Artwork by Michael Thomsen

 access+ENGAGE   the definitive alternative   Issue #24

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In this Issue: What Dreams Are Made Of

—Featuring a conversation with artist Michael Thomsen about the lure of the circus and how his first job as a kid, sorting through junk drawers of the recently deceased, left its mark on his artwork

With the weather turning colder and a fresh blanket of snow outside, it's natural to get a bit introspective, so for this issue of a+E we'll explore artwork that makes itself at home in the underbelly of the imagination. Zoom In artist Michael Thomsen creates fantastic three-dimensional worlds out of paint, the objects people leave behind, and a spirit of pure invention —each piece a darkly playful wonderland complete in itself. And don't miss Amaru Ro-Aguilar's gorgeously surreal paintings, highlighted in One for the Road and on display now at the Nuestra Frida (Our Frida) exhibition presented by Grupo Soap del Corazon. If more traditional holiday dream sequences are what you want, You Are Here points you toward a bevy of Nutcrackers, both naughty and nice, to choose from. In addition to a host of arts events and sales, as always, we have an array of engaging feature articles, interviews, reviews, and artist opportunities available for you on

Zoom In: Artist of the Fantastic Michael Thomsen

Clock by Michael Thomsen

Michael Thomsen was born into a line of circus people and performers and, in a way, he’s continuing in the family business. Thomsen’s artwork carries unmistakable marks of the carnival: gothic gilt mirrors, lights, lurid pinks, blues, and yellows abound. Carousel horses leap from the wall; fortunetellers and ring toss games compete for your attention.

Thomsen grew up in Austin, Minnesota, “in the shadow of the Hormel meatpacking plant,” according to his artist’s statement. His family had been in the circus business for generations: relatives that emigrated from Europe to the U.S. at the turn of the century were members of the Danish Royal Circus; Michael’s grandfather established a successful midway business around a circuit of county fairs in California. Thomsen fondly recalls childhood vacations to see his relatives on the west coast: “I loved visiting the fairs and getting to see what happened behind the scenes. I think it made a huge impression on me.”

During the off-season, that same grandfather served as an itinerant auctioneer. Thomsen worked for him—his first job as a kid—sorting through the junk drawers and closets of the recently deceased, taking an inventory of their belongings for the subsequent estate sales. “I loved going through those old drawers,” he says. “You find the most amazing things in there. It is powerful to touch all those small, personal things—keys, playing cards, watches, little odds and ends. People spent a lifetime collecting these things and they handled them every day—just think about how much you handle your keys. I sorted through them, and if something caught my eye, I would take it for my own. In fact, some of the things I pocketed back then still show up in my work.”...continue reading the rest of the profile on


»CLICK HERE to see a sampling of Michael Thomsen's intricate dreamscape marvels—all lying somewhere in the juncture between painting, collage, and sculpture—in a collection of his work on

»CLICK HERE to continue reading the full profile for this one-of-a-kind artist on


War Pony, side view, by Michael Thomsen

About the artist: Michael Thomsen was born in the shadow of the Hormel meatpacking plant in Austin, Minnesota, to a family that included auctioneers, painters, circus performers, a clock and violinmaker, and a former member of the Lawerence Welk ensemble. With a slightly demented toy maker’s fondness for odd mechanics and disturbing juxtapositions, he uses found objects scavenged from thrift stores, alleys, rummage sales, and junk drawers to create a multilayered dream reality.

If you visited the November exhibition, Festival of Appropriation, at the Soap Factory you likely saw a number of Thomsen's pieces on display. His work is currently showing as part of a group exhibition presented at the prestigious Art Basel in Miami Beach, Florida December 6-7. Inquiries about specific pieces may be directed to Flanders Contemporary Art Gallery or Rogue Buddha Gallery.


Credits: (Top) Clock by Michael Thomsen. (Bottom) War Pony (side view), by Michael Thomsen

News You Can Use: a selection of current artist opportunities on

Artist Opportunities


»CLICK HERE for a daily-updated list of many, many more opportunities for Minnesota artists in every discipline on

CALL FOR MN MUSICIANS: is sponsoring mnSpin, a quarterly music contest  featuring Minnesota musicians with winning tracks selected by panelists from the music industry

(Submission deadline for the first round is December 31)


CALL FOR WRITERS: ARP! and the Art Shanty Projects are teaming up to create a print field guide to the Art Shanty Projects and they’re looking for contributors

(Submission deadline is December 20)

ATTN TWIN CITIES-BASED WRITERS AND VISUAL ARTISTS: Banfill Locke Artist and Writer residencies—providing small studio spaces and stipends for 2008—are available

(Application deadline is December 21)

CALL FOR FILMMAKERS: The Silk Screen Film Festival is seeking feature-length narrative films from Asia or films made by or about Asians or Asian-Americans

(Early deadline is December 21, late deadline is January 18)

ATTN DANCERS, WRITERS, FILM/VIDEO ARTISTS: 2008 Study and Travel Grants from the Jerome Foundation are available

(Application deadline is February 13)

CALL FOR ARTISTS: The Belfry Winter Market seeks artists of all kinds, from crafters and zinesters to fine or low brow art.

(This year’s Winter Market is scheduled for December 14-16)

CALL FOR ACTORS: Duluth’s Renegade Comedy Theatre is holding auditions for Sedaris’s The Book of Liz

(Auditions are December 9-10)

Homepage: Featured arts writing and collections from MnArts magazine

A Convert to the Cult of Frida, essay by Lorena Duarte

CLICK HERE to read Lorena Duarte’s essay on the iconic status of Frida Kahlo on

Poet Lorena Duarte offers a personal and historic glimpse into the forces which turned Frida Kahlo, the artist, into Frida, the social and cultural icon she has become.


My first really weird Frida Kahlo moment was when I saw a Frida switch plate. Mind you, I had known about Frida Kahlo for years and was impressed by her art, her daring images, and her combination of car-crash/look-at-me-dramatics with femme-fatale allure. But it was in a small house in East L.A., when I was groping for the bathroom light, that I came to think: really, truly, what is it about this woman? What would possess someone, anyone, to install a Frida Kahlo switch plate in their bathroom? What is it about her that is so alluring? Is no one else a little creeped out by how ravenous people are for her? ... continue reading Lorena Duarte’s essay in response to the ongoing Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Walker.


And on a related note:

What: Nuestra Frida (Our Frida): Interpretations, Explorations, Exploitations
Where: Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, MN
When: December 1-January 5, 2008.
Admission is FREE and open to the public



Credit: Poet Lorena Duarte dressed as Frida Kahlo for Halloween this year. Photo appears courtesy the writer.

Global Trauma, Global Healing: An interview with Kevin Kling and Interact Center's Jeanne Calvit by Dean J. Seal

CLICK HERE to read Dean J. Seal’s interview with Minnesota author/raconteur Kevin Kling and Interact Center's Jeanne Calvit.

Dean J. Seal chats with acclaimed writer and storyteller Kevin Kling and Interact Center's Jeanne Calvit on their recent multinational collaborative performance in Australia and about the healing power of being "contrary."


Kevin Kling’s recent work, for NPR and his book The Dog Says How, has all been high-profile. But his work with The Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts has been Down Under the radar (so to speak). Jeannie Calvit is the artistic director of Interact, which has an art studio and theater company that develops the skills of people with disabilities. Calvit is an innovator and revolutionary in the field. The performing arts wing of the center has produced memorable shows that have toured to London, Norway, Sweden, British Columbia, and Australia. Recently, Calvit asked Kling to join forces with Interact for a collaborative project involving allies she’d corralled both at home and in Australia; the ambitious plan involved bringing together performers with disabilities, Minnesota Native American artists, and Australian aboriginal performers… read Dean J. Seal’s interview with Kevin Kling and Jeanne Calvit.


What: Between the Worlds presented by Interact Theatre and Australia’s Tutti Ensemble
Where: Mixed Blood Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
When: Performances run through December 21.
Tickets: $10-$16

Credit: Photo of Kevin Kling by Dan Marshall (2003). Appears courtesy

Welcome to This World: Rabbett Before Horses Strickland's Paintings and Drawings at the Tweed Museum

CLICK HERE to read Hannah Dentinger’s review of the Rabbett Before Horses Strickland exhibition at the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth.

Reviewer Hannah Dentinger took in the new Rabbett Before Horses Strickland exhibition at the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth, and she came away floored by both the vision and the virtuosic execution evident in the work she found there.


This show is spectacular in every sense. The large canvases in it are all fairly new, created over the past ten years by an artist who began painting as a young man but who is now enjoying his first museum show, hosted by the Tweed Museum of Art. Rabbett Before Horses Strickland is a figurative painter in the Western European tradition that harks back to Renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Botticelli, whose influence he is quick to acknowledge. Indeed, Strickland’s muscular, sculptural figures, captured in a variety of dynamic poses, their limbs faintly outlined in black and modeled in lifelike color, recall the figures that people Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel… read more of Hannah Dentinger’s review of the Rabbett Before Horses Strickland exhibition at the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth.


What: Rabbett Before Horses Strickland: From Dreams May We Learn

Where: The Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, MN
When: Exhibition runs through February 24, 2008
Admission is FREE and open to the public

Credit: Gaa-oshi’aad Nitam Memegwanay (Creation of the Butterflies First Butterflies) by Rabbett Before Horses, oil on canvas, 68 x 91”, 1997. Appears courtesy the Tweed Museum of Art.

Art on the Wall: MN State Arts Board Director Tom Proehl and James LL Morrison talk with's Emma Berg and Kristoffer Knutson about the joys of the unexpected art find

Look Around You: Art is Where You Choose to Find it

A conversation on collecting between Emma Berg and Kristoffer Knutson, partners in, and collectors James LL Morrison and Tom Proehl, Executive Director of the Minnesota State Arts Board.

For both James and Tom, surrounding themselves with artwork comes naturally. Just back from a trip to India, James is taking the time to enjoy the finer things these days—friends, family, and art. And, thanks to his role at the State Arts Board, Tom encounters the breadth of Minnesota’s artistic talent daily. Kristoffer and I were given the honor of conversation and cocktails at their's interview with Tom Proehl and James LL Morrison on

CLICK HERE to read the new Art on the Wall interview, and CLICK HERE to browse through some of the artwork in Tom Proehl's personal collection on

Credit: Untitled by Ben Olsen.

Featured collection and show preview by Andrea Carlson: Brown-Eyed Rabbit, work by James Denomie at the Bockley Gallery

Jim Denomie: Brown-Eyed Rabbit at the Bockley Gallery

Show preview by Andrea Carlson


Upon revealing his chasm of one hundred smiling portraits at the Minneapolis Institute of Art last spring, Jim Denomie was chided by a relative who asked why all of his "Rugged Indians" had all of their teeth. Denomie jokingly responded, "It’s Surrealism." As with Denomie's black humor, these orally pristine faces seem jovial yet panged, grinning uneasily for the camera in a landscape of bizarre situations… continue reading Andrea Carlson’s show preview and see a sampling of work on display for Brown-Eyed Rabbit at the Bockley Gallery.


What: Brown-Eyed Rabbit by James Denomie
Where: The Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
When: Exhibition runs from December 1-December 29

Credit: Koochie and Tuffy by James Denomie, oil on canvas,18 x 24", 2007.

Featured collection: These Elves Went to Art School, Mini Art by MN Artists on sale at Fox Tax Gallery

These Elves Went to Art School: Mini Art by MN Talent

Just in time for the holiday season, The Gallery at Fox Tax has assembled a virtual Santa's workshop of over 40 artistic "elves" to shrink down their grand visions into stocking-stuffer sizes. This unique exhibition of over 200 pint-sized projects will be on display from November 16th through December 30th… continue reading about and see examples of tiny art for sale at the Fox Tax Gallery.


What: Mini Art by MN Talent for Sale
Fox Tax Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
When: Holiday reception December 15th, 5-11 pm


CLICK HERE to read more about the show and to see examples of the small art for sale at Fox Tax Gallery.


Credit: Artwork by Ruben Nusz (courtesy Fox Tax Gallery LLC).

You Are Here: A handpicked sampling from the events listed on
Classes and Workshops

Christmas from the '60's - Slam together some homemade gifts for the herd
(Lake Elmo Regional Art Center, Lake Elmo, December 15)

Class: Beading, Fusing and Stained Glass
(Hallmark Glass Studio, Kasota, through December 15)

Class: Weaving and Spinning - One day Classes - Beginners - Weekends—Click here for a full line-up of more great classes from the Weavers Guild of Minnesota
(Weavers Guild of Minnesota, Minneapolis, January - April)

Credit: Photo courtesy of the Weavers Guild of MN



Vessela Kouneva presents An International Folk Cabaret
(Patrick's Cabaret, Minneapolis, December 7-8)

Hit It! Festival - Featuring percussive performances
(Southern Theater, Minneapolis, December 7 - 16)

Minnesota Dance Theatre Present Loyce Houlton's Nutcracker Fantasy
(State Theatre, Minneapolis, December 20-24)

James Sewell Ballet Holiday Performances: Amahl and the Night Visitors
(The O'Shaughnessy, Saint Paul, December 21-22)

Ballet of the Dolls present Nutcracker?! (not so) Suite
(Ritz Theater, Minneapolis, December 12-31)

Kinetic Kitchen Dance Series
(Patrick's Cabaret, Minneapolis, December 14-15)

Nutcracker and the Rat King
(Northrup King Building, Minneapolis, December 15-16)

Zenon Dance Company's The Nutcracker According to Mother Goose
(Southern Theater, Minneapolis, December 15-22)

Credits: Photo (top) courtesy of Kinetic Kitchen; photo (bottom) courtesy of James Sewell Ballet.

Fairs and Festivals

First Thursday@ Casket Arts Building - open studio and gallery tour
(Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, December 6)

Taste of Many Cultures - a multicultural evening of learning, food, music, dance & fun
(Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel, Saint Paul, December 6)

Prints on Ice
- Twelfth Highpoint Cooperative Exhibit
(Highpoint Center for Printmaking, Minneapolis, December 7- January 12)

15th Annual Women's Arts Festival
(Midtown YWCA, Minneapolis, December 15)

Watercolor Show - Elk River Area Arts Alliance
(Handke Family Center, Elk River, December 17 - January 25)

Credit: Mr. Emoticon Joins the Greek Men's Chorus by Mike Elko, appears courtesy of the Highpoint Center for Printmaking

Lectures and Readings

After the Floods - book signing by Bruce Henricksen
(Barnes & Noble, Duluth, December 8)

Lost Hills Books launch party
(Tejas Restaurant, Edina, December 15)

+MCP Holiday Book Fair - meet locally connected photographers
(MCP, Minneapolis, December 15)

Reception and reading for Ibtisam Barakat's Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood
(Loft Literary Center, Open Book, Minneapolis, December 7)

Vispoeologee: MCBA celebrates the publication of their Winter Book, a new anthology of visual literature

(Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis, December 8)

Credit: Some of the myriad elements comprising this edition of MCBA's Vispoeologee.

Music, Film, and Video


Monroe Crossing - listen to a live show from these recent Minnesota Music Hall of Fame inductees
(Newhall Auditorium, Faribault, December 6)

Trampled by Turtles with White Iron Band and Pert Near Sandstone
(Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis, December 31)

Cherish the Ladies: Celtic Christmas
(Petters Auditorium, Benedicta Arts Center, Saint Joseph, December 9)

Julgladje - Swedish Christmas - with Ross Sutter & Friends
(American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis, December 26-27)

Animated Shorts '06 and '07 by John Akre
(Eastside Co-op Member Art Show, Minneapolis, December 9)

Peter Bonde Becker Nelson: 9 Monologues - Video Installation
(Denier Art Gallery, Saint Paul, through December 20)

Credit: Duluth's Trampled by Turtles courtesy of the Orpheum Theatre

Sales and Galas

Unique Handcrafted Gifts by many area artists
(Edina Art Center, Edina, through December 22)

Holiday Gift and Art Bazaar
(Four Seasons Dance Studio, Minneapolis, December 15)

Holidazed at the FuzzBox Boutique
(Carleton Art Lofts, Saint Paul, December 15)

GLBT Host Home Program Celebration
(Heart of the Beast Theater, Minneapolis, December 7)

Home for the Holidays: an exhibition and sale of work by some of SooVAC's favorite local artists

(Soo Visual Arts Center, Minneapolis, through December 31)

Credit: Art by Jennifer Davis, courtesy of Soo VAC.


The Magic Dreidels presented by the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company
(Hillcrest Center Theater, Saint Paul, December 6-21)

Holiday stories with Peppermint the Elf - the inside scoop from a North Pole Native
(Coffee Grounds Coffee House, Falcon Heights, December 6)

Lost Love by Peter Papadopolous, presented by Bedlam Theatre

(Bedlam Theatre, Minneapolis, through December 16)

Seven Santas - A dangerously dark comedy about Jolly Old Saint Nick
(Spill the Wine (Loft), Minneapolis, through December 22)

99¢ Comedy Hour
(Jitter Cafe & Martini Bar, Minneapolis, through December 12)

Walkin' in a Bergson Wonderland, or, I'll Be Herb for Christmas presented by Renegade Comedy Theater
(Teatro Zuccone, Duluth, December 7 - 30)

Danny Hoch performs from Taking Over (a work in progress) co-presented by the Walker Art Center and the Playwrights Center

(The Playwrights' Center, Minneapolis, December  6-8)

Credit: Production photo from Lost Love courtesy of Bedlam Theatre

Visual Arts

Artists Holiday - Artists personal interpretation of the holiday season
(SMB Gallery, Minneapolis, December 7)

All American X-Mas at Altered Esthetics
(Altered Esthetics Gallery, Minneapolis, December 6-22)

Emerging into the Next Century
- Emerging contemporary artists
(Duluth Art Institute - Depot Site, Duluth, December 6 - March 2)

Lynn Geesaman: New Photographs
(Thomas Barry Fine Arts, Minneapolis, December 8 - January 12)

ConneXtions - Collaboratively created works in wood and glass
(Gallery of Wood Art- American Association of Woodturners, Saint Paul, through December 14)

Running Out of Time - Group Exhibit Mixed Media Installation - Four women artists in their 60's and 70's
(Alice R. Rogers Gallery, Collegeville, through December 18)

Credit: Image (bottom) A Place to Rest Your Dreams by David Forney and Patti Cahill, appears courtesy of the Gallery of Wood Art-American Assoc of Woodturners.

You Are Here event listings are drawn entirely from the calendar, so if you want to improve the odds that you'll see your happening linked here, you'd better start posting your events!

We've made it super easy to begin: here's a step-by-step guide that'll show you how to promote your own events on the new arts calendar. Browse through more up-to-the-minute events listings or post a show of your own on's new DIY arts events calendar.

Walker Art Center



One for the Road

No Hay Sangre Que la Tierra Olvide by Amaru Ro-Aguilar, acrylic on fabric, 39"x39".

Amaru Ro-Aguilar, whose paintings are distinguished by the haunting, dreamlike potency of her imagery, is one of the local artists with work on exhibit in Grupo Soap del Corazon's Nuestra Frida (Our Frida), a new show at the Casket Arts Building in Minneapolis celebrating the "cult of Frida." Click here for more information.

Rosita Cornuda, acrylic on canvas.

Editor, & access+ENGAGE:  Susannah Schouweiler

Project Director,  Kathleen Kvern

News and Opportunities Coordinator/You Are Here Wrangler: Pat Parnow

>>Click here to read the fine print and the full credits for featured artists

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