The Big Story Blog

Better times near for Minnesota arts?

Posted at 9:56 AM on December 7, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Arts

The succession of bad news lately about arts groups -- big deficits for the Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Penumbra Theatre cancelling plays -- makes it easy to think there's nothing but bad news out there on arts and the economy.

But there are some green shoots, too. Several people in the MPR News Public Insight Network are telling us that, four years after the official start of the Great Recession, the road is a little less bumpy.

Randall Davidson, administrative director of the Minneapolis-based National Lutheran Choir, tells us things are improving for his group.

"Our choir has depended, almost exclusively, on private donations for its contributed revenues," he writes.

As the economy began to bite into corporate and foundation giving, many arts organizations began to depend more on individual giving to fill the gap.

Our organization has only deepened its relationship with our donor base and now we are beginning to diversify our base of support to government, corporate and foundation sources as the economy improves.

We are seeing larger audiences at our performances but the demographic has been very similar to past years. On the other hand, our major gala event of the year has seen a significant increase in the number attending and has been trending to younger people.

Jill Bernard, education director with HUGE Improv Theater in Minneapolis, also sees conditions thawing.

"We were born during the recession - we opened in December 2010," she says."Our Executive Director, Butch Roy, is fond of explaining how a weak real estate market made it possible for an organization with no funding to get a space."

The group, she adds, has "seen more tickets sold, but that's really just as the word gets out because we're a new theater. Donations have increased as well - I think people are afraid we won't survive."

If you're in the Minnesota arts community, click here and tell us what the financial road looks like for your group

About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.