Freedom Library plans arts festival for Labor Day weekend

One of 12 panels from the St. Paul labor history on display in the library.

One of 12 panels from the St. Paul labor history on display in the library.

The East Side Freedom Library, a new non-profit cultural institution on St. Paul’s East Side, will celebrate Labor Day weekend with a “celebration of the arts in labor” Saturday, Sept. 5, the library announced this week.

Highlights of the program include live music, a puppet show, storytelling, an artist-guided tour of the St. Paul Labor History Mural and a reading from “Underground,” the novel serialized in the Star Tribune, by author Megan Marsnik.

“The East Side Freedom Library is deeply committed to the idea that there are many untold stories and that there are many ways to tell those stories,” the press release said. “Working people have long relied on art – music, poetry, visual art, puppetry, fiction, theater, story telling – to tell their stories to each other and to the wider community…

“Labor Day 2015 provides an opportunity for us to bring together a group of terrific artists who practice a variety of crafts to tell a variety of stories, but all shed light on the experiences of workers and immigrants, the women and men who have come here, made their homes here and helped to shape our society.”

The program will run from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the ESFL, located at 1105 Greenbrier St., St. Paul. The event is free and open to all.

Program details include:

An original puppet show. Created by theater artists to tell the story of the ESFL, the show covers its construction as a Carnegie Library in 1917, its long run as a much beloved neighborhood institution and its reincarnation last year as the East Side Freedom Library. Maria Asp of the Children’s Theater Company’s Bridges program and Emily Zimmer of Pillsbury House Theater’s Chicago Avenue project have created this puppet show and enlisted a range of great performers to take part

‘Underground.’ Megan Marsnik will read from her novel, serialized daily in the Star Tribune. A high school English teacher who grew up in Biwabik, Megan has done extensive research on the 1916 Iron Range strike, which is at the center of her widely acclaimed novel.

Tours of the St. Paul Labor History Mural. The ESFL is the adopted home of the beautiful mural, painted eight years ago by local artists Keith Christensen and Ta-coumba Aiken, during construction of a new labor center in St. Paul. The artists will explain the choices they made in their art work and discuss the images in the 48-by-6-foot mural.

Javier Morillo’s storytelling. The president of SEIU Local 26 and a regular contributor to local TV and radio news programming, Morillo has won several storytelling competitions and created shows for the Fringe Festival. He will tell the dramatic story of his arrest in an act of civil disobedience in Houston while he was supporting janitors who were seeking improved wages and working conditions there.

Labor troubadours. Larry Long has performed on concert stages and picket lines in the Twin Cities and around the world. Tou Saiko Lee, a leading spoken word poet, grew up within the local Hmong community and has received broad recognition. The two artists will work together to develop a performance for the event.

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