Who IS that, and what have we learned?


October 27 marks the first anniversary of the feature “Who is that?” The first person to be profiled was Rob Callahan, but he wasn’t the inspiration for the column: that was Jon Davis. The busy musician, with his unmissable beard and distinctive dance style, seems to show up at one venue or another almost every night, and I kept finding myself wondering, “Who is that guy?” Now I know–and so do you.

I designed the questionnaire to highlight the places people hung out and the people they hung out with. I’ve sent the questionnaire to people across the arts and culture scene, and most have responded—each answering, somewhat to my surprise, all the questions! Many of the people profiled so far are widely known (Miss Minnesota, Andy Sturdevant), but it’s also been fun to use this space to profile people who are quietly awesome, like concertgoer Tom Collins and tireless arts volunteer Carol Lichterman. In total now, there have been exactly 50 people profiled: I’ve compiled an alphabetical index so you can collect them all, like trading cards. And the set is still growing!

Here’s what I’ve learned, in general, from each question in the series.

Website: Given that this is supposely the Internet era, it’s surprising how laissez-faire a lot of people are about their online footprint. “I don’t know how to Twitter.” “I don’t have a website, but here’s my band’s MySpace.” “I don’t have time for the Internet.” Then, of course, there’s John Wallace.

What’s your job? and Other than your job, what are your claims to fame?: Here, it’s been interesting how much wiggle room there is in defining what exactly a “job” is. Some people say that their “job” is their unpaid artistic project and their “claim to fame” is, say, being able to spin burning poi balls—and don’t even mention their day job that actually pays the bills. Others put paying things under “job” and nonpaying things under “claim to fame.” Others find the question surprisingly complicated to answer. (Carl Atiya Swanson: “Negotiating late-stage capitalism at the intersection of lots of varied art practices and fields.”) I enjoyed Emma Berg‘s explanation of how she balances a full-time corporate job at Target with her careers as fashion designer and curator: “Fashion designing and mplsart feed my creative side while my job at Target takes care of my techie, corporate side.”

What’s your relationship status?: This question inspires some of the most creative answers on the questionnaire. “You really want to know?” (Joanna Harmon) “Being in love with yourself means you’re single, right?” (Matt Bardins) “Single, but the Timberwolves break my heart year after year.” (Sonia Grover) “I’m a single lady without children, pets, or plants. I get a lot of sleep.” (Sarah Morean) “Dating one half of Koo Koo Kanga Roo.” (Becky Lang) “I’m not not dating someone.” (Sarah Heuer)

Where are you most likely to be seen?: Unsurprisingly, I think the most popular response here is “First Ave.” People also like naming their favorite restaurants (the Aster Cafe gets mentioned a lot) and coffeeshops (ye olde Spyhouse). But everyone’s answer is different; that’s the fun of it.

Where are you least likely to be seen?: The winner here, in a landslide, is downtown nightclubs that aren’t First Ave. This makes me think we need to get Chrissy Stockton in this feature to show some love for Bootleggers.

Where were you born?: I’ve been genuinely surprised to realize how many of the most interesting and creative people in the Twin Cities were not born here, but came here for their own reasons. Never mind the plaudits from random magazines: there may be no more impressive evidence of the fact that we’ve got it going on than the fact that people of their own free will move here from all over the country and stay, and create, and fill out questionnaires just because someone from the Internet asks them to.

What neighborhood do you live in now?: Also to my surprise: everyone knows the name of their neighborhood, and everyone seems to love it. Every neighborhood has its advocates, but in sheer number, Whittier gets the win: no fewer than six of the 50 people profiled in the feature so far (Courtney Algeo, Chris Cloud, Sonia Grover, Conner McCall, Courtney McLean, and Joanna Solotaroff) lay their heads in the Big Whit.

What’s your ride?: Not a car! Well, actually, yes, most people do own cars—but a significant number rely on primarily buses and bikes to get around town. Lots of entertaining answers in this section too, with people waxing poetic about their bus lines (Andy Sturdevant calls route #53 “the pinnacle of our Cities’ mass transit system”), disclosing their vehicles’ names (Theresa Madaus: “Ninja Speed Pirate is the name of my summer bike”), and sharing their views on road etiquette (Matthew Foster: “I neither disobey traffic law nor treat my commute as a reckless death-match along unpopulated mountain trails, which means I’m the Debbie Downer of Minneapolis cyclists”).

What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?: General consensus: “Don’t be creepy.”