Architectural Upgrade: Weisman Art Museum
After a $14 million makeover that added five new galleries and 8,100 square feet of space, the Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum reopened in October with a spectacular exhibit culled from its own great collection. 333 E. River Rd., Mpls., 612-625-9494, weisman.umn.edu
Artistic Partnership: Aditi Kapil
This year, Mixed Blood Theatre resident artist Aditi Kapil won both a Distinguished New Play Development Project award from the National Endowment for the Arts and a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere Award.
Arts Power Couple: David Little + Darsie Alexander
They moved here together three years ago from the East Coast and now occupy two of the most coveted positions in the local arts world. He's the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' curator and head of photography and new media; she's the Walker Art Center's chief curator. Together, Little and Alexander will be influencing our taste in art and photography for many years to come.
Excuse to Act Like a Zombie: Zombie Pub Crawl
This year's Zombie Pub Crawl, held Oct. 8, surpassed the Guinness World Record for number of zombies gathered in one place, by cramming 4,131 undead Minnesotans into St. Paul's Mears Park. All told, close to 30,000 zombies participated in the event, up from 15,000 last year.
Small Theater Company: Gonzo Group
It takes plenty of artistic courage to start a theater troupe dedicated to existential and absurdist plays. But in its first three productions—Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot,
Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit,
and Jean Genet's The Maids
—the members of Gonzo Group proved that not only do they have a deep understanding of these modernist mindbenders, they also have the theatrical chutzpah to pull them off—brilliantly. 111 Kellogg Blvd. E., St. Paul, 651-330-2404, gonzotheatre.org
New Arts Venue: The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts
While the larger economy sputtered, the local dance community cheered the opening of The Cowles Center after 12 years of fundraising, refurbishment, and—occasionally—frustration. Eighteen local dance companies now call the building home, and a full roster of events gives you ample opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. 528 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-206-3636, thecowlescenter.org
Downtown Redevelopment Idea: Walker/Hennepin Cultural Corridor
This year, Hennepin Theatre Trust, the Walker Art Center, and Artspace won a $200,000 NEA grant to explore the idea of turning Hennepin Avenue into an "arts-inspired cultural corridor." Goodbye Augie's, hello something—anything—else.
Locally Produced Movie: The Tree of Life
Local movie mogul Bill Pohlad invested $32 million in director Terrence Malick's epic masterpiece The Tree of Life
, which won the Cannes Film Festival's highest honor, the Palme d'Or, and by September had racked up $53 million in worldwide gross receipts.
Top 10 Arts + Culture Events of 2011:
1. U2 at TCF Bank Stadium
2. Cowles Center opening weekend
3. Absentee Landlord, Walker Art Center
4. Minnesota Fringe Festival
5. Merce Cunningham Legacy Tour, Walker Art Center
6. Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting, MIA
7. Weisman Art Museum reopening
8. Steelroots, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
9. The Burial at Thebes, Guthrie
10. Northern Spark Festival