The Illuminated Reef Collective from Energy: Made Here. Photos by Steven Lang courtesy of the Hennepin Theatre Trust

Best Picks: Dec. 14–27

Updated: December 19, 2017 - 3:48 pm

What do downtown after work

Downtown energy

Art lovers willing to brace the cold have never had it better in downtown Minneapolis.

Beloved pieces are returning to Nicollet Mall and new works, from poetry-clad lanterns to tall metallic sculptures, are coming with them. Along Hennepin Avenue, the Hennepin Theatre Trust has been installing art in preparation for the launch of Energy: Made Here, the ninth iteration of the country’s largest showcase of storefront window art.

You wouldn’t think the Super Bowl would have much effect on Made Here, which fills vacant downtown storefronts with public art, but it has. Joan Vorderbruggen, the trust’s director of public art and placemaking, said they only have about half as many windows this year — but don’t worry, “it’s still the largest [storefront art showcase] in the country, by a mile,” she said. You can chalk it up to high-profile spaces in the City Center being filled by the Super Bowl Host Committee, among other storefronts. Despite this, this season’s art is larger than life.

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The theme of “energy” was partially meant to get artists to use lights in their installations to brighten the city’s cold winter months.

“It also felt like a good fit because of the Super Bowl coming because it can relate to athleticism and something more physical, but it’s loose enough it could be interpreted in many different ways,” she said.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, the most notable installation this season will be “Legendary,” a series of huge vinyl portraits of football legends Carl Eller, Alan Page and Gene Washington. Tom Baker, Hannah Foslien and actress and documentarian Maya Washington, the football player’s daughter, are responsible for the exhibit.

The large vinyl photos will fill many of the windows on the ground floor of Mayo Clinic Square, which since Made Here’s start in 2013 has been the site of its boldest work. The pieces are easier than paint to install — and, unlike paint, won’t freeze, she said — and will rise to a new, larger scale for Made Here. Plus, they should be popular with football fanatics here for the big game.

“It’s a new way of Made Here to be interpreted. It’s also a new way to do public art that’s inexpensive, quick, easy and works with the climate,” she said. “This feels like a huge get for us.”

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A majority of the season’s 20 window displays are densely packed along Hennepin Avenue between 5th and 10th streets where the Hennepin Theatre Trust is most active. It has the unintended benefit of making Energy: Made Here easier to peruse in a single evening.

“It truly will be an enjoyable walking tour,” she said.

While at Mayo Clinic Square, check out “Urban Mandala” by Neal Peterson. The kaleidoscopic collages, which blend hundreds of photos of the city together, may be familiar to downtowners who saw Peterson’s work in City Center as part of Made Here’s last season.

A few Instagram-friendly pieces lie on the southern tip of the tour. Check out the neon lights in the former National Camera Exchange building’s second-story windows at Hennepin & 10th. Also, in the ART Gallery — the former Burnet Gallery space at Le Meridien Chambers hotel — there’s a three-dimensional installation with colors bursting out of spackled white bodies.

Energy: Made Here will launch at the hotel’s ART Gallery on Tuesday, Dec. 19 with a free party from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will include walking tours with Vorderbruggen herself, live music, performances artists and food courtesy of Mercy Bar and Dining Room.

Energy: Made Here will be on display until March 21, 2018.

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Stray into Stray Dog

STRAY DOG SODA 1 Photo by Eric Best webNortheast’s Bulldog is back, but chef Kevin Kraus has taken it and run, buying the 11-year-old burger place from its original owners and going astray. Now called Stray Dog, the restaurant is still all about the burgers, but there’s more to explore on the menu — especially alternatives to beer. With big burgers, maybe a heavy beer isn’t the best pairing. For a non-alcoholic option, check out the list of $5 “handmade” sodas. With complex flavors like lemon-thyme and cucumber-grapefruit, these aren’t like your canned colas. The basil and blueberry has the purplish hue of blueberry juice with a refreshing herbal taste of basil. It gets its sweetness from a lemon oleo-saccharum — a bartending term for the lovely mixture of sugar muddled with oily fruit zest. This is all to say: Don’t let your eyes glaze over the sodas at Stray Dog. You can find the place at 4th & Hennepin in the Nicollet Island-East Bank neighborhood. Just look for the neon-white dog in the window.

Shake it off

“It’s now 30 below / And I can’t feel my toes / Damn, it’s great to be home” goes “Minnesota Girls,” one of the latest songs from The Shackletons. It seems timely as our city gets its white blanket of snow and people return to their families for the holidays. The three-piece band out of Stillwater is made of up brothers Colin, Cameron and Evan Campbell. The local indie rockers are releasing playing a “Second Attempt” release show at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry on Wednesday, Dec. 27 with openers Porno Wolves, Sleeping Jesus and Maudlin. The 18-plus show sounds like a great way to shake off a few calories from the holidays and maybe warm up in the process.