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Walker Art Center Shop to Finally Return—With a Retro Twist

Plus EV shortcomings, Shoe Tree updates, and more Prince pods in today's Flyover news roundup.

Photo by Kameron Herndon, courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.|

Featured WAC shop artist Norman Teague in his Chicago studio.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

🎶 It’s an Idea (Dah Dah) House 🎶

Maybe you’ve been wondering what’s up with the Walker Shop? The 1,500-square-foot space on the Hennepin side of the Walker Art Center has been dormant since the museum reopened after the Covid-related closures. But on November 17, reports Steve Marsh over at Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine, that space will become Idea House 3, featuring commissioned furniture, light fixtures, and housewares. (And the art books and design mags? They’ll be back too.) The new concept comes from Asli Altay, the Walker’s director of design programming, and Felice Clark, its director of business development, and draws inspiration from two “Idea Houses” commissioned in the ’40s by the Walker’s inaugural director, Daniel Defenbacher. All in all, a very Walker-y idea, in the best sense of the word.

MN's EV IN(frastructure)? Not So Hot!

Just ask the Star Tribune's roaming ag reporter Christopher Vondracek, who wrote this first-person account of his experiences with our lacking charging infrastructure. Vondracek's beat often takes him to far-flung reaches of the state, which means reliable transportation is pretty darn important. He's also focused on farmers, so things like the droughts and wildfires a result of rampant climate change—which gas guzzlin' is a major factor in—are a concern to him. Thus his foray into electric vehicle ownership.

But after driving a Nissan Leaf to and from Minnesota's rural communities for the last six months, Vondracek can definitively say that "greater Minnesota is severely lacking for a serious pivot to transitioning off gasoline." Chargers are too far apart and not well maintained; he's been stranded in Alexandria and recalls rolling into Cannon Falls on electro-fumes. If we're serious about getting folks to make the jump to electric, his findings are not encouraging for certain types of drivers. "One question that emerges: Will EV become the Ford Pinto?" Vondracek muses, ominously.

U of M Shoe Tree: Still Chugging Along!

The Washington Avenue Bridge may no longer display student-created art, but we’re relieved to learn the fabled/nearby Shoe Tree is still doing its thing at the University of Minnesota. After its pro-forma introduction of the tree (“the only one of its kind in Minnesota”), this new Minnesota Daily article gets into some truly bonkers archival lore: "Some of the earliest Daily coverage of the shoe tree dates back to 1995, where the writer speculated about its origin, attributing it to aliens," Grace Henrie writes. "There was also speculation about a bridge troll’s involvement in the shoe tree."

Henrie then tracks down current and former students for their Shoe Tree anecdotes. Adorning the tree with “nasty” footwear helped Gopher student Tommy Lenz pass the time during the COVID-19 pandemic; U alum Rowan Halm first heard about the Shoe Tree at a 2019 party, where some dude claimed to have harvested outdated Adidas sneakers from its branches and worn ‘em around; and we learned some students, like Hannah Dyalsingh, have “limited” knowledge of the cherished landmark—“I just assumed you threw shoes on there once you graduated,” she says. Long live the Shoe Tree, we say, though not everybody in Twin Cities media agrees.       

New Season of Prince Pod Just Dropped

Since 2020, former City Pages/89.3 the Current journalist Andrea Swensson has been working with Prince’s estate to chronologically tell The Purple One’s life story via the media format de jour—podcasts! The first episode of 2023 dropped Thursday, and it features musicians Michael Bland, Levi Seacer Jr., Rosie Gaines, Tommy Barbarella, and Sonny Thompson describing Prince’s artistic evolution during the George H. W. Bush administration. (We’re very curious to learn what "Gett Off," “Cream,” and "Insatiable," the lead singles Diamonds & Pearls, are all about…) Earlier today we asked Swensson to plug the 24th episode of the podcast series, and here’s what she had to say:

This is our sixth season of the podcast and it’s honestly been one of my favorites to work on, because it’s all about Prince reconnecting with his hometown and pulling musicians from the clubs here. More than half of the founding lineup of the New Power Generation grew up with Prince in north Minneapolis in the ‘70s, and it’s been cool to connect those dots to what he was doing musically in the early ‘90s.

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