Editor’s Note: The Hibbing Daily Tribune and Mesabi Daily News offers part four of a six-part series celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week.
VIRGINIA — Are you looking for a place to bring your family to become inspired, take in different forms of art or donate to a good cause? The Lyric Center for the Arts in downtown Virginia is the local hub for visitors to find and enjoy the creativity of the Iron Range.
“Arts and culture tourism is a big business,” said Lyric Executive Director Mary McReynolds during an interview last week. “On the Iron Range, we are exposing just the tip of the iceberg.”
There is always something going on at the Lyric from art exhibits to shows and art classes.
“Our audiences vary widely. We think there is an audience for different genres of fine art, music and theatre,” McReynolds said. “We try to expand the range of performances and visual art for our region.”
The Lyric Center for the Arts is home to the First Stage Gallery, the only art gallery in the quad cities. The First Stage Gallery features fine art from local and regional artists. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Look for the neon “open” sign.
Opening this month, is the annual “Open Water” exhibit. “Open Water” celebrates the changing of the seasons in the Northland.
“This show is to celebrate the ice going out,” McReynolds said. “Artists express all the things we do in the Northland during the spring and summer.”
This year’s “Open Water” exhibits work from 11 artists and is viewable at regular gallery hours.
The Lyric doesn’t just stop with fine art but also brings live music to the area through the House Concert series.
“What we are doing with this series is building an audience for the Lyric and taking advantage of an excuse to listen to a different variety of live music,” said Terri Nystrom, coordinator for the House Concert Series. “This House Concert series is almost like you are at a performance in someone’s living room. It is just you and the performer - nothing between you.”
The Divas, a local musical group of Shannon Lee Gunderson, Sharon Rowbottom and Roise Gams will be performing today from 7-9 p.m. as part of the House Concert series. Along with singing in close harmony, these talented women perform a variety of instruments.
The House Concert series has showings year-round. About every-other month a new performer is brought into the Lyric. Following this month’s event, the next shows are scheduled for August and October.
On May 19, at 2:30 p.m., an informational course will be held called “Opera 101” with Lyric Opera of the North (LOON).
“Opera is all passionate love, sex and murder,” explained McReynolds. “Everything else is music and fun!”
“A quartet from Duluth-based LOON will share the secrets of what opera is all about and entertain with selections from some favorites as well as their upcoming production of the Elixir of Love (L’elisir D’Amore.)” states the Lyric’s press release.
Along with offering art, the Lyric Center for the Arts is living art through their ongoing renovation project. The organization is working to bring the glamour of old-time Virginia back as they move through each stage of their construction project.
Most recently, the Lyric’s storefront was finished along with the installation of handicap accessible doors.
“Next is to do the lobby,” McReynolds said. “The art gallery will move to the lobby and we will make a 120 seat performance space where the gallery is now.”
This next stage of the project will also include installing an elevator, and work on the ballroom and lounge. As this work continues, so does their fundraising efforts.
On May 23, as a fundraising event, the Lyric will be hosting a sip and paint event at 6:30 p.m. Drink a glass of wine while you learn to paint — all while donating to a good cause.
To finish May’s events at the Lyric will be a concert in the Lyric Annex with Jaspar Lepak. She will perform May 30, starting at 7 p.m. Originally from Tucson, Lepak has lived in Minneapolis, Seattle and Durban, South Africa. Each location bleeds into her music creating a unique sound.
“Original acoustic music reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, Dar Williams, and narrative songwriting like Paul Simon,” said Lepak over email, explaining her sing-songwriter style. “I've been compared to both Joan Baez and Johnny Cash, and I've definitely been inspired by both! I place my music in the folk and Americana genres.”
Lepak has performed at the Lyric in the past and is excited to return to the space and audience which she loved so much.
“I'm looking forward to being back in the Iron Range. When I lived in Minneapolis, I would play in the area at least once a year,” she said. “I love the people and the landscape. I have wonderful friends here, and it just feels good to be in the north woods ... I don't get to travel to the Iron Range very often, so come if you've missed me. I've definitely missed you, and I have lots of new songs to share!”