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Two for Fargo, please.” With tickets safely in my breast pocket, I leave the DTSF office and the Shriver Building to greet the morning’s piercing sky. Smiling, I think about my hopes for tonight: The Museum of Visual Materials for Tara Barney’s interactive art project, the Pavilion for art receptions, and the State Theatre’s showing of Fargo. Fargo. How appropriate; I realize I’m not at all dressed for this cold, so I stuff my hands in my pockets and run the block to the car. Glad I don’t live in Fargo…

Driving north on Phillips [5:20 P.M.]

I notice a flurry of white paper bags lining the curbs as far as I can see. “What do you think the paper bags are for?” I ask Elsa, who rides next to me. “I think it’s to put candles inside, maybe,” she considers. We fall silent. The night Sioux Falls was set on fire I think. Or maybe?… is it too cold for fire?… I shake my head at myself. Good thing Sioux Falls’ best scientists are on the job and not me. Further ahead, volunteers are setting out the paper bags. I wave as we pass. I’d tip my hat if I had one on to tip.

Museum of Visual Materials [5:30 P.M.]

The lighting is orange, glowing, and the wooden floors and stone walls are earthy and inviting. A woman and a boy play with materials at a table stocked with markers, scissors, colored card stock, and coffee beans dyed blue, red, yellow, and cream. I’m looking for Tara Barney, the artist and teacher offering drawing and watercolor classes this spring, but Tara finds Elsa first, so while the two of them talk, I take in the displays. Priced modestly are watercolors, pastels, acrylics, and coffee bean mosaics. Pieces Tara has created for her classes. I’m drawn to the mosaics. All the money Tara makes from her work and classes, I discover, goes into The Barney Family Medical Fund, created to pay off surgeries for both Tara and her 12 year-old son, Jacob.

Elsa’s coffee-bean moon.

When Tara is free, I ask about her work. Her classes are great for beginners, she tells me, and her private classes are best for those more serious about art. Tara tells me that she’s most inspired when working alongside individuals with disabilities, people who may have limited access to resources and are all-too-often pushed to social fringes. She hopes to give these people the vision and tools to use whatever simple materials they have around in order to express their inner worlds. I love meeting Tara; she is warm and patient and very determined. Anyone interested in Tara and her classes can visit Red Door Creations. We bid the Barney family goodnight and step into the night.

Tara in her element​.

The Washington Pavilion [6:30 P.M.]

The Pavilion buzzes with families. A small boy inside hovers near the door, his coat astern. His mom and sisters walk in just behind us. He throws his hands up in the air, casting off his coat, and admonishes his family, “What took you so long??”

Up to the Visual Arts Center we go. Stepping through the impressive gathering of patrons, we make it to the Corner Gallery in time to hear Marie Bannerot McInerney speak about her exhibit Cubiculum Nocturnum: blue shift. After viewing Marie’s website, I’m surprised by the departure in style. Marie explains she usually likes to work with “decayed” materials, but blue shift is spacey and electric. There is an undulation of ethereal sound, and a Mylar ceiling distorting a digital animation onto the walls, which reminds me of firing neurons. Incandescent light bulbs dangle from the ceiling, and the cushions on the floor are inviting; a meditative space.

Marie Bannerott McInerney’s Cubiculum Nocturnun: blue shift​.

“Lately I’ve pondered how information is transmitted through history.” Marie walks us through her thinking. Stories were first spoken, ebbing and flowing over time, but with the advent of text, stories were interpreted by a scribe and set in stone. “Our experience of the world is limited by our viewpoints, and what we think is possible. These sounds,” the ones in the room, “come from recently developed technologies that have enabled NASA scientists to record electromagnetic waves in space, and then translate them for human ears. But I was always told that there is no sound in space!”

Can something be true and untrue at the same time?

“Look at our political climate,” she suggests. I think about how a protest or a nomination can be reflected to carry starkly different interpretations for different groups. I plan on returning between now and July 21 to meditate in blue shift.

It’s 7:30 and I haven’t yet explored the selections for RePresent, the Arts Night 2017 exhibition and auction fundraiser. The crowd has thinned now, and I have space to enjoy the pieces. I walk around, and seeing less than a dozen pieces, become too excited to focus. I interrupt my friends, “This is amazing!” I tell them. “Look what our city can do!” I gravitate to a splatter painting. Then to a bird’s eye rendition of our fair city, and listen to two men point to its streets, discussing where they grew up.

Are you sure it was on Prairie Avenue?​

I find Elsa taking in The Wall, a series of anonymous works on 8-by-8-inch canvases hung together. The pieces will be sold as part of an online auction. I find it incredible to see how different artists explore the same space of an 8×8 differently. My eye is pulled to a canvas with two colorfully painted sheep, and I think of Pink Floyd’s psychedelic cows on the cover of Atom Heart Mother.

The Wall​

“I like those sheep!” Elsa is looking at the same sheep. “Hey,” I turn surprised, “I like those sheep, too!” From behind us, an older gentleman says, “Thank you,” with a smirk. “You did that?” asks Elsa, surprised. “Well…I put the wire on it.” He says, no less proud. “I made the sheep,” says a gentle voice, and we both turn to see a woman join her personal wire-attacher. She smiles, “But don’t tell anyone!”

We just love art so much!​

It’s a tick past 8:00 and a kindly woman with the Pavilion is shepherding us out of the gallery. In the Contemporary Gallery next door, artist Ceca Cooper enjoys the lingering company in her exhibition Elsewhere and Here. The gallery is cozy and sophisticated with Ceca’s series of works inspired by travels to Spain and the Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí. Ceca tells me each work began with a photograph of a pattern. She integrated the architecture of Spain with the “nature of East River South Dakota.” Alas, we are shooed out of the gallery; otherwise I would still be talking with Ceca and her colorful girlfriends. I make a point to return between now and April 4th. I think I’d like to have one of her pieces for my study. If only I had the money to spend. Or a study, for that matter.

Artist Ceca Cooper standing next to “Home with Gaudi”​

M.B. Haskett [8:35 P.M.]

We duck inside for appetizers, and order the puff pastry with mushrooms and vegetables and a bowl of mussels in oil and garlic. Elsa and I are excited that Michael is offering a vegetarian menu in addition to the more carnivorous Pre Fixe menu. Chef Michael and Chef Cali serve up delicious hot plates. What mussels!

The State Theatre (9PM)

We hustle into the State Theatre from the street and find a place next to Elsa’s brother (another Jacob),- and his friend, just as a representative for the theatre speaks to the crowd of hundreds. “Normally,” he said, “this is the time I’d ask for you to turn your cell phones off. Tonight, I welcome you to take pictures and videos to share with friends. Get the word out that we’re here.” The audience cheers excitedly as lights dim, and the opening sequence of an all-too-familiar arctic whiteout fills the screen. Throughout the showing of Fargo I feel the closeness of the theater; I hear everyone’s reactions, the laughter at the ridiculous dialect, the tension mounts and I fidget and clench my jaw. I sense my neighbors feel similarly.

When the film ends, the audience claps and rises. Stretching, smiling, we are in communion to be entertained and to support “the last jewel in the crown of downtown.” Though it’s a construction site now, I am a believer; the theatre will be a crowning achievement once it is completely renovated. The State Theatre’s organization has said, “The State Theatre will be open when the community of Sioux Falls decides it’s time to be open.”

I say, “It’s time for the State Theatre to be open!”

The final jewel (credit Jacob Vande Vegte)

Outside I admire the marquee flashing in the night. I peak into the white paper bags on the curb; a plastic candle blinks benignly: no fire tonight. The four of us talk about film for a moment before Jacob says, “Uh, maybe we should talk another time. It’s pretty cold.” I realize that I’m still not dressed for this cold, and run the block to the car. Good thing I don’t live in Fargo.

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