MOSAIC arts festival opens Saturday with best lineup yet

The MOSAIC arts festival--a free showcase of Minneapolis’s diverse performing arts companies–opens Saturday evening at 5:30 p.m. at several venues along Hennepin Avenue and First Avenue, including outdoor stages. The performers include a savvy mix of familiar names (Ragamala Dance, Latina hip-hop sensation Maria Isa) and intriguing under-the-radar groups (the Afro-Brazilian Capoeira Association, capoeira being a kind of mindblowing martial-arts-meets-breakdance wizardry; the Hayor Bibimma African Dance Company, Brazilian parade dancing, etc.).

And while past programming may have suffered from a sense of civic earnestness and Epcot Center syndrome, this year the festival has branched into hipper territory (First Avenue and Seven nightclubs, Isa and a poetry slam group) and the artists seem to own it more, rather than representing on behalf of the city. In fact, a group from outside the city (a ballet troupe from Morelos, Mexico) has been brought in. It feels, in other words, like a regular arts festival, only free.

Frankly, for anyone interested in the world cultures calling this place home, set aside 5:30 to 10 pm on Saturday. I’ll be there–presenting, along with Mayor R.T. Rybak, the first annual Minneapolis Arts Commission awards for the best public art projects in the city of 2008. That’s at the Pantages Theater at 7:20 p.m., where the Morelos ballet is performing just before.