Art of the State

Since the early 1970s, Tom Arndt has been the Garrison Keillor of photography (in fact, the two are friends), chronicling the state with the kind of nostalgia that burnishes our most prosaic rituals with the gloss of mythology. In “Tom Arndt’s Minnesota,” opening this month at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, bell-bottomed teens parade in the neon glow of the Minnesota State Fair and an overexcited wrestling fan leaps into an aisle of the old Minneapolis Auditorium. Arndt, who scaled the heights of the art-photography scenes in Chicago and New York before recently returning to the Twin Cities, has an eye for wry details—and the places and faces that define the way we were.

Lines of Fire

The book the Minnesota National Guard doesn’t want you to read


Nick Maurstad was a 21-year-old farm kid from Newfolden, near Thief River Falls, when he wound up in Iraq’s Anbar province, what he calls the “the absolute worst place on Earth.” By the time he returned home, 16 months later, his company of Minnesota National Guard soldiers—dubbed the Red Bulls—had served longer than any other military unit in Iraq.

Such circumstances provide plenty of fodder for Maurstad’s recently published memoir, Bristol’s Bastards. Still, anyone expecting a heroic coming-of-age story is in for a shock. Co-written with author Darwin Holmstrom in language that would peel the paint off a latrine, the book portrays several officers as ignorant brutes. It also depicts soldiers cooking meth at camp, abusing blowup dolls, and deploying their lust on local girls. In response, the Guard has distanced itself from Maurstad, offering only a terse comment from a spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Olson: “Mr. Maurstad is free, as any private citizen, to express his views on his former membership in the Minnesota National Guard.”

Maurstad stands by his portrayals. “If somebody caught a lot of shit in the book, it’s because they deserved it from the view of the average grunt on the ground,” he says. As for the grunts’ hijinks, he suggests that most people just don’t understand how bored the soldiers often are. “Everyone has this vision of war being a John Wayne movie,” Maurstad says. “But it’s not. It’s toilet humor, and people doing stupid stuff. It’s not grown men over there. It’s kids.”


Q: Were there ever white bears in White Bear Lake?

A: If you’re wondering if there were polar bears once running around what is now the east metro, the answer is no. The planet’s climate hasn’t change that much in the last couple hundred years. According to the Minnesota Historical Society’s Minnesota Place Names, the name comes from an Indian legend, which holds that a young Ojibwe man killed a white bear that was about to attack his wife on the lake’s Manitou Island. The spirit of the white bear has haunted the lake and the island ever since (though, apparently, not so much that it has caused Manitou Island to lose its status as one of the most exclusive addresses in the Twin Cities).


Love, Minnesota Style: Are Minnesotans more or less romantic than denizens of other states? Depends on what you mean by romantic. According to the U.S. Census bureau, Minnesota most recently ranked 18th and 19th among all states in the number of florists and marriages, respectively, even though we rank only 21st in population. That said, we also rank 23rd in the number of jewelry stores. So, if Virginia is for lovers, Minnesota is for stingy ones.


How do you win hearts on Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank? Some advice:


Give My Regards To
Create personalized valentines for those you love and get 20 percent off orders of 25 cards or more. 7179 Washington Ave. S., Edina, 952-941-3371,


St. Paul Hotel
The Ultimate Romance Package includes fresh flowers, champagne, and strawberries, plus a $100 food credit to use in the hotel’s two restaurants. Prices vary based on room availability; 350 Market St., St. Paul, 651-292-9292,


Minnesota Zoo
The popular Love Tour begins in the Tropics Trail, where zoo staff highlight the courting and breeding behaviors of the animals. Following the, ahem, educational information, guests dine on a multi-course meal in Discovery Bay. Adults only, $170 per couple; 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley, 952-431-9200,


Marjorie McNeely Conservatory
Skip giving a bouquet this year and treat your date to a romantic dinner surrounded by hundreds of flowers for the Conservatory’s Enchanted Evening event. $165 per couple; 1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul, 651-487-8250,


Bryant Lake Bowl
A spin-off to the dining room’s weekly Cheap Date Nights, Bryant Lake Bowl offers Not So Cheap Date Night on Valentine’s Day: soup or salad, two entrées, a bottle of wine or two beers, and a round of bowling for a steal. $35; 810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis, 612-825-3737,

For Fun

White Castle
Get seated by a hostess and enjoy some Slyders by candlelight with your sweetie. Reservations required. No charge; offered at 15 metro locations,

* For event ideas, check out our Web-exclusive Valentine’s Day list.


Here’s to Hard Times!

Are we really in the grip of something as grim as the Great Depression? If so, why not find the silver lining? Despite the poverty and high unemployment, several important changes took place in Minnesota during those dark days—many of which shaped our modern state. Here are some of the highlights—and one misstep.


Rural power

In 1935, only 10 percent of American farms had electricity. Just seven years later, thanks to the Rural Electrification Administration, some 40 percent of homes in rural Minnesota were on the grid. 

Accessible arts
Minnesota’s cultural scene got a shot in the arm in the late 1930s when the Walker Art Center was reorganized with Federal Art Project funds. The once stuffy temple to high art threw open its doors and refashioned itself as a community arts center, hiring roughly 60 artists to produce work and teach art classes.

Environmental restoration
Workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps planted nearly 124 million trees in Minnesota’s forests, built 119 buildings or structures in Minnesota’s state parks, and helped clean up waterways. “We invested in young people and the environment, and that investment paid us back,” says local historian Barbara Sommer.

Department-store sales
When the first ripples of the Depression hit Minnesota in 1932, department-store owner George Draper Dayton sketched out a plan. For the remainder of the financial crisis, it was a rare occasion when there wasn’t a sale going on. The scheme worked: Dayton’s turned a small profit every year during the worst of it all.

Boneheaded management
Facing budget cuts in 1932, the Minneapolis City Council furloughed all married women whose husbands had jobs. “I certainly wouldn’t call that one of our brightest moments,” says Annette Atkins, author of Creating Minnesota


TV in the TC

This month marks the switch to all-digital broadcasting. Here, some numbers on the Cities’ relationship with the tube.

1,730,530 Number of households with a TV in the Twin Cities
15 Rank of the Twin Cities in size among television markets in the U.S.
199 Rank of Mankato’s market size
62 Percentage of Minneapolis teenagers between 15 and 18 who have a television in their bedroom, according to one U of M study.
5 Number of additional hours of television those Minneapolis teenagers watch compared to their peers who don’t have TVs in their bedrooms.
8.4 Percentage of households in the U.S. unprepared for the switch to digital broadcasting, according to Nielsen.
12 Percentage of households in the Twin Cities that are unprepared, according to Nielsen.
2/17 Date (in 2009) of the digital-broadcasting transition in the U.S.
2/17 Date (in 1958) that Pope Pius XII named St. Clare of Assisi the patron saint of television.

The Curtain

Who’s up, who’s down in local arts and culture


Minnesota Opera
A major contemporary opera initiative renews the form and the company
Tom Arndt
The longtime local photographer has a new book and a retrospective at the MIA
Kim Motes
Her move to Theater Latté Da leaves the Shubert Theater without its chief fundraiser
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre
Slow fundraising prompts a seven-week closure
Intermedia Arts
The venerable champion of urban art closes its gallery, slashes staff


The Collectors

Unveiling Minnesota’s greatest private art caches

On the walls of some local homes hang masterpieces by John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, Edward Steichen, and other major artists. But the treasures have rarely been seen by the public. Opening February 22 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Noble Dreams and Simple Pleasures is the first exhibition to highlight the area’s most prominent living collectors, including hair-salon magnate Myron Kunin and his wife, Anita; manufacturing sales entrepreneur Sam McCullough and his wife, Patricia; and insurance planner Michael Antonello and his wife, Jean.

“I started collecting out of necessity,” says Sam McCullough, who began buying and selling antique furniture as a way to quickly raise cash to launch the family business. Later, he and his wife began a folk-art collection, which now ranks among the country’s finest.

Michael Antonello, a former professional violinist, bought his first painting, an undistinguished piece by a Russian artist, from his father to help him out when he needed the money. His father died soon after and Antonello adopted his passion for paintings, amassing a trove of American impressionism seen mostly by fellow collectors—until now.

—Andrea Wagenknecht

Love Scenes

Valentine’s Day shows for first dates, last dates, and everything in between 


Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Where: Chanhassen Dinner Theaters,
What to expect: Singin’, dancin’, and courtin’—of the bop-’em-on-the-head-drag-’em home variety—in Broadway’s paean to shotgun marriages.
Who should go: anyone whose idea of courtin’ includes dinner, a show, and an ice-cream cocktail.
Who shouldn’t: anyone whose first impulse regarding backwoods men acquiring brides via kidnapping is to file charges.

Romeo & Juliet
Where: Children’s Theatre Company,
What to expect: No stage or seating—you stand and shift with the action as the players stroll around the audience (mind the sabers).
Who should go: teens, the young at heart.
Who shouldn’t: small children, the infirm, cynical jake-a-napes.

Adventures in Mating
Where: Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater,
What to expect: Patrons determining—as in the Choose Your Own Adventure books—whether the actors onstage, playing a couple on a date, should order a salad or soup, kiss or walk away, etc.
Who should go: long-term couples, singles safely enacting revenge fantasies.
Who shouldn’t: those whose idea of an interactive show isapplauding at the end.

Legally Blonde
Where: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts,
What to expect: The movie, with songs.
Who should go: single women, guys hoping that accompanying their dates to this show will excuse them from brunch forever.
Who shouldn’t: everyone else.

Happy Days
Where: Guthrie Theater,
What to expect: A cheery woman buried up to her waist, the man devoted to her, and a pistol.
Who should go: Those looking to impress by pretending to understand Beckett.
Who shouldn’t: claustrophobics.

* For more events, check out our Web-exclusive Valentine’s Day list.