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Beauty of the Beast: Spieler finds her calling breathing life into puppets

​The McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, the $50,000, no-strings cash award given each year by the McKnight Foundation, is the Minnesota equivalent of the Kennedy Center Honors. It “recognizes individual Minnesota artists who have made significant contributions to the quality of the state’s cultural life.” This year’s winner is Sandy Spieler, a name that may or may not ring a bell.

Unlike previous McKnight honorees, Spieler doesn’t dance, act, write books or music, throw pots, or conduct orchestras. Since 1976, she has served as artistic director of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, a community theater based in a former pornographic movie house on East Lake Street. Once a year, she “midwifes” the May Day Parade and celebration — an epic, boisterous rainbow of a party that draws some 50,000 people down Bloomington Avenue into Powderhorn Park...

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