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June 28, 2004 // UPDATED 2:17 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Romanian gallery opens in Gaviidae Common

The glasswork in Mirela Van Dyke's new Downtown gallery has a surreal quality, with bold colors and distinctive shapes that immediately draw the eye.

Some of the glasses drip colors; others have unique dimensions, such as a glass vase with a bronze zipper.

Van Dyke, a native Romanian, recently opened Art Novell, a 350-square-foot fine art and glass gallery devoted to Romanian and Lithuanian artists, on the second floor of Gaviidae Common, 505 Nicollet Mall, near Neiman Marcus.

The Downtown gallery is Van Dyke's third. She also has larger collections in Minnetonka's Ridgedale Mall and at a Kohler, Wis. shopping center.

Van Dyke started dealing glass pieces after spending years placing Romanian children with adoptive families in the Midwest.

She left Romania in the 1980s after working for the American Embassy in Bucharest. In the early 1990s, she got involved in international adoption and formed her own agency in Wisconsin. All told, she placed more than 300 children with American families. Some adopted as many as five children.

She began collecting art for the families as a way to connect them with Romania.

"I'm not an artist, but I grew up among artists," Van Dyke said. "They live in a universe that is a little different than ours."

The Romanian art collector has a special interest in glass sculptors because of the intensity involved in a creating a piece.

"It always fascinates me. It's such a passionate, hot experience. ... The colors are so vibrant," she said.

Van Dyke, who lives in Minnetonka, is one of the few Midwest dealers to specialize in Romanian and Lithuanian art, she said. Her collection, on display in three separate galleries, is valued at $200,000.

She travels to Romania a few times a year to visit artists and pick up more pieces for her gallery. Her collection features work by about 20 artists. Besides glass, she sells paintings and tapestries.

The artwork ranges from $250 to more than $1,000.

In her first week, she sold two pieces. She plans on focusing on corporate clients, she said.

The artwork on display in her gallery contrasts with the Romanian art before the fall of Communism, she said.

Under Communism, the artwork had a more "gloomy" and depressive quality, she said.

"The art has just bloomed," she said. "It has become so very wonderful and vibrant. Everything has changed."

Washington Avenue's 923 Club to be rehabbed

An old North Loop bar formerly known as Brandon's 923 Club has a new owner.

The 923 Washington Ave. N. bar recently closed after city officials pulled the bar's liquor license for tax delinquencies.

The bar's new owner, Julius Deroma, is a South Minneapolis resident who owns a European import wholesale business above the Lava Lounge, 3037 Lyndale Ave. S. Deroma said he plans to restore the bar to showcase original features such as a metal ornamental ceiling and stained-glass windows.

The bar was built in 1906 and originally called Hirth Zairendt, Deroma said. He traced the saloon's early days by examining records at the Hennepin County Historical Museum, 2302 3rd Ave. S.

Deroma owns a North Loop warehouse nearby and had eyed the property for some time. He expects to reopen the bar in about six months after rehabbing the place.

He hasn't settled on a new name.

"It's a little jewel of a building," he said.

Mell's does brunch

Mell's Beauty Bar, 606 Washington Ave. N., is expanding its weekend hours to make way for a new brunch menu.

The North Loop nightspot that pairs manicures with cocktails now serves brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday-Sunday.

Hours for the bar's beauty services have also expanded to 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sundays.

The brunch menu features brick-oven breakfast pizzas, cinnamon-caramel brioche, crisp breakfast salad and French toast. Special breakfast drinks include the Beauty Bar Mimosa, a blend of white peach and passion fruit nectar and sparkling wine, and a Bloody Mary called Mell's Queen Mary.

Hey City Theater closes

The Hey City Theater is closing after more than a decade-long run in Downtown's Theater District, according to news reports.

The theater's Sandy Hey said Hey City is closing because of a dispute with her landlord, the city of Minneapolis, according to a news account.

Hey did not return a phone call for comment before this issue of Skyway News went to press. However, she told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that producing another show under her existing decade-old lease was not economically feasible. The theater's final production, "Beehive," was scheduled to close June 27.

Chuck Lutz, deputy director of the Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development department, told the Pioneer Press, "Our goal is to keep the theater active, probably with another operator. It's a good venue, and it certainly complements what we're trying to do with Hennepin Avenue."

Hey and the city are still talking. "Will there continue to be theater here? Sure. Absolutely. How that will happen, though, is what we're talking about," she told the Pioneer Press.

The theater opened in 1991 with "Forever Plaid" and hosted a long run of "Tony n' Tina's Wedding." Other shows have not been as successful, according to the Pioneer Press.