Autumn Is a Stellar Season for the Arts

By James Riemermann

Hahn Cock by Katharina Fritsch aka the blue rooster at Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Katharina Fritsch's "Hahn/Cock," aka the Blue Rooster, at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Indoors and out, this fall will be a stellar season for the arts in Minnesota.

Topping it off is the dramatically renovated Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which reopened this year with $75 million in improvements, $10 million of which is going to the center’s beloved Sculpture Garden. The garden, which first opened in 1988 to national acclaim, features 17 new works, bringing the total to more than 40.

The playful, signature “Spoonbridge and Cherry” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen remains at the center of the garden, catching the fall light in the spray from the massive cherry’s stem/fountainhead, along with Siah Armajani’s graceful footbridge connecting the garden with Loring Park across Hennepin Avenue. Highlights among the new pieces include “Hahn/Cock,” Katharina Fritsch’s 20-foot-tall blue rooster; Theaster Gates’ “Black Vessel for a Saint;” and Robert Walker’s iconic “Love.”

In addition to purchasing 3.4 acres of adjacent land and nearly doubling the space both within and surrounding the main building, the Walker has added the 385-seat McGuire Theater for performing artists and film; rooftop terraces with views of downtown; plus a new restaurant, cafe, shop, and underground parking to accommodate the center’s great and growing popularity.

Major exhibits this fall include Minnesota artist Frank Big Bear’s “The Walker Collage: Multiverse #10,” made from a vast composition of images presenting “an expansive view of life on Earth as it reflects the greater cosmos.” “Jimmy Durham: At the Center of the World” is a retrospective of 175 multifaceted works covering more than 45 years of Durham’s complex and influential work.

franconia sculpture park in fall _mali mish family.jpg
Franconia Sculpture Park, photo by Mali Mish Family

A smaller but still delightful place to see outdoor sculpture is the Franconia Sculpture Park, in the tiny town of Shafer just a few miles southeast of Taylors Falls, near the St. Croix River. “Artist Talks,” the evening of the second and fourth Thursdays in September and October, offer opportunities to hear sculptors talk about their work, and throughout the fall there are impromptu opportunities to meet sculptors creating and installing their work.

Music, Theater & Dance

There are plenty of great theater and music performances coming up this fall, as well. The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis is performing Shakespeare’s best-known and most-performed tragedy, “Romeo & Juliet.” Surprisingly, the Guthrie has produced the play only twice since its founding in 1963. The play will run Sept. 9-Oct. 28, directed by Joseph Haj, who took the helm in 2015 as the eighth artistic director in the Guthrie’s history. From Sept. 30-Nov. 5, the Guthrie will present “Watch on the Rhine,” written by Lillian Hellman about Nazi resisters coming to America.

For family theater fun, the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis will perform “The Abominables” Sept. 12-Oct. 15, and Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” beginning Nov. 7. Park Square Theatre in St. Paul will perform a distinctive version of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” set in the modern world with contemporary music and live video effects.

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Ordway Center for Performing Arts
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Ordway Center for Performing Arts

At Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Orchestra will perform a live broadcast concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of Minnesota Public Radio, conducted by Osmo Vänskä. A highlight of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s fall season will be Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony with violinist Pekka Kuusisto.

Around the state, the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker will be presented Nov 25 at the Mayo Civic Center; The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein will play at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault Sept. 8-10 and 14-17; the Itasca Symphony Orchestra will perform Nov. 11 at the Reif Performing Arts Center in Grand Rapids; and the Duluth Playhouse will present Neil Simon's "Rumors" in late September, "1984" in early October, and "Madagascar: A Musical Adventure!" in mid-October.

For more comprehensive listings of art performances, exhibits and other arts events, follow the links in the "Discover Arts" section on this page.

Art Studio Tours

Marley Kaul's Studio, Bemidji Studio Art Cruise
Marley Kaul's Studio, Bemidji Studio Art Cruise

Fall is also prime time for tours of artists’ studios in Minnesota, offering the opportunity to get on the road to enjoy fall color and meet potters, ceramic artists, sculptors, carvers and others selling, creating and discussing their work at studios across the state. Below is a partial list; search here for a more comprehensive and up-to-date list of upcoming studio tours.

  • Lanesboro Area Art Trail, Sept. 15-16 and Oct. 6-7
  • Zumbro River Art Splash, Zumbrota, Sept. 16
  • Lake Superior 20/20 Studio Art Tour, Two Harbors,  Sept. 29-Oct. 1
  • Art Along the Lake: Fall Studio Tour, Grand Marais, Sept 29-Oct. 8
  • Fargo-Moorhead Studio Crawl, Oct. 7-8
  • Saint Paul Art Crawl, Oct. 13-15
  • Studio Art Tour, Northfield, Oct. 20-22
  • First City of Arts: Studio Cruise, Bemidji, Oct. 20-22
  • Winona Art Walk, Nov. 18