Taking their turn in the spotlight

Posted: December 14, 2018

Winter 2018: Catch these shows before they end!

Nicholas Freeman

Teen Idol: The Bobby Vee Story

The History Theatre, St. Paul

Tonight 7:30; Sat. 2:00 & 7:30; Sun 2:00

Karen Lutgen

Magnum Chorum: “Tomorrow I Will Come”

Dec. 22 @ 7:30, Gloria Dei (St. Paul)

Dec. 23 @ 4:00, Holy Family (St. Louis Park)

Diane Hallberg & Jill Westermeyer

Minnesota Symphonic Winds

“A Winter Jubilee”

Dec. 16 @ 3:00, Edina High School

Katja Örnberg

American Swedish Institute

“Handmade Holidays”

On display through Jan. 13, 2019

Shannon Elliott

“Grey Matters”

Phoenix Theater, Minneapolis

Jan. 11-19, 2019

Fine Arts department keeps busy with arts projects of their own

When we meet our teachers, normally we have only the relationship of getting work or projects done. Normally students don’t give a thought about teachers’ other lives. There are activities that teachers do outside of the classroom; what some of them do certainly reflect the love for their positions of work as well.

This is especially true for Minnehaha fine arts teachers this Christmas season, as several are doing their own artistic projects outside of school.

Nicholas Freeman is a perfect example. Freeman, who leads Minnehaha’s theater program and teaches film and photography classes, is currently acting in a play, Teen Idol: The Bobby Vee Story, at the History Theatre in St. Paul. Teen Idol, which opened Nov. 17, has four performances left: tonight at 7:30, tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Freeman, who starred as Buddy Holly in past History Theatre productions of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, again plays the role of Holly, one of the pioneers of rock-and-roll whose career overlapped with that of Bobby Vee. Shortly after the beginning of Teen Idol, Holly dies in a plane crash. Freeman then takes on the roles of other people in later scenes.
Freeman said that ever since he was in 6th grade, he has always found it a passion to be a part of a theater production, storytelling or filmmaking.

Karen Lutgen, the choir director at Minnehaha, also sings in an adult choir called Magnum Chorum, which has Christmas concerts on Dec. 22 and 23 at churches in St. Paul and St. Louis Park. Lutgen is the soprano section leader and an occasional guest conductor of Magnum Chorum, which was formed in 1991 by St. Olaf College choir alumni. The 60-voice choir has made several recordings and has four major programs planned for the 2018-19 season.

“It’s great to be a part of a group endeavor where you’re contributing to larger products than you could do alone,” Lutgen said. She is also fond of being in this choir because of the mission they’re holding up. The “tagline” they go by is this: “Transforming Audiences Through Artistry and Spirit.”

The choir also helps her learn new ways of teaching music to the students at Minnehaha Academy.

“I am always learning something from my conductor, or my peers in the choir that I can bring back to help the singers here at Minnehaha,” she said. “I feel like I stay on top of my game as teacher by practicing my art in my own free time.”

Another Twin Cities adult music ensemble grew from St. Olaf alumni roots: the Minnesota Symphonic Winds, an adult concert band that will perform its Winter Jubilee concert on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 3 p.m., at Edina High School. Minnehaha band and orchestra director Diane Hallberg plays flute and serves as a guest conductor for the group. Another band member with Minnehaha (and St. Olaf) connections is Jill Westermeyer, a clarinetist and longtime Minnehaha band director who returned this fall as a long-term substitute for Ryan Larson’s classes while Larson was home on paternity leave.

Being in a band has taken up quite a lot of Hallberg’s life as she has been in the Minnesota Symphonic Winds, rehearsing almost every Wednesday night for 23 years.

“I’m happiest when I’m engaged in music of some sort,” Hallberg said.

Ryan Larson is participating in not only one, but two organizations. He sings and plays drums and guitar in the worship team at Catalyst Covenant Church in St. Paul. Larson is also the drumline instructor for the Richfield High School marching band. Minnehaha musicians, Larson said, are welcome to join this ensemble if they are interested in trying marching band.

Larson’s marching band show this year is called “Of Honor And Valor Eternal” and it remembers the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American military pilots who fought in WWII.

“I am excited about the deeper meaning of the music and how we will be able to tell their story through our sound and movement,” he said.

Larson’s father was a middle-school band instructor, and his mother taught him to play the piano, so he was raised with music. When asked when he began to be interested in fine arts, he replied, “I don’t remember not being interested.”

Katja Örnberg, who teaches painting and photography, left Sweden about eight years ago to come to Minnesota, and spent a couple of years getting acclimated to Minnesota’s culture and the people. Eventually, she joined an organization called SWEA, or Swedish Women’s Educational Association. SWEA is an organization all around the world to support Swedish women who are getting acclimated to other countries and their cultures.

Now she is helping Minnesotans understand Sweden. With the help of co-designer Kerstin Beyer, she designed the Swedish display for the Handmade Holidays exhibit at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. Other cultures featured in the exhibit, which is open through Jan. 13, are Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and the local Czech-American community.

Örnberg’s especially enjoys oil painting, drawing and interior design, which is designing and decorating the interior of a room. Recently, however, Örnberg got the idea to make a Christmas tree with ornaments that look like glass bubbles. The ornaments would hang upside-down from the ceiling in the shape of a Christmas tree and would appear to be floating. Örnberg’s friend and four other glassblowers blew more than 300 ornaments for the display. Örnberg also designed a table runner and napkins for the room.

Art teacher Nathan Stromberg is also busy outside of school. Stromberg does collage painting, in which he slices strips of color or text from vintage magazines or newspapers and pastes them all together to make realistic images.

“I try to do a little bit every night,” he said, “but sometimes I work on Saturday if we’re bumming around the house.”

In August he was a featured artist at the Minnesota State Fair, and this fall he had 36 collage pieces on display in a solo show called “Back To Go Forward” at the Cambridge School of Weston near Boston. In arranging the exhibition, Stromberg worked with a professional curator, who is writing an extensive catalog and essays to accompany the work. It’s the fourth solo exhibition of Stromberg’s work since 2010.

“I try to do one every two years,” he said.

In 2017, he made nine collage pieces for the Green Bay Packers permanent art collection at Lambeau Field. They can be seen on the stadium’s club level, and a few are being sold as reproductions in the Packers Pro Shop.

Like his colleagues in the fine arts department, he has been involved in creative work since childhood.

“I’ve been interested in art as long as I can remember, since I was three or four years old,” he said.

Members of the M.A. community can watch the fine arts teachers this Christmas season, but they need to act fact because some of the events are happening or end this weekend.

One event you can still catch after New Year’s is “Grey Matters”, a comedy by Shannon Elliott, Minnehaha’s theater technical director, being performed Jan. 11 to 19 at the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis. Check the production webpage for showtimes and tickets.

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