COMMUNITY NOTEBOOK // Occupy MN takes over Government Plaza

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October 24, 2011 // UPDATED 9:12 am - October 24, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss, Mike Munzenrider and Drew Kerr
Jeremy Zoss, Mike Munzenrider and Drew Kerr

DOWNTOWN CORE — On Oct. 7, Hundreds of protestors showed up at Government Plaza near City Hall for the Occupy MN rally, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has been growing for weeks in New York.

Working to call attention to economic inequality and corporate greed in this country, the rally attracted protesters young and old, all bound together by a shared belief that corporate influence on the government is a major problem.

To date, both the occupation and the various marches through the city have been peaceful and without major incident. After a week at Hennepin County-owned Government Plaza, many protesters pitched tents in direct violation of orders from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies removed the tents, but made no arrests. In response, demonstrators announced plans to pitch tents on city-owned U.S. Bank Plaza, which is out of the jurisdiction of the Hennepin County Sheriffs.

While the Occupy MN protestors are united by a common anti-Wall Street stance, their goals beyond that seem more nebulous. Many protesters cited a need for change, but offered few specifics.

Occupy MN plans to stay on the streets for the foreseeable future, although the number of demonstrators has dwindled to around 150 as the weather has turned colder. 


Minneapolis Indie Xpo returns for second year at Soap Factory

EAST BANK — The Minneapolis Indie Xpo (MIX) was founded in 2010 to highlight independent comics, and it returns to The Soap Factory, 514 2nd St. SE, bigger and better than ever.

The free show has been expanded to two full days — Nov. 5 & 6 — and features more than 200 exhibitors from the U.S. and Canada. Lectures, demonstrations and panels will be held throughout the event, a major expansion from last year’s event.

“I am really excited about our programming. We’re pulling in a lot of different members of the community. Fortunately we have a really deep well of talent here,” said Sarah Morean, festival director and co-founder. “I want to give people the resources to get as much as they can in that weekend. We’re providing people with skills and opportunities to create their own works, and we’re providing a lot of info about independent comics and self-publishing in general.”

The programming includes panels that should be of interest to a broad spectrum of people, including those who have never picked up a comic. Topics include book design for self-publishers, tips on podcasting, using crowd-funding website Kickstarter and the evolution of censorship. Of course, many panels focus squarely on the art and craft of making comics.

The expanded scale of 2011’s MIX has a bittersweet edge, however. The second year of the event will likely be its last, at least for now.

“Certainly there won’t be a show in 2012, but I like to leave the door ajar a bit,” said Morean, who spent the last 12 months planning the event. “It’s very exhaustive work and I do it on top of a full time job. I don’t think I’m able to sustain it if I want to feed myself. I’m lucky to have had two glorious years of showing the comic world that Minnesota is a great place for comics. I’d love this to be a full time job. I’m very sad that it’s not.”

Basilica of Saint Mary wins Partners in Preservation popular vote

LORING PARK — Partners in Preservation, the joint effort of American Express and the National Trust for Historic places, has revealed the Basilica of Saint Mary as the winner of the popular vote in the contest that asked people to choose their favorite historic place in the Twin Cities.

The Basilica will be awarded a grant of $100,000 for its preservation efforts. On Nov. 9, additional grants totaling $900,000 will be awarded to a number of the 25 other sites that participated in the contest. The additional grants will be determined by American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and an advisory committee co-chaired by Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

“The Basilica of Saint Mary did an excellent job throughout the program to engage its community members and draw awareness to its cause,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation in a statement. “We were highly impressed with the extraordinary support shown for the Partners in Preservation Twin Cities program, and are delighted to award this $100,000 grant to the deserving Basilica of Saint Mary.”

The Basilica of Saint Mary was built in 1915 and was the first cathedral in America to be designated a Basilica. The grant money will be used to repair decorative ceilings, limestone walls and damaged plaster in rooms called the Narthex and the Sacristy of the Basilica.

ARC launches Somali famine relief campaign

LORING PARK — The American Refugee Committee (ARC) recently launched the I AM A STAR campaign to provide famine relief in Somalia.

The campaign works with the Somali Diaspora, in Minneapolis and elsewhere, to raise awareness and spark grassroots fundraising efforts for on the ground relief in Mogadishu.

Therese Gales, the information officer at ARC, said the organization is acting as a conduit to support grassroots efforts.

“I think what makes it unique is that it’s being owned and directed by the people involved with it,” she said. “We’re a platform for action and connecting with others, helping people get inspired by one another.”

Part of the campaign is a “do it yourself” initiative, urging people to become involved on their own terms on a local level.

A group of children from Savage sold rocks they collected and painted to raise money, a Somali-American doctor with Minnesota ties spent three weeks on the ground in Mogadishu doing medical work, and a group of college students organized a fundraising 5K run/walk in Minneapolis called “Run to Unite” which was held on Oct. 16.

I AM A STAR has garnered high profile attention. In August, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned the campaign in a speech and U2’s Bono met with members of Minneapolis’ Somali community when the band visited the city in July.    

For more information or to donate go to or

Charlie Awards to honor local eateries

Minneapolis restaurant lovers have a new way to boost their favorite neighborhood places to dine, called the Charlie Awards.

The awards will honor restaurants in Northeast, Downtown and South Minneapolis as well as St. Paul and the western suburbs, and are open to any non-franchise restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area.

Residents can vote online for the restaurant item they think best represents their neighborhood and a panelist of judges will decide a winner for each area, as well as an overall winner.

Other awards include emerging chef, outstanding wait staff, community hero and lifetime achievement.

Inspired by the Ivey Awards, which celebrate the Twin Cities theater scene, the Charlie Awards were thought up by food journalist Sue Zelickson and made a reality with the help of Ivey’s founder Scott Mayer. They are named after Charlie’s Café Exceptional, one of the first fine dining restaurants in Downtown Minneapolis.

The Charlie Awards show will be held from 2–3:30 p.m. on Sunday Nov. 20 at the Pantages Theater. Tickets are $35. Voting is open now until Oct. 28.

For more information or to vote, go to

Above the Falls plan getting a second look

RIVERFRONT — A city plan intended to guide development along the northern section of the Mississippi River is under review as officials push to continue progress along the riverfront.

The plan, called “Above the Falls: A Master Plan for the Upper River in Minneapolis,” was created in 2001 and roughly covers the area from Plymouth Avenue to 49th Street, bordered by Washington Avenue on the west and Marshall Street on the East.

When it was created, city officials said planning efforts were needed to discern how heavy industry on the river would be accommodated as new housing, parks and other amenities were brought to the riverfront to spur economic development.

Since being adopted, the area has seen bridge improvements, new housing and park development and become “quite a mecca for people of all walks of life,” said Cordelia Pierson, the executive director of the executive director at the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership.

Still, “the most prominent place changing projects have yet to be seen because this is a 50-year plan, not a 10-year plan,” she said, and more work needs to be done.

Pierson said she hoped the review would lead to stronger connections between North Minneapolis and the river, greater public-private collaboration, additional tourism, more public awareness and clearer vision.

“It’s very natural after 10 years to evaluate some of the assumptions that were made,” she said. “This is a natural step.”

City officials held public meetings on the plan in September and October, and say their recommendations to the City Council are likely to be made at the end of the year. City officials would then consider which recommendations they want to accept and begin to make modifications.

The review is also intended to assess how much the developments could cost, said Tom Leighton, a city planner in the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development.

New Chinese classes for community

NORTHEAST PARK — For the first time in Yinghua Academy’s history, the Chinese immersion charter school is offering free beginning conversation Chinese classes to the general public.  

The school will be teaching the Mandarin dialect, which is one of 19 critical languages in the U.S., to students from any Minnesota school currently enrolled in grades 6–8. Classes began Oct. 17 and end on Dec. 8. Funding is coming from the Foreign Language Assistance Program.

 “We have offered these programs internally forever, but this is the first time it’s being offered to the broader community,” said school grant administrator Karen Calcaterra.

Yinghua Academy was the first Chinese immersion public charter school in the United States. The school was started in 2006 and by 2009 had to move from Saint Paul to Minneapolis in response to rapid growth.

The school has also expanded its student body. Originally Yinghua Academy offered programs to students in kindergarteners through third grade. Now, they have expanded to eighth grade.

“It will really help create further awareness, interest and passion for the Chinese language and culture,” Calcaterrs said. “It’s fun to learn Chinese.”

The second session of classes will begin Jan. 9 and go through May 24.

Burnet Gallery highlights art of Target employees

HENNEPIN AVENUE — One of Minneapolis’s largest employers is teaming up with one of its most acclaimed art galleries. The Curative is an exhibit at Burnet Gallery, 901 Hennepin Ave. S, featuring artwork created by a broad range of employees from Target Headquarters.

“While the focus of The Curative is on the individuals at Target, it’s not what they do for the corporation that intrigues us,” said Burnet Gallery Art Director, Jennifer Phelps in a statement. “Rather, it’s what their personal passions compel them to create beyond the walls of the bullseye that led to this first-of-its-kind event.”

Works of art on display in The Curative come from a variety of artistic disciplines, including photography, illustration, mosaic, craftwork, fashion and more. The exhibit runs through Nov. 2 and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

Got a news tip? Email Jeremy Zoss at or tweet us @thejournalmpls.