Archive | January, 2015


Local author hits the “full EBAM”

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66


“Honestly, I think ‘Ordinary Grace’ is the story I was meant to write,” Krueger said during a recent interview at the Como Park Grill, a neighborhood spot where he sometimes does his afternoon writing. (Photo by Jan Willms)



2014 was a a big year for local author William Kent Krueger, the creator of Ojibwe-Irish private investigator Cork O’Connor novels.

“Ordinary Grace,” published in 2013 as a coming-of-age story, earned Krueger an extraordinary four awards, including the top award, the Edgar, from the Mystery Writers of America. The book also garnered the Barry Award, the Anthony Award and the Macavity Award. The four together are known as the “full EBAM.”

Since publishing his first novel, “Iron Lake,” which introduced readers to O’Connor, Krueger has been no stranger to writing awards. But “Ordinary Grace” has a special meaning for him. The story is narrated by Frank Drum, a boy growing up in southwestern Minnesota in the 1960s whose father is a pastor in a small town, and Frank’s remembrance 40 years later of a special summer in his life. The book is not without mystery, but focuses more on the life lessons a 13-year-old boy is faced with during a turbulent time.

“Honestly, I think ‘Ordinary Grace’ is the story I was meant to write,” Krueger said during a recent interview at the Como Park Grill, a neighborhood spot where he sometimes does his afternoon writing. Dressed in a jeans jacket and a baseball cap, he seems unruffled by his literary success and comfortable in his own skin.


“Ordinary Grace,” earned Kent Krueger an extraordinary four awards, including the Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America.

“I am not Frank, but the Drum family really is my family. Frank is a cross of my older brother and myself. The younger Drum brother Jake is more like me, but Frank is who I wanted to be, more rebellious and ready to take risks,” Krueger mused.

He said his father was an English teacher in a small town, and like positions of a banker or a minister, the position was held in a little higher esteem. As a result, his family was scrutinized closely.
Krueger said his mother is very much like the mother character in the book. “She was not at all happy with the situation she found herself in,” he noted.

Krueger makes it a point to find redemption in his characters. He based one of them in “Ordinary Grace” on a crew boss he once had at a cannery. “Sometimes he was the world’s greatest a-hole, and other times he stepped up to the plate,” Krueger said.

He said his books are a way for him to convey his feelings: “‘Ordinary Grace’ is a really profound selection of the things I believe in life.” He said the excerpts on war came out of his own experience with his father and his father’s friends. “War is horrific, sometimes in body and sometimes in spirit.”

As to what “Ordinary Grace” symbolizes, Krueger said he has never considered it a religious book, but a spiritual one.

“I set out from the get-go looking for a story that would allow me to talk more deeply about the spiritual journey I’m on,” he noted. “When I decided to make Nathan Drum a minister, it was a very natural thing that allowed me to do that. Those of us who write fiction are often accused of writing lies, but if that’s true in my case, at the heart of those lies are truths I believe in profoundly and try to reflect in my work. And one of those truths is this—there really are heroes in this world. There are people who stand by their ideals despite the ramifications and all the pressures to abandon those ideals. And these are the people whose courageous words and courageous acts show the rest of us the way. And that’s Nathan.”

“A good story is a journey,” Krueger continued. “At the end of the day, the characters in it ought to be at a different place than before. And the reader ought to feel like he or she has experienced a journey as well.”

For Krueger himself, his journey to becoming repeatedly a New York Times best-selling author got a late start with his first book published in 1998 when he was 48. But the writing started long before that. “I started writing seriously in my mid-twenties,” he said. “Success didn’t come to me at a young age, so I had a good idea who I was long before I became successful as a writer. Writing is just a part of my life; I’m a father, a husband, a member of a church. I stay balanced.”

He still gets up early and writes in area coffee shops, like the Caribou on Larpenteur Ave. or the Underground Music Café on Hamline Ave. N. Before he moved to the Como Park area he lived in Hamline-Midway, and he would write at the St. Clair Broiler.

One thing has changed. He used to always write in longhand, but four or five books ago he started to use his laptop. “I was dreadfully behind deadline,” he explained, “and if you write longhand you have to transcribe it, an extra step. I thought if I wrote directly to the laptop I could meet deadlines, and it worked.”

Krueger said he only writes longhand now if he is having difficulty with a book, just beginning a project or if circumstances keep him away from his laptop.

“I was in Europe for a couple of weeks and didn’t want to bring my laptop, so I wrote longhand. It felt really good going back to the old way. There’s still a lot of value in the magic of that long process.”

As well as achieving his grand slam of awards this year, Krueger has sold a million copies of his books. He has written 16, with his latest one, “Windigo,” published last August. He has just completed touring with that book, another Cork O’Connor mystery.

He said reaching the point of a million sales is something everyone hopes will happen for them, but it is not a very realistic expectation. For him, even if that had never happened, he kept persevering because he loves the writing—the whole process of it. “It’s the love of words and being able to play with the language. And if you’re not under contract, nobody expects anything of you and you can do anything you want to do.”

“Part of what I loved so much about ‘Ordinary Grace’ is that it wasn’t under contract,” Krueger said. “I really didn’t think my publisher would be interested in it because it wasn’t a Cork O’Connor novel, so I could do anything I wanted.”

Krueger has completed the first draft for a companion novel for “Ordinary Grace” called “This Tender Land,” and he is very excited about it. He also has a contract for another Cork O’Connor novel, but he is taking a year and a half break before his next book will be published.

He will step back from touring and just focus on his writing. But even with this extra time, he will most likely be writing every day. ‘

“If I don’t write every day, something feels off,” Krueger stated. “I wrote every day this year while I was on tour, and I made great strides with “This Tender Land.”

He said that not long ago he gave a talk at the Hennepin Methodist Church, and he was asked how his writing affected him spiritually.

“I told them that when I write I feel like I go to a place deeper in myself than my conscious thought, and when I come up from that place I feel peaceful. That sounds like prayer, so I think there is a spiritual aspect to what writers do. Writing certainly is a way I center myself in a day.”

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Jody’s Fresh Picks and Wednesdays @ 1:00

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66


Jody Huber, creator of Jody’s Fresh Picks at the Merriam Park Library. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)


Walk in the doors of the Merriam Park Library (1831 Marshall Ave.) and, opposite the service desk, you’ll usually see a patron or two perusing a small shelf. This shelf is the only one of its kind in the library, a building which, of course, is full of shelves.
The shelf has a catchy name, and it has a curator. The curator is Jody Huber, a local resident and longtime library volunteer who says, “I’m very opinionated about books and movies.”

The shelf, called Jody’s Fresh Picks, contains an assortment of choices from the library’s permanent collection and Huber stocks it with different materials every week. She likes to stroll through the stacks grabbing books and films that catch her eye.

Huber keeps a low-profile for someone in such a position of influence. Many regulars at the library, including those who never miss what’s on her shelf, wouldn’t recognize Huber by sight. But her choices are recognizable and consistently engaging. She steers away from obvious book titles and block buster movies, figuring people can find their way to those easily enough. By her own admission, she prefers materials that are “quirky, odd and open-ended.”


Jody’s Fresh Picks at Merriam Park Library. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Merriam Park is one of 12 branch libraries in the St. Paul Public Library System. Huber’s official volunteer day is Wednesday, and she visits the library at least twice a week on other days. Huber has loved being in libraries since she was a child growing up in Duluth, smitten by the Betsy Tacy books.

“Reading was my first love,” Huber said, “but in addition to the books, I just loved the physical space of my neighborhood library, the peace and the quiet.”

Huber is a free-lance advertising writer by day and an avid short story reader by night. Her current favorite authors are:
—William Trevor, an Irishman sometimes referred to as “the hibernating bookworm’s best friend.” His recently published volume of selected short stories is one of Huber’s favorites;
—Yoko Ogawa, a short story writer and novelist from Japan, is the author of “The Housekeeper and the Professor,” and “The Diving Pool;” and
—Chloe Aridjis, a Mexican-American poet/author well-steeped in international culture and language. “Book of Clouds,” and “Asunder” both brought her acclaim.

In addition to these three writers, Huber has a penchant for authors named Alice: Alice Munro, Alice Adams, Alice Elliot Dark and Alice McDermott to name a few.

Where does an influential viewer of movies such as Huber go to see the latest films? “I don’t go to theaters anymore,” Huber laments. “I never thought I would give up on the dark room and the big screen but as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate my own small screen with pause and playback features.”

From the comfort of her living room, Huber recommends the following documentaries:

— Afghan Star is Afghanistan’s answer to American Idol and an honest appraisal of the political situation there (as of a few years ago);
— Inheritance is a heart-wrenching look at two women survivors of opposite WW II experiences, one the daughter of a concentration camp commandant and one a Jew; and
—The Hobart Shakespeareans, an inspiring documentary about theater, language and an inner-city Los Angeles grade school.
Janet Van Tassel, library specialist at the Merriam Park Library noted that “Jody has been a volunteer with us for 5+ years, contributing 240 hours in 2014 alone. Her recommendation shelf is so popular, that many people pass by the 2,500 or so films on our shelves and make their selections only from her ‘picks.’ We are so fortunate to have Jody with us. She is an invaluable help to both the library staff and patrons.”


Mark Kile, branch manager of the Hamline Midway Library, and co-creator of the Wednesdays @ 1:00 series. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

What motivates Huber to do what she does? “I just love knowing that there are kindred spirits out there,” she said. “We’re a little group of like-minded souls, even if we don’t know each other.”

In this world of myriad and sometimes overwhelming choices, Merriam Park Library patrons are lucky to have Jody’s Fresh Picks up on the shelf. If you’d like to hear Jody Huber in action, she’ll be showing films and leading discussions in the Wednesdays @ 1:00 series at the Hamline Midway Library on Jan. 28, Feb. 25, Mar. 25, and Apr. 29.

Located at 1558 Minnehaha Ave., Hamline Midway Library is another gem in the public library system. Branch manager Mark Kile will continue hosting the weekly Wednesdays @ 1:00 series there this winter that is free and open to the public.

Kicking off the series on Jan. 14 will be William Kent Krueger, local author-extraordinaire talking about the importance of books in his life and in the lives of us all. The series will continue through the end of April, with varied speakers and presentations to spark the imagination of all ages. The program was co-created with Hamline Midway Elders’ director Tom Fitzpatrick as an informal learning opportunity. It runs from 1-3pm each week with a break for tea—in real china cups—and cookies. No reservations are required.

According to Kile, Wednesdays @ 1:00 serves as an important outreach to the community. Since self-checkout of library materials was instituted in 2006, it has become harder for library staff and patrons to engage. There simply are fewer conversations. But Kile says, “Almost everyone has an ‘itch’ about something, a question they want answered. If they know what their ‘itch’ is, my job is to help them scratch it. If they don’t know, then my job is to make them curious about what it might be.”

Stop in and talk with Kile if you have a skill or interest you might like to share as a presenter. The winter series is already scheduled, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the fall. Past Wednesdays @ 1:00 have included talks on crime prevention, wildflower identification, tai chi and the history of chocolate.

Kile concluded, “This is Hamline Midway Library’s response to the interests and the talents that exist in our neighborhood. This is about being in relationship with one another – and welcoming everybody in.”

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Development Roundup

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66



Old stadium site cleanup could cost $5 million

Midway Stadium has hosted its last ball game and is ready for transformation, with additional assistance from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). DEED announced Dec. 23 that it is awarding $1.25 million to clean up the site.

The grant was part of $4.16 million in grants awarded. The grant for the former stadium will be used to help cover pollution remediation costs that have been estimated at $5 million.

The St. Paul Port Authority and united Properties will jointly own the property and will develop it with a $15 million light industrial building. The building will have four to five tenants and could bring as many as 300 jobs to the area. It will increase the property tax base by more than $814,000.

If everything goes as planned the project will be completed in fall 2016.

Part of the 12.9 acre site was once a dump for the Minnesota State Fair. It’s in an area with a history of industrial and commercial use. The property was acquired for redeveloped in a land swap with the city. A new ballpark will open in Lowertown in the spring.

Mini-golf locating in Midway late 2015

Mini-golf is coming to the West Midway as Can Can Wonderland prepares to open an artists’-designed course in part of the former American Can Company complex (on Prior Ave. N. at W. Chelton Ave.). Can Can Wonderland was formerly known as Blue Ox Mini Golf and had eyed a site at the former Schmidt brewery before relocating to Midway.

A call for artists has gone out and the course will open later this year. The business is one of the first in the state to incorporate as a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). As a PBC, Can Can Wonderland will have a legally binding social purpose (to be an economic engine for the arts) in addition to its general business purpose.

The business partners were involved in artist’s mini-golf courses at Walker Art Center and at installations at Minneapolis’ Soap Factory.

Green Line still a focus of PED

Redevelopment along Green Line light rail will continue to be a focus for the city in 2015, according to St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED) Director Jonathon Sage-Martinson. He reviewed upcoming projects this fall as the St. Paul City council prepared its 2015 city budget.

A number of projects are on the docket for the city in 2015. These include large redevelopment projects that are already underway, including the work on the Hamline Station, Prior Crossing and Model Cities Brownstone/Central Exchange housing and mixed-use projects along the Green Line.

Although Green Line light rail has been up and running for six months, Sage-Martinson said a number of PED and HRA (Housing and Redevelopment Authority) initiatives are still ongoing. Along with working with developers, the city will lead parks and open space planning along the line rail line and will complete the parking program.

2015 will also be the final year for the “Ready for Rail” program, which helped businesses make investments to get through two years of rail construction and prepare for new customers.

Several key studies will continue into 2015, said Sage-Martinson, including Complete Streets policies, work along neighborhood commercial corridors, the streetcar network study, and action on the recently completed West Midway Industrial Study.

Old library building to be redeveloped

City officials are putting out the “sold” signs as the former Lexington Branch Library building (1080 University Ave.) was sold by the city to its own Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) for $334,288 in December. Its site will be redeveloped, possibly as part of a larger project at the southeast corner of University and Lexington Pkwy.

The building was originally built in 1940 as the Centre Theater, opening with the Bing Crosby movie “If I had My Way.” It operated as a movie theater until 1965. It was purchased by the city and then converted for use as a library. The library operated there until 2006, when it was replaced by the Rondo Community Outreach Library at University and Dale St.
After the library moved out, the building housed many land use and community planning meetings for the Green Line light rail, and was the office for the District Councils Collaborative, a group that works on rail-related issues. The property has been vacant for more than a year.

Proceeds from the sale of the building will be used to purchase needed library materials and resources for the Highland and Sun Ray branch libraries that have recently undergone major renovation, said Library Director Kit Hadley.

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Como Park rock cellist launches new series of shows at Underground Cafe

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66


“I was 16, and that was the first time I had improvised, and it changed my world. It made me want to learn more, … compose music, … learn all different styles of music – in that one moment,” said Como resident Aaron Kerr.



If you live in the Como Park neighborhood, and, in particular, if your children go to Chelsea Heights School, then you have likely seen Aaron Kerr around. Riding his bike with a pedi-cab attachment, Kerr, by day, is a stay-at-home dad who hauls his youngest kids around in the pedi-cab. But at night, Kerr is a rock cellist.

Rock cello. Two words that seemingly do not work as a pair; that is, until you meet Kerr, who has devoted almost his entire life to playing cello and, in the last two decades, refining his most important work of composing and performing music that changes what for many is a preconceived notion of the cello’s genre.

“Rock cello is a slowly expanding style of playing,” said Kerr. “You play differently, you bow differently, you use different sets of notes. It’s not classical. It uses a simpler set of notes, but they have to be composed and played the right way in order to be effective. And it can be very, very powerful.”

Varied experience

Kerr started playing cello at age 10, and when he was a teenager, he experienced a seminal moment in his music career. “I was already playing in a rock band, but I hadn’t experienced jazz. My brother had learned to play jazz when he was an exchange student in Germany, and he came back and said, ‘We’re going to learn how play “All Blues” by Miles Davis.’ I was 16, and that was the first time I had improvised, and it changed my world. It made me want to learn more, it made me want to compose music, it made me want to learn all different styles of music – in that one moment.”

Kerr studied cello and composition at Loyola University of New Orleans. After college, Kerr relocated to the Twin Cities, where his girlfriend – now wife – found work. Kerr eventually landed a job with Half Price Books, which he credits for being a “nesting ground for artists,” and whenever he could – in between working and raising a family – Kerr “created a life that feeds my soul.” He composed music, he taught cello, he wrote a cello curriculum, he has made numerous recordings, and he has traveled the country performing his unique brand of rock cello.

“I have done everything I want to do except make more recordings and play to a wider audience,” said Kerr. “What I would really like is for everyone to get off their computers and go listen to some live music. That would make me feel like I accomplished something.”

Upcoming shows

Kerr will be providing a chance for people to hear his music through a series of shows on the last Saturday of every month at the Underground Music Cafe, 1579 Hamline Ave. N. At the January show, Kerr will perform solo; in February he will perform with Kerr Kerr’s Dissonant Creatures, followed by performances with the Modern Spark Trio in March and Heavy Pedal Cello in April.
All shows begin at 7pm. For more information or to get tickets for music and a prepaid dinner, go to the Underground Music Café website at undergroundmusiccafe.com. Tickets for the shows will also be available at the door.

For more information about Aaron, visit www.aaronkerr.com.

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A Dream of a Theater

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66


Zaraawar Mistry (pronounced za-RA-wa, also goes by “Z”) and Leslye Orr, co-founders of Dreamland Arts. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)




A family enjoying a Saturday morning performance of children’s stories from India. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Dreamland Arts is a 40-seat performance and teaching space at 677 Hamline Ave. N. It is right at home in this residential part of Hamline-Midway, blending seamlessly into the neighborhood. Attached to the small brick theater by underground passage is the home of Zaraawar Mistry, Leslye Orr and their son Sam.

The theater is the longtime vision of Mistry and Orr and it would seem that they have made their dream of “providing high quality arts programming in an intimate, accessible, community-friendly environment,” come true.

What could you hope to see and hear at Dreamland Arts? A sampling of past events includes: children’s stories from India; concerts the likes of The Enchanted Guitar Forest and Music from Around the World on traditional instruments; St. Paul Almanac Lit Fest; seasonal stuffed animal shows; and countless plays, readings and more.

The husband and wife team of Mistry and Orr goes back to 1991, when they met at the Children’s Theater Company (CTC). Orr was in a two year internship program there while attending theater classes at the U of M, and Mistry was an actor in the company.

Orr, who is legally blind since birth, had moved to Minneapolis from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and eventually worked for CTC for ten years as an actor, voice teacher and coach.

“Over time, I couldn’t help noticing that I was the only actor with a disability, and that audience members with disabilities were few and far between,” she said. She began to wonder about “the possibilities of disabilities”, and set in motion the early formation of her dream of welcoming all actors to the stage and all persons to the performance.


Mistry has a dynamic, physical style of storytelling. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Early on in her career she was cast as Annie Sullivan, the legally blind teacher of Helen Keller, in the Arkansas Children’s Theater production of “The Miracle Worker.” She was the first legally blind person to play that role anywhere, and the experience was vitally important to her development as an actor.

Orr created “Hand in Hand,” the story of what happened to Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller after “The Miracle Worker,” based on letters they exchanged and lectures they delivered. The play is part performance and part workshop, in which audience members close their eyes and learn to “see” using their other senses. Orr has performed it off and on since 1982 in the US, and internationally in Israel, Latvia and Lithuania since 2012 as a representative of the US State Department. She has become recognized as an “ambassador of inclusion.”

Mistry arrived in Minneapolis from India via Vermont, where he graduated from Bennington College, and California, where he earned his MFA at UC San Diego in theater. In addition to the work he did at CTC, Mistry has acted at MU Performing Arts, Mixed Blood and the Guthrie.

As the years went by, he became increasingly aware of his desire to work independently, and of his dream to mentor other actors in producing their own solo shows. To date, he has been a mentor to 15 artists from around the world and has drawn deep satisfaction from their successes. His own solo works, all of which are informed by his love of India, have been well-received by audiences of children and adults alike.

When Mistry and Orr purchased the Hamline Ave. property in 2005 that became their home and theater, it was “pretty dumpy,” but they agreed that the basic set-up was just what they’d been looking for. The couple decided not to operate Dreamland Arts as a non-profit but as something better suited to their independent personalities, more like a Mom and Pop business. That way, they’d have the freedom to produce the shows and offer the classes they really cared about. After a year of hard work, the theater opened in September 2006 with a solo production of Orr’s and they’ve just kept rolling since.

In their roles as married business and theater partners, Mistry and Orr identify themselves as either super-hero or side-kick.
Sometimes Mistry is the super-hero and sometimes Orr is—who the boss is depends on whose show it is. “We’ve learned,” Mistry said, “that ensemble creation is not for us.”


Orr says, “Blindness was one of the best things that happened to me. Through it I’ve learned to use the gift of my imagination.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

As they continue pursuing their dreams independently and together, the work coming out of Dreamland Arts keeps engaging audiences from the neighborhood and beyond.

“If I could pick only one thing that would outlast me,” Orr said, “it would be the book I wrote and illustrated called ‘The People on the Corner’.” The premise of the book is that “people are people first, not disabilities first.”
“Everybody’s so scared about having a disability, but if you have one, you just need to find your own way of communicating,” Orr said.

Mistry and Orr are delighted to have landed in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood. To hear them talk, it was good when they got there eight years ago and it’s only gotten better. Because Orr can’t drive, being able to walk to the library, the grocery store and now the light rail are all big plusses. Most importantly, they live and work in a neighborhood that values the performing arts and comes out to support it.

Google the goings-on at www.dreamlandarts.com or call 651-645-5506 to inquire about booking “Hand in Hand” for your school, work or community group. The theater is available for rental at reasonable rates, tickets to performances are affordably priced, and parking on Hamline Ave. is free.

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Como welcomes new baby giraffe to its ranks

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66

IOC01_15GiraffeComo Zoo welcomed a new baby giraffe named “Skye” to its herd. Coming in to the world at 6 feet tall and weighing 145 pounds, the baby was introduced to the public in December.

The new baby girl, born Nov. 25, is the fifth calf born to mom, Daisy, and the 18th giraffe birth at Como in the last 20 years. Como’s current herd consists of Clover, Daisy, Skeeter (father) and Skye. The honor of naming the new giraffe was given to a Como Friends supporter chosen at random from among the hundreds of donors who made a gift of $55 or more on Give to the Max Day in November.

The giraffe is the tallest of all land-living animal species. They can be as tall as 18 feet tall and have a prehensile (used for grasping) tongue as long as 18 inches. During the first two years of a giraffe’s life, it doubles in height, often standing over 12-feet tall. Giraffe gestation lasts between 14 and 15 months, after which a single calf is born. Like human fingerprints, the markings or spots of a giraffe’s coat are unique to each individual. Reticulated giraffes are native to the dry savannahs and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa.

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Open house on Snelling Ave. reconstruction project

Open house on Snelling Ave. reconstruction project

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66

IOC11_14_ConstructionArea residents, business owners and motorists are invited to attend an open house to learn about the resurfacing, bridge deck replacement and sidewalk repairs on Highway 51/Snelling Ave. between Selby Ave. and Pierce Butler Rt. Open house attendees will be able to learn the details of the project, view project layouts and ask questions of project staff.

The open house will be held Mon., Jan. 26 from 4-6:30pm at Hamline University’s Anderson Center, 774 Snelling Ave. N., Room 112.

To sign up for the project’s email updates or for more information, visit the project’s website at mndot.gov/metro/projects/snellingfalconheights.

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Local teenager performs in Chile

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66

IOC01_15ViolinistThirteen-year old violinist Katia Tesarczyk, a Midway-Como resident, recently returned from Santiago, Chile where she performed in a three-generation recital with her mom, Minnesota pianist Claudia Chen, and her grandmother, pianist Patricia Parraguez Chen of Chile. Their three-generation recital included works by Dvorak, Tchaikowsky, Bruch, Ries, Schubert, Guastavino, Chopin, and Beethoven.

Tesarczyk, an eighth grader at MTS Minnesota Connections Academy, has been studying the violin since she was four-and-a-half years old. She is a student of Professor Sally O’Reilly (University of Minnesota). Tesarczyk has been a scholarship winner of the Schubert Club and Mary West Competitions. This month, Tesarczyk will represent Minnesota in the Junior Strings Division of the MTNA West Central Division Competition, which includes performers from eight states.

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Chinese Dance Theater performs

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66

IOC01_15ChineseTheaterChinese Dance Theater (CDT) presents “Dances in Chinese Opera” on Sat., Jan. 31at 7pm, and Sun., Feb. 1, at 2pm. Performances will be held at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, on the campus of St. Catherine University, 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul.

Vibrant costumes, energetic agile movement and professional staging are hallmarks of CAAM Chinese Dance Theater’s Annual Production and School Show. Intended to celebrate the Chinese New Year season CAAM CDT’s 2015 show features dances that are inspired by Chinese legends, bazi gong and classical Chinese dance still enthusiastically performed today. Looking behind the curtain of the multifaceted world of Chinese opera, CAAM CDT will explore its underlying origins in movement and stories with a dazzling display of sleeves, swords, spears and daggers interwoven into a fantastical presentation CDT is known for.

Chinese Dance Theater has built a reputation based on professional choreography and well executed programs.  CDT is also recognized for its inclusive work in the broader community with an extensive outreach in schools and in the community.
Tickets of $15 (preshow) are available online at www.caamcdt.org, or 615-774-0806, or $20 at the door. A special shorter 45-minute matinee performance—ideal for school and group field trips—is available on Tue., Feb. 3 at 9:45am and 11:45 am. Tickets for the shorter performance are $7.

This production is supported by Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Grant, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Artistic Activity Grant a grant from the Asian Pacific Endowment of the St. Paul Foundation and generous donations and countless hours of volunteers from the CAAM Chinese Dance Theater community.

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Bike plan pedals toward completion

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66


Those who bike to commute, to exercise or for pleasure are watching as the St. Paul Bicycle Plan pedals toward a St. Paul Planning Commission vote in early 2015. That means a final public hearing and a chance to weigh in before the City Council could vote, possibly as soon as February.

But it’s those who don’t bike who may want to take heed. Rueben Collins, St. Paul’s sustainable transportation planner, notes that one focus of the plan is to get more people on bikes. That means addressing issues ranging from a lack of connecting routes to perceptions of safety.

A draft was released in early 2014 and drew almost 400 responses. It would add about 214 miles of bikeways over the next decade, adding to the 114 miles currently in place. Its two largest projects are completion of the citywide 27-mile Grand Round route which includes streets around Como Park and through area neighbors down to Desnoyer Park, and an ambitious, $18 million, 1.7 mile downtown bike loop.

“This is a pretty bold vision of bicycling in St. Paul,” said Collins. He described it as a long-term vision, with a number of projects implemented over time as streets are rebuilt.

The plan enjoys support of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, St. Paul Area Building Owners and Managers, the St. Paul and Ramsey County Friends of the Parks and Trails, and several district councils and bicycle advocacy groups including Women on Bikes and the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition.

One argument business groups are making for the plan is that having a better bike network in place will help businesses attract younger workers who commute by bike. But business leaders also want adequate notice and discussion of bike plans on commercial streets, to avoid the parking and access change complaints raised by Snelling businesses before the Charles Ave. Bikeway was approved.

Midway area residents have weighed in in force on the plan, making comments online and joining a standing-room only crowd at a December Planning Commission public hearing. Many speakers said the plan needs to move much more quickly, asking for better connections between the existing bike routes. They described giving up one or all of their family motor vehicles to use bikes to get around. Several people also urged city officials to consider protected bike lanes, with barriers between bicyclists and motor vehicles.

Nicole Jones, whose family lives in Lowertown, said her family sold its only vehicle and uses bikes, public transit and walking to get to her business, a Midway martial arts studio, and other destinations. She was among those urging more protected lanes. “We need physical barriers, not painted lines, between bicyclists and vehicles,” she said.

Another oft-heard request is the need for more north-south bike connections. One of the speakers was Hamline-Midway resident and bike shop owner Benita Warns. She has worked on plans including the Prior and Pascal connections, as well as a recently shelved effort to extend the Lexington Pkwy. off-street trail and a long-term proposal to link Ayd Mill Rd. to area streets. Both of those projects could be in the mix when the city allocates capital improvement dollars this year.

In area neighborhoods, there are already some east-west routes including Marshall, Charles and Minnehaha avenues, and Pierce Butler Rte. Como Ave. is a well-used route, as are the sections of the Grand Round near Como Lake. Existing area north-south routes include Raymond, Prior and Pascal avenues, Griggs St. and Lexington Pkwy. But not all of these routes connect directly to other routes, especially when cyclists travel north and south.

The plan would add north-south routes on Cleveland, Fairview, Hamline, Grotto and Western avenues, and Aldine, Arona, Chatsworth and MacKubin streets. It would also address the longstanding request to have bike improvements of some kind on parts of Snelling. The plan also calls for extended or new bike improvements on Larpenteur, Hoyt, and Arlington avenues, and Front St./Energy Park Dr. It would also extend a number of existing routes.

One key connection bicyclists have clamored for is included in the plan, along Ayd Mill Rd. into the West Midway to link with Prior Ave.

To see if your street or route are included in the plan, go to http://www.stpaul.gov/bikeplan.

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