Friday, March 31, 2017

Twin Ports Arts Scene: April Watchlist

Poetry and art on my brain this morning. Am reading a book about Rainer Maria Rilke in which I learned where his middle name came from. Maria sounds like a woman's name... because it is. The year before he was born his mother gave birth to a girl who died very early so that when Rainer was born she named him Rene Maria. She wanted a girl quite badly, and for his first years she grew his hair long and braided it, dressed him in dresses. Because he had been a premie (two months early) he was somewhat small and frail already and this plus the girl's name made him an easy target for bullies when he finally began attending school.

Alas. Bullying is nothing new. Rilke survived and his poetry is his legacy. When Herman Hesse won the Nobel Prize for literature, he was recognized not only as an artist but a poet, "the foremost German poet" since Rilke and George. Hesse and Rilke have been two of my lifetime companions, along with the poetry of our own Northland Nobel Prize winner.*

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And now, some Twin Ports arts happenings for April. 

Hot Shop Grand Opening at Lake Superior Art Glass' Second Location
Saturday, April 1, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1325 London Road. They are planning to give away $1,000-worth of raffle prizes. It's in the former Perkins building next to the Armory. Live demos in the morning, free afternoon classes for the first 10 people who sign up. Glass blowing is mind-blowing and beautiful to watch. Stop by and check it out!

Thursday, April 6, 6-10 p.m., Erik Dubnicka Art Opening, Beaner's Central Concert Coffeehouse , 324 N. Central Avenue. Eric Dubnicka is a visual artist specializing in painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture. Five  years ago one of his pieces was selected as Best in Show at the Duluth Art Institute.

Thursday, April 6, 6 – 7:30 p.m., Great Room of the DAI Lincoln Center for Arts Education. POLLINATORS & POP-UP PICNIC: Anna Metcalfe + Dan Shutte (Details Below)

Saturday, April 8, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Nice Girls of the North 2nd Saturday Marketplace. "Free coffee, cookies, and a friendly atmosphere await while you browse a collection of handcrafted clothing and bags, pottery, jewelry, stained glass, photography, personal care products, baby items and much more. One central checkout, most major credit cards accepted."

Sunday, April 9, 1:30-4 p.m., Rags to Riches Ragtime Concert, First Covenant Church, 2101 W. 2nd Street,  hosted by the Lake Superior Ragtime Society. This Free concert is a special tribute to ragtime music composer Scott Joplin. Afterglow to follow at Sir Benedict's Tavern. For more information call 218-724-7696.

Saturday, April 22, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Douglas County WI HCE Craft Day, Mission Covenant Church, 5161 S. County Road P. I will be teaching Zentangle® Pattern Drawing during the morning session of this fair. Registration: $5 (includes lunch); Class Cost: $10 (supplies included).

Saturday, April 22, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Art for Earth Day 27th Annual Gallery Hop,
Tour local galleries, visit with artists and watch demonstrations at this fun event in honor of the 47th Anniversary of Earth Day. Look for a listing of participating locations, times and descriptions of classes, demos, and receptions. You can pick up a brochure with a map at any of the locations listed in the attached documents. For more information, call (218) 722-1451.

SPECIAL THANKS SHOUT OUT to Esther Piszczek for helping assemble much of the information that gets shared here.

Book & Film! Patterned Peace, by Esther Piszczek, CZT, published by Whole Person Associates, Duluth. Available on and The Bookstore at Fitgers. Original, hand-drawn artwork ready to color. Includes full pattern index.

Life & Art Entangled, a 17 minute art documentary created by Lola Visuals featuring Zentangle (R) inspired artwork on a piano created by fine-line pattern artist Esther Piszczek, CZT, and the improvisational jazz piano music of Peter Brown. Watch on

Places to find Esther's art in the Twin Ports:
Art on the Planet, 1413 Tower Avenue, Superior
Duluth Fine Pianos, 405 E. Superior Street, Duluth
Master Framing Gallery, 1431 London Road, Duluth

Places to see some of my paintings:
Art on the Planet and Goin' Postal in Superior, and The Break Room, kitty-corner from Essentia/St Mary's on Positively Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue East in Duluth.

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POLLINATORS & POP-UP PICNIC: Anna Metcalfe + Dan Shutte
Minneapolis-based artist Anna Metcalfe will discuss the research and process behind her ceramic series exploring pollinators and their connections to our food. Metcalfe graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2009 with an MFA and currently works for Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul, MN. Interested in the junction of public art and craft, she makes work inspired by water, agriculture, food and community. As a teaching artist, Metcalfe loves to promote collaboration and interdisciplinary learning environments between the sciences and art-making. She is a recipient of a Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist’s Project Grant for Public Art in 2009, a MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant in 2013 and 2015, a Jerome Foundation Study and Travel Grant in 2013 and most recently an environmental artist fellowship at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France. Metcalfe is interested in art as a vehicle for social change and her work strives to reframe our relationship to land and agriculture, and to create meaningful ways to connect with natural resources.

She will be joined by Dan Shutte, the District Manager for the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District (Lake SWCD) and the owner of Shoreview Natives, a Two Harbors-based business that specializes in growing and installing native plants including wildflowers, grasses, sedges, shrubs, and trees. Their services support efforts to help declining populations of monarch butterflies, native bees, honeybees, and other pollinator species exhibiting major population crashes, and he is currently serving on the Governor’s Committee for Pollinator Protection. He will discuss local pollinators and how they impact our region, and will recommend simple ways that everyone can contribute toward healthy environments for pollinators. A pop-up picnic will be included in this session to demonstrate the connections between pollinators and our food system.

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Stay current with Duluth Art Institute activities here. Their Saturday a.m. Zeitgeist film series will continue through the month. (10 a.m. Saturday mornings.) Gezielt (Carla Hamilton) and Rooted Expression (Elizabeth Kuth) and still on display through April 9. Lest We Forget is coming soon, including a special event on April 24, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

And don't miss the Pop Evolution exhibit at the Tweed, if you have not already seen it. Really interesting.

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Meantime, Art Goes On All Around You. Engage it!

*Duluth Dylan Fest is just around the corner, kicking off with a concert at Karpeles on Saturday May 20. We've sent out a Call To Artists for Dylan-Themed or Dylan-Inspired art. There will also be a poetry event. Check out the full week's schedule here at the Bob Dylan Way website.

**Looking or something new or different to read. This author's not too bad. :-)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Throwback Thursday: The Story of Rumpelstiltskin


"Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed." --G.K. Chesterton

For some reason I woke this morning thinking about Rumpelstiltskin. I remembered how the tale ends, where (SPOILER ALERT) the little fellow is so pleased with himself that he is singing and dancing about a fire, and gives himself away by declaring his name. But I couldn't recall the rest of the story, just this last part, and try as I might the image of a tower and Rapunzel with her long golden braids was coming to mind though I knew that was not the Rumpelstiltskin story.

Fairy tales have a longstanding tradition in our world. People love a good yarn, whether it teaches a good lesson or simply serves as a diversion. In more recent times -- and by this I mean since the dawn of Gutenberg -- many of these stories have been harvested and assembled into books by men like the Grimm brothers, Italo Calvino and Hans Christian Anderson.

The Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale was originally recorded and published in 1812 by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. I used to have a little green paperback volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and a quick perusal of my book shelf suddenly puts the little volume directly into my hands. Voila!

The book begins with stories about elves, and includes many well-known classics, including Snow White, The Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Tom Thumb's Travels and even Rapunzel.

As it turns out, my memory of the story's end was accurate, that Rumpelstiltskin's overweening pride became his undoing. But I did realize that it was the miller's pride that led to the whole story in the first place, for the miller's desire to project his self-importance that almost cost him his daughter's life as well as all that unfolded afterwards. It's a tale with many variations, both entertaining and pointed.

Here's the beginning... and a link to the rest of the story, a quick read that I am sure you will enjoy.


Once there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he had to go and speak to the king, and in order to make himself appear important he said to him, "I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold."

The king said to the miller, "That is an art which pleases me well, if your daughter is as clever as you say, bring her to-morrow to my palace, and I will put her to the test."

And when the girl was brought to him he took her into a room which was quite full of straw, gave her a spinning-wheel and a reel, and said, "Now set to work, and if by to-morrow morning early you have not spun this straw into gold during the night, you must die."

Thereupon he himself locked up the room, and left her in it alone. So there sat the poor miller's daughter, and for the life of her could not tell what to do, she had no idea how straw could be spun into gold, and she grew more and more frightened, until at last she began to weep.

But all at once the door opened, and in came a little man, and said, "Good evening, mistress miller, why are you crying so?"

"Alas," answered the girl, "I have to spin straw into gold, and I do not know how to do it."

"What will you give me," said the manikin, "if I do it for you?"

"My necklace," said the girl.

The plot thickens... Go ahead and check it out.

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I've always enjoyed a good tale and have tried my hand at writing a few. Here are two from my catalog. Lu Lee and the Magic Cat, and A Poem About Truth.

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hyperbolic Hyparxis: Margarida Sardinha's Impressive New Body of Work Comes to the University of Lisbon

“Henceforth, space by itself, and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union between the two will preserve an independent reality.” – Hermann Minkowski

I met the Portuguese geometric/kinetic artist Margarida Sardinha via Twitter in 2010. Since that time I have found her work ceaselessly interesting. From our first interview I was impressed with the breadth and depth of her studies and experience. Since that time she has produced several award-winning works including HyperLightness ad absurdum and London Memory multi+city. In 2015 the Lisbon-born artist took a deep dive into the geometric splendor of the Alhambra, producing a show called Symmetry's Portal.

To say I've become a fan of the artist would be an understatement, hence the pleasure I take in sharing her work here with you.

Her new show, on display from April 6 through June 6, is titled Hyperbolic Hyparxis, an exhibition comprising 60 new works for the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon. The monochromatic site-specific exhibition consists of Hyperbolic Hyparxis (an experimental film), Hyperbolic Curves (a 10ft diameter floating sphere filled with helium), Hyperbolic Polyhedra (4 large scale sculptures), Shadow Symbols and Points, Lines and Distances (respectively 36 and 20 works containing a digital background photograph and a three-dimensional polyhedron overlaying it). The five sets of works complement each other in a liminocentric way, thus, they repeat each other akin to recursive definitions in hyperbolic spaces.

EN: As usual, your new exhibition appears to synthesize art, mathematics and philosophy. What was the primary impetus for creating this new body of work?

Margarida Sardinha: I started Hyperbolic Hyparxis while still living in London in 2007 – I know it was a long time ago but all my projects start with very simple experiments and then they build up into a consistent body of work throughout the years for in that way I experience process based art. At that time I was beginning to research supersymmetry, string-theory and manifolds and I also did little animation try-outs with printed-paper polyhedra with curved lines on them. After I animated these models, the optical illusion of the curves rotating became a curled up flashing string that I envisaged as the behavior of branes (a point particle of zero dimensions) and strings (a brane of dimension one) in hyperspace of eleven dimensions. I became particularly interested in Calabi-Yau manifolds that are six dimensional forms where D-branes are viewed as complex submanifolds in the topological B-model of string theory. Of course one has to remember that these theories are purely mathematical and that no physical proof of them has yet been found, thus, images interpreting them are highly hypothetical.

Third Stellation of Icosahedron
EN: The Greek word Hyparxis means "essential nature." It's also a Neoplatonic term for the summit, beginning, or hierarch of a hierarchy. In what way is your work, by extension, reflecting Hyperbolic Hyparxis?

MS: Hyperbolic Hyparxis uses notions of hyperbolic geometry, especially its modification of the Euclidian parallel postulate and the Poincaré disk model, applied to a polyhedral hyparxis. A kind of hyperbolic multiverse made of polyhedra with recursive beginnings, centres and endings, or, using a Deleuzian post-modern term - a rhizome – meaning, a non-hierarchy or multiple interconnected hierarchies where any point of the rhizome can be connected with any other, and in fact, it must be. I chose the term Hyparxis from a Neoplatonic commentary on the “Orpheus Hymns” – “Nature, therefore, as indicating the hyparxis of divinity, is in perfect conformity to the symbolical theology of Orpheus, said to be without a father, and at the same time the father of her own being. For all the Gods, according to this theology, though they proceed by an ineffable unfolding into light from the first principle of things, yet at the same time are self-perfect, and self-produced essences.” In this description of the essence of archetypes or Gods, we realise that they are created and they also created themselves, besides, further in the book it is said that their powers are linked to one another, that their root is a multiple linked hyparxis.

Snub Dodecahedron
EN: What insights from Symmetry's Portal have you incorporated into this next set of works?

MS:  Apart from the polyhedral constant of my work I did not integrate the same aspects from Symmetry’s Portal in Hyperbolic Hyparxis. In fact, the two are very different in the sense that the first focuses on only two dimensions and the types of symmetries that can be found on such a plane; and the second suggests what six dimensions and higher could be.*

EN: Mathematics has clearly been an ongoing feature of your work. When and how did you personally become awakened to and so fascinated by mathematics?

MS: I studied mathematics, geometry and physics up to my A-level and I was very fond of geometry. When I went to Art College in London I put that world aside and concentrated on art alone but eventually when I left college I immediately went back into studying those subjects again.

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Hyprbolic Curves
For more details about the show itself, read the curator's blog.

Follow this link for direct access to the digital catalogue web page of the Hyperbolic Hyparxis exhibition.

EdNote: Documentation photography by Ivo Cordeiro 

Follow Margarida Sardinha's career through her website,

* See Dan Hansen's discussion of Pythagorian number theology at his Benchmark Tattoo exhibition of 2015.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Call For Art: Duluth Dylan Fest 2017

Someday, everything is gonna be diff’rent 
When I paint my masterpiece
--Bob Dylan

Music from Big Pink cover art.
Fifty years ago while Bob Dylan was holed up in Woodstock, recovering from his motorcycle accident, he invited his band to join him. It was a fertile period of hibernation away from the bright lights and big cities. Not only were his Basement Tapes produced at that time (released much later), The Band was also writing songs of their own, many of them recorded on their first album apart from Dylan called Music from Big Pink.

An interesting feature of the album was Dylan's absence from any of the tracks on the album. Nevertheless, Dylan did leave his fingerprints, having painted the artwork used on the cover.

A half century later and we know that Bob Dylan truly enjoys making art, painting and drawing and even producing sculpture.

This is why our Northland Dylan celebrations have included art as one of its features.


This year the Zeitgeist is hosting our art exhibition this year in conjunction with the 2017 Duluth Dylan Fest the week of May 20-29. The planning committee is seeking artwork based on or inspired by Bob Dylan and his music.

Submission Requirements:
1. Artist's statement
2. Brief bio (2-3 sentences)
3. One to four pieces (must send sample PDF or JPG format less than 1 MB each) to ennyman (AT)
4. Description of piece (Title, medium, dimensions, price)

Guidelines: All mediums of wall art will be considered.

Pieces MUST BE READY TO HANG. In many cases, that means HANGING WIRE. Digital submissions must be received for review via email by April 30th. Artwork will be selected by members of the Bob Dylan Way Committee and selected artists will plan to bring their work to the Zeitgeist Atrium between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday. May 21, unless alternative arrangements have already been made.

Artwork will need to be picked up May 29 or 30. If you are outside of the Duluth area, please plan accordingly to make sure your art can be brought in within the given time frame. Contact: ennyman (AT)

Deadlines: Submission deadline is 4-30-17. Art will need to be retrieved May 30. Out-of-town artwork is welcome. Shipping and handling matters should be arranged in advance.
Artist reception will take place on Monday, May 22 from 5-7 p.m.

* * * *
The schedule for Duluth Dylan Fest is firming up. Visit our Bob Dylan Way page for details.

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This year's headliner for the Armory Arts and Music Center Benefit Concert is Robby Vee and his Rock & Roll Caravan. Purchase tickets here.

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Special Evening Marks Fifth Anniversary of Duluth's AICHO

Well-wishers greet Dr. Powless before the celebration.
Friday evening was a special moment in time for the friends of AICHO, the American Indian Community Housing Organization that resides in Downtown Duluth. The ceremony included drums, Native songs, a pipe ritual, numerous speaks and a feast. When all was said and done, a great man was honored, a building had been renamed and a message of inspiration had been shared.

Trepanier Hall, which once housed the local YWCA here, has been renamed the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center. The event provided the opportunity for an outpouring of thanks and appreciation to be expressed to the man who helped give birth to center by means of a personal intervention and a large donation.

The meeting took place in a large room deep in the heart of the building. After a brief introduction announcing why we we here room resounded with Native drums and what was called The Pipe Song. Rick DeFoe gave a Native invocation in the Ojibwe tongue. Dr. Powless replied, "I'm humbled to be here... a veteran with a grand heart for his people."

Drummers perform as everyone stands. Powless family in foreground.
After more drums and song, the pipe was lit and the Pipe Ceremony conducted.

AICHO is a complex organization with complex funding requirements and many programs. It's most significant focus is on helping the vulnerable in our community.

Rick Smith of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency then told how Dr. Powless stepped in after the dream of creating a culturally appropriate housing project for the homeless had gotten stalled. "We can do this," he said. He stepped forward and offered to go to St. Paul on behalf of the people here.

He went and met with those who had the power, and told a story. The story was effective in part because of the credibility of the man who told it. Dr. Powless has spent a lifetime of intervention and quietly helping students at UMD and people in the community. When he said, "Let me go talk to the people in St. Paul," it carried the mark of authority.

Rick Smith then introduced the nam who was being honored, whose first words were, "It's hard to speak when one is so deeply moved." He then joked that he never has trouble speaking, and he proceeded to share how much he appreciates the hard-working people in this community. "You are special people & this community deserves every one of you. You make life worth living. I trust that you will be the kind of folks who make the lives of others the kind of lives they feel are worth living."

More gratitude expressed.
He went on to say, "This community has meant so much to me. When I visit I'm amazed at how hard the people work. Not only the leadership but the everyday worker.... This facility has the cleanest lobby in the state. This place is so wonderful it has to continue."

After making an appeal for Gimaajii-Mino-Bimaadizimin ("Gimaajii is worth every nickel we can donate.") Dr. Powless told the story of his mother moving him off the reservation when he was five years old. She encouraged him to approach the owner of a local store near Green Bay to ask for a job. The man said he would get paid if he came every day and picked up the papers at four o'clock. "I had a job every year of my life from that time on." He shared another anecdote that was also insightful. "Mother never allowed me to drink alcohol or smoke cigarets." Now in his eighties, he's never touched a drop of alcohol or smoked a cigaret.

He concluded by reiterating, "You are the people that make my living worthwhile."

The ceremony closed with the drum team leader making a few brief remarks as well. They then closed with the drum/song, When You Can No Longer Walk I Will Carry You.

Afterwards we were dismissed to go upstairs and share a feast with friends of the community.

* * * *
You can read Lisa Kaczke's account at the Duluth News Tribune website.

Much more can be said, but the story is still being writ. Thank you Bob & Linda. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How Long Should A Blog Post Be?


There are two kinds of people in the world:
those who like to define everything and those who resist it.

This morning I saw an article in the paper that said many dinosaurs have been incorrectly classified. A British study now claims that the family trees of certain dinosaur lines have been mis-classified.

A couple years ago scientists declared that Pluto was no longer a planet. This verdict, however. is not held universally, and the battle still rages.

Nevertheless, it seems an innate human tendency to name things, define things, and to create definitive rules about every aspect of life. How many hours should we sleep? How far apart should our children be in age? How long should our babies breastfeed?

All this to say that I've been noticing a lot of pundits attempting to make rules about blogging and even tweeting. One expert stated that even though a tweet is only 144 characters, the "ideal tweet" for effectiveness is 100 characters.*


It seems like I've been reading a lot of discussion about blogging lately. The chief questions revolve around how often we should blog and how long our blog posts should be. This blog post will be my attempt to answer the latter of these two questions.

How long should a blog post be?

There are plenty of folks declaring that longer is better. Marieke van de Rakt at Yoast states that it takes 300 words to get ranked in search engines. Over 1000 words will improve your ranking and 2500 is better.

Seth Godin endorses shorter posts.

I remember when USA Today came out and was criticized for revamping newspaper journalism to accommodate people with short attention spans. Articles were on average 400 words. Yet the newspaper survived. If you need more depth, you still have the New York Times.

John Rampton answers this question in a longer post that lays out the case for both short and long blog posts. You'll find his answer at Forbes. In the end he concludes that there's no right or wrong answer. I agree.

According to this article at Snap, the ideal blog length used to be 500-700 words, but is longer now by a factor of three. Part of the reason blog posts are getting longer is because so-called experts are telling everyone that blog posts need to be longer. People without experience feel comforted when experts tell them what to do. "Pluto is not a planet."

In another place we read that people only read 20-28% of the blog post. Could this be because the blog posts are too long now and people are in a hurry?

Yet we still find more advocacy for longgggg posts. This Copypress story begins with a headline that the ideal "average word count" for top-ranked searches is 2416. When I read something like this I can imagine a draconian boss somewhere declaring, "I want 2416 words on every blog post. No more, no less."

At least Neil Patel, who has become a self-styled Marshall Dillon of the Blogging Universe, has the sense to ask what the purpose of your blog is. Why are you blogging in the first place? Business blogging is the only kind of blogging that matters to some people. But there are plenty of other reasons to blog. Some write to inform, others to persuade, others to entertain and still others just to have a soapbox. Some write simply to practice writing. Some write to test their beliefs in the wider marketplace of ideas. Some write for social engagement. Some write to work out their angst.

When I started this blog ten years ago I did it simply to see what blogging was all about. I wondered if it would have value for the company I worked for (and it did.) And as I went along it began having other meanings for me.

A couple years after my this initial blog (Ennyman's Territory) I decided to also start a second blog devoted to sharing my art called The Many Faces of Ennyman. The word count on average has been roughly 30 words, and sometimes less. How does that fit with all these definitions and regulations?

Again, it's all a matter of purpose.

Having been a writer for more than three decades I half think the answer to word length ought not to be based on some arbitrary rules from on high. If you're telling a story, the right length is dictated by the story, not some set of rules. Hemingway's stories range from a few pages to book length. The right length depends on the story that needs to be told.

I would apply these same criteria to blogging.

As people we're all different. Some people need concrete definitions more than others. Others dislike straightjackets. When it's in my power I prefer a little freedom over form, hence this blog post about coloring outside the lines.

The best way to learn is by doing. Remember that what's "in" today may be out tomorrow. Wide ties, miniskirts, bellbottoms. What's fashionable today may be gone tomorrow.

18 years ago I wrote an article about thinking for yourself called Who Are Your Experts?  Upon reviewing it again I see it as still relevant. Social media and blogging didn't exist yet in their current form, but the principles of engagement are really nothing new. And feel free to let me know what you think.

* Kevan Lee, The Ideal Length of Everything Online (Backed By Research.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

More Than The Eye Can See: Talking Photography With Ivy Vainio

I first noticed Ivy Vainio's photography at an exhibition at the Duluth Public Library a number of years ago. Whereas one often sees photography on the walls when you are in public spaces, these photos stopped me in my tracks. I didn't know the person who had produced them but made a mental note of the experience.

There are plenty of fine photographers here in the Northland whom I've gotten know, and several whom I've written about here including Jeff Frey, John Heino and Andrew Perfetti. Two photographers whose paths I most frequently cross while documenting many of the really great music and arts events here are Michael Anderson and Ivy Vainio. I'm always a bit envious of the gear they are equipped with. My Sony Cybershot is adequate, but they have those long lenses and know how to use them.

Ms. Vainio has been actively involved with the American Indian Community Housing Association (AICHO), which tonight is celebrating its fifth anniversary. According to her bio at the AICHO Galleries website, she is a direct descendant of a Grand Portage Band of Ojibwe member and very connected to Ojibwe culture, values and beliefs.

EN: Can you briefly summarize your career? Where were you raised and what are you doing today?

Ivy Vainio
IV: I began taking photographs of events at my workplace at UW-Superior in about 2001 when my supervisor bought an Olympus camera for the office. In 2007/8, my husband Arne noticed that I was taking an interest in photography outside of the office and decided to purchase a camera at a local pawn shop. It was a Canon Rebel and I loved that camera. I had that for a couple of years and started to photograph local powwows and some local diverse community events. Then in 2012, I had a chance to show my photographs for the first time in a public setting in the Jim Dan Hill Library at UW-Superior when I was a graduate student in the Communicating Arts program. That was a semester long show in the Spring and I sold a couple of my photographs.

In Summer of 2012, I submitted three of my powwow photographs to a Photographers of Color Art Show in Minneapolis. All three were accepted. In November of 2012, I had my first solo exhibition at the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) in the Gimaajii Gallery. It was also their first art show in their art space. Over 200 people attended. Since that great year of 2012, I have had my photographs in several art exhibitions, permanent collections in Duluth, Superior, and Cloquet, two of my pieces were part of the Native American exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art for just under two years, and published in several local, national, and two international publications.

EN: How did you come to take an interest in photography?

IV: Through my work at UW-Superior.

EN: When I see you at events I get the impression that the aim of a lot of your photography is as a documentarian. That is, you are present to capture and share what is happening. When shooting, what kinds of thoughts are you having and what matters most? Is it "the story" or "the composition" that is dominant in your aims?

IV: I can tell you that right before a photo shoot, I get so nervous – like I’m going into a job interview kind of nervous. My stomach gets all churned up a bit. Every single time. Right before the shoot, I will put out some sacred tobacco and say a prayer. Once I start the shoot, that nervousness goes away right away.

Like most photographers, I want my images to come out clear, on point, and somehow tell a visual story. I know I need to get better at all three of these personal wants. When I bring the camera up to take a photo, I think about the composition mostly. I was told by another photographer years ago that I should not shoot so focused in on the individual (pertaining to my powwow dancers imagery). That I should “shoot out” and then crop if I needed too. I just can’t bring myself to doing that. I like having what I am shooting up close and personal like you can reach out and touch them. And it’s not just about composition, I like helping to tell the story through the people that I photograph. If that’s a powwow dancer, an elder making a pair of moccasins, or a mother and child marching in a protest. I feel like it’s more personal when the images are up close. Like you can almost get a feel from what that individual is experiencing at that moment.

I like to document diverse events, diverse people, aspects of diverse cultures because history has not done that very well, and/or culturally correct, for diverse communities and members. Back in the day, white photographers would pay a couple of dollars, if that, to a Native person and bring the props with them for that person to wear. So a lot of times, the Native people in the old Black and White photos were wearing items (regalia, headwear) that weren’t even from their tribal communities. And throw in a gun or hatchet for that person to hold to progress fearful stereotypes. Correct representation has gotten better with Native photographers documenting tribal communities and events. As well as other diverse photographers and film makers. No one can tell our story better than someone in our own culture. Someone from the outside of the culture can document but I feel that they lose somewhat of the connection between subject or individual which could potentially be seen in the final image.

* * * *

You can read more about Ivy Vainio, her achievements and interests at

* * * *

If you make it to the event tonight it will be easy to pick her out. She'll be the one with the camera.

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trepanier Hall Being Renamed to Honor Dr. Robert Powless at AICHO Fifth Anniversary

I first became aware of the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) at Trepanier Hall when I attended Al Hunter's poetry reading from his book Beautiful Razor in 2013. Since that time I have lost track of the number of events I've attended there. A truly vibrant cultural center has evolved there and many lives touched and spirits lifted.

This week I received notice that there will be a celebration Friday evening in which the hall will be renamed the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center. Here are details about the event, AICHO and Dr. Powless.


DULUTH, MN -- On Friday, March 24, the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) will be hosting a community event to celebrate Gimaajii-Mino-Bimaadizimin’s fifth year of operation. The event is taking place from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. in Trepanier Hall, located at 212 W. 2nd Street in Duluth. Trepanier Hall itself will be renamed the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center in honor of Dr. Robert Powless, an Oneida elder, activist leader and University of Minnesota - Duluth professor emeritus of American Indian Studies. AICHO is asking that guests RSVP by emailing or calling 218-722-7225; the event will include a feast and is free of charge.

Dr. Robert and Linda Powless
The American Indian Community Housing Organization is one of 27 nationwide facilities that focus on a specific ethnic group. They provide housing services for people suffering from long-term homelessness, transitional housing for survivors of domestic abuse, and they run a 10-bed domestic violence shelter - the only Native American shelter that provides services to battered women and their children in the seven county area surrounding Duluth, Minnesota. Honoring the resiliency of Native American people, AICHO’s vision is to strengthen our community by centering indigenous values in all aspects of their work. The Gimaajii Building opened as AICHO’s headquarters five years and includes 29-units of permanent, supportive housing utilizing the “housing first” model. On-site services include assessment, advocacy, case management, and programming. AICHO’s operating philosophy is that every American Indian man, woman and child deserves to live in a safe, non-threatening environment and should be treated with dignity and respect. Mental health services are provided through a partnership with White Earth Mental Health. Other partners include: Fond du Lac Reservation, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Mending the Sacred Hoop, and the Research for Indigenous Community Health Center. Gimaajii also provides a place for people who have a common history and culture to come together, to learn from others, and to share that culture with others. In the traditional manner of respecting elders, life-long learning is encouraged throughout the Gimaajii. Over the years, dozens of organizations have been able to reserve space to hold meetings, have feasts, and to gather at the building and AICHO hopes to continue its tradition of opening its doors to the community.

In conjunction with its supportive services, AICHO has established a thriving arts and cultural program. AICHO works with Native American and emerging artists to help them overcome barriers to their professional careers including unexpected costs, public awareness, and finding their voice in the community. They host hundreds of events year and average over 11,000 visitors annually. Many of these events have taken place in their auditorium / art gallery space, Trepanier Hall. The night of Gimaajii-Mino-Bimaadizimin’s 5th Anniversary Celebration, AICHO is planning to officially unveil the new title of this space in honor of Dr. Robert Powless.

Dr. Powless is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation of Indians in Wisconsin; he earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison before going to the University of Minnesota’s main campus to obtain his doctorate in educational administration. Dr. Powless was chosen for the honor as a result of his long-term support of Gimaajii-Mino-Bimaadizimin. In the beginning, he served as an advisory member of the Duluth Indian Commission on the AICHO development committee and he and his wife donated $50,000 of their retirement funds toward the establishment of its American Indian Center (Gimaajii). By personally advocating on behalf of homeless American Indians at Minnesota Housing, Powless was able to help AICHO secure the funding that has allowed it to become the organization it is today. Dr. Powless still visits Gimaajii every week while his wife runs errands, spending a few hours each time sitting in the lobby and interacting with children, staff and guests alike. He recently celebrated his 84th birthday and the renaming of Trepanier Hall will be a surprise announcement from AICHO during Gimaajii’s celebratory event.

AICHO Galleries Facebook Page:

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Much more can be said, and will be said in the days and years ahead. Tomorrow is simply a marker along the way that something good has been happening here.

Photo credit: Ivy Vainio

Altering the Nashville Skyline and Several Local Twin Ports Events of Note

When I interviewed San Francisco artist Sherry Karver last fall, I began by saying, "Add Sherry Karver to your list of artists to watch." Plunging into spring I've been notified that she's acquired a solo exhibition at the Cumberland Gallery in Nashville. The exhibition, which will be on display through April 22,  received generous attention in Nashville Arts magazine in a story by Karen Parr-Moody.

In addition to having her work featured in a gallery, First Bank of Nashville honored her with a billboard as "Artist of the Week." Now that's pretty cool. Maybe one of our billboard's leading into Duluth can find a sponsor who will give shout outs each month to some of our many talented local artists.

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There are a number of art-related happenings these next several days. Here are some quick reminders.

Tonight in the Morrison Gallery at the Duluth Art Institute, 4th Floor of the Depot on Michigan Street, Elizabeth Kuth will be giving an artist talk about her current exhibit titled Rooted Expression.

Tomorrow evening the American Indian Community Housing Organization is celebrating its fifth anniversary. There have been so many fabulous events there and I've me so many talented an amazing artists there over this period of time. There will be a feast and there will be friends and a ceremony to rename Trepanier Hall and honor Robert Powless. 5:30 p.m. to 7:30.

Saturday afternoon Studio 3 West is hosting a closing celebration of WTF!, a powerful and thought-provoking show featuring local women artists advocating for social justice, community action, and civic engagement centered on Women’s Rights and related concerns. 2:00-4:00 p.m. Details here.

FWIW the SCFTA is working on an arts calendar so that artists can all tune in to one place and get the arts news they need to plan their outings. It's a major challenge with so much happening.

Meantime, art goes on all around us. Let's celebrate it.

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P.S. That Idea of having a billboard giving shout outs to local artists seems like a seriously good idea. Is this something to take up with the Duluth Public Arts Commission? Or Visit Duluth? We have more than enough artists to feature for the next ten years. If I won the lottery I would sponsor it myself.  

Throwback Thursday: Ishiguro On Dylan

Like most avid readers I read when I can, and never as much as I'd like. A lot of my reading occurs in snippets during my lunch hours. This week I carried around with me a borrowed Spring 2008 edition of The Paris Review, chiefly with the purpose of reading a fascinating interview with Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Remains of the Day which I recently wrote about here.

In this excerpt Ishiguro speaks of his early influences.

What was your next obsession, after detective stories?

Rock music. After Sherlock Holmes, I stopped reading until my early twenties. But I’d played the piano since I was five. I started playing the guitar when I was fifteen, and I started listening to pop records—pretty awful pop records—when I was about eleven. I thought they were wonderful. The first record that I really liked was Tom Jones singing “The Green, Green Grass of Home.” Tom Jones is a Welshman, but “The Green, Green Grass of Home” is a cowboy song. He was singing songs about the cowboy world I knew from TV.
I had a miniature Sony reel-to-reel that my father brought me from Japan, and I would tape directly from the speaker of the radio, an early form of downloading music. I would try to work out the words from this very bad recording with buzzes. Then when I was thirteen, I bought John Wesley Harding, which was my first Dylan album, right when it came out.

What did you like about it?

The words. Bob Dylan was a great lyricist, I knew that straightaway. Two things that I was always confident about, even in those days, were what was a good lyric and what was a good cowboy film. With Dylan, I suppose it was my first contact with stream-of-consciousness or surreal lyrics. And I discovered Leonard Cohen, who had a literary approach to lyrics. He had published two novels and a few volumes of poetry. For a Jewish guy, his imagery was very Catholic. Lot of saints and Madonnas. He was like a French chanteur. I liked the idea that a musician could be utterly self-sufficient. You write the songs yourself, sing them yourself, orchestrate them yourself. I found this appealing, and I began to write songs.

What was your first song?

It was like a Leonard Cohen song. I think the opening line was, “Will your eyes never reopen, on the shore where we once lived and played.”

Was it a love song?

Part of the appeal of Dylan and Cohen was that you didn’t know what the songs were about. You’re struggling to express yourself, but you’re always being confronted with things you don’t fully understand and you have to pretend to understand them. That’s what life is like a lot of the time when you’re young, and you’re ashamed to admit it. Somehow, their lyrics seem to embody this state.

The Paris Review
The Art of Fiction No. 196
Issue 184, Spring 2008

The rest of the interview is a good read, though I don't believe you can find it in its entirety online. Once your appetite has been whetted you'll have to make a purchase to get the rest.

In the meantime, if you were being interviewed today and were asked about your own early influences and interests, what would you say?

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The above story originally appeared on this blog in 2010.

Here's a quick reminder: DULUTH DYLAN FESTIVAL will kick off on May 20 with a concert featuring Robby Vee, son of the great Bobby Vee whom our local Nobel-prize winning Bobby Z (later Bob D) performed with once. 

Stay current with details on Duluth Dylan Fest. Follow us on Facebook.

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

This Is What Democracy Looks Like: Nevada Littlewolf @ The Tweed

Pink hats on the left, "Make America Great Again" on the right.

Throughout the year the Tweed Museum of Art on the UMD campus hosts exhibitions of graduating seniors in a special section of the gallery. This week's show is the work of a graduating senior with much more life experience than many of the students whose work has been displayed here. Nevada Littlewolf has served on the Virginia (MN) city council since 2008. She has also been executive director of RAIL, Rural American Indigenous Leadership, an organization dedicated to supporting women.

Her show, This Is What Democracy Looks Like, is an outgrowth of her experiences in local politics. It is simultaneously a reflection of the recent national election which has amplified the polarizations taking place in America. 

If you decide to visit (there's a great Pop Art exhibit that you need to see right now) you will see that Ms. Littlewolf has plastered two of the walls with messaging from the two opposing sides so as to have them facing one another. The messages are taken from life, social media, etc. 

As you read the vitriol in some of the messages you begin to realize that America is in a painful place right now.  

WHAT FOLLOWS HERE are a set of images from each side of the room, presented much the way we were sometimes made to sit in grade school, boy-girl-boy-girl. I do not believe it was an accident to have placed the Hillary wall on the left and the Trump supporters' banter on the right.

Is dialogue possible? 
Actually, there may be more discussions going on right now than have taken place in a long time. Carla Hamilton's Gezielt at the DAI recently renewed dialogue on race relations in America. WTF at Studio 3 West this month revealed how unresolved gender issues remain in America. 

An argument could be made that the outrage is a good thing in that it brings out a lot of the unspoken thoughts and feelings that have been kept closeted for the sake of "getting along." It's apparent that we have a lot of work to do. 

What do you think?  

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