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Can Can Wonderland 2

Can Can Wonderland filled with art, ideas, and innovation

Posted on 10 April 2017 by Calvin

Can Can Wonderland at 755 Prior Ave. is a connector between the past and the future. That is how Jennifer Pennington, co-founder and CEO of the arts-based entertainment center that features mini golf and so much more, describes it. “A lot of mini golf courses use technology and are motion activated, and we have that, but we also have the old-time pinball machines,” she noted. “It’s nostalgia, but innovation. It’s cool.”

Photo left: Mini golf players enjoy a whimsical course created by local artists at the new Can Can Wonderland, 755 Prior Ave. (Photo by Jan Willms)

The center’s other founders are Chris Pennington, Christi Atkinson and Rob Clapp. They first started toying with the idea of the unique amusement center in 2008 but did not start pursuing it until 2010. Can Can Wonderland has been open about three months.

“The concept started in a few different ways,” Pennington explained. “One was just wanting to get more people involved with arts and making arts more fun and accessible. We had been involved in some other projects that had raised funds for the arts and private art galleries. Then the recession hit. Galleries were able to stay open because of those programs.”

She said that realization challenged them to want to create art that was self-funded. “Now there’s talk about maybe the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) closing, so we wanted to try and figure something out. Arts funding has always been difficult and hard to come by.”

Photo right: A balloon creature points the way to Wonderland. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Pennington said one of the greatest challenges in getting Can Can Wonderland off the ground was securing all the funding that was needed. “A place like this has never been done before, and it’s a new concept. We had to get people confident in what we are doing and take a risk on us,” she explained.

It took about seven to eight months from the beginning of construction on Can Can Wonderland until the operation opened. It occupies 20,000 square feet of the 450,000 square foot building that was American Can factory in St. Paul. “The building had been vacant for five years,” Pennington said.

She said that for the mini golf course, they asked artists for submissions of ideas to design a course they had always wanted to play on. “We had proposals from as far away as Australia,” she said, “but we ended up selecting local artists.” She said a prospective artist was given two options. “You could submit a design idea, and we would hire fabricators to construct it, or you could submit a design that you could build yourself. But you had to tell us you had the skills to do that,” Pennington stated. She said the resulting course is a mix of both types of proposals.

As far as other forms of entertainment, the World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band performs every Friday night. The group has been together for over 40 years and served as the house band for Nye’s Polonaise Room before it closed.

“We also have a 15-year-old DJ who is playing,” she said. “We have senior performers, too, and on Thursday nights a variety show with a house band and MC and different acts.”

Photo left: A bank of old-fashioned pinball machines provide entertainment for all ages. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Those acts have included circus performers, artists, jugglers, ballet dancers, tap dancers and tuba players. “We have also had cloggers perform,” Pennington said. “And every Friday we have Tappy Hour, with free tap dance lessons with shoes provided.”

“We try to have something for everyone, no matter what your age or background,” she noted.
Can Can Wonderland offers concession foods at this time, with plans for getting a grill, fryer and hood, and expanding to a bigger restaurant.

Craft cocktails are also offered. “We want to be creative on our drinks,” Pennington explained. “So we contracted with an organization called Bittercube, out of Milwaukee. They offer these creative, delicious cocktails, making their own bitters. They’ve worked in a lot of local restaurants in the Twin Cities and some new hotels in the warehouse district. You can get an Old Fashioned with an ice cube that is like a colored golf ball. It is really pretty and tastes great.”

There is a space called the Boardwalk within the Can Can Wonderland’s premises, with different activities. There may be musicians who play for tips, face painting henna painting, or caricaturists. “Some artists want to do installations,” Pennington said. “We have a small wall for fine arts that will rotate every four months. We are getting some submissions for that now. So we are pretty open to whatever people want to do. We want to be here for emerging artists and established artists.”

Photo left: All kinds of creations, including this cyclone, provide challenges at the mini golf course at Can Can Wonderland. (Photo by Jan Willms)

The organization’s website reads: “We are proud to be the first arts-based public benefit corporation in Minnesota. Our social purpose is to be an economic engine for the arts.”

Pennington said the most challenging part once the doors opened is that crowds have been bigger than expected. “We have to scramble a lot to get enough employees and get staffing levels where they need to be,” she commented.

She said she has been most pleased with the diversity of the people who come. Some have told her they drove a thousand miles to see the place. “I don’t know how they heard about us, but that’s very nice,” she said. She also noted that some of the former workers from the can factory have visited, people who worked in the location 40 years ago.

“We want to be a great community gathering place, where people do have a good time,” Pennington said. “I think that’s important. We have a lot of serious issues we have to come together to solve, and if we’re not having fun together, I don’t know how we can come together to make serious decisions. We just want Can Can Wonderland to be a fun place where people can come and have fun and feel safe and be delighted and discover new things.”

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Tool Library 8

Tool Library opens in Midway with excitement and fanfare

Posted on 10 April 2017 by Calvin

All photos by JAN WILLMS
(Click on images to see them larger in a separate window)
Home remodeling enthusiasts, weekend carpenters, wood crafters and do-it-yourself repairers all had an opportunity to explore the new St. Paul Tool Library at its March grand opening. For an annual membership fee of $55, neighborhood residents can visit the Tool Library, 755 Prior Ave. N., and borrow from a catalog of 25,000 home improvement tools for up to a week at a time.

The grand opening featured free food, free beer, music, games for the kids and a chance for everyone to get a close look at the many tools available. Members can also get a 20% discount on monthly classes in woodworking, sewing, home improvement, and crafts.

Many of those attending expressed that they were very excited a business like this with tools that can be borrowed was now open in the old American Can factory right in the Midway.

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Vandalia Glass 76

Vandalia Glass Works is all fired up

Posted on 10 April 2017 by Calvin

A simple paper weight becomes a work of art. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Vandalia Glass Works is a public, state-of-the-art glassblowing facility located in the Vandalia Tower, 550 Vandalia Ave. The spacious second-floor studio offers space for teaching glassblowing, is available for rent to more than a dozen glass artists working on their craft, and houses an inspired art gallery of glass items for sale by resident artists.

Bryce Borkhuis, one of two studio managers at the glassworks, said, “We’ve been in this space since last April, and the requests for lessons keep pouring in. We offer two crash courses: our beginning students make a paperweight, and our intermediate students make a short drinking glass.”

Photo left: Bryce Borkhuis, studio manager, shaped molten glass with a hot pad made from newspaper pages. Glass artists don’t wear gloves, even though they’re working with a material that has been heated to more than 2,000 degrees. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“During after hours,” Bork­huis explained, “we have 15 regularly-scheduled resident artists who rent space from us at the rate of $35/hour. That fee includes the cost of molten glass, and the use of our pipes, furnaces, and tools.”

The practice of glassblowing may seem cutting edge, especially if you’ve just discovered it, but the technique has been around since the time of the Roman Empire. The first century B.C.E. Syrians are widely credited with the discovery that glass could be blown from the end of a hollow tube into different shapes. While new technologies have introduced modern equipment, the fundamentals of glassblowing remain the same.

“People are drawn to glassblowing because the final product is so beautiful, but also because the process is so challenging,” Borkhuis said. “It takes a long time to become a skillful glass artist.”

He explained that “the process starts out by dipping the end of a 4’ long metal blowpipe into one of the two furnaces here. Each furnace has a cauldron of clear, molten glass inside. It’s kind of like sticking your fork into a plate of spaghetti, only a lot hotter. The furnace temperature is raised to 2,050 degrees Fahrenheit. You never, ever stop turning the pipe in your fingers, so that the molten glass doesn’t fall off.”

Photo right: Borkhuis re-heated the glass he was working in what glass blowers affectionately call, “The Glory Hole.” The temperature here is 100 degrees higher than the furnace. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Once the pipe is removed from the furnace, the glass starts to cool at the rate of 50 degrees per second. Before it hardens, the molten glass is dipped into crushed bits of colored glass, called frit, on a table several feet away.

In addition to the regular classes taught by staff, Vandalia Glassworks occasionally brings in visiting guest artists. Grant Garmezy, who lives and works in Richmond, VA, creates highly realistic glass form sculptures influenced by his love of the south—and the animals that live there. Garmezy will be teaching a week-long workshop during the last week of April at Vandalia Glassworks, in which students will learn to use a variety of torches and sculpting techniques to bring their own sculptures to life.

One to two years of glassblowing experience is required to register for this advanced level class. Email info@vandaliaglassworks.com or call 651-744-0000 for more information.

Garmezy will create a sculpture of his own on Sat., Apr. 29, the weekend of the St. Paul Art Crawl. Stop by the studio between noon and 10pm to see this nationally recognized artist at work.

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EAB 07 slider

Time is running out in the fight against Emerald Ash Borer

Posted on 10 April 2017 by Calvin

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive beetle that made its way to North America 15 years ago. Adult beetles eat ash foliage, causing little damage—but larvae feed on the inner bark, killing ash trees by cutting off the transport of water and nutrients.

According to Rachel Coyle, City of St. Paul Urban Forester, “The EAB will eventually claim all our ash trees. That amounts to about 25% of St. Paul’s boulevard trees, and is a staggering loss of our urban forest.”

Photo right: The City of St. Paul has marked hundreds of ash trees with green ribbons as part of a public awareness campaign. This stretch of trees along Marshall Ave. east of the Lake St. Bridge is being treated for EAB infestation. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The EAB first showed up in Great Lakes shipping ports in 2002, in packing crates from overseas. It has since spread to 29 states and two Canadian provinces; its arrival in Minnesota was confirmed in 2009. Every North American ash species is susceptible to the EAB, which will kill all untreated trees it encounters within ten years.

The City of St. Paul has done extensive marking of ash trees with green ribbons, directing interested persons to their website to learn more about the infestation at www.stpaul.gov/eab. The green ribbons are part of a public awareness campaign to inform people of just how many ash trees line St. Paul boulevards.

According to Coyle, “The ash was a natural choice to replace elm trees lost to Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970’s. It’s an inexpensive tree, and it grows fast. Unfortunately, there are monocultures of ash planted throughout St. Paul. We have about 18,000 planted along city boulevards, and we’ve decided to treat 3,500 with an insecticide to kill the EAB.”

The ash trees that the City of St. Paul is treating are in highly visible locations, with trunk diameters measuring between 10-20”. The chemical used to treat them is a non-neonicotinoid, meaning that it doesn’t pose a threat to pollinators. Derived from natural products, the chemical TREEage is considered the “lowest-risk.”

Photo left: The City of St. Paul has decided to chemically treat 3,500 of its 18,000 boulevard Ash trees for Emerald Ash Borer. Treated trees bear a metal tag on the street-side at about 4’ off the ground. The trees are treated every three years. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“We’re treating the trees we can,” Coyle said, “and those we can’t treat we’re removing. We’ve been doing what we call ‘Structured Removal’ since 2010, where we take out whole blocks at a time. Our primary concern now is removing infested trees, and there’s a backlog of those. The trees are a safety hazard. We currently have funding to remove about 1,000 trees per year.”

According to Coyle “the Forestry Department received less money than we had requested from the city this year. We’ve removed 800 trees so far in 2017 and, unfortunately for those customers, there is no funding available for stump grinding and tree replacement.

“We expect homeowners to be very upset about this,” she said. As Coordinator of the EAB Management Program, Coyle is used to delivering news to homeowners that they don’t want to hear. She encouraged citizens to contact their city council member and the mayor’s office to express their opinions about the budget shortfall.

Karen Zumach, forester and vice president of the Minnesota Shade Tree Advisory Committee (MNSTAC) reiterated those thoughts. “Everyone has to start making a lot more noise,” she said, “and if municipalities can’t provide replacement trees, invest in them yourselves. If a legislator hears about an issue five times, it will rise to the top of their list of constituent concerns.”

Zumach explained, “The death curve for EAB is rising, and more trees are going to start dying faster. MNSTAC advocates for treating far more trees than our current funding will allow. With our unprecedented number of ash trees, Minnesota has more to lose than any other state—and our municipalities have been too slow in responding.”

The goal of MNSTAC is to create a centralized funding source to deal with the EAB infestation. Their bill has requested funding from the state in the last two legislative sessions. While it has strong bipartisan support, its outcome is still unclear. Zumach concluded, “With proper funding, municipalities could treat their ash trees for twenty years for less cost than removing and replacing them.”

Homeowners can obtain a free permit for planting a boulevard tree at their expense on city property.

Once the application is received, a city forester will schedule a site visit and make a recommendation for what type of tree to choose. Visit www.stpaul.gov/forestry to apply for a permit.

“Boulevard trees are subject to the peculiar pressures of road salt, restricted root growth, and pollution from cars, Coyle said. “Consult with the visiting forester, but stay open-minded. If you’re investing in a tree, you may actually be better off planting it in your yard than on the boulevard.”

Coyle cautioned that we need to learn from our mistakes: invasive species are not going to end with the EAB. If choosing a new boulevard or yard tree, her strongest suggestion was to not plant a maple. She said, “The next anticipated invasive insect species is the Asian Longhorn Beetle, and its preferred food source is maple trees.”

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Vandalia Glass 82 slider

Midway and South Como are Saint Paul Art Crawl destinations

Posted on 10 April 2017 by Calvin

Kevin Caufield’s high fire porcelain kitchen and serving ware are minimally decorated and beautifully thrown. Caufield is owner of Caufield Clay Works. “Pottery was ‘Plan B’ for what I thought I would do with my life,” Caufield said. “I grew up one of seven kids in an Irish Catholic family on Long Island. I always figured I’d be a firefighter like my Dad, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Spring Saint Paul Art Crawl is approaching fast. This semi-annual, three-day event will close out the month of April with studio tours and art experiences on Fri., Apr. 28 from 6-10pm; Sat., Apr. 29 from 12-8pm; and Sun., Apr. 30 from 12-5pm.

Art Crawl Director Alexzan Richmond said, “To date, we have 341 artists registered to show their work in 33 different buildings throughout the city. Of those buildings, eight are located within Midway, Raymond Station (Raymond and University avenues), and South Como. The diversity of artists and the media they work in are tremendous. At many of the studios, visitors can see artists at work and maybe try their hand at making something themselves.”

Ceramic artist Mary Jo Schmith owns the Front Avenue Pottery and Tile Company at 895 Front Ave. in South Como. “I got involved in the Saint Paul Art Crawl four years ago because I wanted to offer my neighbors a fun, informal clay workshop where they could make something useful,” Schmith said.

Photo right: Mary Jo Schmith, owner of Front Avenue Pottery and Tile Company, will be firing it up in South Como. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Schmith has been throwing pots professionally for more than 20 years. Her work is playfully decorative, high quality, functional stoneware for table and home. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

This spring, visitors to Schmith’s studio can join in afternoon workshops on Saturday and Sunday from 12-4pm to hand-build a garden lantern. Finished lanterns will be kiln-fired, and can be picked up later by arrangement with Schmith. There is no charge for the workshop, but donations will be cheerfully accepted for the cost of materials. Children ages five+ are welcome to participate. The studio’s pottery wheel will be available to try every day of the crawl.

“The Saint Paul Art Crawl is not a juried event,” said Richmond, “meaning that anyone who makes art by hand is welcome to show their work. There’s a range of experience on the part of participating artists and a range of prices for those wishing to purchase art. I like to say; you can spend anywhere from $5 to $20,000 here; I’ve seen the whole gamut.”

Artists pay a small fee to participate: $45 to list their studio name and location in the event catalog, or $65 to buy a listing with a photo of their work included. Catalogs will be available at each location.

Photo left: Kevin Caufield, owner of Caufield Clay Works, at the wheel in his Midway studio at 2242 University Ave., #150. Caufield has ten student wheels which see constant use; his popular classes, such as a two-hour wine and pottery event, are booked out three months in advance. This is Caufield’s 25th year of participating in the St. Paul Art Crawl. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Saint Paul Art Crawl draws more than 20,000 visitors twice a year, charges no admission, and will be distributing a full color, 112-page catalog at no charge. How has that been sustainable for more than a quarter of a century? The answer, according to Richmond lies in two golden words, “community partnerships.”

“We see this crawl as an opportunity to deepen relationships between businesses and artists,” Richmond said, “and between artists and community members. The St. Paul Federal Credit Union is the official sponsor this year. They’ve been a tremendous supporter of ours; they understand how critical artists are to the health of this community.”

Richmond continued, “In addition, we’ve received so much support from local businesses including AM 950 KTNF, the Dark Horse Bar and Eatery, C & E Lofts, Metro Transit, Modern Press, the Pioneer Press and many others.

MTC will be providing free bus passes for Saturday and Sunday Art Crawl visitors. Passes can be downloaded at www.saintpaulartcrawl.org.

There are many reasons to come out and enjoy the Saint Paul Art Crawl. It’s family-friendly, it’s fun, it’s free and, thanks to MTC, it’s even easy to get around. But most of all, it’s inspiring—and you just never know what could happen when you get inspired.

This event is produced by the St. Paul Art Collective, which has been connecting art and community since 1977.

Find the following local participants in the Saint Paul Art Tour:

Bindery Building, 708 Vandalia St.
• JJ Jucick-Axis Pottery: Contemporary Ceramics
• Jeff Dahlin, E& LBindery: Book Binding, Blank Journals
• Angie Bailey: Author, blogger, humorist
• Hilary Stein: Oil Painting
• Morgan Brooke: Mosaics, Pastel Drawings
• Rich Silha Professional B/W Services: Photographer
• Lost & Bound BookArts: Hand bound books

Carleton Place Lofts, 2285 University Ave. W.
• The Studio Project: Handmade Journals, Paintings, and Joy Pages
• Healing Zimbel Dolls: Healing Dolls
• Nickerson Furnishing & Design: Furniture
• Jamie Lang: Encaustic Paintings on Handmade Adobe Tiles
• Jesse Andersen: Ink and marker drawings
• Liz Lang: Acrylic Paintings
• Nelson Cain’s Pootie Art Smackdown: Groovy Abstract Acrylic
• Reiki Laughter: relax and take time for self!
• AK Hed Vincent: Abstract Expressionist Painting & Photography
• Casey Wollschlaeger: Ceramics; photography
• Carleton Voices Print Collective: Letterpress and screen prints
• Cindy Lanphear: Drawing
• Michael Hussey: Painting, fine fragrances
• Eggs by OCK: Pysanky, ancient art form
• Deep Magenta Designs: Textiles and Fine Art

Dow Building, 2242 University Ave. W.
• Don Dickinson: Urban Landscape
• Linda Ricklefs Baudry: Pastel with mixed media
• Linda Snouffer: Botanical Printmaker
• Ryan James Ryoe: Street Art & Wizardry
• Greta Claire: Contemporary abstract sorceress
• Marcia Söderman: Abstract landscape painting
• Jason Kaping: Wheel Thrown Pottery
• Kevin F. Caufield: Porcelain & woodfired pottery
• Joshua W Murray: Collage / Mixed Media / Photography
• Denise Minkler Marych: Nature-inspired oil paintings on copper
• Madcapzest: Collage/Wearable Mixed Media
• Erik Pearson: Figurative expressionistic paintings
• Izzi Xiques: Linework ink illustrations
• Tim Monsters!: Plush monsters, screenprint posters & apparel

Front Avenue Pottery and Tile Co., 895 Front Ave.    
• Mary Jo Schmith: Functional playfully decorative stoneware
• Laura Thyne: Low fired functional pottery
• Jenny Levernier: Sterling silver and stone jewelry
• Linden Wicklund: Functional wheel thrown porcelain pottery
• Marc Johnson-Pencook: Original pen and ink drawings
• Brett Monahan Pottery: Functional reduction fired pottery
• Ryan Ball: MN made, wheel thrown, functional pottery
• Steve Wicklund: Functional wheel thrown porcelain pottery
• Jim Gindorff: Landscape Photography

Midway Triangle Building, 2500 University Ave. W.
• DeAnne L Parks: Contemporary paintings and ceramic sculpture
• Greta Sandquist: Acrylic paintings & handmade jewelry
• Matthew G.G. Holm: Painting, Drawing and Printmaking
• Marisa Martinez: Mixed Metal and Stone Artisan Jewelry
• Elle Halls: Commercial and Portrait Photography
• Amy Sabatier Designs: Inspired Sterling Silver/Mixed Metal Jewelry
• Zahnworks Studio: Bronze Sculpture
• Scarlet A Design by Amanda Kopplin: Organic Silver Jewelry
• Kay Raabe: Paintings and Drawings
• KMK Designs: Costume and Fabric art. Mix of other Mediums
• Chuck Solberg: Ceramics
• Melanie Bethke: Vibrant abstract oil paintings
• Artsy Images Photography: Fine art nudes & studio photography
• Wendy McCarty: Oil Painting, Landscapes,Flowers, Figurative

Vandalia Tower, 550 Vandalia St.
• Vandalia Glassworks
• H Kremen Glass: Hand made glass art
• Neil Johnston: Paintings
• Jake Stokman: Glass Art
• Rachel Masica: Hand Blown Glass Art
• Ed Charbonneau: Painting
• Steven Weagel: Lighted Sculptures
• Jon Reischl: Abstract figurative painting
• Jeremy Szopinski: Abstract painting
• Bryce Borkhuis: Glass Artist
• Michael Hess: Hand blown glass

Can Can Wonderland, 755 N. Prior Ave.
• Multiple artists and artisans

Interact Center, 1860 W. Minnehaha Ave.    
• Interact Center creates art that challenges perceptions of disability

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Unforgettable adventures found locally at youth summer camps

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

Popular local options include West Bank School of Music, Friends School, Blackhawks and Como Park

Take an unforgettable adventure to Africa this summer or spend a week at Hogwarts. Focus on ballet, Irish dance or tap. Experience the circus. Go for gold in the Animal Olympics at the zoo or create something great at the Friends School. Try tennis, soccer, or mountain biking. Dabble with clay, book arts or sewing. Step back in time and be a history detective.

That’s just the start of the youth camp options available in the Twin Cities area. Browse below for more information on some of the camps offered locally.


Blackhawks (photo right) offer several exciting half- and full-day soccer camps for players ages 5-18 that encompass a wide variety of activities and skills. Specialty camps focus on specific skills such as ball control, shooting, and goalkeeping.
Cost: $85-195

Spend some time “Monkeying Around” with your primate pals, go for the gold in “Animal Olympics,” take an “African Adventure” without leaving Como, or try on the hat of a zookeeper or gardener in “Behind-the-Scenes!” Como’s camps focus on developing children’s appreciation for the natural world through play and exploration, behind-the-scenes experiences, interactions with zookeepers and gardeners, and up-close encounters with plant and animal ambassadors. Five-day, half-day or full-day sessions for preschool to grade eight. Extended care is available.
Cost: $135-155

Want to make a film just like the professionals do? Feel like biking 10 (or 20!) miles a day? Have a secret stash of poems you want to share? Feel a need to express yourself through paint and paper-folding? Maybe you’d rather argue for the defense in a real courtroom? Friends School will be the place to do that–and more–from June 19-Aug. 4 for ages 4-14. Weekdays, half- and full-day. Extended day care in the mornings and afternoons and need-based financial aid available.
Cost: $105 to $295

Travel back in time and learn about life in the 1800s. Explore seasonal Dakota activities including the maple sugar camp, wild rice village, life in the tipi, hunting games, methods of travel, language, and song. Or enroll in Gibbs Girl or Digging History sessions. Three-day, half-day camps. One-day Pioneer PeeWees camps offered for ages 4-5.
Cost: $19-99

High school students ages 15-18 can explore the craft, prepare for college, and connect with other young writers in the Twin Cities while working closely with Hamline Creative Writing faculty and published authors.
Cost: $400

Join the Minnesota Waldorf School for good, old-fashioned summer fun June 12 to Aug. 18. Outdoor games, natural crafts, water play, gardening, caring for the school’s chickens, and much more, all on their beautiful 8-acre campus. 70 East County Road B, St. Paul. For children ages 3.5 to (rising) 6th grade.
Cost: $150- $275
651-487-6700 x202

Fun, exciting camps that combine physical fitness and education are offered throughout the summer for school-age kids. Register early for discounts.

Make your own games and design circuits. Take a writing workshop entitled: “A Week at Hogwarts.” Debate, play chess, learn about mathematical modeling and forecasting, make movies or delve into creative science options. Eight options at SPA cover a wide range of academic, arts, and enrichment activities for grades 2-12. The Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth offers the ExplorSchool for students in grades 4-6.
Cost: $195-385

Summer is a great time to try dance. Programs include workshops and camps for ages 3 and up, weekly drop-in classes for teens and adults, and a new “mommy and me” baby class.
Cost: $8.50-20

Located at 30+ sites, St. Paul Urban Tennis offers a summer program for all age groups and skill levels. Tennis lessons combine high-quality instruction with life skills learning. Sampler Camps offer a condensed, 4-day version of the lesson program. Scholarships are available.

There’s something for everyone at WBSM this summer! Camps: Rock, Pop, Funk, Brass, and Girls Rock–Ensembles: Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, Fiddle, String Quartet, and Irish–Guitar Classes: Blues, Celtic, and Finger-style, and more.


Construct ten castles, get lost in colossal mazes, build suits of armor and more during these five-day, full-day sessions for ages 8-17. Buses available from Powderhorn Park. New this year: Teen Weeks and Advanced AiC.
Cost: $339

Solve mysteries of the past in this three-day History Detective Camp for ages 10-13. Or, young ladies ages 9-12 can step back in time in a unique Finishing School for Young Ladies day camp.
Cost: $200-$220

Unleashed summer campers entering grades 3-10 spend a full week immersed in animal learning and fun. NEW this year: Campers will spend their time exclusively in the shelters.
Cost: $120-300

A variety of art disciplines and mediums with themes like mirror images, urban forest, theater, art car, or paper and book arts offered for ages 4-18. Five-day, half- and full-day sessions available.
Cost: $124-275

Grab your passports and join ArtStart artists on an unforgettable adventure to Africa through the arts. Preschool children ages 4-5 years register for “A Start with the Arts” offered morning only the week of July 10-14 and 17-21. Youth ages 13 years and older register for “Camp CREATE” offered June 19-22. Youth select classes taught by professional artists from multiple arts disciplines—music, creative movement/dance, and visual arts. As a result of participating in this 5-day immersion experience, youth gain artistic knowledge and skills, learn about the people, geography, and environment of a place and create artworks and performances inspired by the culture.
Cost: $145-$295. 651-698-2787.

Camp and canoe while learning leadership and teamwork skills in a seven-day resident camp for youths age 13-18 who live within the city limits of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Held on the St. Croix River in Rush City and organized by YouthCARE.
Cost: free

Explore international circus arts at Circus Juventas. Five-day, full-day sessions offered for ages 6-15. Or make your own camp with Circus Sampler Days.
Cost: $85-405

Experience cultural and language immersion; 15 languages to choose from. Resident camp for ages 6-18 and family camps.
Cost: $960-$4,510

Explore prairies, wetlands and woodland trails during full- and half-day, four-day camps offered for students entering 1-8 grades. Shorter sessions are available for ages 3-6.
Cost: $50-200

Make butter, ice cream, and bread while learning about science, agriculture, and history at the Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood. Plus, students will play old-time games like townball and do arts and crafts. Three four-day sessions offered in July and August.
Cost: $150

Fiddling taught by master Swedish and American fiddlers, whistle making and folk dancing.
Cost: $235-305

From fusing to casting to glass blowing, ages 9-18 are introduced to the mesmerizing medium of glass through immersive half-day, five-day experiences.
Cost: $325-425

Experience the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Become a history investigator. Or, try out what life as an archeologist is like. Camps range from one day to one week.

Speak, hear, sing, and create in German while exploring subjects ranging from history and art to science and music during five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for grades K-3 at the Germanic-American Institute.
Cost: $130-150

Professional Irish Dance training by director Cormac O’Se, an original member of Riverdance.

Half-day, five-day sessions and single day sessions for beginners through experts ages 8-18 enhance hand-eye coordination, boost concentration and build self-confidence.
Cost: $30-110

Yoga infused throughout the day via story, dance, and games for campers age 5-12. Located on the Greenway with daily field adventures.
Cost: $75-335

Girls and boys ages 6 to 17 can design and build their creative ideas, mixing art, science, and technology during partial-day, weekday camps. There are more than 115 classes available over 10 weeks.
Cost: $185-370, scholarships available

Roller ski, mountain bike, canoe and more during adventure camps for ages 9-13 at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis (photo left). Equipment provided during the full-day, five-day sessions.
Cost: $200

Play music, get creative, bake bread, and construct books while exploring the rich culture of the Minneapolis riverfront district. Campers aged 9-11 will explore a new experience each day at four arts centers.
Cost: $225-$250

A variety of athletic, academic and enrichment programs are offered, including woodcarving, viola and cello, combat robots, puddlestompers, fencing, movie making, sewing, painting, rocket science, drumming, and more. Half- and full-day, one- to three-week weekday sessions. Camp Minnehaha, a full day camp for pre-k to grade 8, includes daily devotions, games, indoor and outdoor activities, daily swimming lessons and a weekly off-campus activity (photo right).
Cost: $36-500
612-728-7745, ext. 1

Work with sculpture, tiles, or wheel-thrown pottery in half or full-day sessions for ages 6 and up.
Cost $160-305

Summer programs for youth ages 3 to 16 combine science, art, drama, and literature in ways that encourage kids to actively discover and examine concepts for themselves. Programs also offered at the Lee & Rose Warner Nature Center, the state’s oldest outdoor environmental education facility.
Cost: $60-345
651-221-4511, 651-433-2427

Southeast Soccer fields a variety of girls and boys teams for ages U9-U18 at beginner, intermediate and advanced competitive levels. Consider the Lil’ Dribblers soccer program for ages 4 -8, or summer traveling teams (photo left).

Learn about devised theater, music, and other performance art forms during these one- to two-week, half- and full-day sessions for those pre-K to grade 12. Two theater classes offered in collaboration with the Science Museum and Minnesota Zoo.
Cost: $125-475

Use LEGO bricks, gears and motors to construct and program robots. Opt to learn to code or create your own video game. Math Addvantage offers five-day, half-day camps for grades 2-8.

Sew, knit, felt, dye and more. Take home completed fiber items from three- and five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for ages 6-16.
Cost: $87-370

Students ages 8-17 enrolled in the weeklong, half-day camps will experience a variety of circus disciplines (including Trampoline, Static Trapeze, Acrobatics, Circus Bike, and of course Flying Trapeze).
Cost: $275

Painting, drawing, clay, theater, writing, glass and much more for ages 6-14.
Cost: $23-$97

Explore the variety of Y Summer Programs at over 60 metro-area locations. Programs include flexible three-, four-, and five-day options. There’s something fun for everyone from preschool through grade nine.
Cost: $80-350

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of every camp in the Twin Cities. If you would like to be included in next year’s guide, please send us detailed information on the camp.

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Planned Parenthood Rally 06 slider

Planned Parenthood has been steeped in controversy for its 100 years

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

A national day of protest against Planned Parenthood on Sat., Feb. 11 drew about 150 anti-abortion activists to the organization’s regional headquarters in the Midway. More than 5,500 defenders of Planned Parenthood turned up to support the organization in a counter-protest. The two groups were separated by a “neutral” corridor 15’ wide, reinforced on both sides with temporary fencing.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota (PPMNS) has been located at 671 Vandalia St. for six years. The organization was first established in Minnesota 89 years ago and nationally is celebrating its centennial year. Margaret Sanger opened the doors of its first clinic in Brooklyn, New York in 1916, and the controversy over Planned Parenthood has never waned.

Photo right: Brian Gibson (pictured left), Executive Director of Pro-Life Action Ministries, spoke at the Feb. 11 protest. The group has a regular presence in the daily protests at Planned Parenthood headquarters; (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

A smaller scale protest takes place outside the building every day, with volunteers from local pro-life organizations and churches coming in regularly scheduled shifts. Called sidewalk counselors, these protesters attempt to dissuade patients from entering the building or from using the services provided there.

Photo left: Supporters and opponents of Planned Parenthood were separated by fences and a neutral space of about 15′. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

In response, PPMNS has assembled a cadre of 55 volunteer escorts to make patients feel welcome when they arrive. Jason Garcia is one of the volunteer escorts. ” I‘ve been volunteering on Saturday mornings for two years,” Garcia said. “I’m a bigger guy, and I feel like maybe protesters are less likely to engage with me. We work in teams of two, and Saturday mornings are a busy time. All of the escorts are here to support the patients and not to interact with protesters.”

PPMNS Communications Manager Emily Shaftel said, “The blue-vested volunteer escorts are here to help direct people in and out of the building, and to greet each patient or visitor with a smile. The protesters are restricted to the sidewalk, and can’t approach the driveway or parking lot area. We have a top-notch team of professional security guards inside the building. Incidents of violence are extremely rare; our priority is making sure that patients, staff, and volunteers feel safe here.”

Photo right: Opposing sign holders stood a respectful distance apart and did not engage with one another. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“The recent protest was a continuation of the high level of support PPMNS has received since the election,” Shaftel said.”We’ve been inundated with more than 1,600 new volunteer inquiries and generous financial support from the community.”

“We’re an organization that provides a broad range of services to about 64,000 patients in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota,” Shaftel noted. “These services include birth control counseling and products, annual gynecological exams, cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, vaccines (human papilloma virus and hepatitis B), vasectomies, and abortions. Abortion services are an important part of reproductive health care, but make up less than 5% of our services annually.”

She underscored that “abortion rates are at their lowest since data collection began in 1974. We believe that’s because of the ease of access to birth control and sex education. Congress is currently proposing defunding Planned Parenthood from Medicaid: the government healthcare insurance program that provides low-income individuals and families with affordable healthcare. If they succeed, it would mean that our patients who use Medicaid—about 40% of the people we serve, or 24,000 in Minnesota alone—would not be able to come to our clinics. Many of them come to us as their main source of health care, and federal Medicaid dollars can not be used for abortions.”

In addition to the daily sidewalk interactions, there are events coming up this spring on both sides of the argument. Planned Parenthood is sponsoring a Solidarity Day on Fri., Apr. 14 from 10am-3pm with food trucks, music, games, and more.

Groups opposing Planned Parenthood will gather on the fourth Saturday in March and April. Pro-Life Action Ministries will sponsor a STAND! prayer rally from 9-10am on those dates. STAND! prayer rallies are held at different facilities that provide abortions throughout the year, giving supporters a chance to learn the prayer and engagement techniques used by experienced Pro-Life Action Ministry team members.

(Editor’s Note: Brian Gibson, Executive Director of Pro-Life Action Ministries, declined to be interviewed for this story.)

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Project manager Tim Van Houten

District 10 supports bonding request to redevelop Sholom Home

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

Seeking support for the renovation of the former Sholom Home property at 1554 Midway Pkwy., an architect from Tanek and developers presented their case to the District 10 Como Community Council at its board meeting Feb. 21.

The plan is to convert the former nursing home into an assisted-living facility and also include 25 memory care units. To complete this project, tentatively called Como Park Senior Living, developers are seeking up to $18 million in tax-exempt bonds from the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The property, which has stood vacant since 2009, has four buildings which will be gutted. Tim Van Houten (photo left), a project manager and designer for Tanek Architectural Design, said the original portion of the complex was built in the 1920s, and the exterior was amazingly intact. Van Houten said they want to lighten up the dark wood trim and bring it back to its original color. He said a fair amount of interior demolition has to be done.

“We want to put in all new windows and move the large canopy from the front,” he said. “The rest of the complex was built in a series of stages through the 50s, 60s and 70s.”

“For the most part, we want to clean it up and not make major changes,” he noted. “We plan to use the two parking lots, but not expand them. They meet all zoning requirements.”

When last in use, the complex had 330 beds in it, with very small rooms. This was fairly typical of nursing homes, according to Van Houten. “We’re proposing to cut the number of beds in half.” He said the 25 studio-type memory units would have their own private outdoor area and meet all security protocols. The assisted-living units will feature one bedroom, a large bathroom, countertop and sink and general storage. “All meals will be served by the main kitchen,” Van Houten added.

He said the dining area is much larger than what is needed, and part of that space will be used for a game room and chapel, or multi-purpose media, whatever the needs are.

Van Houten said there will be sufficient parking for the staff; it is anticipated that few residents will have cars.

“The dead trees will be removed and new plantings put in,” he said.

David Grzan is CEO of developer Carlson CRE Group, LLC, and CEO of owner Charter Midway,LLC. He said they doing a quasi-early start. “We got a grant from the city of St. Paul for remediation, and we expect to start sometime in early March,” he stated. “We want to have the building asbestos-free, so we are starting that process independent of any financing or construction.” He said that from the time the owners close on the transaction, they are estimating about a year for construction and then will begin leasing. The lease-up mode should last from 12 to 24 months, with some of the first residents moving in the first and second month after construction finishes.

Grzan told the Council that 80 percent of the units will be designated as affordable housing, with maximum rents for those units set at $891.The remaining units will have rents of around $2700.

“Almost all projects out there are being delivered for people who can pay their way,” he continued. “And for those who can’t, they are hard-pressed. There is no place for them to go.”

He said the developer plans to be able to bring technologies to this project that no one else has. He said they hope to be able to monitor for falls, as well as provide physiological monitoring. “This will be a showcase not only for St. Paul but for the entire nation,” he commented. “We will provide the best health care at the lowest cost in a brand new facility.”

But to make this renovation a reality, the owner and developers are seeking tax-exempt bond financing from the city of St. Paul.

“This year, unlike in past years, there’s more demand for those bonds than there is availability,” said Stephanie Hawkinson, director of Housing Development with Landon Group. “The city has a limit on its authority to approve these bonds, and they are weighing out which projects will be funded and which ones will not be funded.”

Hawkinson said that the tax-exempt bonds come with tax credits, which allows for the rents to be capped and remain affordable to seniors. “The tax credits come automatically with the bonds,” she said. This financing would provide half the funding necessary to convert the former nursing home into the assisted living complex.

“We respectfully are requesting you to express your support for this to City Council member Russ Stark since he is in a position to decide which bonds get approved and which do not. We want to make sure that this is one that gets funding,” Hawkinson said. The property is in Stark’s ward.

Grzan said his group has been carrying this project since December 2015. “A few owners before us attempted to do the same thing,” he noted. “What we found out is the marketplace isn’t really interested in financing this property. Banks don’t want to touch it, and preferred equity and investment bankers don’t want to touch it. We met with 90 sources from coast to coast, and they just don’t want to get involved. Part of it is dealing with a building that goes back 100 years. So here we are, working with the city of St. Paul to capture that tax-exempt bond financing that comes with taxable credits. It’s complicated, and there are a lot of moving parts, but it’s the only way we can shoehorn our way into this and get it done.”

In his 35 years of fundraising, Grzan said he had never come across a tougher project. “But we are happy to have the opportunity to have the city work with us,” he said.

Following a brief discussion, the Council voted to send letters of support for the bond financing for the project to City Council members Stark, Amy Brendmoen, and Dai Thao.

“The complex has been vacant for years, and we as neighbors would like to see the building rehabbed, jobs created, and our elderly residents stay in their community,” said District 10 Council Member Kevin Dahm.

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Captain Chad Kampe slider

Organization dives into the sea of students’ imaginations

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

What is the Mid-continent Oceanographic Institute (MOI), and what is it doing at 2388 University Ave. W.–in the heart of the Midway district and the great Midwestern plains?

Now in its fourth school year of operation, MOI is considered the Twin Cities’ premier portal for youth-focused creative writing programs and homework help. The goal of the organization is to encourage kids aged 6-18 to become captains of their own stories, writing skills, and imaginations.

According to Executive Director Chad Kampe (photo left), “We made a lot of progress reducing educational disparities in the Twin Cities in 2015-16. We served 1,417 students through our educational programming, published our first Young Author’s Book Project, worked with 32 partner schools, and 176 volunteers.”

All of MOI’s programs are available at no cost to students and families. Their staff is dedicated to helping any young person who needs it.

“We offer after-school homework help Mon.-Thur. from 3-6pm,” Kampe said. “This is where we use most of our volunteers, and they can come for as little as a 90-minute shift, or stay for the whole three-hour period. In addition to tutors, we welcome volunteer illustrators, event planners, and committee members. We offer volunteer orientations frequently.” Email the center’s training and evaluation coordinator at max@moi-msp.org for more information.”

A former elementary school teacher at the St. Paul Friend’s School and the Jewish Day School, Kampe understands the value of strong writing skills. “More and more, funding for creative writing in the schools is being cut,” he said. “With the continued emphasis on testing, there are fewer resources and less time devoted to developing the writing process. At MOI, we’ve created a sort of ‘third space,’ which is neither home nor school. It’s a fun place for kids to come because creativity is at the heart of everything we do here.”

MOI is modeled after a learning center created by Dave Eggers, an author who jettisoned himself to fame with the publication in 2000 of his memoir, “A Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius.” Following the success of his book, Eggers created the first of seven learning centers across the country to encourage young people to build their writing skills and to help teachers inspire their students to write. Each of the learning centers in Eggers’ network boasts a quirky theme: pirates, time travel, robots, spies, and here in St. Paul, the Midwest’s one and only oceanographic institute.

Walking into the offices of MOI is like walking into the hull of an ocean-going vessel. There are diving helmets, sailor hats, shells, nets, and other ocean paraphernalia spread throughout the writing area. Staff communicates with walkie talkies, and there is no shortage of nautical lingo tossed around. It’s common to be greeted with a friendly “ahoy,” and Kampe is referred to as “the captain.”

MOI aspires to eventually become a learning center under the auspices of Eggers’ organization, which iscalled 826 National. Chapters presently exist in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and Washington DC.

“We’re in conversation with the 826 National expansion committee to transform and grow our program in the next few years,” Kampe said.

In addition to the tutoring that takes place on-site, MOI staff travel to schools in the community where more than 50% of the student body qualify for free or reduced lunch. This year they’re at Como High School every Tuesday and Thursday for two class periods, working with teacher Risa Cohen and her students on a year-long book project based on personal identity. The end-result will be a published Young Author’s Book Project, a compilation of the student’s creative writing.

School groups are also able to travel to MOI on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the school year for bookmaking and storytelling field trips. Call 612-367-7827 to learn more about these opportunities.

Two fundraising events are coming up in March to benefit the work of MOI:
• On Wed., Mar. 22, the Turf Club and Trivia Mafia are co-sponsoring a Trivia for Cheaters Fundraiser; pre-party starts at 6:30pm, and event from 8-10pm at the Turf Club. You can register your team at www.moi-msp.org.
• On Fri., Mar. 31, the Illusion Theater in downtown Minneapolis is sponsoring an event called “An Hour or So with Dave Eggers and Kate DiCamillo.” The pre-party starts at 6:30pm, and the event starts at 8pm. Ticket price includes a signed book by each author, DiCamillo and Eggers.

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Small Sums 08 slider

Small Sums operates with a whole lot of “sole”

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Calvin

Local non-profit Small Sums helped more than 500 homeless adults start new jobs last year. Their role is not to find jobs, but to help new employees get the things they need to show up ready for work on their first day.

Most of the jobs their clients take have requirements for work shoes, steel-toed boots, uniforms, union dues, tools or other gear that a homeless person would be hard pressed to buy. The men and women who come to Small Sums live in shelters, on the streets, in cars, or temporarily with friends or family. Before their first paycheck comes, there is likely little or no extra money available.

Executive Director Terre Thomas (photo right) said, “We believe that employment is a key factor in helping homeless people turn their lives around. At Small Sums, we’re able to provide timely and practical assistance in a way that few agencies can. Our clients don’t get a written job offer in the mail with two weeks’ notice. They get a phone call on Tuesday morning saying, ‘Can you start work tomorrow afternoon?’ We have to be nimble and quick to help them, and we are.”

Small Sums is located at 1222 University Ave. W., in the outlet warehouse of Cheapo Records. Their office space is donated by Al Brown, owner of Cheapo Records and a Small Sums board member.

When clients come for an intake, they meet with Direct Client Services Manager Dave Rannow. He issues a gift card for Walmart or Goodwill (both a short walk away) to help with clothing needs, assists in selecting work shoes, if needed, and issues a free one-month bus pass. The average cost for getting a new worker job-ready is less than $200.

Before their conversation begins, the client’s job offer is verified. Small Sums has a one-time limit for their services.

“We have a different relationship with our clients than most organizations,” Thomas explained, “because we’re not giving them advice or telling them what to do. The only question we have to ask is, ‘What do you need to get started?’”

“Usually when clients walk in the door,” Thomas said, “they’re tired—but they’re also excited. Small Sums exists to provide this one piece of support, and we often hear, ’Really, you’re going to give me the stuff I need to start my new job, and it’s going to be good stuff?’”

Photo left: Direct Client Services Manager Dave Rannow met with a new client. In their annual Client Follow-up Project last year, 60% of the Small Sums clients from 2015 who could be reached were in stable housing and still employed.

Small Sums has an entire room devoted just to shoes and boots: floor to ceiling, warehouse-style. Still in their original boxes, the free shoes and boots are good quality, well-constructed, and meant to last. Through an arrangement with Payless Shoes that Thomas called “leveraged buying,” Small Sums can purchase large quantities at semi-annual sales, and receive an additional 25% discount donated by the company.

As an organization, Small Sums is in the business of helping people jump over hurdles. They had their own hurdle to overcome not long ago, which Thomas called, “the Christmas Tragedy/turned New Year’s Miracle.”

“In 2015,” Thomas said, “our offices were broken into on Christmas Day. Someone came through the kitchen window and stole about $3,000 worth of stuff. I sent an email to our mailing list of 300 supporters, asking for donations to cover at least the cost of replacing the stolen bus passes. Within 10 minutes of hitting the ‘send’ button, people had donated $200. Within ten days, we had received more than $30,000—and nearly 200 new donors who were moved by the story. Coming between Christmas and New Year’s, which is often a slow news week, the media coverage was fantastic and we went into 2016 stronger than ever.”

Thomas concluded, “We estimate that there are 1,000-1,200 people in the metro area eligible for our services every year–-meaning that they’re homeless and they’ve just gotten a job. Our goal in the next three years is to double our capacity, and to be serving 1,200 people annually by the year 2020.”

Call 651-242-9441 with ques­tions about donating to Small Sums or applying for assistance. Send an email to staff at ContactUs@SmallSums.org or visit their website at www.smallsums.org for more information, including their upcoming crowd-funding campaign which will go live on Mar. 16.

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