Art Condition

It’s polka time!

Though dwindling, the Midwestern polka community is not dead yet.

Inspired by a visit to an annual polka fest in rural Minnesota, Linden Hills resident Lisa Blackstone produced a 30-minute documentary, "Polka Time," in the hope that others will understand the joy that polka brings.

Despite its inability to mesh into today’s trends, Blackstone was impressed with how happy polka music and culture made its devoted followers.

"In what is sometimes a sad and frightening world, they find great joy and happiness in it, and really celebrate it," said Blackstone. The local filmmaker has produced projects for Animal Planet and The Travel Channel, among others, and said she wanted to film something "fun and different."

"Polka Time" will give outsiders a peek into the world of polka Sunday, Nov. 14 at 10:30 p.m. on channel 2 as part of PBS’ "Independent Lens" series, which features documentaries and dramas made by independent filmmakers.

For more than 30 years, polka lovers have been congregating to the "granddaddy of festivals," the Gibbon Polka Fest, in Gibbon, Minn. (about 80 miles southwest of Minneapolis) — where there is more square footage of dance floor per capita than any other city in the United States.

People from all ends of the country traveled to Gibbon for the five-day summer celebration, many of whom knew each other from the national polka circuit. Most stayed in modest campers or tents.

"It’s like a moving city," said Blackstone, who photographed the Polka Fest in 1991 and filmed it in 2001.

Or, rather, it was like a moving city. Gibbon held its final Polka Fest last summer, due to decreasing funds.

The diminishing interest in polka dancing has made the tradition hard to keep afloat. The average age of polka dancers hovers around 75. And although many parents and grandparents teach younger generations about the dance, most kids do not take an interest, Blackstone said.

However, there are glimmers of hope that this is not polka’s last gasp. Twin Lakes Trio, a band comprised of 20-somethings, joined the festivities at Gibbon Polka Fest during its last few years and played classic polka songs with a modern edge. With flames on the concertina player’s shirt and 6-inch-long tattoo on his forearm, perhaps polka shall live on after all.

For more information on "Polka Time," visit pbs.org/independentlens/

polkatime/index.html. Photographs by Blackstone, from her "Polka Time" to "Andean Kids" series, can be viewed at mnartists.org by entering her name in the search box.

Minneapolis Guitar Quartet at First Universalist Church

As part of CARAG’s First Universalist Church concert series, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet will perform its last Twin Cities concert of the year Saturday, Nov. 20.

The quartet will perform classical and contemporary music, including newly commissioned pieces by American composers.

Founded in 1986, Minneapolis Guitar Quartet (MGQ) is led by Lowry Hill East’s Joseph Hagedorn. (The other members are Jeffrey Lambert, O. Nicholas Raths and Jeffrey Thygeson.) The foursome has performed Renaissance, Baroque, Spanish, Latin American, Romantic and Contemporary music in recital and concert appearances throughout the nation. MGQ has also made guest appearances on radio shows nationwide, including NPR’s "Performance Today."

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Entry is $10 (payable at the door). First Universalist Church is located at 3400 Dupont Ave. S. For more information on MGQ, go to www.minneapolisguitarquartet.com.

Political creativity

Freedom of expression is encouraged at Whittier’s Minneapolis Institute for the Arts (MIA) in its participatory exhibition, "The Art of Democracy: Tools of Persuasion."

Anyone can share their thoughts about the presidential election and social issues through political art of all kinds — lawn signs, posters, bumper stickers, T-shirts, flyers, magnets, pins and infomercials. Bring your submission for an upcoming show Saturday, Nov. 13 or 20, between noon and 2 p.m.

More than 300 works were submitted during the first two open submission days.

To accompany the exhibition, commentary is also being collected in an online forum — livejournal.com/community/triablog — involving guest panelists, interviewees, and political and visual arts commentators.

"The Art of Democracy: Tools of Persuasion" is produced and presented by Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program, an artist-managed curatorial department of the MIA.

The exhibition will be held through Nov. 28 at the MIA, 2400 3rd Ave. S. Entry is free, and the MIA is open Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. To learn more about how to participate, visit artsmia.org/art-of-democracy/ or contact MAEP at 870-3125.

Mapplethorpe in Southwest gallery

Photography of controversial artist Robert Mapplethorpe is on exhibit at East Harriet’s Weinstein Gallery — the first major show of his work in the upper Midwest in more than a decade.

Mapplethorpe’s late-’70s and ’80s career was characterized by both critical acclaim, primarily for his formal portraits of celebrities, and scandal, for his homoerotic and sadomasochism-depicting photos.

Rather than allowing any explicit sexual photos to steal the show, the Weinstein exhibit includes 40 photographs that span Mapplethorpe’s aesthetic interests from 1976 onward: still lifes, figure studies, classical studies and portraits, including several of himself and one of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Several observers at the gallery’s opening reception commented on Mapplethorpe’s use of light and shadow. "His use of light really draws you into the photograph," one of the viewers said. Mapplethorpe’s work combines contrasts in a meaningful way. His use of light and dark, beauty and obscenity, form and the formless, life and death, and symmetry and asymmetry gives viewers insight into his world.

Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989, is questionably considered one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, and his work has been the subject of many retrospectives and books. His photographs and exhibits are collected worldwide. Artwork presented in this exhibition has been made available by the Mapplethorpe Foundation, a nonprofit that oversees his work.

Weinstein Gallery is located at 908 W. 46th St. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call 822-1722.