by Juleana Enright
As another fantastic chapter of summer entertainment and outdoor festivities wrap up, community-focused, culture-crammed events like the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) presented “Patio Nights @ City House” celebrate their final evenings. MMAA successfully revived the event last year and this August played host to three convivial Thursdays featuring local food and drinks and live music from local bands. This month, Patio Nights welcomed sets from Baroque folk pop band, Brian Just Band and romantic Anglo-rockers, Greycoats, not to mention tasty nosh via Café 128′s Mobile Cafe food truck, happy hour drink specials, even art activities for the kids.
Thursday’s final Patio Nights affair will feature a performance from Jack Klatt & The Cat Swingers, the country/blues/swing band City Pages calls “a gem,” and whose last release they’ve dubbed “one of the best local albums of the year.” In addition to hosting a lineup of talented musicians, Patio Nights is expanding the community’s awareness of MMAA and its programs and opening doors for a new generation of members and supporters.
This week, I caught up with Patio Nights coordinator Jessari Sutton and MMAA Executive Director Kristin Makholm to talk about the success of Patio Nights, what we can expect from Thursday final soiree and how the series has helped the MMAA embrace a whole new cultural playing field.
l’étoile: Patio Nights originally started as a way to introduce the museum to a new range of audiences and engage the community. Tell us about the series’ inception and how this summer has upped the ante and expanded that idea?
Sutton: Minnesota Museum of American Art revived Patio Nights in the summer of 2011 in conjunction with our mounting of the light sculpture Scattered Light for the Northern Spark festival. Patio Nights was a huge hit at MMAA’s former home in the West Publishing Building on Kellogg, and bringing it back became a way for MMAA to invite people down to see the sculpture, reach new audiences, and engage the community outside of a gallery setting. The 2011 events were so well received that we decided to bring back Patio Nights @ City House as a permanent fixture in our summer programming. As we work towards our goal of a permanent home in St. Paul, we want to create programming that bridges art and people of the Twin Cities and work to build relationships within our community. Patio Nights @ City House has been a tremendous catalyst for these efforts. This year, we’ve been able to use Patio Nights to inform audiences of our membership perks, upcoming fall programming in our new gallery, the MMAA Project Space, and to promote the traveling Our Treasures exhibition (opening at the Plains Art Museum on September 28). We’ve also brought out some great art projects, which started out as youth activities until we found that adults enjoyed them too!
l’étoile: Tell us about your team up with the 128 Cafe food truck?
Sutton: We knew we wanted to offer refreshments at the events, but at the time City House did not have the proper indoor amenities to bring in a caterer or other meal vendor service. A food truck was the perfect solution! We contacted 5 or 6 trucks in the St. Paul area, and 128 Café was available and interested in partnering with MMAA for all 3 events. Jill Wilson and the entire 128 Café crew have been incredible to work with and their delectable menu choices have been a hit with guests at each event. We didn’t have to think twice about contacting them again for this year’s series.
l’étoile: This month, Patio Nights hosted an eclectic lineup of local musicians including past guest spots from Brian Just Band and Greycoats. This Thursday will feature a set from Jack Klatt & The Cat Swingers. How was the musical talent selected?
Sutton: It has been through a combination of research into the local music scene of the Twin Cities and luck! During the planning stages, some band names came to us by recommendation from interns, staff, or other supporters, while others surfaced from reviews in local publications. Additionally, quite often we are contacted by mangers or band members who have heard of the event and are interested in joining. A list of all the recommendations and links to their tracks online are compiled and circulated throughout MMAA for feedback. We try to select bands from a wide range of musical genres that will appeal to a broad audience. Once a handful of bands are chosen, the final selection is based on the bands’ availability and fees. We have been fortunate that, as a part of this series, each band offers a unique sound—music that either induces relaxation or compels guests to get up and dance.
l’étoile: How has the series affected the perception of the MMAA?
Makholm: Patio Nights has succeeded in showing people that the MMAA is a cultural organization that really ties in with the community, with people living here, and the excitement of all that’s happening in St. Paul. While we are a museum of American art, we really are tied in with all things local (art, artists, audiences, civic and community pride) and Patio Nights shows people how important that is to us, even when we didn’t have a building to show art. Patio Nights says that we’re here to stay and we care about the community, and people get that.
l’étoile: Any plans for similar events during the fall and winter?
Makholm: Once our new Project Space is opened in the Pioneer Building this fall, there will be many free activities that will allow people to enjoy getting together around art, food, and music. The first is a pre-opening weekend to coincide with the St. Paul Art Crawl (October 12-14) in which the MMAA Project Space will be a gathering space for everyone coming out for the Art Crawl. Then, after our opening on November 9, events will animate the Project Space in conjunction with every exhibition we mount in the space. There will be opportunities like Patio Nights to come together to experience art and culture in a new dynamic urban space, in a grand old historic building, just like City House. Stay tuned for all that will come in 2013 and beyond!
Patio Nights @ City House featuring Jack Klatt & The Cat Swingers kicks off Thursday, August 30th at 6:30 p.m. at City House on the St. Paul riverfront. The event features exceptional food and drink, available for purchase from 6:30-9 p.m., music beginning at 8 p.m., and scenic open-air views of the river provided by the unique architecture of City House. The event is free and open to the public. For more info peep the FB invite here or visit the MMAA website.
Patio Nights @ City House is sponsored in part by Travelers Companies Inc., Après Party & Tent Rental, CityPages, Graphic Options, and 128 Café.
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