Hosted by an eclectically elegant collection of inns and museums peppered throughout the St. Croix River Valley, the 2011 Chocolate March launches guests on self-guided, cocoa-centric excursions. Guests munch on chocolate delicacies and take in architectural desserts with chocolate-dipped innkeepers at five separate stops, one of which will feature a wine pairing, on the Sunday jaunts (different destinations are featured each weekend). Depending on their chosen date, chocolate hunters can relax under the mannered, leaf-shaded porticos of Rosewood's Queen Anne mansion, take in the brick-draped Gilded Age grandeur of the Water Street Inn, or plot a sweet rustic retreat or candy-coated coup d'état by Wissahickon Farms' general store façade and peppermint-stick split-rail fence.
Kelley Frame and Fine Art Galleries nestles magnum opuses of all sizes inside high-quality frames assembled in-shop by skilled craftsmen. Diploma-framing packages ($59.95) protect and artfully display hard-earned clown college degrees by securing the certificate into a black frame, stabilizing it with an acid-free paper mat, and protecting its privacy with one-way glass. Posters, portraits, or photographs with sizes going up to 30"x40" ($49.95–$99.95) find comfortable homes behind glass in a 1 1/4" frame, available in a choice of finishes, including black, mocha walnut, mahogany, clear pine, and invisible oak. Spiff up blank walls with framed military medals, wedding pictures, collectibles, or team jerseys. Special conservation and preservation services, meanwhile, assist connoisseurs looking to shield precious pieces from the dangers of acid, light, or superpower-inducing gamma rays.
In 1879, a lumber baron named Thomas Barlow Walker built an extra room onto his house. He mounted his 20 favorite paintings on the room's walls and opened it to the public. This private collection transformed into a public gallery with the founding of Walker Art Center in 1927. Over the following decades, the center's staff amassed a collection focused on modern art, gathering works from Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, and Alberto Giacometti. Today, this permanent collection has expanded to encompass more than 11,000 modern and contemporary paintings, sculptures, and photographs, more than 800 film pieces, and more than 1,200 artists' books.
In the whimsical multistory geometric helix of the Barnes building, seven cube-shaped galleries radiate from a central core on terrazzo floors and under lofted ceilings. Docents lead group tours through the galleries to see rotating exhibitions or play hide-and-seek with Jackson Pollock. Current exhibits have explored the contemporary still photography of Cindy Sherman, American avant-garde film from 1960 to 1973, and prints, paintings, and sculptures produced after 1989. Inside the museum's social spaces, docents also host artist talks, film screenings, and open houses.
Designed as a contemporary twist on old European opera houses, the center's McGuire Theater draws visitors into its intimate space for live dance, theater, and music performances as well as performance art. Museum exhibits and events also spill outside to a central square and the four quadrants, bordered by granite and evergreen hedges, of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. As visitors walk across its lawns, they can glimpse iconic modern sculptures, cross a 375-foot steel-and-wood footbridge, or watch staff teach plants to paint in the Cowles Conservatory.
Most students in introductory stained-glass-making classes are in search of a new hobby or a fun few hours, but not Connie Beckers. In 1995, she took such a course and soon built a career around the art of stained glass and kiln-working. Now, through The Goddess of Glass, she teaches others her craft during classes that cover the creation of jewelry, coasters, plates, and transparent overalls. She’s also been known to flex her instructional muscle as a guest artist on the DIY Network show Cramped Quarters, where she taught the show’s host and contractor how to make stained-glass tiles for a kitchen in the middle of remodeling.
The Goddess of Glass also sells artwork and gifts out of a separate retail shop. Patrons can commission a custom piece, such as a stained-glass window, or peruse a collection of pieces by more than 80 local artisans. The shop’s staff can also advise clients who need custom framing, helping them to pick the proper matting and frame so that their Richard Nixon rookie cards really pop.
Housed inside a Spanish Colonial–style former church, The Museum of Russian Art exudes an aura of hushed reverence—sunlight streams through Romanesque windows, and arches frame the museum’s collection of paintings and sculptures. The lofty setting is ideal for an art collection that spans eons, from unearthed Byzantine-era golden urns to paintings depicting a turbulent post-Stalin Soviet Union.
The Museum of Russian Art bills itself as the only museum on the continent dedicated to preserving Russian art. It continues to do so by collaborating with museums in Russia and the United States, recruiting artifacts, accumulating artwork, and reassembling hopelessly jumbled Matryoshka dolls for its ever-rotating collection. In tandem with the museum’s collection, curators strive to illuminate Russian culture by hosting lectures from scholars of Russian culture and leading free one-hour tours each weekend.
Seasoned artist Malcom Potek calls upon more than two decades of glass-manipulating experience while crafting intricate, multicolored tiles and custom sconces that suit the unique architecture of their intended edifices. Within his shop and gallery, a glossy collection of already made glass portraits, beads, and tiles entices eyes to ogle one-of-a-kind designs instead of Betty Boop–shaped clouds. Visitors inspired by Potek's work can learn the tricks of the trade during a variety of glass-blowing classes that set participants on the path to glass-blowing certification.