Cynthia Johnson’s career trajectory is a bit unusual. In the 1970s, she was a working musician who got hired to sing on a couple of demos. Then, out of nowhere, one of those demos became the international hit “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc.
Cynthia left that all behind for a career working in and promoting the local Minnesota music scene. KFAI’s Matthew Schneeman spoke with Cynthia about her original claim to fame and what it means to her today.
What’s the embodied experience of sound? A group of artists and scholars are finding out through a series of collaborative experiences taking place at the Liberal Arts Engagement Hub at the University of Minnesota. The workshop series, which began in early October, invites participants to visualize sound through a series of lab stations. KFAI’s Sheila Regan spoke with the project’s creators, Dr. Ritika Ganguly, Zoe Cinel, and Dr. Nida Sajid about their work.
For many in Minnesota, the signs of fall include the leaves changing color, pumpkins, and football. But for bird watchers, the primary marker of the season is the fall migration. And there’s no more dramatic way to observe the migration than at Duluth’s Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory where birders gather to watch hundreds – sometimes thousands – of raptors make their way south for the winter.
During the summer of 1823, Giacomo Beltrami, an Italian aristocrat and an inquisitive traveler, hoped to find fame and notoriety by identifying the northernmost headwaters of the Mississippi River. He planned to name the place for his friend Giulia back home in present day Italy.
As a passenger on the first steamship to head so far north up the Mississippi River, Beltrami arrived at Fort St Anthony and met Major Stephen Long, who he joined on a surveying expedition down the Red River to the present-day US/Canada border.
Some members of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe tried to help by showing him where to go, but, ultimately, Beltrami misidentified the real source of the river. He was about 50 miles off. “Man with the Red Umbrella,” from KFAI’s John Gwinn, tells the story of Beltrami’s misdirected travels. Editing by Mason Butler.
In 2016, Mica L. Anders— genealogist, oral historian, and historic placemaker—interviewed 7 families about their summer cabins for the Minnesota Historical Society. All of the people she talked to had two things in common: First, they spent every summer driving to Lake Adney near Brainerd, Minnesota. And second, they were all Black families.
Lake Adney became a destination in the 1920s when a Black man named George Worthington Gamble bought land along its southern shore. Since then, Adney has been a spiritual retreat, a great fishing spot, and a healing place for generations of Minnesotans. Lake Adney’s story isn’t unique. Black families have found community on lakes dotted across the upper Midwest. But, as these families attest, Adney was special. It was theirs. KFAI’s Kira Schukar brings us this story.
William “Bill” Murray Sr. passed away in 2018.
A special thank you to Mica L. Anders for sharing her expertise and conducting the interviews in this podcast. The full oral histories can be found on the Minnesota Historical Society website.
Additional funding for this story was provided by the Minnesota Historical Society and MNHS Image and Duplication Support for Community Projects.
HUGE Improv Theater is moving. The longform improv theater, originally based at Lyndale and 31st, has spent the summer transforming the south half of Art Materials into a place for creativity, comedy, and performance. While HUGE is purchasing the space, Art Materials will continue to operate in the north half of the building.
Death Cafe is a global social franchise that wants to help people talk about death. At a Death Cafe, participants can talk about taboo topics in a lightly moderated open forum. Minnesota has a couple of these volunteer-run discussion groups. You show up, have a snack, take a seat, and chat about any topic that has to do with death.