Circus Juventas Founder and Executive Director Dan Butler would love to be talking about his youth circus school’s 20th anniversary, and the opening of its latest show “Neverland” this weekend.

Instead, he’s spent much of the past week talking to reporters and parents about land use, building expansion and parking.

Butler blames an article in Saturday’s Star Tribune which he says wrongly portrayed his company’s relationship with the city of St. Paul.

Circus Juventas performs “Showdown” Photo by Bill Raab

“The tone of the article, based on the headline, was completely inaccurate,” said Butler. “The online version said ‘Fighting with St. Paul, Circus Juventas hunts for new home.‘ That means two things; we have a bad relationship with St. Paul and secondly, that we’re leaving –  and that can’t be farther from the truth.”

Butler says, at a time when many people only read headlines, he’s afraid the finer points of the story were lost. Namely, that his company has been growing steadily, and in order to serve its students and audiences, it needs to expand. And that after more than a year of exploratory talks with the city, expanding significantly in its current location continued to raise concerns over parking and congestion.

“We have a great relationship with both St. Paul and Parks and Recreation,” said Butler. “We’ve had one for twenty years. We just both agreed that it may not work. Our needs may exceed what the land can hold.”

Butler says Circus Juventas is now moving on to the next option, which includes a smaller renovation of the main building, and then possibly in five to 10 years establishing a second site in the Twin Cities for classes and performances. The second location would offer a shorter commute to many families, and thereby reduce pressure on its current home.

“We’re at the [Highland Park] site for 17 more years if we don’t get a renewal from the city, but we hope we do,” said Butler. “I designed that building from scratch, it’s a custom built structure and we would never give that space up.

“We’re not leaving St. Paul,” he added, “it’s our home.”

At first blush, you might not think Native American beadwork and quillwork would have much in common with contemporary abstract painting.

But Dyani White Hawk’s new show at Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis proves otherwise.

White Hawk, known as the curator of All My Relations Gallery, has put together a bold body of work for her solo exhibition that primarily pulls from the past two years.

The exception to that rule is her 2011 painting “Self Reflection.”

“It marks the beginning of the use of that shape, which references moccasin tops,” explained White Hawk, a member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe. “I’ve referenced it a lot since then.”

While in grad school, White Hawk worked to marry what she’d learned from native arts and her mainstream Western arts education.

“How do I embrace all those things in my work? How could I communicate both very directly with native people, and with those who are more familiar with western art systems – especially modern abstraction and abstract painting?” Read more

If we want to get better at having difficult conversations, we have to practice.

That idea is at the heart of “AKA Fathers/Sons,” a piece created by Harry Waters Jr, his son Jordon Waters, and Kevin “Kaoz” Moore.

The show, which they call a “performative conversation,” was developed out of their own conversations on sexuality, sex and masculinity.

“It’s about our remembering or revisiting the tension or dynamics of a conversation we had, or wish we had, or could have had with our fathers,” said Waters, sitting at a table at Bedlam Theatre before rehearsal.

Kevin “Kaoz” Moore, Jordon Waters and Harry Waters Jr Photo courtesy the artists

“Historically, anything revolving around sexuality and particular sexual identity is not something we have a way of discussing in our communities because it’s taboo, traumatic,” Waters said, “but it’s so present, how could we not talk about it?”

When asked why the focus of the show is on men of color in particular, Waters — who teaches at Macalester College — replies, “I have witnessed more white students and colleagues who have had some conversation with their parents about sexuality, but in about 99 percent of families of color, it’s not a part of our experience.

“There are uncles and aunts in every family that no one talks about, and those people are not allowed to talk to the children because of ‘what might happen.’ We tend to embrace these things because we respect our elders, but sometimes our elders need a new lens.”

The show includes dance by Jordon Waters, and spoken word by Moore. Some evenings include a D.J. The audience also gets to play a part. “AKA: Fathers/Sons” has been in development for years, with performances at Queertopia, Trans Youth Support Network, Kulture Klub, and elsewhere.

Moore, who is an HIV educator in addition to rapper and playwright, says too often youth are getting their information about sex and sexuality on the streets or from pornography.

“Porn is so prevalent, that kids don’t have the conversations anymore, they just watch a video,” said Moore. “Sex becomes objectified and there’s no explanation or exploration of what it means. It becomes an act devoid of connection to our humanity, aggressive and impersonal.”

Moore says having support systems in place makes people less likely to put themselves at risk. Those support systems are founded in honest conversation.

The trio also explore generational differences. Harry Waters Jr says his 86-year-old father is only just now willing to recognize Waters’ partner of 14 years. But Harry’s son Jordon embraces his father’s sexuality, and is proud to be sharing the stage with him.

“Growing up with a gay father, the teasing never affected me,” said Waters. “At least I knew where my father was! And now with the younger generation there’s a gender blur – everything’s queer.”

Jordon points out that “AKA: Fathers/Sons” is not offering any answers, just presenting possibilities.

“We hope to provide inspiration to bridge those gaps, to have those conversations,” added Moore.

“How do we know how to do this unless we practice?” said Waters Jr. “There’s no solution, there’s just what’s next. Ultimately we’d like for this show to travel, because there are so many communities that would benefit from an opportunity like this.”