Jason DeRusha is a familiar face in downtown Minneapolis, thanks to his "Good Question" gig at WCCO-TV and frequent-on-the-street segments. But when it's time to clock out, he couldn't be happier to head to his Maple Grove haven.
He and his wife Alyssa, a financial analyst, moved here in 2003 from Milwaukee, where they met while both were attending Marquette University. Alyssa has roots here, however: She graduated from Wayzata High School, and her parents live in Plymouth. (Jason's parents live in Chicago.)
The move was intense: they looked at about 60 homes over two weekends. Once here, they were true believers: as their family started growing--sons Seth and Sam arrived three years and one year ago, respectively--they moved to their current home, a larger place five houses away. "People thought it was hilarious. I was carrying patio furniture down the street on my back," Jason says.
Avid art collectors, they love downtown's buzzing cultural scene, and are fixtures at the First Thursdays open house in the Northrup Kin artist studios in Northeast Minneapolis. But Maple Grove has really worked it's magic on them. They love coming into Minneapolis--it's only a 20-mile trip--but they know every family on their street now and aren't even tempted to move into the city, even when art calls. Their big backyard might be future fodder for a sculpture garden of their own.
It's common in the TV world to be at one station about three years than off to another. But this could be their last stop. "We really like it here," Jason says. "It's pretty tough to find a place that's better. The quality of life is pretty good here."
Jason DeRusha's a popular MC and speaker at local events, and not just for his anchor-guy qualities. He's a genuinely funny guy, and we asked him to fire off some answers to some less-than-serious, but still good, questions.
Maple Grove Magazine: Who will play you in the movie of your life story, and why?
DeRusha: Arnold Schwarzenegger. My accent is exactly like his when I'm not speaking in my "TV Voice."
MGM: Name your movie, please.
JD: Suburban Newsman 2, (everyone likes a sequel).
MGM: How do you keep your wit sharp?
JD: I have a fantastic grinding stone in my garage. I burn off steam by sharpening my wits late at night. Actually, I practice on my coworkers, who all are really sick of it and wish I'd be quiet.
MGM: What's the strangest question you've been asked to answer for "Good Question"?
JD: Where does snot come from.
MGM: What three adjectives describe you best?
JD: Sexy, sarcastic and sexy.
MGM: What's the least flattering thing a viewer has said to you?
JD: In the aisle of a HyVee Grocery store in Davenport, Iowa: "You look much fatter in person." Awesome.
MGM: What part of your job allows your inner Jason to break free?
JD: The web aspect of my job allows me to be myself. On my blog, I joke, I mock, and I say whatever (almost whatever) is on my mind. Frankly I get to be myself on the air now that I do the "Good Question" segment. I used to have to conceal that more when I was doing general news.
MGM: If James Lipton was your interviewer on Inside the Actor's Studio, which set of his questions would you love?
JD: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? (Professional wine taster)
MGM: What profession would you not like to attempt?
JD: Motorcycle-riding monster truck-jumper.
MGM: You were recently named one of the ideal dinner party guests by Mpls.-St. Paul Magazine. Now name your own six guests, and briefly tell why the mix works for you.
JD: one and two, Norm Coleman and Al Franken: I'd just like those to to sit together and chat. I think I could take of this whole disputed Senate thing over dinner. No. 3 Don Shelby. Scratch that; he'd be the only one talking. Three, Jessica Alba: do I need to explain why she' be invited. Four, Jim Surdyk: he owns Surdyk's Liquor Store and would bring some awesome booze. No. 5, Diablo Cody: She wrote Juno in Minnesota. I've had drinks with her before she was big, and she'd help break some of the Coleman/Franken tension. And six, Joe Berglove: he's my partner in putting together "Good Question" (the photographer) and is a great talker, a great party guest and he has the power to crush my career.
MGM: You're a media favorite, admired by local reporter for your on-camera skills and for your blog, started in 2005, which is sometimes laugh-out-loud material. Who is your favorite critic, and what have they said about you that makes you blush?
JD: Chuck Olsen, a local video-blogger, once wrote that "DeRusha has quickly become our generation's Dave Moore. He effortlessly blends his traditional news background with a personable delivery. He's in touch with what's going on and what people are saying, because he uses every new media tool imaginable. DeRusha is fresh, authentic and accessible like few on-air talents."
Another blogger, Amber Carter, called me the "poster boy for the Minneapolis nerd-herd." And I took that as a fantastic compliment.
A design makeover and a passion for art have made the DeRusha home a live-in gallery.
Pull into the driveway in a lovely suburban subdivision. The homes feature similar architecture, with columns, small porches and young landscaping. But walk inside Alyssa and Jason DeRusha's Maple Grove home and the parallels end.
Attention-grabbing aubergine walls in the dining room form the backdrop for framed photos, but these aren't group shots of family fun. On display are abstract digital photography prints from local blogger Margaret Andrews and prints of DeRusha's own work. A gigantic sculpted contemporary chandelier hangs over the dining table. In the entry hall, two paintings in swirls of apple green, red, cream, and black by local artist Patrick Pryor deliver a one-tow punch.
This is no suburban walkout, it's a gallery on a mission.
Jason and Alyssa are "in awe of what local artists are doing," he says. "It's so fun to put those things in your house."
The art jostles for pride of place with the equally striking home decor, the result of a happy collaboration between the couple and Minneapolis designer Cy Winship. The partnership began when the couple contacted the HGTV show Decorating Cents about a room makeover. They were floored when they were actually selected.
Winship, who was assigned the task, found the couple living in a house with about eight shades of taupe. He chose their living room which was a big toy-dominated space that left little room for adult interaction.
That was then, this is now.
An accent wall in bold floral wallpaper anchors the room with green, brown, and charcoal gray tones. Another wall features 15 mounted boxes each decorated with colorful wallpaper samples in turquoise, black and brown graphics. "I love these people!" Winship says. "They have lively minds and lively spirits. You can't teach that."
That adventurous spirit is what propels their art collection, too.
They got the bug on their own and bought their first pieces of art glass in Boston on a low-budget trip, for $25 each. Now they even own a treasured piece by world-renowned Dale Chihuly. They've recently gravitated to large-scale paintings and sculpture.
Son Seth now has the bug. He goes with the to their favorite local art spot, the Northrup King building in Northeast Minneapolis, where many of the artists they collect have studios.
The DeRushas now have so many pieces, they store some, as galleries and museums do. They're saving up for more pieces and "not to get all cheesy about it," Jason says. "But having art on display is great because you love looking at it." His advice for anyone thinking about buying art: "if you can't be an artist, then be an artist's supporter." He said with a laugh.