Saturday, May 27, 2017

Local Arts Seen: Cutting Edge and Great Lakes Academy Student/Instructor Exhibition

Great Lakes Academy, an invitation to splendor.
I was able to briefly drop in on two art openings last night. I primarily wanted to grab a few photos so I might encourage others to attend these shows if able.

The Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art had its first annual Student/Instructor Open House and Exhibition. It's a full weekend affair, as in Friday through Sunday. We also dropped in on Ellen Sandbeck's The Cutting Edge at the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center. You can read details about both of these art exhibits in yesterday's post.

The purpose of today's blog post is simply to encourage you to go check out these events. We also have a Duluth Dylan Fest event at Karpeles Manuscript Museum from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m., Phil Fitzpatrick's presentation "Roots & Echoes: Images and Influences in Dylan's North Country. Karpeles is hosting Bill Pagel's Dylan-themed archives, "Einstein Disguised As Robin Hood" till the end of June, but you can get a double scoop of good stuff if you stop this afternoon. Karpeles is directly across the street from St. Luke's Hospital emergency room entrance on First Street.

Ellen Sandbeck's work has become increasingly complex, and her current themes are attention-getting. Check it out if you are able.

Her Buddha-A-Day project should have been preserved in a book.
Sampat Devi Pal, founder of the Pink Gang. "We, we giths rapists with sticks.
If we find the culprit, we thrash him black and blue so he dare not attempt
wrong toany girl or woman again."
The Cutting Edge is can be viewed at the former YWCA at 202 West Second Street. GLA of Fine Art is on the 800 block of Third Street on the West side of Mesabi. This show is open from 1 to 8 Saturday and 1 to 5 tomorrow.

Meantime, the sun is out. Seize the day.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Local Arts Scene: Ellen Sandbeck On the Cutting Edge, Lake Superior Academy of Art Exhibition and More Duluth Dylan Fest

I hope you've had a rewarding week. If you've been attending our Duluth Dylan Fest events I am certain you have. As we enter the weekend there are some art events you may wish to be aware of. 


Brock Larson, oil on canvas.
Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art invites you to attend our first Annual Student/Instructor Exhibition. We will be showcasing our students first year curriculum and also lead you through what an atelier style of classical art training looks like. We will have many examples of their work as well as that of our instructors (Jeffrey T. Larson and Brock Larson) on display here at the Academy. We are also excited to be able to show the progress with the renovation that has been made on our building (the old St. Peter's Church)
May 26th, 5pm - 9pm
May 27th, 1pm - 8pm
May 28th, 1pm - 5pm

Be sure to read Christa Lawler's story from yesterday's DNT, Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art wraps year one of operation with student-instructors exhibition.


Another great event at the AICHO's Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center is opening tonight. Here's the press announcement I received, but I will preface by saying her work is exceptional in its detail and exquisite vividness. Needless to say, she can also pack a punch.

Papercut artist Ellen Sandbeck will be exhibiting her latest, politically-charged body of work in the newly renamed Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center at Gimaajii Mino Bimaadizimin, alongside 3 other completed series of work. The exhibit will open with a reception on Friday, May 26 from 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The exhibit itself will be on display through June 7th. Music will be performed by Mina Kaiser and refreshments will be served.

On top of her newest body of work that features imagery exploring the strength of women in modern social movements, Sandbeck’s exhibit will also include her series Valentines for Grownups, pretty papercut patterns made up of animals mating (insects, reptiles, ocean invertebrates, etc.). The second included body of work will be her Odd Duck cards, illustrations paired with limericks by Mina Kaiser, which are expressions of her experience in transitioning from male to female; they are meant to help encourage/validate people who are going through experiences that are generally not covered by Hallmark Cards.

The final series included in the exhibit will be a selection of images from her A Buddha A Day project, executed over the course of a year, during which Sandbeck did 365 papercuts of Gautama Buddha. Proceeds from the sale of the Buddha art will go directly to a charity of the buyer’s choice at the event.

Ellen Sandbeck has written and illustrated four books about non-toxic housekeeping and gardening, all published by major New York publishers. She has written, illustrated, and self-published a book of non-toxic gardening and housekeeping, and a book about vermicomposting.


Australia's Susan Laing, a week long visitor to the Northland for Dylan Fest this year, has observed that our Northland's influence on Dylan's life and music is most apparent and quite striking. We almost take our region's features for granted, much like the proverbial inability to see the forest for the trees. This reality has become repeatedly apparent in various ways, most especially during the panel discussion Wednesday at our Poets of the Northland event.

One of the poets who would have shared with us Wednesday would have been the former teacher Phil Fitzpatrick, except that he was at Harvard making a presentation there to former classmates at a 50th anniversary class reunion, a presentation that "exceeded fondest hopes." Tomorrow's presentation will include slides and music and is a family-friendly event.

Karpeles Manuscript Museum
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

If you've never been to Karpeles, this presentation would be a great excuse to visit. 
There is a fabulous exhibit of Dylan originals on display.

* * * *

Tonight at Clyde Iron Works the Duluth Dylan Fesr continues with the annual Singer/Songwriter Contest. This event begins at 7:00 p.m. with four local celebrity judges and singer-songwriters from as far away as Chicago. Each performer will share a favorite Dylan song and then a composition of their own. For many people this is a highlight of the week.

EdNote: It's not too late to check out the Dylan-themed art at the Zeitgeist Atrium. That show will come down this weekend.

* * * *

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Blood on the Tracks Express Preview & Poets of the Northland Overview

Typical scene in the electric car... youth and energy.
Duluth Dylan Fest has been picking up steam, building toward a crescendo that includes tonight's first peak, the annual Blood on the Tracks Express featuring a host of acoustic and electric music acts including Red Mountain, Rich Mattson & The Northstars, Gaelynn Lea & Al Church, Erik Berry & Ryan Young of Trampled By Turtles, and the Freewheelers, plus Kyle Ollah in the Million Dollar Bash car which will include finger foods by Chef Jonathan Berthel in this historic dining car VIP experience.

In short, it's been a historically memorable event. You can buy tickets and read more about the musicians here.

* * * *

Last night the Poets of the Northland was a special time that went too fast as far as I was concerned. Five poets laureate and another seven shared their thoughts about Bob Dylan, and their own poetry assembled for the occasion. The event took place in the newly renovated Spirit of the North Theater upstairs in the Fitger's Complex. Andrew Lipke was strumming tunes on his Fender-amped Gibson guitar as the crowd slowly sauntered in, many of them nibbling on Valentini's Bob Dylan chocolate mocha birthday cake. At 6:30 Zane Bail of the Duluth Dylan Fest team introduced Karen Sunderman of The Playlist, who served as our moderator for the evening.

Jim Johnson, painting word pictures about the Northland.
MC Karen Sunderman in the background.
The featured poets were all quite good, so much so that the time simply disappeared with a blink. Ellie Schoenfeld, our current Duluth Poet Laureate, always entertaining and thought-poking, read several poems including "The Rain Poem" from her book The Dark Honey, which I dip into now and then. Jim Johnson next took the stage, sharing two short poems and a long poem, including a vivid "Frozen Lake In April." He prefaced this by noting that not too many years ago his lake still had ice on it on May 25. Sheila Packa, who has lived in Hibbing, began by affirming Dylan's influence and that he is a worthy recipient of the Nobel Prize. Her poem "Keg Party" painted a picture of working-class people in small town America with "nothing to lose but our chains." The expression "Around the Horn" -- title of her next poem -- was an Iron Range expression used to describe a rural road trip accompanied by a 12-pack. Packa's poems are full of phrases that carry you places. She introduced her poem "Time When" by noting that "Dylan said speak out against the darkness."

Deb Cooper shared how deeply she was touched by Dylan's lyrics. She read a passage from Chimes of Freedom bfore sharing her own work which included "The Poetry Reading" and "Deliverance" and "Van Gogh's Starry Night Seen Through the Window of His Asylum Cell." Maybe the poem was titled "Blue Window" and that log title was an intro remark. Either way, an insight was conveyed.

Tbe Basement Tapes Band served up the afterparty entertainment.
The last of the featured speakers was Max Garland, a professor at UW-Eau Clair who grew up in Western Kentucky and served as former Wisconsin poet laureate. His first poem featured an uncle of his who was a Pentecostal minister. His other poems included "Green Day", "Hold On Me", an amusing "The Best Things Are the Most Expensive" and a final one for the child in the audience.

The poetry was evocative, and the audience responsive. A panel discussion followed with Karen Sunderman initiating, then questions from the audience. Sheila Packa, in response to one question, affirmed that Dylan is "very much of the soil of Northern Minnesota." Like a Minnesota working man, Dylan was himself on the road, too busy working to go get that award initially. "Isn't that just like an Iron Range man?" she said.

Max Garland noted that the division between poetry and music is a relatively new phenomenon. Dylan brought the two forms together, taking simple form and bringing the surreal and abstract to bear upon it.

One question pertained to the manner in which rhyme may have been affirmed by the Nobel committee in choosing Dylan. Sheila Packa noted that for a while rhyme was considered old-fashioned, but it's coming back.

The local poets were equally fluent and stimulating.... but if I don't get this published I will miss the train!

Amy Lynn, one of our local poets whose work I admire, was unable to read, so one of her poems was shared by another reader. Here's a poem she'd also intended to present, and since it applies so well to this evening's event, it has to be shared here.

Blood on the Tracks

when I opened the morning door
to take the rotting garbage out
a small bird lay on the bricks
of the walkway, one eye staring up at me

barely fledgling, it was unclear
if he had hit the big window above
or had a run-in with the cat
but he was still breathing, begging
me to grant him mercy

startled, I stepped back inside
and, like a coward, waited
for death to claim him


in winter here, when it snows
the big machines scrape their metal
blades over the roads

it’s an awful sound, in a world
where even dying things make
a cruel kind of music

and in this land, already ravaged
by years of digging through the earth for ore
I cannot bear to watch the road grader
push piles of diesel-soaked snow
onto the sidewalks


but before the machines came,
when the lake was angry, and dark,
and the idiot wind howled,
and from miles away
my lover reached out to tell me
he was restless and unsettled –

the young sparrow perched
high in some weathered tree,
tucked his head into his wing,
and let the cold snow settle on his feathers,

* * * *

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

More from Duluth Dylan Fest: Bob's Birthday, Poets of the Northland and The Basement Tapes Band

Long Journey Home, Tim Beaulier
"We live here in the present time. We get up and have to deal with today. Yesterday's gone, tomorrow's not promised. So this is all we have really."
Bob Dylan, 1986 press conference, Sydney Australia

Today is hump day for most workers, defined by the Urban Dictionary as "the absolute best day of the week, the day of maximum hope that maybe, you might make it out of this week alive."

Today is also Bob Dylan's birthday, and if you've been attending all the events here at Duluth Dylan Fest this week, then you may be happy to know that today we're half-way through, and if you make it through today then there is hope that you will also make it through this week alive.

Today's events include:

3:00-4:00 p.m. Music and birthday cake at the duplex a young Robert Zimmerman called home till he was six years old and the family moved to Hibbing. 519 Fifth Avenue East, a block and a half above Positively Fourth Street.

6:00-8:30 p.m. Poets of the North Country, at the Spirit of the North Theater in the Fitger's Complex. Five poets laureate from Duluth and Wisconsin, plus additional local talent.

9:00-11:00 p.m. The Basement Tapes Band, at The Rex, downstairs at the Fitger's Complex. Tribute to Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes recordings with an all star line-up including Marc Gartman, Teague Alexy, Sarah Krueger, Tyler Dubla, Lee Martin, and Veikko Lepisto. Advance tickets are on sale at Eventbrite -- $7 plus fees. $10 cover charge at door.

* * * *

Someone sent me a link to a YouTube video featuring Bob Dylan at a press conference in Sydney, Australia in 1986. There are a number of insightful remarks. At one point he's asked if he sees his fans as "Christian fans" and "non-Christian fans" (this was about three years after his "Gospel period") to which he replies that they are all just people.

What's interesting is that this video clip was posted four years ago, in 2013, on Bob's Birthday.

Watch the press conference here:

* * * * 
See full schedule of events at

Here's a birthday tip that I give everyone on their birthdays:
The secret to long life is to keep having more birthdays.
Happy #76, Bob
And congrats on that Nobel Prize!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Local Arts Scene Intersects With Dylan Fest To Produce Rewarding Event @ Zeitgeist

Daniel Botkn's Self-Portrait
in a Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
The highlight of the evening for me came when John Bushey, host of the KUMD radio program Highway 61 Revisited, came over to me and asked, "Who are all these people? I've never seen so many of them before." "These people" were our local artists and the many Twin Ports fans of the visual arts who came out to enjoy this Dylan-themed art show in the Atrium at Zeitgeist. It was gratifying to feel the vibe generated.

We were entertained by "The Group That's Not A Group" -- Tom O'Keefe & Friends -- with Scott Junkert on keyboards, Tom Franczyk on guitar and harmonica, and Daryl Yankee, percussion, Dylan-themed art all around.

The artists represented included Kristi Abbott (Australia), Moira Villiard, Daniel Botkin (Chicago), Mary Rauschenfels, Adam Swanson, Tim Beaulier, Becky Perfetti and myself. The work will be up all week, so if you were unable to attend last night there's plenty of time to slide by if you're downtown or you work downtown and wish to check it out while grabbing a bite at the Zeitgeist Cafe (recommended).

Patty Hallbeck and Zane Bail manned the souvenir table.
Dylan Fest pins, T-shirts and art will be available for purchase
at select Duluth Dylan Fest events. 

Tom O'Keefe & Friends provided ambiance.

* * * * 
Local news stations WDIO and Fox21 visited last night and covered the event.

* * * *
Tonight, Duluth Dylan Fest continues with music at Sir Ben's. Will you join us? Meet friends and make new ones while enjoying an evening of music and making memories. 

Find the full schedule of events  for the week at

See you on the scene.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Jeremiad: A Triptych, by Phil Fitzpatrick and a Heads Up About Wednesday's Dylan Fest Poetry Event

Phil Fitzpatrick @ Homegrown
Last night's Dylan Trivia Contest at Carmody's included the following somewhat challenging question:

1. What local poet first saw Dylan live while he was attending Harvard in the 1960s?
a. Barton Sutter
b. Stephen Burt
c. Phil Fitzpatrick
d. Louis Jenkins

I'll concede that it was unfair for out-of-towners who didn't know our local poets, but my purpose in asking the question was to set up a couple events for this week's Dylan Fest in Duluth. They are the Poets of the North Country on May 24, Dylan's birthday, and Poet/Dylanologist Phil Fitzpatrick's presentation at Karpeles on Saturday from 3-4 p.m.

Sheila Packa, former Duluth Poet Laureate
Wednesday's Poets of the Northland is a free event from 6:00 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. at the Spirit of the North Theater upstairs at Fitger's, to be followed by the Basement Tapes Band at the Rex downstairs afterwards. The first half hour will be a reception that includes birthday cake, beer from Carmody's and music by Andrew Lipke. The event itself will be hosted by Karen Sunderman of The PlayList. We again have a great cast of poets reading including Duluth Poet Laureate Ellie Schoenfeld, past Poets Laureate Jim Johnson, Sheila Packa and Deborah Cooper and 2013-14 Wisconsin Poet Laureate Max Garland. After a brief break in the action there will also be readings by eight select local poets.

Sponsors for this event include Fitger's, The Boat Club Restaurant & Bar, Duluth Poets Laureate Project and Carmody's (Thank you, Eddie.)

Phil Fitzpatrick will himself not be present to read Wednesday. Instead, he will be at a 50th class reunion at Harvard making a Dylan presentation there regarding the influence Dylan's Northland roots have had on his world-changing career. It's been a privilege getting to know Phil through these Dylan circles. In addition to writing poetry and teaching, he has authored an entertaining book titled A Beautiful Friendship: The Joy of Chasing Bogey Golf.

The following is the poem Phil performed at the May 1 Homegrown Festival poetry event at Sacred Heart.

Jeremiad: A Triptych

Chester Creek fulminates
explodes past mafic walls
repositioned basalt boulders
and brittle uprooted trunks
centuries of hammering
by relentless cataracts in
their gnarly seasonal race
a high-pitched kree
a gull strays inland
glances down eyeing
the shiny object an unruly dawn
unveils on the path below
angry crows gather on a conifer
a four-legged bandit snorts
among refuse in the bracken
from drab twigs
no greening buds yet peek in this
apocalyptic gray expanse


an’ a voice says, “Why so glum, Pal?”
this guy’s just standing there;
leaning on a walking stick
looking like George Carlin.
I say, “What?” an’ he says,
“What’s the trouble?”
I’m in a bad mood: “Jesus!”
an’ he gets down like this
an’ says, “How’d you know?” He’s making funny eyes
like George Carlin, too!
“Know WHAT?”
I gotta get going.
“My name,” is all he says.
He picks up
the crumpled Hamm’s can
on the ground
“This what’s eatin’ you, Pal?”
I shake my head
“Bummer, eh?”
“Yeah . . .”
“Well, just pack it out.”
“Wait, who the hell are you?”
“I already told you, I mean - you told me.”
“Yeah, maybe that’s your NAME, but . . .”
“Does it really matter, Pal?”
and he hands me the can.
“And bring a bag next time.”
Then he starts up the trail.
“Hey,” I yell. He turns.
“Um, is anyone else coming?”
“There’s a few waiting,” he says.
“But I jumped the line;
I’d keep my eyes open.”


word has just come down today
spring’s been cut back
as a concession, we get to keep
Saturday, April 22, Earth Day
yard work, robins, t-shirts
open windows, laundry on the line
deep breaths and long looks
everything drying out
above the great sapphire lake
nothing at all to compromise
enjoying what’s been given
the earth giveth . . . now, it’s our turn
before the earth taketh away
my bag is already half full, but it’s not heavy;
I hoist it over my shoulder
and head on up the trail
keeping my eyes open

* * * *

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Duluth Dylan Fest Continues: Bill Pagel's Einstein Disguised as Robin Hood at Karpeles

Dylan signed this classmate's Hibbing High yearbook.
I like people with a sense of humor. Archivist Bill Pagel may be a serious collector of Dylan memorabilia and iconography, but he can also tweak the funny bone when he wishes. Last night, before the Robby Vee show at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, Bill gave me a guided tour of the various display cases and their contents, pointing out what's new and different this year. This was useful because some of what's new is similar to last year and only subtly different. (c.f. the acetate.)

One thing that didn't exist last year at this time was the Nobel Prize that Bob Dylan received this past fall. And so, in one display case you will find a program from the Nobel Prize Ceremony that includes the seating arrangements, an official document from that auspicious occasion, and in that selfsame case there is the Nobel Prize. Bill says to me, "I called Bob and asked if he would loan it to us this week." As I wrapped my head around that, an impish smile crossed his face.

In Dylan circles the players all know one another, just as in magician circles there's an insider's club of sorts, a mutual respect society. I don't know where Bill Pagel's collection stands in the grand scheme of things, but for sure there are some impressive items of note on display here through the end of June. And this is only a sliver of what I've seen, which was purportedly only a slice of what he has collected.

Last year we saw the acetate for Visions of Johanna. 
Here are some of the things you can expect to see if you visit Karpeles. This week is Duluth Dylan Fest and if you find an opening in your schedule I encourage you to make your way to this Duluth treasure.

The Hematite is the name of the Hibbing High yearbook. I was informed that this year's Hematite (top right) is different from the one that was on display last year. If you blow up the photo you will see how Bob used the word "huh" at one point. If you look elsewhere you will notice the "huh" is something of a tell-tale sign of authenticity.

A withdrawn library book becomes home to lyrics for
the Ballad of Donald White.
One of the famous early events in the Dylan saga.

Dylan famously scrawled across all the pages of a Robert Shelton book of photos.
Bill Pagel has collected some of these pages.
Bob's mother Beatty is here seen behind Joan Baez and Bob.
I think she's enjoying herself.
Scarlet Rivera (left) has become much loved in the Northland in her efforts
to support the renovation of the Armory.
The name of the exhibit is once again Einstein Disguised As Robin Hood. If you're a Dylan fan, this is something you won't want to miss. Thanks, Bill, for sharing.

Bob's handwritten Chimes of Freedom atop the printed music.
If you had been there, this is what you would have received.

* * * *

Dylan Trivia at Carmody's tonight was fun. Susan Laing from Australia' Outback came the furthest to be here. And she proved herself to be an extremely knowledgeable Dylanologist. Congratulations, Susan, for the many exciting things you've seen during your Stateside Dylan journey.

Meantime, life goes on all round you... get into it.

Robby Vee Sets Duluth Dylan Fest In Motion with His Rock N Roll Caravan

There's a reason Robby Vee and his Rock N Roll Caravan are in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. They're just that good. And they make you want to move your feet.

Last night Vee & Company produced mounds of smiles at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, the former Christian Science Church building that sits across from St. Luke's. Despite the bitter rains, the house was packed for the kickoff to Duluth Dylan Fest.

The show opened with Nelson French of the Armory Arts and Music Center (AAMC) board welcoming us and giving an update on the status of the Armory for which this event was a fundraiser and awareness raiser. French shared that there is an investor ready to do the renovation once the last hurdle is overcome pertaining the parking. He then introduced three students from the AAMC who did an admirable set of five songs before yielding to the main event.

Robby Vee proved to be the perfect entry into the week. Nearly every hard core Dylan fan is familiar with the Dylan/Buddy Holly connection. What many have forgotten is the Dylan/Bobby Vee connection. You can read the details here and here. Vee's show last night demonstrated how all these events were intertwined in Bobby Vee and Dylan's careers.

The acoustics at Karpeles are second to none. This is a sanctuary designed for effective music appreciation, whether chamber music or last night's rockabilly. The band had perfectly modulated their sound for the occasion. (It would have been easy for them to have blasted us out of the place.) You could tell Jeff "Crash Boom Bang It Out" Bjork on drums had his kit set up so he could indeed bang it out while not blowing us away.

In fact, the show opened with Bjork giving a wake up call that brought to mind the Gene Krupa classic Sing Sing Sing and made you appreciate what drums can add to a show.

Robby Vee and the Caravan are not only talented musicians, they're also professional showmen, as was demonstrated on many occasions during their two sets. The second half of the show featured a lot of music by Vee's father Bobby and the great rock inspiration Buddy Holly, and of course a bit of Dylan along with heartfelt comments showing his appreciation for the Northland's Native Son.

I had an epiphany last night during Robby Vee's slammin' set  of classic Buddy Holly covers, perhaps it was during Peggy Sue, or perhaps it was during one of his father's hits like Rubber Ball and Come Back When You Grow Up Girl. The insight was something like this. I've always felt there was a great divide between the dance music of early rock and roll and the intellectual themes that Dylan injected into the pop music scene. That would not have been so terrible to see two different streams of rock and roll, but what I've done most of my life is to see the latter as superior and the former inferior. As a result I never embraced what Elvis had brought to the table, nor Buddy Holly to the extent that we've since come to call his death "the day the music died." It's apparent that Dylan himself never made this distinction, speaking most highly of these important singers, including Robby's father. Dylan's inspiration came from mining all of the "great American songbook," internalizing it and making it new.

There's no business like show business.
By the second set last night there were a lot of people on their feet, shuffling, potato digging, doing the watusi, and just plain having fun. If you weren't there you missed a great show. You can make up for it, though, as they will be playing at the State Fairgrounds during the Back to the Fifties care show June 24. Classic cars and classic music... a nostalgic walk through time.

I'll write more about the Bill Pagel exhibit soon. Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Goings On About Town: Three Special Twin Ports Art Openings This Week

Photo courtesy Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art
This is just a heads up for three visual arts events coming up that you won't want to miss. If you've been following along here you already know Duluth Dylan Fest kicks off tonight with Robby Vee at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. Every time I mention Karpeles people ask, "Where's Karpeles?" When I say, "It across the street from the entrance to St. Luke's Hospital Emergency Room, just above the parking lot for the Gitch."

"Oh, yeah," they invariably say. "I've been meaning to go sometime."

Well, today might be a good time to check it out. Bill Pagel has donated more of his Dylan collection for public viewing, and it will be there through June. If you've bought tickets for Robby Vee's Rock N Roll Caravan tonight, then go early so you can see all these pieces of history, though actually the museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. If I have my facts correct, the show is again titled Einstein Disguised as Robin Hood, though I have been told this will not be an identical replay of last year's exhibit. I will keep you posted.

As for Art Happenings, here are four to mark on your calendars.

Dylan-Themed Art Show Opening Reception 

In the past our Dylan-inspired art shows have been across the bridge at the Red Mug Coffeehouse. This year, we're in the heart of Downtown Duluth at the Zeitgeist Atrium, one block west of Carmody's where our annual Dylan Trivia takes place. The Monday reception at Zeitgeist is free and will run from 5-7 p.m. We have new work by Daniel Botkin of Chicago, and a couple great pieces based on an original work by Kristi Abbott, an artist from Down Under who now resides in St. Paul. Other contributors include Sue Rauschenfels, Becky Perfetti, Adan Swanson, Tim Beaulier and a blogger who signs his work with an e.

Monday, May 22, 5-7 p.m.

On the Cutting Edge
Papercut Art Exhibit by Ellen Sandbeck

Anyone who has seen Ellen Sandbeck's papercut art is an instant fan. I have been following her career since the early days when she was doing illustrations for Dover Books. Her Buddha-A-Day Series was a remarkable achievement and only showed the first inklings of what she was capable of.

The Opening Reception for On the Cutting Edge will be this coming Friday at the AICHO/Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center, 212 W. 2nd Street in Duluth. If you have never been to this facility I strongly encourage you to make this your first visit. It won't be your last. 

There will also be entertainment, with music and limericks by Mina Kaiser. Sounds like fun to me. There is a suggested $10 donation to support AICHO's ongoing arts and cultural programming.

This event is Friday from 5-7 p.m. This would be a great way to begin a very special Friday evening of art and music. If you attend On the Cutting Edge, then move westward to the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art exhibition, you can still get over to Clyde Iron Works for the Duluth Dylan Fest Singer/Songwriter Contest. If that's too much for one evening, the Great Lakes open house is all weekend.

Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art
Annual Student/Instructor Exhibition

This is something I have been especially looking forward to. The Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art is inviting the public to attend their first Annual Student/Instructor Exhibition. According to their Facebook page, "We will be showcasing our students first year curriculum and also lead you through what an atelier style of classical art training looks like. We will have many examples of their work as well as that of our instructors (Jeffrey T. Larson and Brock Larson) on display here at the Academy. We are also excited to be able to show the progress with the renovation that has been made on our building (the old St. Peter's Church)."

May 26th, 5pm - 9pm
May 27th, 1pm - 8pm
May 28th, 1pm - 5pm

SINEW at the Tweed

"Sinew: Female Native Artists of the Twin Cities," will be opening at the Tweed Museum of Art June 1st, 2017, 6-8 PM. Mark your calendars. Come celebrate and honor this amazing group of women artists. Details Here.

* * * *

DULUTH DYLAN FEST IS UNDERWAY. Check out the full schedule of events at

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Greatest Best Seller of All Time? The Bay Psalm Book

Yesterday I began listening to the audio lectures of Professor Peter Conn on the theme American Bestsellers. It's a set of lectures in The Great Courses Series. If you're not familiar with The Great Courses, I strongly encourage you to consider checking them out at Essentially, the series was developed to give people an opportunity to hear great teaching on various topics that they may or may not have heard when they were in college and not paying attention, or perhaps failed to value because they had not had enough life experience to understand the significance of what they were learning.

The first lecture by Prof. Conn lays down the rationale for studying bestsellers. These are not necessarily the best books ever produced in America, rather they are some of the most influential, and for that reason worthy of our study. In this initial lecture he also points out the various ways bestseller lists have changed over time, whetting the appetite for what's to come in the series, including Thomas Paine's Common Sense, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Twain's Huckleberry Finn, and a host of other familiar titles, familiarity being the operative concept here.

Which is why the Bay Psalm Book seems like such an unusual first book to dissect, because I suspect very few of us today would add this to any bestseller list of any kind.

The reason Professor Conn selects this starting point is two-fold. First, the little volume could be found in a full one-third of the households in New England. And two, this book of Psalms reveals much about the character of these first settlers in America.*

Can you imagine if there were a best-selling Stephen King book that was in one-third of all homes in America today? That would be tens of millions of copies, and if read regularly it would be one highly influential story.

Professor Conn doesn't really suggest the Psalm book is the greatest. He only suggests in passing that a case could be made, albeit a weak one.

His lecture, then, uses the Bay Psalm Book as a lens to study the mindset of the Puritans, whose ideas were indeed influential.

The book was published in 1640, two decades after their arrival in what is now Massachusetts. The Puritan pilgrims had a number of idiosyncrasies, besides being a bit stiff as regards their devotion. One of the features of this volume is that it is a rigorous attempt at extreme accuracy with regard to translating the "Word of God." If you recall your history, the King James Bible was produced in 1604, and a beautiful translation it turned out to be, despite being produced by committee.

The Puritans, however, found the King James Bible to be a stumbling block. Its aesthetic features might tempt Believers to appreciate worldly literature more. This they deemed a bad thing.

This attitude brought to mind a story I heard in a lecture on St. Augustine, the most influential Christian writer of the first millennium. Augustine was an intelligent man and quite scholarly. He avidly studied Greek philosophy and was especially enriched by the beautiful writings of Cicero, beauty both in the concepts and the language, so much so that when he encountered his first Bible it was such a poor translation that he gagged on it. That is, if this book is really from God how could it be so poorly written?

In short, Augustine was put off by his first encounter with Christianity and he did not return to it for another ten years.

Alas, the Puritans had a mindset quite contrary to Augustine who once wrote "the gold of Egypt is still gold." The stilted translation they created was just the medicine they needed to keep them from becoming worldly. Professor Conn proceeded at this point to compare the beautiful language of Psalm 23 from the King James Bible with the clumsy verses of the Bay Song Book.

Translations do say things about the people. Prof. Conn talked about the Reformation's efforts to undermine Papal authority by means of translating the Bible into the language of the people. John Wycliffe was martyred for translating the Scriptures into Middle English, and a hundred years later the Tyndale Bible resulted in John Tyndale being strangled and burned.

Tyndale's translation took deliberate pains to undo the Catholic stranglehold on truth. He translated the words presbyteros and ecclesia as elders and congregation, as opposed to priests and church. This was a direct assault on the ecclesiastical systems that dominated Western Europe at the time.

All this to say I'm looking forward today to Prof. Conn's insights on another influential book from early American history, Thomas Paine's Common Sense.

For more, check out this Christianity Today article on the Bay Song Book.

Then wash yourself in Dylan's Slow Train Coming and get ready for Duluth Dylan Fest.

*By this we mean first European settlers, no the indigenous peoples who had already been settled here previously.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Visit with Robby Vee: Opening Act for Duluth Dylan Fest

There's no business like show business, they say. How many children of entertainers have taken up the occupations of their parents? There are plenty of examples in Hollywood. And in the music scene, Jakob Dylan and Julian Lennon immediately come to mind. This weekend here in Duluth we'll warmly welcome Robby Vee, son of Bobby Vee, to kick off the eight-day Duluth Dylan Fest in a concert sponsored by the Armory Arts & Music Center at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum.

The connection? A young Bob Dylan briefly performed with Bobby Vee under the pseudonym Elston Gunnn. You can read Bobby Vee's 1999 account here at Expecting Rain. Now the son of Bobby Vee is preparing to visit the town where Dylan was born and was raised till his family uprooted to the Iron Range.

After his father got into show business he moved to Los Angeles where the action was, but once he had a family the Midwest seemed the preferred world in which to raise his brood. As Robby puts it, "I 'm from Los Angeles originally. I live in Prior Lake, MN. Dad was entertainer. Started family in L.A. but felt the Midwest was a better place to raise a family."

"Mom was a show business mother, Robby says. "She met my father when he was 15. Watched him carve out a career in the entertainment business. She tried to deter me (from Show Biz) because it's such a hard business." But the young Vee had opportunities to perform at a young age and took to it. 'My father put me in front of an audience," he explined, and he liked it.

Robby has been playing with his current band for ten years, calling them the Rock N Roll Caravan. "They're truly some of the greatest rockabilly players out there." Vee acknowledged that one of the advantages of having the same team is that you can draw on some of the same music you've worked out over the years and know where you're all going with it.

Vee has produced six albums now. I asked which is his favorite.

"Good question. They're really different. My rock-a-billy albums got me to the Hall of Fame, but the more recent are Americana," he said. His most recent album, Blue Blue Blue, was produced in part for the purpose of raising awareness for Alzheimers, which overtook his father beginning in 2011.

Robby, raised on Eddie Cocker and the rock 'n roll of the late 50s and early 60s, enjoys the light-hearted fun of early rock, yet he also appreciates where rock evolved to post-1965 and beyond. "Rock became more intellectual," he said, citing artists like Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot and Cat Stevens (EdNote: All favorites of mine as well.) "I really appreciate both sides of the fence," he said. "I don't have to be one or the other."

"Here's one you might like."
I also learned that like Dylan Robby Vee is a painter. It began with this statement. "Records to me are like paintings. You should be allowed to push the envelope with experimentation." He then added that, "painting is what I do when I am home." I asked if he had a website so we could see his work, and he said he didn't, but that sometimes he puts them on Facebook. "Painting is an outlet to get away from music."

Robby's website includes praise from a number of legendary names. "Your Caravan show is getting kudos from Dion, Sir Paul and Robert Plant," I said. "What is it that makes your show so special?"

"Dion liked our first couple records, live and from the hip. Not too heavy, recorded live, raw energy.
Paul McCartney invited us over (to England) to play Buddy Holly music... He loves the same kind of music I love. Paul said, 'You guys could play on any stage.'"

Carl Perkins' quote, happened like this. "When I did a show with him once he sat on a chair next to the amp and afterward gave me a pick." That was an honor.

They played together when they were young. 
"What kind of relationship did you have with your dad?" I asked.

"We had a good relationship. We were both painters, guitar players, singers and writers. At a pretty young age he encouraged me to do my own thing and not be like him. My career has been separate and different from him. I took off and didn't look back much. When he got sick I was the one who was with him almost daily and taking care of him with my sister." Vee has a younger sister and two older brothers. All of them do art of some kind, graphic design and production work.

Does Robby Vee have any favorite Dylan albums or songs? Of course.

"I would say there's a handful... The Man in Me, a song my father I played together. And Forever Young. We used to have mass at our house on the lake. We played Forever Young at every mass it seemed like."

When Dylan performed in St. Paul in 2013 Robby took his father to see him. It was his birthday but distracted by other things he forgot to get tickets. He called Dylan's office and they were able to get special treatment. "We watched the entire show from the monitor board. After the show Dylan visited with my dad and it was really great."  Here's Dylan giving the nod to the Bobby Vee, singing one of Vee's signature songs, Susie Baby.

In 2012 I interviewed a attorney who has been representing musicians to help them get better contracts. As it turns out Robby gives a nod to the friend of a friend on his website, Brian "kool-hand" Lukasavitz. Small world, eh?

For what it's worth, Saturday's concert should be killer. Special thanks to St. Luke's for making available several of their parking lots for those who wish to attend.

For more information about this coming week's Duluth Dylan Fest events, see today's News Tribune.

To book Robbie Vee, or follow him in the future, visit and bookmark For what it's worth, you know who else likes rock-a-billy? Bob Dylan does. His 1998 concert at the DECC here in Duluth opened with a zinging rock-a-billy set by David Allen and the Guilty Men.

Meantime, I'm in the mood. How about you? Let's have some fun!

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Bonus Track: Here's a cartoon about Elston Gunnn's brief stint with the young man who filled in for Buddy Holly way back in time. (Click to enlarge)