVE CITY CHALLENGE 2016 +++

SELFMADEMPLS
An artist-led architecture for urban self-reliance.

Self-reliance and connection to the land are common threads in the history of this place—from pre-settlement societies to European farmers to the early industrial era that harnessed the bounty of the soil and water.

But modern living is erasing so much land-based knowledge and skills, as well as our identity as growers, savers, and rugged survivors. We are now citizens of the corporate-retail-financial complex, more oriented to stadiums than seedbeds. Push too hard on our modern assumptions and they crumble like an interstate bridge. American cities are one major security breach or climate event away from disaster.

Renewing our self-reliance—and our relationships with each other—is increasingly a matter of self-preservation. We are (again) a diverse population of people struggling to make a home together in a challenging place, with many mouths to feed and little more than our collective wits to protect us. What actions will we take to prepare? We believe the Creative City Challenge—with its goals of promoting health, community connection, and vital exchange through art in the city’s center—is the perfect vehicle to address this question.

Artists, as usual, can show the way. Minneapolis makers, growers, architects, technologists, and other creative toilers have long been out front preserving knowledge and skills—and forging new ones—outside the mainstream cultural conversation. From urban farming and sustainable architecture to alternative transportation and homemade textiles, our artists know how to make it for themselves.

This summer in the center of the city, we want to amplify their voices and transmit their knowledge. We call it “Self-Made Mpls”: an iconic complex, part garden, part workshop, part classroom, part prototype, where citizens and visitors rediscover together what we’re capable of.

Will it happen? We’ve proposed sillier things. Never count MakeSh!t out …

Advertisements

safeWHY AM I WORRIED? Forboding creeps on me even (especially) when my world is okay on paper. Maybe I’m on the Internet too much or, more likely, I’m bored. At the slightest slackening of my workload, my mind fills with dire scenarios of poverty, loss and (worst of all) irrelevance. You’d think a light schedule on a nice afternoon would be welcome.

Eff that ish. I’ve initiated a bunch of distractions from doominess: tutoring neighborhood kids, more maps about John Brown, a comic book about Des Moines in the early ’90s (this one’s embarrassingly self-involved, even for me, but I’m focused on “universal themes”—not just teens drinking vodka-Mt. Dews under bridges… though it has that, too). Sarah and I are contemplating an artisanal mustard business to pair with the local crazes for artisanal beers and sausage. Her 5th cousin in Germany thinks we have a future importing fine European senf. What if he sees something we don’t?

Doubt is seasonal. Maybe partying will help.

NIGHTGYMSOMETIMES YOU WANT TO GO WHERE NOBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME. To flex before a wall of mirrors unjudged and unjudging. You will not be checked in or asked out or told to Spot me, Bro. It’s just you and CSI reruns on silent mode, your ears filled with grunts and longing. Each triumph or shame is private. In fluorescent isolation, selfness evaporates. All is material, mechanical… A rank duffle. A lone free weight. You are wet meat strung taut over last year’s machines.

Download NIGHT GYM (Mp3).

*** * * * *** * * * *** * * * *** * * *
* * * *** * * * *** * * * *** * * * ***

01 Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Ain’t No Sunshine
02 Shannon & The Clams – Gremlins Crawl
03 Ex Hex – Don’t Want to Lose
04 The Raincoats – Running Away
05 Donny Hathaway – Jealous Guy (Live)
06 Them – My Little Baby
07 Foxygen – Mattress Warehouse
08 Young Fathers – Rain or Shine
09 Jonwayne – Time Trial
10 Son Lux – Let Go
11 The Raveonettes – Sisters
12 Teddy Robin & The Playboys – Fever
13 The Soft Boys – Only the Stone Remain
14 The Red Crayola – Hurricane Fighter Plane
15 The Slits – So Tough
16 Shabazz Palaces – Gunbeat Falls
17 Lizzo – Bus Passes and Happy Meals
18 Kate Tempest – The Truth
19 Frank Black – You Ain’t Me
20 The Dave Clark Five – Good Love Is Hard to Find
21 Fugazi – Life and Limb
22 Parkay Quarts – Pretty Machines
23 Trans Am – Night Shift

10360212_10152479194111573_6733113443566222091_nSAFE TO SAY I THINK about my daughter’s education more than my parents thought about mine. I can’t imagine my mother worrying about the “learning environment” or “teacher accountability,” or even saying those words. Granted, in 1980s Des Moines where I grew up, there wasn’t much to complain about. Solid and safe public schools with mostly good teachers and challenge and resources for all kinds of students. There was bullying, drugs, sex and discipline problems to be sure. But you wouldn’t pin that on the school. The world isn’t perfect.

I’ve been loyal to the public school ideal since way back, even choosing to attend a public university when most of my friends went private. Along with travel, I see urban public school classrooms as one of the few reliable places to learn about the world outside of your own cultural bubble. I want Johanna to understand that, as special as she is, she’s not that special. I think she’s learning about her place. Whether she learns much else, I’m unsure.

For the last four years, I’ve been on the sidelines of Jo’s school life. My knowledge of who’s smart and who’s bad (and who’s both) is mostly hearsay. Until this month when I chaperoned her 3rd-grade field trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (after a feel-good criminal background check). It was like time-traveling back to 1983. All the old gang was there: super-shy guy; big loud girl; shady kid looking to bolt; the wisecracker; the inseparable BFFs; the over-eager hand-flailer (my own archetype for a time).

It was a fast outing. The tour guide didn’t attempt to illuminate, only asking the kids, “tell me what you see.” Being challenged to really look and have your personal reactions honored can be a revelation, especially if you don’t see much art. For Johanna, who’s done this museum 150 times, it was pretty forgettable.

I worry that most of her 3rd grade time is like that. Last week was conferences. Her teacher, a 30-year veteran, could tell us nothing specific about our daughter’s progress, strengths or weaknesses. Sarah asked her whether Johanna is getting any extra challenge since she was identified for “talent development” (the new nomenclature for “gifted/talented” is supposed to be inclusive, but it seems vague—more an aspiration than a concrete program). Her teacher told us her “team” was “navigating” the new “standards”; for example they do “pull-outs” on some “sites.” We know they aren’t doing pull-outs at this site. If there are any efforts made to tailor the curriculum to students of different abilities, she couldn’t describe them. It was like we were asking about something she didn’t think was her job, even though it is. We felt embarrassed and dropped it.

The achievement gap between whites and students of color in Minneapolis is notoriously wide. The district superintendent resigned over the issue in December. This week, after the Atlantic heaped praise on our city‘s “economic miracle,” many were quick to note who’s left out. Closing this gap is the right priority, though for all the plans and energy expended, it hasn’t changed. I don’t underestimate the challenge or pretend to know the solution. But in contrast to the rosy mutual enrichment of my own public school education, some days it feels like every child is left behind.

12340HEADS UP. On a rare trip to Minneapolis without his kids, my friend Kirk seemed like a different person, noticing details and cues he usually ignores. We laughed that the difference was just 15°—the angle between a person’s eyes chasing a three-year-old and ones raised to a grown person’s face. This struck me as poignant and a little tragic. Keeping your head down and doing what you think you’re supposed to may prevent everyday shit from derailing. But it’s entirely at odds with finding new experiences and challenging the status quo, our own or the world’s.

My angle of repose may be higher than Kirk’s right now but lower than I’d like it. The conditions of my work—ever-shifting, emergency-prone—keep me mired in the moment (or actively trying to suppress it). But the future looms larger to me lately. Maybe it’s turning 40, or Johanna’s transformation from a little kid to a half-adult who asks less of me each year, freeing me to ask more of myself.

So what else is supposed to happen? My sister’s friend David, who does things and knows things, spoke persuasively of the advantages of employment over of carrying all your own water. No doubt he’s right, but just the thought of wedding myself to a company or a job makes me panicky. My agenda may be muddled, but it’s my own, dammit.

Braver people are going there. Linda X. wants to start a Lao food truck. A lady I know just bought a store in South Minneapolis because it sounded fun. Travis O. is shopping around his pet project to get it funded. My sister is reducing her hours to focus on becoming a yoga teacher, or maybe a professional officiant. Lucas will become the Twin Cities’ next architect-impresario of the Autonomous Dwelling UnitWith the value of Portland real estate through the roof, Travis D. is seeing a retirement endgame in 5 to 10 years (business keeps you busy, but land is forever). Paul has launched a national conference on arts criticism. What are you up to, slacker?

This month Sarah was awarded a grant to develop her artistic practice, recognition of awesome stuff she’s been simmering for the past year—from textiles to teaching artist to community/social engagement. My hopes are pinned on hers and all the others. May their changes change me.

photoTODAY MARKS 40 YEARS since the Big Bang of my personal universe, that slide into self-ness when sand began spilling through an hourglass of unknown size and dominos began cascading in a pattern so intricate and pleasing (so far), I’ll forever pretend to take credit.

Sarah made me an almond-lemon cake with five roses (for my first four decades plus my next) and six candles (not sure). My mother, sister, wife and daughter each recited 10 things they admired about me—small but important observations no one otherwise bothers to make. It could be the best gift I ever got.

I’ve planned a week-long, mostly musical celebration. Sang karaoke Friday at the Vegas lounge (“Electric Avenue,” “Fever”). Seeing Quintron & Miss Pussycat Tuesday at the Turf with Craig, then New Pornographers the next night with Sarah. Thursday, Kev and I are seeing Jem Cohen’s “Instrument” doc about Fugazi at the Sound Unseen film fest. I know what trips my pleasure triggers.

Going around the sun forty times is a show of endurance if nothing else. I seized the excuse to celebrate, spearheading a damp gathering of old bros in the North Woods. Over Labor Day weekend, 13 of us hiked into a forest to be slowly stewed in rain, smoke and spirits (including Malört, a Chicago liquor so rank it involuntarily contorts the face). It was a long, idle, sometimes beerless slog that might have been judged a failure if not for the beautiful people who showed up… just because I asked.

pano1_40in  pano3_40inpano2_40in

Whatever 40 is—a landmark, a tick mark, an end to childish things, a new beginning—I shudder to imagine going it alone. Thanks for coming this far with me, friends. The trip may not always feel worthwhile, but I’m trying.