As the Minnesota Orchestra's lockout continues, it's creating a backlog of grant money intended for projects that have been stalled.
According to Director of Public Relations Gwen Pappas, the orchestra has received approximately 20 grants for the 2012-13 season.
Approximately $100,000 in grant money has been returned.
"How we have handled these depends on whether it is a restricted operating grant (for a specific project) or a general operating grant. With restricted grants, in cases where the donor/foundation wishes to move the project and funding forward we have done so. In cases where it doesn't make sense to "relocate" a project, we have returned funding. With general operating grants, in most cases the donors/foundations have continued to support general operating costs."
This just days after the National Endowment for the Arts gave the orchestra a grant for $40,000 for a previously planned summer music program.
Pappas says the orchestra is asking for an extension on the grant to be used in the next season. It's already been granted an extension on another NEA grant from last winter.
The Minnesota Orchestra has sequestered its general operating funds from the State of Minnesota until a negotiated settlement has been reached.(2 Comments)
The former leader of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is returning to his old job. The SPCO has hired Bruce Coppock to re-assume his former position of president and general manager, beginning in June.
Coppock led the SPCO from 1999 to 2008. He left the orchestra after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which is now in complete remission.
Coppock says healing an ensemble that's been through a bitter labor dispute will be a challenge, but he believes he can provide a steady hand as a manager and leader.
"For all the difficulties of the past year, and we all know this has been an extremely difficult year, the SPCO is a wonderful orchestra, and it's a wonderful organization," said Coppock. "I believe firmly that there's a very bright future for the orchestra and that's why I took the job."
Coppock says the healing process will begin by returning to the music.
"Let's get concerts going back on stage. Let's get the audience back. Let's get the audience, the staff, the board and the musicians all in the same room focused on music. I think that's the place to start."
Coppock says he also wants to instill a culture of kindness and civility at the SPCO.
Coppock's appointment is expected to be formally ratified by the board on May 21. The SPCO cited Coppock's managerial experience, fundraising expertise and knowledge of the organization in naming him to the post. Coppock will replace interim president Dobson West in June.
The announcement comes as the SPCO is preparing for its first official concert since the lockout ended. The chamber orchestra is scheduled to play a concert May 9 at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley.
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians have voted to ratify a new three-year contract with management. The vote means the seven month musician lockout will end at 12:01 Tuesday morning. The SPCO will also resume its concert schedule on May 9th.
"We really look at this now having the SPCO positioned where we will be financially sustainable and we will be able to be artistically vibrant as we move forward," said SPCO Interim President Dobson West. West says the agreement puts the orchestra on a more sustainable path.
The new contract reduces musician pay by approximately $15,000 a year, cuts the size of the orchestra from 34 to 28 players, and offers a voluntary retirement buyout to musicians 55 and older.
Musician negotiating committee member Carole Mason Smith says the musicians voted in favor of the settlement because they knew how important it was to resume the concert schedule before this season ended.
"If we didn't get back on the stage this spring, it would cause even more harm to the organization down the road. And because we care about the future of the orchestra, the negotiating committee strongly recommended this agreement, and the orchestra voted to approve it."
Meanwhile, musicians say to move beyond the bitter lockout, the SPCO needs to find a new leader with proven orchestra management experience who can greatly increase revenues.(0 Comments)
Today's 5pm deadline for a vote on a new St. Paul Chamber Orchestra contract has been pushed back to April 29th.
SPCO musician negotiators told management over the weekend they couldn't present the new contract offer for a vote until it was in its final form.They wanted some language in the agreement, especially pertaining to the increased role the musicians want to play in managerial decisions, to be more specific.
An SPCO spokeswoman says management has submitted a revised proposal containing some minor adjustments. Musicians will then be allowed to submit their ratification votes through the mail, to be completed by April 29th. The SPCO says the new time frame will still allow concerts to resume on May 9th, provided the agreement is ratified by musicians.(0 Comments)
The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts has announced the 2012 Sally Ordway Irvine Awards honoring special achievement by Minnesota artists.
Photo courtesy Ordway Center
This year's Committment Award went to Anthony Caponi, the founder of of the sixty-acre Caponi Art Park in Eagan.
Pillsbury House directors Faye Price and Noel Raymond received the Initiative Award, for infusing the arts into every aspect of their Minneapolis neighborhood community center.
Mentoring Peace Through Arts founder Jimmy Longoria got the Vision Award, for teaching youth to create murals that deter gang graffiti.
Hillcrest Community School in Bloomington was honored with the Education Award, for integrating the arts into math, science and social studies.
And David J. Fraher, CEO of Arts Midwest won the Arts Access award, for sharing the work of Minnesota artists throughout the U.S.(0 Comments)
About one hundred students, faculty and alumni gathered on Summit Avenue in Saint Paul this evening to show support for a plan to keep the College of Visual Arts open.
Ben Levitz, an alum of CVA and president of CVA Action, speaks to supporters before meeting with the college board.
MPR Photo/Marianne Combs
In January the administration announced the art school will close its doors in June due to financial problems.
Since then, members of the group CVA Action have lobbied to save the school, and raised $70,000 for the effort.
College of Visual Arts alum Ben Levitz heads up the group CVA Action; tonight he's presenting the details of a plan which he hopes could turn the college's fate around.
"It's leveraging the real estate, the multiple buildings that the school has and using those to fill our short term operational cash need" explains Levitz. "But then also surrounding that with a group of professional fundraisers that can really strengthen the other cash resources that the school needs."
CVA Action supporters include current students and faculty
MPR Photo/Marianne Combs
The plan also includes broadening the board which currently has only six members. Senior Tara Shaffer says she hopes the current board will be open to giving the school a second chance:
"Why make sure it's broken before you leave? Why do that? Why take something away from the world before you're gone - you're gone either way. Why not give us a chance? If we fail miserably they can laugh from their houses if they want - that would be fair. But why say no to a chance? I just don't understand the point of that at all."
Representatives of the College's board were not immediately available for comment; CVA Action's meeting with the board was not open to the public or the media.
Editor's note: Look for more reporting on this story in the coming days...(4 Comments)
Robin Gillette, Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, is ready to try something new.
The red-headed leader of the independent theater festival is stepping down after marking its 20th anniversary.
In a phone conversation this afternoon Gillette explained that she wants to make the break while the Festival is in good health.
Gillette took the helm of the Fringe in 2006; under her tenure attendance has increased 23% and the payout from box office returns to artists has increased 34%. The festival has also reached out to performers around the state, and worked to promote Midwestern shows to the international fringe scene.
Gillette says she's proudest of the opportunities that Fringe has provided.
"For artists, and folks who wouldn't define themselves as artists but had something they wanted to say or do in a theatrical format, to get on a stage and see what they've got. For audiences, who've had a chance to be active participants in the creation of new work with their willingness to take a risk on new materials and new faces. For my staff - there aren't words to express how proud I am of the collaborative structure that the six of us year-round folks have built, and the professional development that I've been privileged to watch in each of them over the years."
The 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival runs August 1 - 11. In the meantime, the board is forming a search committee to identify Gillette's successor.(0 Comments)
Ethan Nosowsky will rejoin Graywolf Press in the new position of editorial director.
Nosowsky served as Graywolf's editor-at-large from 2007-2011, during which time he oversaw some notable literary acquisitions, including "Otherwise Known As the Human Condition" by Geoff Dyer (the book went on to win the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism).
Nosowsky begins his new job as editorial director April 15, but he will be doing so from his home in San Francisco; McCrae splits her time between St. Paul and Graywolf's satellite office in New York.
The hire comes amid other news of internal promotions, including senior editor Jeffrey Shotts' promotion to the position of executive editor.(0 Comments)
The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis laid off eight staff members today to resolve a long term budget gap.
The layoffs resulted from a half million dollar shortfall in the Walker's budget. A Walker representative said the art center's endowment dropped by 26 percent in the financial crisis of 2008. As interest from the endowment usually provides about 40 percent of the Walker's annual income, this drop caused an unsustainable gap between revenue and expenses. The $500,000 represents about three percent of the Walker budget.
Of the eight people losing permanent jobs, five will continue as short-term contractors until they complete their current projects. The Walker will continue to limit its openings to seven or eight a year, and present slightly fewer performing arts events. The job losses represent about 5 percent of the total Walker staff.(0 Comments)
According to a new report that examines arts jobs, consumer spending and revenue of arts organizations, Minneapolis' arts economy is close to five times the national average.
The report, commissioned by the City of Minneapolis, uses data compiled by Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), to examine aspects of the local creative economy that have never been measured before. It calls this data collection the "Creative Vitality Index" or CVI.
Author Guldun Kayim says many studies only track arts institutions, and ignore the independent artists who work in multiple fields.
"This report looks at creative jobs," explained Kayim. "Not just fine arts, but from the broader perspective of highly creative occupations - design, architecture, broadcast - things people don't normally measure as an arts career, but are highly creative."
The data measures the Minneapolis metro area down to the ZIP code level of detail.
The report finds that the creative sector injects approximately $700 million into the economy in a single year. $430 million of that is in retail sales: tickets to shows, the purchase of artwork, etc.
Kayim says that's 70% of the size of Minneapolis sports sector revenues.
"While we didn't match sports, the fact that we came this close without the equivalent in stadiums I think is pretty damn good," said Kayim. "We don't have the facilities that sports organizations do, but we are still managing to have a huge impact."
To put it in perspective, Target Field seats close to 40,000 people. The Guthrie Theater seats 2,000.
Gulgun Kayim says the findings reveal some interesting trends. Of the $430 million in retail revenue, 49% came from gallery sales.
"We don't have a gallery scene of great significance," said Kerr. "I mean we have some great galleries, but not with a large density. What we do have is a great network of artist studios who host events like Art-A-Whirl and other art crawls. So it appears these smaller venues, all combined, are having a big impact."
In the coming weeks, City of Minneapolis staffers will present the more detailed findings of the report to stakeholders.
Ahead of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area are Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston.(1 Comments)
The Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies has named Mark Russell Smith as its new artistic director. The hire takes effect in June 2013.
Smith is director of orchestral studies at the University of Minnesota's School of Music and music director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra in Davenport, Iowa.
Smith, an accomplished cellist, currently serves as the GTCYS interim artistic advisor and conductor.
Smith has previously conducted the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Phoenix Symphony.
SPCO President Dobby West says his administration has submitted a "play and talk" proposal to the Musician Negotiating Committee.
The proposal contains several provisos, but if accepted by the American Federation of Musicians and the local union would allow the SPCO to resume its season.
Chair of the SPCO Musicians Negotiating Committee Carole Mason-Smith says they are still reviewing the details of management's new offer, but that at first review the proposal does not appear to reflect what is customarily meant by the term "play and talk."(0 Comments)
A group formed to bridge the gap between musicians and management in the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra negotiations today proposed raising three-quarters of a million dollars a year to maintain the SPCO at 34 players.
Management wants to reduce the number to 28 for financial reasons, But Mariellen Jacobson of the group Save Our SPCO says a survey of its 2500 members finds they would be prepared to donate money to keep the full orchestral complement.
"We think it is really do-able on a grassroots level to go out and find $750,000 to help the Society to get the funds to continue to employ a full 34 person orchestra at a reasonable salary without employing draconian cuts in the salaries of the musicians."
Jacobson says for the proposal to work the four month long musicians lockout needs to end.
A representative of SPCO management described a meeting with the group as productive, and management will consider the specifics of the proposal.
Editor's note: this update reported by Euan Kerr(0 Comments)
SPCO musicians say they are trying to speed up the negotiation process, in fear that the 101-day lockout could drag on for several weeks longer.
In their latest counter proposal, SPCO musicians agreed to reduce their annual salary 20% for the 2012-2013 season, 17% for the 2013-2014 season and 15% for the 2015-2016 season.
They are requesting that management responds no later than Friday, February 1.
Representatives of the locked-out musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra say they continue to have objections to a compensation package proposed by management.
They are particularly opposed a two-tier pay system. Under that proposal, any new musicians joining the orchestra will earn $10,000 a year less than current players.
Last week SPCO interim president Dobson West offered some concessions, including a guarantee that no current musicians will be laid off as the orchestra moves from 34 to 28 players.
However, musicians' negotiator Carol Mason Smith said that in reality the major concessions have been on the part of the musicians.
"We have made concessions as far as the complement of the orchestra, the number of musicians," she said. "We've made compensation concessions, and we are still not seeing the similar kind of drastic change that we have made, we are not seeing it from our management yet."
Osmo Vänskä will conduct the Minnesota Orchestra on February 1 in a concert celebrating the orchestra's Grammy nomination.
They will perform Jean Sibelius' Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5, their recording of which was nominated for Best Orchestral Performance.
The event begins at 8pm in the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium.
As of this writing, approximately 170 tickets are still available; they range from $20 to $60.
This is the first time they have performed together since July 19, when Vänskä conducted the orchestra's performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 at Sommerfest.
The event is the brainchild of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minnesota Orchestra benefactor Judy Dayton, in an attempt to release tensions in what has been a heated contract dispute.
Any revenue after expenses will go into an account to put on future educational concerts. The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra will control the account. John Stiles with the City of Minneapolis says "It's important to note that all of whatever proceeds there are will go into this fund, and none will go into any aspect of the labor dispute."(0 Comments)
There are indications that contract negotiations are moving ahead between the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra management and musicians. This afternoon SPCO President Dobson West sent out a letter to constituents with a detailed update.
MPR's Euan Kerr is calling out for interviews right now with both management and the musicians; in the meantime, here's West's letter.
Dear Members of the SPCO Family,(1 Comments)
I am writing to update you on the status of the negotiations with the Musicians. As you know, on Thursday January 17th the Musicians terminated the off-the-record discussions and we canceled concerts through March 23rd.
Shortly after that announcement, we formally submitted to the Musician Negotiating Committee a new on-the-record offer that contained significant concessions intended to address what we understand to be the Musicians' major concerns. Those concessions include the following:
• No current Musician will lose his/her job via position elimination.
The Musicians have expressed their concern that a reduction in the size of the orchestra could lead to current Musicians losing their jobs. After carefully studying the list of positions eligible for the Special Retirement Package, we determined that if five Musicians retire from a specific list of non-principal positions, the Society will be left with an artistically viable instrumentation for the Orchestra and we will not need to eliminate the job of any current Musician.
We have also proposed that there will not be less than 27 positions in the Orchestra and that the Society will consult with the Artistic Vision Committee (AVC) and at least one Artistic Partner in determining the size and instrumentation of the Orchestra.
• Salaries will increase during the contract.
The Musicians have expressed their concern that salaries do not increase during the life of the contract. Our previous offer provided for a minimum guaranteed annual salary of $50,000 for all Musicians with minimum guaranteed annual overscale for all current Musicians of $12,500 per year, resulting in a flat minimum guaranteed compensation of $62,500 for all current Musicians for the life of the contract. In addition, all Musicians will have the right to negotiate for additional compensation in their individual contracts.
Our revised offer provides for the base annual compensation of $50,000 to increase to $51,000 in FY15 and $52,000 in FY16. When combined with guaranteed overscale, current Musicians would receive a guaranteed minimum of $62,500 in FY14, $63,500 in FY15 and $64,500 in FY16 (plus any individually negotiated overscale).
In addition, our revised offer provides for a $10,000 one-time bonus to be paid to each current Musician upon execution and ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement.
• Insurance benefits will be guaranteed.
The Musicians have expressed their concern that insurance benefits could be canceled or dramatically changed at any time. While this was never our intent, in our revised offer we have proposed that insurance levels not change during the term of the collective bargaining agreement except in the same way it can change today or due to health care reform, in which cases any changes would be made in consultation with the Orchestra Committee.
• Musicians will continue to have the artistic input they have today.
While the Musicians continue to claim that our proposals take away their artistic control, this is simply not true. Our proposal does not contain any substantial changes in the audition process, the tenure process, the artistic review process, the Artistic Vision Committee or the Artistic Personnel Committee.
It is possible that this claim was made in response to our proposal to change the size and instrumentation of the Orchestra. We believe we have addressed this concern as indicated above: by proposing a path forward in which no Musician is terminated through position elimination and by proposing that decisions about the size and instrumentation of the orchestra be made with input from the Artistic Vision Committee (which includes three Musicians) and at least one Artistic Partner.
There is obviously more to our proposal, and if you are interested, the entire proposal can be read here.
On Tuesday evening, we received a response from the Musicians in the form of a new proposal. We have several questions and are not in a position to fully evaluate or respond to it without first resolving these questions. We have sent our questions to the Musician Negotiating Committee, and we have requested additional meeting dates. If you are interested, you can read the Musicians' proposal here.
With this latest exchange of proposals, we feel that we are making progress toward a solution that is both financially and artistically viable. We will continue to work at finding a solution, and will keep you posted as we have news to share.
Dobson West, President
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Bill King, President of the Minnesota Council on Foundations, has announced his plans to retire at the end of June.
King has served as president for 12 years, and been with the MCF for a total of 25 years.
The MCF serves as a network of funders as well as a resource for both grant makers and grant seekers. Combined, members of the MCF give approximately $1 billion in grants annually.
The search for Bill King's successor will be conducted by a search committee of the board.
A former longtime staffer at the Walker Art Center is returning. David Galligan will take on the position of Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer beginning April 15.
Galligan served as the Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer of the Walker from 1986 until 2002; among his duties was oversight of the high profile expansion of the museum.
The hire is part of a restructuring of Walker senior management by Executive Director Olga Viso.
Galligan initially left the Walker to take on the position of President and Ceo of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, a position he held for four years. Since then he's worked as a management consultant for several national organizations.
Osmo Vänskä will conduct the Minnesota Orchestra on February 1 in a concert celebrating the orchestra's Grammy nomination. The event will take place at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
This is the first time they have performed together since July 19, when Vänskä conducted the orchestra's performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 at Sommerfest.
The February 1 event is the brainchild of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minnesota Orchestra benefactor Judy Dayton, in an attempt to release tensions in what has been a heated contract dispute.
The Minnesota Orchestra has been nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Orchestral Performance for its recording of Jean Sibelius' Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5.
The Mayor's Office reports ticketing information will be announced to the public soon.(1 Comments)
According to Penumbra Theatre Artistic Director Lou Bellamy "reports of our death are greatly, greatly exaggerated."
The Saint Paul theater company announced today that it exceeded its fundraising goal and will resume programming this spring.
Due to an income shortfall in August, Penumbra cut six full-time staff positions and suspended all programming.
Managing director Chris Widdess says the company set a goal to raise 340-thoussand-dollars by the end of 2012.
"We would find out whether what everyone had said all these years about their passion for Penumbra and their commitment to who we are and what we do could really be translated into dollars," said Widdess.
Widdess says she's humbled by the outpouring of support. Over 1,400 individuals, corporations and foundations donated 359-thousand-dollars by December 30, 2012.
Penumbra will stage a production of "Spunk" in mid-March. The play is adapted from Three Tales by Zora Neale Hurston and will feature T. Mychael Rambo, Dennis W. Spears, Jevetta Steele, and Austene Van.
WIddess says the company has also committed to develop a seven-year business plan to ensure its financial stability while also addressing 'artistic and administrative succession.'
The Minnesota Orchestral Association has invited the Musicians' Union to negotiate a new contract once again.
The MOA has put out two possible dates - Saturday January 5 or Wednesday January 9. The invitation to negotiate has been made "without any preconditions."
The Minnesota Orchestra has also cancelled or rescheduled all concert performances through Sunday, February 10. Ticket holders will be contacted directly by the Orchestra to outline their options, including exchanging their tickets, or receiving a refund.
Earlier this month the Minnesota Orchestra disclosed that it has a $6 million deficit for its fiscal year ending Aug. 31. The Minnesota Orchestra musicians have been locked out since the beginning of October.(5 Comments)
Guthrie Artistic Director Joe Dowling is typically blunt, even in the face of good news.
"Any one running a theater these days that doesn't feel concern about the economy is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land" he said today as the Guthrie reported a balanced budget for the 2011-2012 season at its annual meeting.
The numbers are these: the Guthrie has a $67,000 surplus on a budget of $29,000,000.
A total of 42 productions generated 795 performances which drew a total attendance of 426,000.
Those are big numbers, and represent a 10 percent increase in the Guthrie's budget over the previous year.
"I won't pretend it hasn't been a difficult year," Dowling (above) said. "It has. It has been a very difficult year. A difficult year for everyone involved in the arts, and indeed in the community generally."
However Dowling credits the balanced budget to a number of factors, not least the generosity of donors, and the support of the state's Arts and Cultural Heritage fund.
He also believes the Guthrie has found a good balance between the productions which will draw large audiences with the artistically important work. He points to the Marcela Lorca directed production of Seamus Heaney's "Burial at Thebes" being in the same season as the summer hit "Roman Holiday."
"So within the one season you have two very extraordinary pieces of theater," Dowling said. "It's keeping that kind of balance alive and making certain that we have an appeal for all of our broad audience, that's the big concern for the future."
Dowling says that, even now, six years after opening the three theater complex on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, the Guthrie is still exploring the possibilities of the new building.
When asked to name his high points from the season, he say's it's difficult to choose just one. he eventually points to the Heaney play, but also Tracie Bennett's portrayal of Judy Garland in "End of the Rainbow."
"Those are the sort of moments in the theater when you sort of really do feel your are in the presence of something extraordinary," he said.
(Joe Dowling image courtesy of the Guthrie)(0 Comments)
Audiences at this weekends sold out concerts by locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra heard about a new citizens group formed to try to break the impasse between the musicians and management.
"Orchestrate Excellence"calls itself a "coalition to support our Minnesota Orchestra."
Organizers of say its only a week old and still getting set up, but the group used the concerts at the Ted Mann Concert Hall as an opportunity of gather names of supporters.
A flyer in the program stated:"The Minnesota Orchestra enriches and inspires our community with a heritage of artistic excellence spanning more than a century. It has made Minnesota synonymous with musical greatness worldwide. We believe that the orchestra plays an important role in Minnesota's rich cultural life and it is possible to fund its musical brilliance going forward. We are concerned citizens who have come together to find ways to assure the high quality of the music that we love."
Audience members were encouraged to add their name and Email address, and visit the organizations website.
The Sunday concert was an emotional experience as former Minnesota Orchestra music director Edo de Waart tppk the podium to lead the musicians through a program of Bach's Concerto in D Minor for two violins, featuring Concertmaster Erin Keefe and former Concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis standing side by side on stage.
The second part of the concerts opened with a spirited speech from viola player Sam Bergman who told the crowd the musicians were prepared to struggle and sacrifice to preserve the orchestra in the face of the major cuts proposed by management.
The musician were then joined by a chorus of at least 80 voices as well as four soloists to perform Beethoven's 9th.
The performance was met with rapturous approval from the audience which gave the musicians repeated standing ovations.
The day after Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra management cited the lack of a contract counter-proposal as a reason to cancel all concerts through February 8th, the locked out musicians said they are the ones who are waiting.
The players released a statement saying they are disappointed by the management decision, saying it will deprive the community of exciting concerts scheduled for next year. The statement continued that the musicians are not to blame for the current standoff.
"We are also disappointed that Management continues to mislead the public with claims that the stalemate rests in our hands.
We made it very clear to Management on November 8, 2012 that there would be no further proposals from us until their proposals to have the right to terminate musicians at any time and without recourse, and to change or eliminate their health and other benefits we're taken off the table. They have ignored our concerns and are now misrepresenting the state of contract talks.
If Management would agree to negotiate and continue in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement provisions governing the number of Musicians and the instruments they play, and provisions governing the benefits provided to the Musicians and the costs of those benefits to the Musicians, for the entire term of the Agreement, we could resume negotiations.
We await Management's next move so we can return to the bargaining table as soon as possible and resume playing music for this wonderful community."
In turn SPCO Interim President Dobson West released a statement of his own late this afternoon:
"The Musicians rejected our last offer on October 31, and have not themselves made an offer since September. Our audited financial results for last year show a deficit of approximately $900,000 dollars, a deficit that will grow unless further cost reductions are made. The Musicians know that it is their turn to make a proposal, and that their next offer needs to address the significant financial challenge we face. We hope the Musicians will channel their ideas into a proposal as soon as possible."
The bottom line remains there are no negotiations scheduled at present.(0 Comments)
Last week the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra announced a deficit of $895,080 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012.
Today, SPCO Board Chair Dobby West cited that deficit as confirmation that the orchestra needs to make substantial long-term budget cuts in order to remain a viable institution.
"Simply put," wrote West in a letter to subscribers, "we can no longer afford to provide 34 musicians with $115,000 in average salary and benefits for 33 weeks of performances. Significantly reducing the cost of the contract is a necessary next step in ensuring the SPCO's future."
West stated the board has waited for a month to receive a counterproposal from the SPCO musicians, but has been presented nothing.
With that in mind, it has canceled concerts through February 8.
West says the board "remains ready to meet and negotiate as soon as our Musicians have an offer prepared."
However Euan Kerr reports that same board has rejected musician offers to 'play and talk.'
The musicians say management's contract proposal, which would cut the guaranteed salary of current musicians to $62,500 a year and new musicians to $50,000, is not respectful and will lead to the demise of the orchestra.
The musicians posit that the SPCO has saved about $1.5 million as a result of the lock out. The players have said it is time for them to come back both to the negotiating table and the concert hall, musician negotiating committee member Lynn Erickson said.
"We would love to be able to play and talk," Erickson said. "We would love to be able to come back in January and start playing concerts again."
You can learn more about both sides of the contract negotiations here.(2 Comments)
Representative Phyllis Kahn worries the Minnesota Orchestra's Board of Directors is eroding the artistic integrity of a cultural treasure.
Kahn explained her concerns in Minnpost, charging that the board is unfairly placing the financial burden of balancing the budget on the musicians:
Recognizing the importance the orchestra plays in enhancing our standard of living, I was supportive of the $16 million in bonding dollars recently granted to the Minnesota Orchestra to renovate Orchestra Hall and Peavey Plaza. Additionally, I have been supportive of the funding it has received from the Arts Board - including Legacy dollars - that have been awarded over the past four years to help with operating costs.
I did not support distributing public dollars to the Minnesota Orchestra so they could cut their musicians pay by 30 to 50 percent. Nor did I vote in favor of these funds so they could lock out musicians who, in recognizing this financial slight, have made efforts to engage in arbitration or have offered to continue working under the old contract until both sides can reach an amicable agreement. And I certainly did not vote to send these funds to the orchestra to have them resist any attempts to make their budget more transparent.
Kahn goes on to state that "there is no use in... funneling state dollars into operating costs for an organization that has locked out those who make it function."
The Minnesota Orchestral Association is holding its annual meeting today. This year it's taking place behind closed doors, without the typical performances by orchestra musicians to punctuate the proceedings.
In an interview with Morning Edition's Cathy Wurzer, Chicago-based arts consultant Drew McManus said that, compared with many other orchestral negotiations across the country, the Minnesota Orchestra's situation is "particularly bad."
McManus said that at this point the orchestra is risking the loyalty of its audience. But there's still hope for resolution.
"When it's gotten to this level of animosity it's not unusual for the dispute to become more about winning the fight than whatever the issues were to begin with - it becomes personal on both sides. And it's very difficult for individuals in both stakeholder camps to step back from that. The thing I talk about a lot with clients in this situation is you have to find a way to provide an opportunity for both sides to save face with a solution, so that somebody doesn't have to lose in order for someone else to win."
Meanwhile, Russel Platt writes in The New Yorker that the trouble in the Twin Cities points to a shift in culture:
For decades, the situation for classical-music lovers there has been almost impossibly generous. Minneapolis-St. Paul is the only major metropolitan center in the country that boasts not one but two world-class symphony orchestras: another way in which Twin Citians, who sometimes speak of their home with an affectionate affliction that even many in-state call Shangri-La Syndrome, can claim to be "above average." (There is also the Minnesota Opera, a prominent regional-level company, a bevy of superb choruses, and a vibrant new-music scene.) In truth, they have much to boast about: one is indeed lucky to live in a metro area where, to paraphrase Garrison Keillor, you can have your pick of great restaurants and world-class cultural events but still live on a tree-lined street and send your kids to a public school. (It is also an attractive place to be a working-class composer, hence my long residency.)
Platt charges today's wealthy aren't as interested in classical music as their parents were. And the liberal golden age of Hubert Humphrey has given way to "the brave new world of Michele Bachmann."
...the Twin Cities musicians need to remember that their peers were forced to give in in Detroit, Atlanta, and Indianapolis, all comparable institutions. Only a mutual love of the art form will keep players and management on the same map; beyond that, there be dragons.
Do you see any hope for resolution between the musicians and the management?
Ben Johnson (left) who is credited with revitalizing the dance program at the Northrop Auditorium and is spearheading the refurbishment of the historic U of M performance space, will leave January 1st to become Director of Programs for the United States Artists Foundation in Los Angeles. There he will oversee the USA Fellows program, which awards major $50,000 grants annually to 50 artists who work in film, theater, dance, music, design, visual arts, literature, and American craft.
In a statement released this afternoon Johnson said: "Naturally, the decision to depart Northrop was incredibly difficult, as this historic organization and program has been instrumental in my arts career. This opportunity to serve artists so directly, and at such a scale, is at the center of my greatest passions and career aspirations. I will be actively engaged in the LA art scene, as well as working on a national level in all 50 states."
Johnson is responsible for bringing some of the top dance companies in the world to Northrop, and recently began collaborating with the University of St Catherine on the Women of Substance series. Just last night the program featured Miami choreographer Rosie Herrera.
The Northrop has been closed for a year while it is extensively remodeled and refurbished, but Johnson continued the program in collaboration with theaters in downtown Minneapolis. He has also been working on a huge program for the re-opening of the hall next year.
Northrop Director Christine Tschida said Johnson will be missed.
"Ben's legacy has been a great one at Northrop Concerts and Lectures, and, in the exciting seasons ahead, I know you will see his influence - and also his smiling face, in what I hope will be frequent visits!"
(Image courtesy Northrop Auditorium, photo - Tim Rummelhoff)
Locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra today issued a no-confidence vote in Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson.
Management says it needs large salary cuts for the players to keep the orchestra financially viable. Musicians say the cuts will severely damage the Orchestra.
After attempts failed to agree on a new contract management locked out musicians October first and there have been no negotiations since.
A release from the musicians this afternoon says Henson's removal is key to resolving the current lockout. Musicians negotiation committee member Tim Zavadil says "The lack of partnership between Henson and the Musicians since his arrival has been dysfunctional and adversarial due to his management style and lack of leadership ability."
Minnesota Orchestra management has not yet responded to the release.
Update as of 4:28pm The Minnesota Orchestra has issued a statement from Board Chair Jon Campbell in response to the no-confidence vote:
"Michael Henson is a perfect leader at this challenging time and has the full confidence of our board. This is simply the latest publicity tactic by musicians to avoid addressing the real issue that is facing our organization: a longstanding structural deficit that we need to alleviate. The only obstacle between musicians and board working out a new contract is the musicians' perplexing refusal to put forward a single contract proposal after nearly eight months of talks. We hope the musicians will soon dispense with these tactics and invest their energies in producing a substantial counterproposal."
Locked out Minnesota Orchestra musicians say a Star Tribune report supports their argument for an independent financial analysis of the orchestra.
The report contends the orchestra drew deeply from its endowment in 2009 and 2010 to cover growing deficits at a time when it was requesting public money for an Orchestra Hall renovation. According to the report, it later drew less money from investments and declared a 2-point-nine million dollar deficit when it was demanding dramatic pay reductions from its musicians.
The report, based on hundreds of pages of financial information and orchestra board meeting minutes, raises questions as to whether the orchestra covered deficits with money from its endowment to both win public funding for an Orchestra Hall lobby renovation and later demand deep salary reductions from its players.
Chair of the musicians' negotiating committee Tim Zavadil said the report illustrates the need for an independent financial analysis of the orchestra.
"In order for us to get to the bottom of where the orchestra's finances are, we have to have an independent third party come in here, someone that is trusted by both sides that can verify where the actual true financial position is," said Zavadil.
According to Minnesota Orchestra President Michael Henson the orchestra was responding to one of the worst recessions in American history and its decisions were geared toward inspiring confidence and preparing the orchestra for a new financial future.
"All of us, whether you're running a for profit, or not-for-profit, have had to manage through tumultuous times, and find your own solutions as to how to maintain confidence, and at the same time facilitate change in all aspects of your organization, or in this case, the orchestra."
The Minnesota Orchestra says it was trying to cope with loss of revenue when it borrowed from endowments and tried to cut musicians' pay. The musicians have been locked out since October 1rst because of a contract dispute with the orchestra.(5 Comments)
While the cancellation of concerts is the most public result of the lockout of musicians at both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, music educators are concerned about the lockouts' long-term impact on their students.
Julia Bogorad-Kogan, the SPCO's principal flutist, and David Wright III work through scales and pieces during a lesson in her St. Paul home. Bogorad-Kogan and many more locked-out musicians at both the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra are taking on extra students as a way to earn some income during the lockout. (MPR Photo/Euan Kerr)
As MPR's Euan Kerr reports, many orchestra musicians are taking on more lessons, but young musicians no longer have the major orchestras to look to for inspiration:
An important part of being in the Minnesota Youth Symphony is regularly hearing the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO play.
"My kids don't have any concerts to go to," [co-director Manny Laureano] said with a frustrated laugh. "This is like having a class that studies Shakespeare, and never taking them to plays."
Laureano acknowledged that missing a few weeks won't hurt, but he worries about the dispute dragging on and the orchestras not playing for months.
Back at McPhail Center for Music Paul Babcock is worried too about the long-term impact of the contract fight. He sad if the orchestras are weakened, it's going to hurt everyone in the arts.
"If the two orchestras end up in a less-desirable state than they are today, or for some reason the orchestras don't exist, that will be a real tragedy for the Twin Cities," he said. "The whole ecosystem of the arts community needs both of those orchestras to exist and to be strong."
But with concerts at both the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO cancelled through the end of the year, and no negotiations currently scheduled at either, there is little to ease Babcock's concern.
You can find out more about the effects of the orchestra lockouts here.
Management of the Minnesota Orchestra today rejected a request by locked out musicians to address todays meeting of the orchestra's board.
In a statement released by management the rejection was expressed in terms of an acceptance.
"We would be pleased to accept this request when our musicians and their Union return to the bargaining table with a substantive counterproposal," said Minnesota Orchestra Board Chair Jon Campbell. "We hope the players will consider doing so very soon so that we may come to a meaningful resolution quickly in order to give our audiences at least a part of our regular season." <
Management has long argued the musicians haven't actually begun to negotiate yet as they have yet to offer a contract counter-proposal to an offer made back in April.
Musicians who have been locked out since October 1st called for the meeting over the weekend amidst growing concern the board will cancel more concerts. Management cancelled all concerts through Thanksgiving on the first day of the lockout. With holidays fast approaching and no contract agreement in sight, the Minnesota Orchestra it seems inevitable hat the Orchestra will have to cancel more.
Last week management of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, citing lack of progress cancelled all concerts through the end of the year. There is no indication as to how extensive the Minnesota Orchestra's cancellations might be.
In a response to the management e-mail the musicians renewed their call not to make any cancellations and to end the lockout. They also responded to Campbell's statement claiming that musicians had been trying to negotiate the contract in the media.
The musicians statement says: "The Musicians had done no negotiating in the media until the management chose to post the entire contract proposal on the Internet and leak it to the media without warning to the Musicians on September 5th."
Meanwhile in St Paul the two sides in the SPCO dispute are scheduled to meet on November 8th. The SPCO's locked-out musicians says they will likely have a counter proposal to put before management then.
The SPCO has moved to cancel all planned concerts through the end of the year. Interim President Dobby West sent out this e-mail to explain the action:
Dear Members of the SPCO Family,
As you know, the Musicians yesterday rejected the Society's latest proposal, without counterproposal or comment. Our proposal would have aligned our expenses with our sustainable revenues allowing us to stop adding to our deficit, and would have ensured we could continue to attract and retain world class Musicians. The proposal included:
• Average cash compensation of over $78,000 for current Musicians, including estimated individually negotiated overscale
• An average total compensation package (including benefits) for current Musicians of over $97,000 for 32 weeks of performances
• A smaller orchestra (approximately 28 full-time positions versus today's 34)
• A voluntary retirement package of up to $200,000 for any Musicians over 55 who want to retire
The Union's position is now very clear: a total compensation package of over $97,000 for 32 performance weeks is not enough, and an orchestra of any less than 34 players is unacceptable. While we understand the Musicians' desire for more compensation and a larger ensemble, we have to face reality: we can only spend what this community is able to afford.
We had a deficit of nearly $1 million last year, despite having eliminated $1.5 million in annual expenses since the start of the recession. We face increasing deficits in the years to come if we don't achieve a significant reduction in the expense of the Musician contract. The Musicians have acknowledged the severity of our financial situation, but have not made any proposals that materially reduce the expense of their contract. Their approach would result in continuing deficits, threatening the very future of this organization.
Knowing how far we are from an agreement, and in consideration of the needs of our audience and guest artists to plan ahead, we have made the decision to cancel concerts through December 31st. Ticket holders for canceled concerts will be contacted today, and information will also be posted on the SPCO website. Once again, no immediate action will be required by ticket holders, as tickets will automatically be banked in patrons' accounts for future use. Options will include the opportunity to exchange tickets into another concert, turn back tickets as a tax-deductible contribution to the SPCO or receive a refund.
We continue to want to work collaboratively with our Musicians on a solution that ensures both the financial sustainability and artistic excellence of the SPCO. Our next negotiations session will take place on November 8, and it is our hope that the Union will come forward with a proposal that materially reduces the cost of the contract so that we can get back to bringing great music to this community.
Dobson West, President
In a vote today by secret ballot, the Musicians of the SPCO unanimously rejected management's latest contract proposal.
In a statement released this afternoon, musicians said they rejected the offer on the grounds that it would allow SPCO management "to terminate musicians at any time with no recourse, drastically reduce their salary and benefits, and even more drastically lower the guaranteed salary of musicians yet to join the Orchestra."
Management calculated the proposal would cut wages by 14 percent, but musicians argued the cuts actually amounted to 33 percent. The four year contract proposal would have also reduced the number of SPCO players from 34 to 28, and offered buy-outs to musicians aged 55 or older. That's about half the current players.
SPCO concerts through Sunday are currently cancelled. In the wake of today's rejection, further cancellations are likely.
In Minneapolis the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra remain locked out.(1 Comments)
There is a very good chance that come Monday morning the two top orchestras of the region will be silenced.
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians rallied Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, outside the Ordway Center in an attempt to forestall a feared lock out by the orchestra's management.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr
As MPR's Euan Kerr reports, management of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra today told its musicians that unless there is a contract agreement by 6 p.m. Sunday it will lock them out.
The deal now before the musicians is a four-year contract that sets a guaranteed minimum annual salary for current musicians at $62,500, and a base rate of $50,000 for new musicians. It cuts the size of the orchestra from 34 to 28 players and it offers buyouts to musicians aged 55 and older. West describes the cut as a 15 percent reduction.
"I understand that it is difficult for musicians to accept reductions in compensation. That's a normal occurrence. But we are where we are," [SPCO interim President Dobson] West said. "We need to reduce the cost of that contract and the musicians need to acknowledge that fact and then we will find a solution."
Musicians said they have been trying to be part of the solution and management has not been interested. A statement they released called the lockout deadline "dangerous and disingenuous." Lead negotiator for the musicians Carole Mason Smith said they have twice offered to take a pay cut so they can continue to play and talk.
"We have made proposals and they have completely ignored those proposals," Smith said.
Smith says management seems to be trying to put the musicians on the same level as other SPCO employees.
"We might be 40 percent of the budget, but we are 100 percent of the product" she said. "And their proposal does not in any way exhibit that."
If the SPCO carries out its threat, it will be the first time in history that both the musicians of SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra are locked out at the same time.
You can find the rest of the story here.(1 Comments)
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has made a new offer to its musicians and set a new deadline.
Photo by Sarah Rubenstein
In contract talks that finished today, the SPCO put forth a new proposal that's basically the same as the previous one but extends its duration from three to four years and includes a one-time payment of $2,000.00 per musician in the fourth year.
It also told musicians it would give them until Tuesday to respond.
The musicians say they need more information on the new proposal before they can respond in any time frame.
The musicians also told the orchestra they wouldn't be available to meet again for further negotiations until November 3.
Both sides are expressing frustration with the talks. In a prepared statement, SPCO Interim President Dobson West said,
"It should come as no surprise that we are frustrated by the lack of progress in these negotiations. The Union and the Society agree that the SPCO faces a significant financial challenge, but the Union continues to reject that a significant reduction in the cost of the contract must be part of the solution. The Union has yet to provide us with a proposal that materially reduces the cost of the contract, and instead continues to insist that our audience and donors shoulder the burden. Meanwhile, each day that we continue to operate under the expired contract, we add to our deficit. We have been willing to "play and talk" because we want to keep the music going, but we cannot continue to operate this way for much longer."
The musicians also released their own statement:
"After the latest round of negotiations.... We're frustrated by the fact that management will not budge even an inch on their short sided proposal that will destroy the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra as we know it. Our latest offer includes a ten percent reduction in compensation that saves management nearly a million dollars over the next three years. Management wants everyone to believe they are offering musicians an additional year on a new contract and at a higher salary. But the truth is - the compensation in that final year is still 30 percent less than what were currently making and the health care costs would offset any increase in salary.
We will continue to play and talk and work hard to reach a resolution... but it has become clear that management is disingenuous when they say they want to preserve the quality of our world class orchestra."
No new talks have been scheduled.(4 Comments)
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and its musicians met for contract talks today. Since the orchestra's musician contract expired last month, the orchestra has been in what's called 'play & talk' mode, which lets both sides keep negotiating while the musicians continue performing under the old contract. SPCO management proposed that the musicians play and talk under the terms of the orchestra's latest offer, which would cut musician salaries by 15-percent. Musicians rejected the idea.
SPCO Interim President Dobson West says the orchestra would like to continue the 'play and talk' process, but needs to do it in a financially responsible way.
"We cannot afford to continue to play and talk under the current contract. It is just too expensive for us. And at some point, the union needs to acknowledge that we need to have substantial savings from the costs of the contract."
The musicians say they're still digesting the terms of the orchestra's latest offer but say they are not happy with most of it. Trumpet player Lynn Erickson is with the musicians' negotiating committee.
"If we were to accept their proposal right now and play and talk under it, they would start to implement all of the things that they would like to happen under their proposal, and we don't agree with many of the things in their proposal."
Erickson says the musicians offered to continue playing and talking under the old contract but at a reduced base salary rate of $70-thousand a year. The orchestra rejected that approach, saying it would still add to the orchestra's one million dollar deficit..
When asked whether the SPCO was preparing to lock out its musicians, West responded that the orchestra couldn't keep the current 'play and talk' process going much longer. The two sides are scheduled to meet again tomorrow.
Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have announced the program for their concert on October 18, but they will not be honoring tickets for the season opener cancelled by orchestra management.
The musicians will perform Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B Minor, Opus 104 (with Tony Ross on cello) and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Opus 47. The concert will take place at the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium at 7:30pm.
Conductor Laureate of the Minnesota Orchestra, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski will conduct the performance. He turned 89 last week.
Orchestra musicians had originally stated they hoped to honor tickets for the season opener that was cancelled by Minnesota Orchestra management as part of the lockout. But according to the musicians' media representative Blois Olson, getting a refund for the tickets from management turned out to be "too complicated."
Tickets to the October 18 concert can be purchased here; they range in price from $15-40 per seat.(3 Comments)
Minnesota Orchestra is not alone in its heated labor negotiations.
As Chris Roberts reports, American orchestras are going through a period of upheaval that may forever alter how they're run and their relationships to their communities.
Horrible economic conditions and menacing long term trends spawned an orchestral tempest which first reached landfall in Detroit and is now sweeping the rest of the country, according to arts and entertainment reporter for the Detroit Free Press, Mark Stryker.
"This hurricane of rising costs, and the recession, and long-range cultural forces that sort of pushed classical music to the sidelines of civic life, these forces created unsustainable models, economic models in many cities, he said.
The financial meltdown of 2008 and resulting 'Great Recession' has also given orchestras an opportunity, said Detroit Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leonard Slatkin, He said they are not only trying to restructure financially but are changing their operational model from arts to more of a business model.
"An arts model said, 'OK, we'll try not to lose so much money,'" Slatkin said. "A business model is 'we're gonna try to make some money.' And 2008 was a very good way to say, 'we can't afford this anymore.' "
Lockouts have become more prevalent in many industries in recent years. John Budd, a labor relations expert at the University of Minnesota, refers to the American Crystal Sugar and NHL lockouts as high profile examples. Budd was unsurprised by the Minnesota Orchestra musicians lockout, but with concerts canceled through Thanksgiving, he thinks this lockout could be a lengthy one.
"At this point I think it's just going to take time for one side or the other to see how serious the other side is in its resolve, and unfortunately have some economic pain imposed on both sides which will eventually bring them back to the bargaining table," Budd said.
You can read the rest of the story here.
Updated at 4.30 pm
There are no negotiations currently scheduled between the locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and management - but the war of words continued unabated.
The musicians today released a list of 10 orchestras, including the Sao Paulo Symphony in Brazil where Minnesota Orchestra musicians will be performing in coming weeks.
"Obviously we would prefer to be performing for our audiences here," said lead musicians negotiator Tim Zavadil (left). "We've got a world class roster of musicians. Since the management has locked us out, so we have no salary and benefits and musicians have got to be able to go earn a living. So it was really remarkable that within the first week of the lock out musicians have been invited to perform with such a world class roster of orchestras."
It is an impressive list: the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, the Sao Paulo Symphony, the Orpheus at Carnegie, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Milwaukee Symphony.
Zavadil says the list represents different kinds of temporary engagements.
"Some of them are short term, from maybe perhaps one week," he said. "There are some mid-terms you know one to two months. Then there are some people who have left for permanent positions in other places."
This of course has been one of the rallying cries of the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, that talented players are likely to leave because of the major salary cuts being proposed by the orchestra. Zavadil declined to give exact numbers of people who are leaving, saying that some of them are still in the final stages of negotiation. But he can confirm at least one.
"Probably the most significant one is Peter Maguire who is a fabulous violinist in our first violin section will be leaving to take the concertmaster position in Zurich, Switzerland."
Maguire, who is acting first associate concertmaster with the Minnesota Orchestra is headed to the Zurich Tonhalle Orchester. When asked if Maguire's move might have been in the works for some time Zavadil said he didn't know.
Zavadil returned repeatedly to the idea that the musicians want to live and play in Minnesota.
"The Minnesota Orchestra has always been a destination orchestra," he said.
Locked out musicians protesting at Orchestra Hall (MPR images/Euan Kerr)
Zavadil says the musicians are still seeking an independent financial analysis of the orchestra. He indicated he believes the next move belongs to Minnesota Orchestra management.
"Currently we have no salary and no benefits, so we need to go out an earn a living wage. When the other side is ready to meet, we'll be ready to meet," he said
No-one from the orchestra management was available to immediately respond. However in recent weeks managers have repeatedly said they are awaiting a counter-proposal from musicians so they can begin negotiating.
Update: late this afternoon Minnesota Orchestra management issued the following response:
"We anticipate that musicians will find work as substitutes in the weeks ahead, as it is one of the benefits of an orchestral career that freelance work is readily available. This doesn't alter where our negotiations currently stand: we are waiting for our musicians to return to the table with a realistic counterproposal, so we can work to resolve our differences, and musicians can perform in our Orchestra again."(9 Comments)
Locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra today announced former Music Director Stanislaw Skrowaczewski will conduct them in what they call a "season opening concert" on October 18th.
Minnesota Orchestra management cancelled all concerts through the end of November shortly after locking out the musicians early Monday. French horn player Ellen Smith says having the conductor who led the Minnesota Orchestra from 1960 to 1979 - during which time Orchestra Hall was built - means a great deal to the players.
"Because we know that it won't be a gesture taken lightly by our management," said Smith. "They won't be happy about it. But it truly shows that he supports us fully in what we are doing."
The musicians will announce later this evening where they will perform the concert.
UPDATE: Musicians union negotiator Tim Zavadil said on TPT's Almanac the concert will be at the Minneapolis Convention Center Hall.
Management wants major wage concessions from musicians to fix what it says are major financial problems. Musicians say the proposed cuts would destroy the Minnesota's world class sound. No further contract negotiations are currently scheduled.(3 Comments)
While Minnesota Orchestra management and musicians have yet to find a contract they can agree upon, a number of voices are crying foul over the management's approach to negotiations.
Bill Eddins is Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and co-author of the classical music blog Sticks and Drones. A resident of Minneapolis, Eddins has been following the negotiations closely.
The whole thing smacks of impersonality. There is no feeling in this. Everyone on the payroll is now just to be considered a cog in the wheel, and the output of the machine is supposed to be great music. The "Artist Entrance" should be renamed the "Servants Entrance." That's certainly the gist of the message from management. No matter how bad the situation is there (and it's bad and it has been bad for several years; denial ain't just a river in Egypt) this is no way to go about stabilizing this institution.
Matt Peiken is the creator of the newly launched MNuet.com, a website designed to aggregate information about the Twin Cities classical music scene.
...management's tactic is calculated, craven, callous, corrosive and cowardly--emboldened and made possible, in no small part, by the bullying that has happened in places as disparate as Wisconsin's legislature, Chicago Public Schools, Northern California hospitals and the worker breakrooms of union-allergic Wal-Mart, and championed across the commentariat at the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and the Drudge Report.
By going public, the management of the Minnesota Orchestra told their own musicians they're overpaid--not in context with these economic times, mind you, but in general. Management has refused to open its books to an independent analysis--how well has that worked for Mitt Romney?--and also refused binding arbitration. How do you negotiate with honesty and integrity under this rubric and, at the same time, tell the public you're committed to fielding a world-class orchestra? How do you hope to again work with these musicians from a position of mutual purpose and trust?
Emily Hogstad plays violin in the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra and writes about classical music on her blog Song of the Lark. One of her recent posts lists "ten obfuscations" in a recent Minnesota Orchestra press release, including the statement that" the full-time management and administrative staff have experienced a salary reduction, a wage freeze and more than a 40 percent reduction of their pension contributions from the Orchestral Association."
According to public documents, Michael Henson makes $404,000 a year, which is up from his 2009 salary of $390,000. (According to this Star Tribune article, Salaries drop for nonprofit leaders, this is 1.5x the average for "nonprofits with budgets of $25 million to $50 million," which is $243,000.) I know that others within the organization have sacrificed, and sacrificed greatly, but based on the available public evidence, I'm not convinced their leader did. Shouldn't great leaders lead by example? Of course Henson's salary alone wouldn't fix the financial problem management says they have, but it would send a message about his character. It would send a message about his humanity, and respect, and shared sacrifice. As Andrew Young once observed on the Colbert Report, strikes aren't about money; they're about respect. Also, let's be clear: I don't think any of the musicians are scorning the people who wield relatively little power within the organization, who have suffered terribly throughout this whole debacle. According to one of my readers, at least one of these hardworking underpaid people was fired via email. If this is indeed true (and I have heard no one dispute it, or apologize for it), do you believe that high-level management really cares so much about the people below them? Or might they instead be seeing them as pawns in a grand seven-tier chess game (as nationally renowned arts consultant Drew McManus feared back in May)? No, this is a failure of leadership from the very top: from powerful multi-multi-millionaire board leaders Jon Campbell and Richard Davis, and Michael Henson.
You can find out the latest on the Minnesota Orchestra contract negotiations here.(1 Comments)
Locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, Ellen Smith, Doug Wright, Tony Ross, and Burt Hara, standing in front of the Minneapolis Convention Center (MPR photo/Euan Kerr)
"The players want to keep the music going, and we are doing everything we can to make that happen," said locked out musician Tony Ross.
Ross, principal cello for the Minnesota Orchestra was standing in front of the Minneapolis Convention Center where the Orchestra was meant to open its 2012-2013 season. But that was before management locked out the musicians Monday, and cancelled the fall concerts through November 25th
Ross, along with musicians Tim Zavadil, Ellen Smith, Doug Wright, and Burt Hara, were there to announce their intention of holding a season opener anyway. There are still some logistics to work out, like dates, program, and which hall, but Ross said they are hoping to present a "celebratory program" on October 19th ideally in the Convention Center Theater.
Ross said there could be a series of concerts.
"We are also in discussion with former music directors" he said, "Hoping they will support us and possibly lead us in this and other events."
He declined to name who that might be for the moment. However he did say the musicians will pay for the concerts, with the help of donations from supporters.
Ross said the hope would be also to honor tickets which people had bought for the cancelled season opener.
When asked what might be an ideal piece for the show, Ross smiled wryly
"Shostakovich 5?" he said "You know there was so much great art that came out of Russia when Stalin was abusing its population. Do we feel abused? Maybe."
Over the past few days more and more people have become aware of the large cuts being proposed for musicians by Minnesota orchestra management. Those cuts are necessary management says because of the organizations teetering financial situation.
The players dispute this, particularly as the Orchestra just raised almost $100-million in a capital campaign.
The musicians are well-paid, and when a journalist asked Ross how they justified their salaries, Ross shot back.
"Many people equate making it into the Minnesota Orchestra, or a like ensemble, more difficult than making it onto an NFL team," he said. "So we are not ashamed of our salary, and we need to be compitative so we can keep the great musicians that we have here, and draw new ones."
Over at the Minnesota Orchestra's temporary offices where administrative staff is working while Orchestra Hall is undergoing renovation, Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson said he respected the musicians' right to play concerts.
"However it doesn't change the fundamental issue that the Minnesota Orchestra is facing at the moment," he continued. "We need our players to accept the financial realities of 2012, and come to the negotiating table in support of a contract that our community can afford."
No negotiations are currently scheduled between the two sides.
When asked about the musicians honoring tickets for cancelled concerts, Henson said people remember they still have value for when there is a settlement and the Minnesota orchestra resumes playing.
"We are very keen that our audience is not confused by that," Henson said. "And keen to very much stress that they can get a full refund for tickets they have purchased, or... they can bank those tickets."
This morning the Minnesota Orchestra announced it has cancelled all its fall concerts through November 25.
This, after a weekend of meetings between musicians and management failed to reach a new contract settlement.
The lockout means musicians will receive no pay or benefits until a new agreement can be negotiated.
The Minnesota Orchestra's final proposal offers an average annual salary of $89,000, as opposed to the current average salary of $135,000.
In a release, Minnesota Orchestra Association Board Chair Jon Campbell explained the cuts this way:
The Orchestral Association honored the musicians' 2007 contract even though, in the midst of the recession, it placed unsustainable pressure on our endowment. We cannot continue on this course, and our Board is united in the belief that, in order to protect the Minnesota Orchestra for the long term, we must address our financial challenges now, rather than push them forward and allow them to multiply.Meanwhile, the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have released a video asking why management wants to silence the music, when musicians were willing to "play and talk" - in other words, continue to negotiate - and perform - while extending the current contract.
In the above video musicians state:
We didn't build Target Field for a minor league team. If the Vikings win the Super Bowl, they don't take a pay cut. When we built the new Walker [Art Center] we didn't expect art of less significance. The new Guthrie wasn't built for Minneapolis to become mediocre in theater. So why would the orchestra management raise $110 million to build for the future, but tell musicians to take a 30 - 50% pay cut? Why would they spend $50 million for a new lobby at orchestra hall?
The musicians will hold a rally today at 1pm at the corner of Nicollet Mall and 11th in downtown Minneapolis.(2 Comments)
As time runs out for the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra to reach new labor agreements with their musicians unions, MPR's Chris Roberts took a look at how much economic pain work stoppages might cause in their respective hometowns.
At the Zelo Restaurant on Nicollet Mall, bar manager Michael Persian said the bustling eatery counts on 50 to 60 dinner patrons before every evening concert.
"You could look at anywhere from a few thousand dollars a night to $10,000 maybe per week of lost business or revenue for the restaurant," he said.
Downtown St. Paul is already suffering from a lockout by the National Hockey League of all its teams, including the Minnesota Wild. A work stoppage at the SPCO makes city director of arts and culture Joe Spencer shudder.
"A) I don't think it's going to happen, and b) we just can't let it happen," he said.
Downtown St. Paul's businesses and restaurants rely on the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts being busy seven days a week, Spencer said. SPCO audiences produce a significant chunk of their revenue. There's also an effort by four Twin Cities arts groups, including the SPCO, to raise $75 million to build a new concert hall at the Ordway. So far, $60 million has been raised.
"And if there's a work stoppage at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra," Spencer said, "it would have a chilling effect on that fund drive as we're in sort of the last stretch of getting to that $75 million goal."
Spencer believes the two parties are making progress and will reach an agreement before the deadline hits at midnight on Sunday.
You can read the rest of the story here.(1 Comments)
After months of negotiation, and little progress, both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra face contract deadlines with their musicians this weekend.
At the SPCO negotiations are scheduled all weekend.
Minnesota Orchestra management will meet with musicians on Sunday.
If no settlement is reached, the Minnesota Orchestra could lock out its players on Monday.
All sides claim nothing less than the future of the state's two leading orchestras hang in the balance.
MPR's Euan Kerr told Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer that there are four possible scenarios for the two orchestras: play and talk, a strike, a lock-out, or a declaration of an impasse.
Kerr: Play and talk, which is kind of the industry default is just to keep negotiating and performing, but using the former contract as the status quo. The musicians could strike, the management could declare an impasse and impose its last offer, or it could lock out musicians. These last three options are a lot more high risk.
Wurzer: Lets look at the different disputes, starting with the Minnesota Orchestra. What's happening there?
Kerr: There seems a likelihood that the orchestra could lock out its musicians at midnight Sunday. Management put an offer to the musicians almost six months ago, which included sizable wage cuts. Musicians have yet to respond to that offer. On Tuesday management upped the ante by delivering what they called a final contract offer to musicians and a message that if there is no agreement by the Sunday midnight deadline musicians will be locked out. Now, management says the lockout language was legalese, and in reality they are open to whatever happens over the weekend.
Musicians said they need more information about the orchestras finances before they can respond the proposal, and they are still calling for an independent audit. However they have scheduled a vote on the proposal on Saturday afternoon. They say the proposal contains such drastic pay cuts that it will damage the orchestra, and lead to an exodus of talent. They say this makes no sense, especially as the orchestra is building a $55 million expansion of Orchestra Hall.
An interesting wrinkle here is the Minnesota Orchestra season opener isn't until October 18th, so the musicians may have a little less leverage now. If they are locked out they will not get paid. But that means there would still be time for a deal before patrons feel any effect.
Wurzer: So what about the SPCO?
Kerr: Talks between management and musicians are scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday, and both sides say while they are still far apart, they are hopeful there might be a deal. Management is clear it is also looking for big changes. Interim President Dobson West says the SPCO needs to create a new financial reality for itself if it is to survive. He's proposed a 15% pay cut for musicians, a reduction in the size of the orchestra and a buyout plan for musicians 55 and older. He says the orchestra needs to save $1.5 million a year over the current contract.
Musicians say that plan would lead to the departure of many experienced players and destroy the celebrated sound of the SPCO. They have offered to take pay cuts totaling $700,000 over three years, and then using funds earmarked for the buyouts to reach the management savings target. They say their plan gives the management time to raise more money for its endowment without hurting the artistry of the orchestra. Management said Wednesday that this plan doesn't work because the buy-out funds can't be used in this way.
Musicians responded by saying management analysis is faulty and they will continue to press their plan.
The SPCO has two concerts this weekend, and both sides have indicated they would rather play and talk at least for the moment. However this story has had many twists and nothing will be for certain until a deal is done.
Tune in tonight on All Things Considered when MPR's Chris Roberts looks at the potential impact - both on the orchestras and the economy - if either the Minnesota Orchestra or the SPCO goes on strike or is locked out.(1 Comments)
While here in the Twin Cities both the Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are still hammering out their contracts (and the Minnesota Orchestra musicians could possibly face a lockout as soon as Monday), the chips are falling for other orchestras across the nation.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its players ended a labor standoff and agreed to a new contract on Tuesday - and late yesterday, the Atlanta Symphony and its musicians did the same.
NPR's Kathy Lohr reports the Atlanta deal means the orchestra's 68th concert season will begin next week on schedule.
The issue in Atlanta is a $20 million budget deficit that management said had to end. It closed the gap in part by cutting musicians' salaries...
When the two sides couldn't reach an agreement last month, players were locked out of the Woodruff Arts Center. With the season set to begin in just a week, the musicians approved a new contract with $5 million in concessions.
This, for an orchestra that has won 27 Grammies.(3 Comments)
There were developments in the contract battles at both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Tuesday.
In Minneapolis, with just days left in the current musicians contract, Minnesota Orchestra management delivered what it called its final offer to musicians.
It is unchanged from managements first contract proposal in that it would cut the average annual pay of musicians from $135,000 to $89,000, but Minnesota Orchestra President Michael Henson says it "clarifies" a number of work conditions, and includes a reduction in the guaranteed number of musicians in the Orchestra .
Henson says it's been almost six months since the initial proposal was delivered to musicians and they have not yet delivered a formal response. He says this final offer is being made in preparation for the contract deadline at the weekend, but declined to say whether these are first steps towards a musicians lockout.
"I think the reality is that is speculation until we actually reach the first of October and we are waiting a response from the union and our musicians," he said.
Henson says the cuts are necessary to create a more sustainable financial model for the future. Musicians at the orchestras in Atlanta and Indianapolis are both currently locked out by management as a result of their contract disputes.
A representative of the musicians said they are reviewing the proposal and have no comment.
Later in the afternoon musicians at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra released a new counter-proposal in their contract negotiations. The offer comes just days after management rejected an earlier musicians proposal because it didn't cut costs by $1.5 million dollars a year. Management says that's the figure it needs for financial stability, and has suggested a 15 percent pay cut, and a reduction of the size of the orchestra.
Musicians negotiating committee chair Carole Mason Smith says
the proposal offers total salary reductions of 700-thousand dollars over three yearsthe proposal offers total salary reductions of 700-thousand dollars over three years. It then reaches the $1.5 million target using $3-million earmarked by management for a buy-out of musicians over the age of 55. Mason Smith says this would maintain the SPCO's artistic quality by keeping experienced players in place.
"We don't want to destroy the orchestra," she said. "We feel that strongly that we want the money that they have, they say they have, to buy people out, make people leave, make people go away, we want them to use that money to preserve the quality of the orchestra."
She says the proposal would also give the SPCO management time to work on building the organizations endowment. Musicians are also asking for an increase in ticket prices, and a reduction for surpluses they say are built into the management proposal.
A representative of management said the board is reviewing the document, and declined to comment for the moment. The SPCO contract runs out on Saturday September 30th, and further contract talks are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
Contract negotiations at both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra continued today, but with little sign of progress.
MPR's Euan Kerr reports that while Minnesota Orchestra musicians received a proposal from management five months ago, musician negotiator Tim Zavadil said players still don't have enough information to respond properly.
"We renewed our call for an independent joint financial analysis of the orchestras finances so we can better understand the orchestra's true financial position," he said after the talks wrapped up for the day.
Photo by Greg Helgeson, courtesy Minnesota Orchestra
Listen to Euan Kerr's debrief with Tom Crann on All Things Considered
The management offer would cut the average pay of musicians from $135,000 a year to $89,000. Orchestra leadership says the cuts are necessary in the face of looming deficits, and as a way to make the orchestra sustainable in the future.
However musicians say for individual players this will represent a 30-50 percent cut. They say their primary concern is to maintain the Orchestras world class reputation, and such cuts will lead to musicians leaving for better paying jobs at other orchestras. A request by the players negotiating committee to speak to a meeting of the full board of the orchestra scheduled to follow the talks was denied.
Violist Sabina Thatcher and violinists Dale Barltrop and Daria T. Adams of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Photo by Sarah Rubenstein
Meanwhile in St Paul, management of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra rejected a counter-proposal offered over the weekend by its musicians.
Two and a half weeks ago management put forward a proposal to cut musicians guaranteed pay by 15 percent to $62,500, reduce the number of players in the orchestra by 6 to 28, and to offer buy-outs to players aged 55 and over. Any new musicians would be hired at a base pay of $50,000.
The musicians counter-proposal offered a three year contract with a one percent pay cut for the first two years, followed by a four percent increase in the third year. It also maintained the number of musicians at current levels.
SPCO management asked for another counter proposal which will save more money. Mason Smith said her group will meet to decide what to do in coming days. The next negotiating sessions for SPCO musicians and management are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.(2 Comments)
As committed supporters of the orchestras -- quite often financially -- patrons are an important factor in negotiating contracts for both players and management.
But as MPR's Euan Kerr reports, most people are unaware that the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO are undergoing heated labor negotiations.
...Word of the orchestral contract battles had not seemed to have reached the people in Rice Park in St. Paul, even in the shadow of the SPCO's home at the Ordway Center.
"This is the first I've heard of it, and I've gone to the orchestra," said passerby Mike White. "My wife and I have been there usually about two and three times a year for the last few years. But I didn't know there was an issue,"
A bevy of brightly clad teenagers also said they hadn't heard anything.
"No. We go to a performing arts school, so we like that kind of stuff, but..." one said.
This reaction is unsurprising to public relations specialist Jon Austin, who is a veteran of many labor disputes including as company spokesman during the pilots' strike at Northwest Airlines. The real focus of an orchestral public relations war will be on regular patrons, he said.
"The number of people whose hearts and minds they are competing for, frankly, is pretty small," he said. "Probably could fill the Minnesota Orchestra Main Hall and maybe overflow into the lobby a little bit. But it's a pretty small number."
Dominique Serrand, Steve Epp (left)and Nathan Keepers are throwing a party this weekend. The founders of the Moving Company say the idea is to have some fun, but also get a little serious about what they are doing.
"To just talk about the work, and the future," said Serrand. "We call it 'Footprint.' And to talk about the past and how we will manage the work in the future."
The trio rose from the rubble of Theater de la Jeune Lune, the much celebrated company which collapsed in 2008 under the weight of accumulated debt as the economy tanked. Now Serrand says they are working on creating a three part model for a national company.
"It's a partnership with universities in terms of creating the work," he said of the first part. So far they have developed pieces at UC Davis, and more recently at the U of M, where "The War Within" was developed as a student production. Projects at UNC and the University of Iowa are now in the works.
"It's great because we get commissioned, so it is not a burden on the company," Serrand said."Not only are we developing the work when we get there, but we are teaching. And we are scouting the landscape and see new and young artists with whom we want to work in the future. So it's all benefit."
The second element in the Moving Company Grand Plan is to then develop the work for professional theater.
"The next part, which I guess is the most difficult, is once tjhe work has been researched through this collaboration is to bring the work up on its feet here in Minneapolis, which requires investment," says Serrand.
That happened with "The War Within" which received a professional production a few months after its run at the U of M.
Finally the Moving Company wants to place their shows in other parts of the country.
"The last part, which is to get picked up, takes time," says Serrand. He says companies are planning a year and a half in advance.
At the gathering this weekend they hope to spread the word to supporters. Serrand is working on a video, and they are even hoping to raise a little money.
It's not an easy time to be doing this. This week Penumbra Theater announced it laid off staff and cancelled all its shows for the season.
"I have been there so I know how it goes," said Serrand. "When I looked at the article in the paper I went 'Oh no! Not again!"
However he says he thinks Penumbra is very smart to hold on.
He says there are always doubts when you try something.
"You never know if it will succeed. But to quote the big man last night," he said referring to the convention speech by President Obama," I would say, these kinds of efforts that we are doing, that we are making on our own, give us all hope. And so we need to pursue what we are doing and hopefully things will get better."
Today the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra released the details of its latest contract proposal for its musicians.
The contract would reduce the size of the SPCO to 28 musicians; the SPCO employs 31 musicians, with an additional three positions currently vacant.
The annual minimum compensation for musicians would be $62,500, about a 15% reduction from last year's figure of $73,732.
New musicians would receive $50,000 of guaranteed annual salary.
The proposal employs the musicians for 36 weeks, with 32 performance weeks and four vacation weeks.
Included with the proposal is a retirement package for musicians 55 and older that would be paid out over three years.
You can read the entire proposal here.
This morning Penumbra Theatre put out a release explaining its decision to cut a third of its budget, lay off six staff members, and suspend all theater productions for the 2012-2013 season.
What didn't make the release was the news that Penumbra has selected a successor to Artistic Director Lou Bellamy.
I spoke with Penumbra Managing Director Chris Widdess this afternoon about the cuts; I mentioned that from a distance, it had appeared the past few years Associate Director Dominic Taylor was being groomed for leadership. Now that his position has been eliminated, I asked, what did this mean for the theater company's future?
Widdess replied that while it would have been easy to think Taylor was the heir apparent, that was never agreed upon, although he was a candidate.
Widdess says Penumbra has chosen the next Artistic Director, but is not ready to announce who that person is at this time. Instead the next few months will be spent reorganizing the company to create the best team based on the next AD's strengths.
As contract negotiations near for both the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO, MPR's Euan Kerr asked some pointed questions, including whether the Twin Cities can afford to support both organizations.
Bruce Ridge, president of the International Conference of Symphony Orchestra Musicians, or ICSOM, sees it this way.
"The question is not whether or not the Twin Cities can continue to afford to support both organizations," he said. "I think the question is: how can you afford not to support them?"
The orchestras are part of Minnesota's cultural legacy, Ridge said, and can't be simply cast aside.
Orchestras, like sports teams, bring prestige and people, to a city. They are an integral part of a thriving arts community.
Photo by Greg Helgeson, courtesy Minnesota Orchestra
The sports metaphor continues with Dobson West, the SPCO's interim president, who says the two orchestras don't necessarily compete for the same audience:
"The Minnesota Wild is a professional sports team," he said. "The Vikings are a professional sports team, but the game that they play is entirely different. And so there is nothing that says they steal from each other."
So it is with the orchestras, he said. There is some audience overlap between the two, but not much. Some people prefer the intimacy of the SPCO's 34-member ensemble, others the majesty of the Minnesota Orchestra with three times as many players. And some cynical classical fans might point out that both orchestras have been at the top of their games for a lot longer than any Minnesota sports team.
You can read the entire story here.
Earlier this month Jane Minton, Executive Director of IFP Minnesota, an organization supporting independent filmmakers and photographers, was dismissed by the organization's board after serving it for 25 years.
While for the past week Minton has remained quiet about the controversial firing, today she decided to speak out, posting this letter on her Facebook account:
Dear Friends and IFP Members,
Many of you have been asking for answers regarding my termination last week from IFP. I've maintained my silence, hoping to come to a reasonable separation agreement with the organization I've served for 25 years. Now that such an agreement has been denied to me, I owe you an explanation.
First, IFP Minnesota is healthy and stable. Despite the challenges for most nonprofits in this tough economy, as of August 10th, IFP's Business Director projected a one-month cash shortfall ($15,000 of the $750,000 budget) in May 2013; a shortfall that I would have easily addressed long before that date.
One reason for the shortfall flows from a small decrease in the revenue from the education program, which is down $10,000 in 2012 from its heyday in 2009, when it earned $80,000. Expertly programmed by Education Director Reilly Tillman, the education program remains healthy, viable and responds to the education needs of beginners as well as advanced filmmakers. This year's Producers Conference was the best ever.
Despite the overall vitality of IFP, the Executive Committee brought their concerns of impending financial crisis to me in late June. I proposed ways to reconfigure the organizational structure of IFP, including focusing my energies full time on fundraising. However, it was clear to me that the Executive Committee wasn't looking for solutions. It was looking for a scapegoat.
It now appears that board/staff protocols may have been violated, and that a plan to oust me had been afoot for months, surfacing June 27th with that meeting called by the Executive Committee. This is not unusual. It happens in not-for-profits: a board member joins an organization out of enthusiasm and a few years down the road believes he or she could run it better. Everyone serving on a board would do well to read an old but still true chestnut by Bruce Dayton, "Governance is Governance."
I am leaving IFP Minnesota in a stable financial position, and more importantly as I leave, the organization is fulfilling its mission of serving filmmakers, photographers, emerging artists, and film and photography. I am proud of the 2002 merger we accomplished with the Media Artists Access Center, the vibrant Youth Media Program, the McKnight Fellowship Program, Cinema Lounge, MNTV, the Photography Exhibition Program, IFP's member services-including Fiscal Sponsorship and the EFlash, the annual fundraiser with over 500 attending this year, among other accomplishments. I'm also proud of the millions of dollars we have raised to put IFP Minnesota and our media arts community on the map.
My dismissal at the hands of this Executive Committee is not the way I wanted to leave IFP Minnesota. But that is the hand that has been dealt to me. After receiving a proposed separation agreement on August 14th, which began with the words: "You agree that you have resigned," I retained legal counsel so that I could negotiate on a level playing field with the Executive Committee to preserve my reputation, my legacy at IFP and to protect my family financially upon my termination.
As soon as I hired counsel, I was informed by IFP's attorney at Lommen Abdo that there would be no further negotiation of any kind and that I was not to return to my office, effective August 17. I worked on and built an organization for 25 years, and on August 17, it was determined that I would have nothing to show for it.
The manner in which I was treated was heartless, cold, mean, and calculating. I know well that all businesses, nonprofits included, need to be run like businesses. But the reason some of us spend our careers working with nonprofits is HEART. What you don't make in salary, you gain in a common mission and collegiality. This has been missing in my recent situation.
That said, what's made all these years worthwhile for me are the people in the community-filmmakers, photographers, educators, IFP instructors, vendor companies such as Cinequipt, Blue 60, Fredrikson & Byron, and Pixel Farm, to name but a few, funders such as McKnight and Jerome Foundations, volunteers and interns, board members, and members.
The filmmakers and photographers in Minnesota are so talented, giving, and tenacious -- you're inspiring, and you will continue to inspire me. I'm grateful for every minute I've had to interact and work with you, and I deeply appreciate the many comments, emails and phone calls over the past week or so. Ah, there was the heart! Thank you!
I read that Andrew Peterson is taking over the reins of IFP as Interim Executive Director. Andrew is great and I have much respect for him. I also have deep respect, admiration and affection for the remaining staff at IFP. They're brilliant and dedicated. The IFP Board has a wealth of talent and I've enjoyed working with them. Many of IFP's board members have given generously to IFP, and I've benefitted from their wisdom. I wish the board, Andrew and IFP well. But most of all, dear filmmakers and photographers, I wish you the whole wide world of success.
Both the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra are in the process of negotiating new contracts with their musicians. The talks come amid a national orchestral scene rife with conflict, economic challenges and, in some cases, long strikes. The fact that both orchestras are up for contract renewal at the same time raises the stakes even further.
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra faces a projected deficit of up to $1 million this year and is looking to cut costs. (Photo by Sarah Rubenstein)
Over the coming weeks, Minnesota Public Radio will be looking closely at what's at stake for both musicians and orchestra management, and how having two orchestras in one metropolitan area is affecting the local market for classical music. We'll also look at the potential impact of an extended strike by either or both orchestras.
The story is a complex one, so we've put together a primer to help you understand just what's going on.
Posted at 3:11 PM on August 21, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Arts management
The Duluth Art Institute's Board of Directors has named Kat Eldred as its new Executive Director.
Eldred has been serving at the DAI's Interim Director for the past three months.
Eldred has a long history working in area arts organizations, from serving as a founding board member of the Superior Council for the Arts to founding and operating the Red Mug Coffeehouse and Gallery.
Fall programming for the Art Institute includes a new fundraiser entitled "Artistic Duluth" that recognizes the area's physical importance to artists in the region.
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Paul-based Bush Foundation has named a new president.
The new head of the foundation will be Jennifer Ford Reedy, known for her work on the Itasca Project and the GiveMN.org initiative at the Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. Reedy is currently the chief of staff and vice president of strategy at Philanthropy Partners.
At the Bush Foundation, Reedy will succeed Peter Hutchinson, who headed the organization from 2008 through January 2012. Former University of Minnesota president Robert Bruininks has served as an interim leader.
Reedy is also a former McKinsey & Co. consultant and serves on the board of the Citizens League and the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.
The Bush foundation was founded in 1953 by 3M Co. executive Archibald Bush and his wife, Edyth. It's the fourth largest philanthropic foundation in Minnesota.
Reedy said she expects the foundation will make technological advances during her tenure.
"I think the Bush Foundation has already done some interesting work using online platforms and using social media, so it isn't like I'm bringing a skill that isn't already in the organization in some capacity," she said. "But I definitely do have a lot of optimism about the power of social media and other technology tools in bringing people together, so I'll definitely bring that to this role."
Reedy is a Kansas native. She starts as the foundation's fourth president on Sept. 4.
Editor's note: Thanks to MPR's Tim Nelson for this story
The Guthrie Theater has named Lauren Ignaut to the position of Director of Studio Programming, which involves serving as a liaison with visiting theater companies as well as identifying Dowling Studio programming.
The position has been vacant since the beginning of the year, when Ben McGovern resigned. He programmed the Guthrie's black box studio for five years, in addition to directing several Guthrie productions.
This is an internal promotion for Ignaut, who has served until now as the Guthrie's Presentations Administrator.
Ignaut is a Minneapolis native who has been with the Guthrie Theater since 2006. She has worked in a freelance capacity with several Twin Cities theaters. She is also a founding member of The Strange Capers, a local company dedicated to emerging artists and theater accessibility for all audiences.
Photo credit: Hannah Grundhoefer
The founder of Ragamala Dance is enjoying an exceptional run of accolades and recognition.
Ranee Ramaswamy, founder of Ragamala Dance
Photo courtesy the McKnight Foundation
This week President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ranee Ramaswamy to the National Council on the Arts. The NCA advises the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (currently Rocco Landesman) on agency policies and programs.
This latest news caps a string of achievements and honors that started in March of 2011, when Ragamala was awarded rave reviews for its performance at the Maximum India Festival in Washington, D.C.
Shortly thereafter, Ramaswamy was named the 2011 McKnight Distinguished Artist.
Ranee and her daughter Aparna Ramaswamy recently received a McKnight Foundation Choreographic Fellowship. Aparna's sister Ashwini Ramaswamy received a McKnight Foundation Dancer Fellowship.
Congratulations to Ranee Ramaswamy and Ragamala Dance!
Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies' current artistic director Amir Kats, a five-year veteran of the organization, has resigned. Kats will continue in his position through the end of August.
The GTCYS is conducting a nationwide search for a new artistic director and symphony conductor for the 600-student organization.
According to a news release from GTCYS, Kats resigned "to pursue new conducting opportunities and spend more time with his family."
Before leaving, Kats will conduct GTCYS' annual Summer Orchestras' concert at Como Park on July 17 and the Minnesota All-State Orchestra on August 6 - 11.
Now in its 40th anniversary season, GTCYS is one of the largest youth orchestra programs in America.
The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra has named its future Music Director.
Meyer, a native of Germany, is currently the Associate Conductor of the Sarasota Orchestra.
As part of his job audition, Meyer conducted a DSSO classical concert in October featuring the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Prokofiev. Duluth News Tribune reviewer Sam Black said of the concert:
He never looked back. His tempo for the Mozart was on the edge, and the DSSO kept right with him all the way. After only four short minutes, it was obvious that Meyer had every orchestral eye focused on him.
After the concert Meyer shared that the DSSO seemed to respond to his intentions more quickly than other orchestras he has directed. The rapport was definitely working both ways. With his baton in constant motion and his eyes rapidly moving from the music to the players, Meyer set a high standard for performance communication.
In 2010 Markand Thakar announced his plans to leave the DSSO in 2013. Thakar joined the orchestra in 2000, and holds the third longest tenure in the DSSO's history.
In explaining his departure, Thakar said that at some point it becomes essential to take on new challenges:
This has been one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, but with the Orchestra performing at historically high levels, with the audiences large and enthusiastic, and with the classical concerts flourishing financially, now seems like a most opportune time to take the plunge.
Dirk Meyer was chosen to replace Thakar from over 130 applications.
Photo of Dirk Meyer courtesy the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra(1 Comments)
Two Mixed Blood Theatre staffers are moving up the ranks of leadership.
The director of Mixed Blood's Radical Hospitality program is moving up to the position of Managing Director, just in time to launch the company's 37th season.
Amanda White Thietje replaces the retiring Pj Doyle, who has been with Mixed Blood since 2009.
And long-time Mixed Blood Director of Touring Charlie Moore will assume the new position of General Manager. Moore has been with the company since 1984.
In a news release Thietje said her experience working with radical hospitality will fuel her new position as Managing Director.
The Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus (TCGMC) has chosen its next Artistic Director.
Ben Riggs will become the organization's fifth Artistic Director on August 1, 2012.
Image courtesy TCMGC
Riggs has been the Artistic Director of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus since 2007. He also has served as Artistic Director of the Boulder Chorale, a 120-voice volunteer mixed chorus in Boulder, Colorado.
The TCGMC has been searching for a new Artistic Director since Dr. Stan Hill announced his retirement in July of last year. He has served as the Chorus' Artistic Director for 12 years and is considered a major figure in the gay and lesbian choral movement
Dr. Hill's final performance in the Twin Cities will be the Chorus' Pride Weekend concert,
"They Sang to Me."
It will be performed at Ted Mann Concert Hall on June 22 and 23.
The Minnesota Orchestra is laying off 13-percent of its permanent staff.
The orchestra announced today it's eliminating nine full time and seven part time positions which touch virtually every department, from finance and development to marketing and public relations.
The move is aimed at reducing a two-point-nine-million dollar deficit the orchestra announced last November. It will save the orchestra 450-thousand dollars a year.
No musicians were affected by the layoffs.
Orchestra officials say audience members won't notice the staff reductions. Job duties will be re-assigned to other staff members.
More as we know it...
In covering the Guthrie Theater's 50th anniversary season last week, one thing became very clear; the lack of diversity on the theater stage is an ongoing national problem.
20 years ago the lack of roles for Asian American actors, and the lack of learning opportunities for aspiring Asian American actors, led Rick Shiomi to found Mu Performing Arts.
Photo by Lia Chang
Today Shiomi can list an impressive number of young actors who got their first acting opportunities at Mu, and are now regularly employed by other theaters around town.
On McKnight Foundation's "State of the Artist" blog, Shiomi wrote that while theaters may be gradually diversifying their plays- and their casts - there will always be a need for his theater, and other similar ethnic theaters.
Mu plays a key role in the continuing development of new Asian American theater talent because it is part of our mandate and primary values. Other companies may do Asian American work on occasion, but their role is not to train and develop Asian American artists. So if the flow of Asian American actors were to somehow dry up, their answer to why they might use "yellow face" or not use Asian American actors in diverse casts, would simply be that there are no qualified Asian American actors available. That was the answer before Mu, that is the answer when "yellow face" is used now, and that would be the answer in the future if the pool of Asian American artists were diminished.
There are challenges in the broader vision of Mu. When an actor has the opportunity to work at a larger company, it is hard for them to stay with a Mu production. But that happens to every small theater. That's why we at Mu are so intent upon developing more talent, so when an actor gets the chance to jump up, we have someone in the wings waiting for their opportunity. Losing singular talented actors to bigger theaters is hard, but in the broader scheme of things, more Asian American actors working on more stages in the Twin Cities is good for everyone.
You can read the rest of Rick Shiomi's piece here.
This afternoon All Things Considered host Tom Crann interviewed Guthrie Theater's Artistic Director Joe Dowling about criticisms of its 50th season, and a lack of playwrights and directors who are either women or people of color.
What follows is the complete transcription of that interview. An edited interview will air on All Things Considered this evening, at approximately 5:20pm. Or you can listen to the audio of the full interview by clicking on the link below:
CRANN: First I want to talk about the 50th Anniversary season. You've called some of the reaction around it over the past week a "distraction" and I'm wondering what message you have about this season that was distracted from?
DOWLING: Well I think that one of the things that's most exciting about this season is the number of different diverse and interesting stories it's going to tell between Christopher Hampton's plays about the emigre writers in Hollywood in "Tales from Hollywood" or the Appomatox which is going to deal with the last week in the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement - both hugely important parts of American history. And that's the starting off of the season as part of our Christopher Hampton celebration.
The fact is that for the very first time - which is astonishing to me - we're going to do one of the great American classics - Long Day's Journey Into Night - with two of the Guthrie's most favorite actors over the past number of years - Peter Michael Goetz and Helen Carey. Those are very exciting.
And the fact that we've got three works coming into the theater that we commissioned - works that we have actually been working on, including bringing Mark Rylance, widely regarded as one of the great actors of his generation back to the Guthrie with a play that was created and thought of because of his time with us. It's called "Nice Fish" and he's going to do that with Louis Jenkins and it's about ice fishing. It's about our region.
Then we bring in Roger Rees who's just opened a hugely successful show on Broadway to direct a beautifully constructed piece by Crispin Whittell based on Turgenev's novel, and then Born Yesterday, a fabulous American classic.
So the distraction is that we've got a lot of stories to tell as well as some new plays including the Pulitzer prize winning Clybourne Park, and these are all stories that I think an audience - our audience - will really enjoy hearing.
CRANN: As you sit down to plan a season, I'm wondering what sort of balance you need to strike on a lot of different fronts between commercially successful productions that will pack the house and innovative non-mainstream productions - and what's your thinking as you put that together?
DOWLING: Well it's very interesting because every season is a balance - a part of that balance demands compromise - things you'd like to do that people aren't available for or things that you can't afford to do. So there were a number of kinds of things that we were wrestling with in terms of exactly that balance you're talking about - between the commercially viable and breaking new ground, and as I say, with three plays commissioned, and bringing some of these major artists here - this season is rich with stuff. But yes it is a balance, because you know so much of our annual budget depends on box office. We really do have to (unintelligible) 1100 seat house in the Wurtele thrust, with 700 seats in the McGuire proscenium, and 200 seats in the Dowling Studio. So we have to sell a majority of those seats every year or our budgets wont balance.
So the starting point for me is I want - when I'm creating a season with all the various people in the Guthrie working with me - is let's get a season that we really feel people will want to see. That's the most important thing for me. Theater is not an art form that one can do on one's own - you need an audience, and that audience we've been very fortunate in building over 50 years a tremendous audience for the kinds of plays that the Guthrie do, but there have to be some in there that are recognizable titles that people will latch on to inevitably. If you have too many of those you're accused of being populist, too few of those and then some how or other you're something else. So there are always going to be differing points of view and that's perfectly acceptable, too.
CRANN: I know that each arts organization at the board level, the planning level, will talk about the issue of diversity, and as you put together a season, what role does the idea of diversity - and specifically when it comes to playwrights and directors - what weight is that given as you put the season together?
DOWLING:Well... I think diversity is much broader than simply a snapshot of an individual season. I mean the season planning as I say is very largely a matter of availability, choices, sometimes as I say, compromises. But I think diversity is a very big issue and I'm not certain that we're all addressing it in a sort of responsible way. The question that's risen specifically in regards to our season has been about women directors (Tom Crann: and playwrights). Let me address the playwrights first. We're largely a classics theater - that's what we do and I may be reading the wrong books but I find it difficult to see - because of social history in the 17th, 18th, 19th and indeed early 20th century - which are termed "classic plays" - women playwrights emerged who would be able to fill large theaters.
Now that's changing and it's changed quite dramatically in the last couple of years and there are now a lot more valuable women playwrights and indeed over the last couple of years we've presented the first production outside of New York of Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation, and we've had Rebecca Gilman's work on our stage. So we're very conscious of constantly looking for and finding work by diverse playwrights that we can. And we certainly see diversity but diversity also has to be seen in the context of the kind of stories we're telling and as I say those stories are quite diverse in this season.
Now as for women directors, in the last six months two of the best productions we've done I think we've done in years were done by Marcela Lorca with the Burial at Thebes and Lisa Peterson in A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. So the thing that's kind of disturbed me about this whole controversy, and it remains controversy very largely within the theater profession itself, is that the totality of what the Guthrie is and what the Guthrie does is not by any means discriminatory against women. Strong, vital women play a very important part in the Guthrie from our board chair right the whole way through our organization. And to sort of take a snapshot in a particular time in an institutions life and draw conclusions from that that are neither fair nor accurate seems to be to be a petty response to what in this 50th anniversary season is an opportunity for our theater community to engage with the rest of the world and also to highlight, as we will do, all the way through the season, our own local strengths. So I feel that we are somewhat being pilloried here for crimes that we simply do not commit.
CRANN: Now back in 2003 you told City Pages when they brought up this issue of women playwrights and diversity you said "Caught - we don't do enough women, yes, but I think the evidence is that we're shifting in the right direction." And I think that some of your critics would say that almost 10 years later - what they're saying about this current season doesn't show the evidence. So how would you answer your critics?
DOWLING: Well I think we are - as I say, we're certainly moving in that direction and will continue to do so. But at the end of the day, and let me be very clear about this: at the end of the day, the job that I am entrusted to do is to find plays that I believe as artistic director will serve the mission of the Guthrie and do so in a way that is commercially viable and artistically satisfying. If at this particular time with the various different options that were available to me and the various different opportunities - such as the opportunity to bring Mark Rylance back to the theater, such as the opportunity to get a new play from one of the world's great playwrights, Christopher Hampton... When these opportunities arose in the context of a season we were putting together, if it turned out that for a particular period of time we don't have a woman playwright in there, then I say we're doing the work that in my view - and you know I am very clear that an artistic director has to make these choices and those choices are not always going to be universally popular - but that's what I'm there to do, to make these choices and stand over them and I refuse to be defensive about the choices we've made.
CRANN: Now as the artistic director of the big house in town, in the region - in what ways do you see the Guthrie needs to be a model and a leader?
DOWLING: Well I think we are a leader, we're a leader in many different directions. We're certainly a leader in terms of our relationship and development of local companies. One of the things that we've done - and there are many things that we haven't done right - but one of the things we have done right is to develop strong relationships with local artists and with local companies. And we've done that systematically and consciously.
Six months of the year in the Dowling Studio is given over to companies that don't themselves have permanent homes and indeed, in the case of Pillsbury House Theater - who are coming in later this year with the second of the Tarell Alvin pieces - theaters that we believe have a fabulous mission that is complementary to ours, and we're also thrilled to bring them in, as we are now in the final stages of rehearsal for Penumbra's production of James Baldwin's "Amen Corner."
So the Guthrie has taken the lead in being responsible for developing a relationship with local companies and local artists. So I don't on the other hand see the Guthrie as being the only repository of dramatic literature and dramatic ideas in the Twin Cities. Of course we're not! We are the leading theater and we are basically a classics theater that is branching out and working in different directions now, and we give the lead in many many different ways. We give the lead in a lot of other issues, such as accessibility, the work we do for people with disabilities - we're one of the leaders in the country in that area.
So I think... I get somewhat frustrated because if the Guthrie isn't doing the sort or work we're doing, bringing companies in, working with local artists, then we're criticized for being elitist and for being out of the mainstream. If we are bringing those companies in, then we should be doing more, we should be bringing other people in. The reality is that I think, and I believe strongly that our audience feels, that we're getting the right balance between work we do ourselves - classical work, contemporary work - and bringing companies and artists in, not only locally but nationally and internationally as well.
CRANN: Does some of this come with the territory of being the "big dog?"
DOWLING: Yes it does, and I have no problem with discussions of these issues in our community. I have no problem at all with the idea that the Guthrie is held to the highest possible standards and we don't always reach those standards. And I believe we should be held to those high standards. Where I get frustrated is that the arguments in this particular instance have become deeply personal and they're being conducted in a way that really isn't helpful to the discourse between people who are interested in theater.
Theater, as we all know, is something of an endangered species in our world, with the various other media that are encroaching. And I believe that with the people in the theater community - and I've been a part of theater communities all over the world - and I think the people in the theater community need to recognize that we're better when we work together, that there's strength in the diversity that we all have... The different, diverse missions we all have and the way in which those missions are realized. It's far better for us to work strongly together than to have this kind of drip drip drip of complaints that overwhelms the narrative which is about 50 years - the Guthrie has not only survived but thrived and many many of the theaters that are in our surrounding area thrive because there is such a strong center in the Guthrie and we should be celebrating those 50 years and celebrating that the art of theater is alive and well in the Twin Cities.
And yes of course there are things that we can do differently and things we should do differently, and we're always open to suggestions and open to constructive criticism. But this kind of - it's mostly been conducted in social media - this kind of drip drip drip of complaints about the Guthrie - I'm not certain that it's constructive.
CRANN: There might be some [people] in this "drip drip drip" as you call it of social media where a lot criticism now happens - outside of the daily paper and all of that - who actually feel they are being constructive and they wonder, as you move forward here, is there something you've learned from the "drip drip drip" that maybe you'll look differently as you plan future seasons or even...
DOWLING: (interrupting) NO! No no no. I will continue to do the job that I am obliged to do, and that is to pick the best possible plays, irrespective of gender, irrespective of other issues. It's got to be the best work that we can put on our stage. It's got to be ... now one of the things that I think has frustrated us most is that we're still in the process of finalizing this season. And there is more to come and many other things that are in the pipeline. And there will be a great number of women represented in this season, both in the creative teams and of course on stage.
So no, I don't think that there's anything for me to be defensive about here. We create seasons year after year that reflect the best possible work that we have on hand and at that particular time. And of course it will involve women and if we have a play that we really feel will fill the Wurtele thrust stage or fill the Maguire proscenium than it is irrelevant to me, and I certainly don't have any animosity towards women playwrights, and we'll schedule those plays if we feel, and I feel that they're going to do the kind of business that I need to do in a theater that's quite large. Much of this criticism is coming from people who run very small theaters and certainly there's a different criteria to be applied when you're actually programming a small theater as opposed to one where you have to do 500, 600, 700 people a night.
CRANN: You're in Dublin now - have you seen anything there, any trends, any shows that might appear on the Guthrie stage at some point?
DOWLING: You never know - one is always looking for the best the world has to offer to bring to our audiences. I think over the 50 years the Guthrie has done a rather good job of doing that, and we'll continue to do it. And certainly there may be something happening here or in other places that we'll want our audiences to see, and we'll bring them.
Plans to build a new concert hall at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts have been pushed back to the spring of 2013.
Rendering of the new hall for the Ordway
Image courtesy of St. Paul's Artistic Partnership
The renovation, which was tentatively scheduled to break ground this year, was contingent on the Arts Partnership (the Ordway, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Opera and the Schubert Club) completing its $75 million capital campaign.
Currently the partnership has raised approximately $55 million.
While only about half of the campaign money is designated for the renovation, and the other half for an endowment, Ordway president Patricia Mitchell says the partnership does not want to move forward until all the funding is in place.
It's easier frankly to raise money for the building piece than for the endowment piece. But this whole project is focused on solving the two major problems at the Ordway for all of us as partners - time and money. The concert hall solves the time part but without the endowment we don't solve the money part.
Rendering of the Ordway's exterior once the expansion is complete
Image courtesy of St. Paul's Artistic Partnership
Mitchell notes that fundraising has its own tempo, and unlike musical compositions you can't necessarily make it go faster:
I think there's a high level of confidence that we will be able to start next spring. One of the things that's peculiar about this project is that we really can only start in a spring, because we cannot - or choose not to- interrupt the activities of all of us in the music theater. So that gives us a construction schedule that is somewhat less flexible than it otherwise might be. So if somebody gave us a check for 25 million dollars on August 1st, that would be lovely - but we still couldn't start until next spring.
Mitchell says the decision to postpone the renovation has opened up opportunities for programming this summer - including a run of Chicago in August - and for the McKnight Theater in the coming year.
You can read more about the planned renovation here.
Two hours later I left Penumbra, determined to read everything he's ever written.
Image source: PBS
Such was the power and infectious enthusiasm of the St. Paul company's "Let's Talk Theatre" series, which this week focused on the life and work of the acclaimed author and playwright. James Baldwin's play "The Amen Corner" is up next on the Penumbra's production calendar, and will be performed on the Guthrie Theater's mainstage.
Penumbra Associate Artistic Directors Sarah Bellamy and Dominic Taylor led the conversation, with actors occasionally reading works that shed light on the man and his deeply intellectual and analytical take on race, homosexuality, religion and American culture.
Sarah Bellamy and Dominic Taylor on stage at Penumbra Theatre
Photo by Michal Daniel
The author of numerous books and essays, Baldwin spent much of his life as an expat in France. From there he felt better equipped to analyze American society, and analyze he did, fearlessly.
The Penumbra event included the playing of this clip from Baldwin's documentary "Take this Hammer" which aired in 1963:
During the course of the evening Dominic Taylor expressed his frustration at times with young writers and playwrights who aspire to write something "new and different" without first having studied the works of those who came before them. Without that sense of history, Taylor said, it's difficult to move ideas forward.
Taylor said Baldwin's writing was so illuminating because it captured both your head and your heart. "In reading Baldwin's words I don't just begin to understand Baldwin - I begin to understand myself," said Taylor. Many of Baldwin's writings dating back to the '50s and '60s seem just as pointed and relevant today, he added.
In 1987 Baldwin died of stomach cancer in France, and was later buried in Harlem. Before his death he was given the highest honor one can receive in France, and named a Commander of the French Legion of Honor. In a tribute to her mentor, Toni Morrison wrote:
In your hands language was handsome again. In your hands we saw how it was meant to be: neither bloodless nor bloody, and yet alive...It infuriated some people. Those who saw the paucity of their own imagination in the two-way mirror you held up to them attacked the mirror, tried to reduce it to fragments which they could then rank and grade, tried to dismiss the shards where your image and theirs remained - locked but ready to soar. You are an artist after all and an artist is forbidden a career in this place; an artist is permitted only a commercial hit. But for thousands and thousands of those who embraced your text and who gave themselves permission to hear your language, by that very gesture they ennobled themselves, became unshrouded, civilized.
I'm going to head over to the library later today and pick up a few of Baldwin's books; I'm curious to see how my better understanding of his work will shape my own view of the present, and the future.
Better late than never.
The popular all-night cultural event will only be in one of the Twin Cities this year.
"Northern Spark" took place last year from 8:58 p.m., June 4, to 5:58 a.m., June 5, and transformed both Minneapolis and St. Paul into a sprawling art festival with a wide array of events on offer throughout the night.
Artist Jim Campbell's piece "Scattered Lights" seen at Upper Landing Park in St. Paul. It was one of the more popular works of art in last year's Northern Spark arts festival. Image courtesy Jim Campbell
In an interview with MPR's Chris Roberts last year, Northern Spark organizer Steve Dietz said one of the traits that would make Northern Spark so special was its scope:
One thing I want to emphasize is that ...the festival takes place in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, and it's one of the few festivals that really tries to formally bridge the both cities and really think of the Twin Cities as an artistic region.
Now Dietz says this year's festival will only take place in Minneapolis:
Basically, some major projects fell through, and we felt it was better to do Northern Spark really well in one city and hopefully start working on June 11 to help make it happen again in St. Paul in 2013.
One of those projects included participation of the Minnesota Museum of American Art, which bowed out of the festival in order to intensify its efforts to find a permanent home in St. Paul.
Dietz says while the development is disappointing the festival has a great program lined up.
Allan Naplan who has been president of the Minnesota Opera since last March announced today he is resigning for personal reasons.
In a statement released by the Opera Naplan said "I am grateful to the extended Minnesota Opera community for making my young family feel so welcome during my time with the company. Minnesota Opera has a tremendous profile in the Twin Cities and throughout the opera industry, and I feel privileged to have been associated with this fine organization."
Minnesota Opera Board Chair Chip Emery declined to elaborate on Naplan's departure, other than to say it was Naplan's decision and the organization is sorry to see him go.
The board has appointed the Opera's Production Director Kevin Ramach as the interim managing director.
Emery says there are no immediate plans to create a search committee to find a replacement. He says the organization is in good shape, with the best subscription sales in a decade, so in the meantime Ramach will work with artistic director Dale Johnson to guide the company.
Emery said the board will keep an eye on how things develop. "And perhaps sometime, six, nine months , a year down the road, no set time period, go back and re-evaluate what we do want in a president and general director in the future," he said.
In the meantime Emery doesn't expect major changes in the recently announced plans for the Opera's 2012-2013 season.
It's a huge leap for an actor or director to go from working on other people's productions to starting up his or her own company. And frankly, while putting on a show can be fun, there's a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy that comes with running a company.
The Peanut Butter Factory is a new company in town that offers to take on the business side of theater, and leave the artists free to do what they do best - the art.
Leigha Horton and Adam Whisner in The Peanut Butter Factory production "Gruesome Playground Injuries"
CREDIT: Richard Fleischmann Photography
According to co-founder Christopher Kehoe, The Peanut Butter Factory was actually the name of a stillborn improv team out of Brave New Institute.
One night in January 2010, we had a phenomenal set and swore right then and there that we were going to do a show for that year's MN Fringe (applications were still open). Our name was drawn, but the enthusiasm fizzled out shortly thereafter. I had also been sitting on an idea for a solo performance piece for a while, so I decided to simply inherit our slot. Because the Fringe doesn't allow the "Producer's Name" field to change, the name of The Peanut Butter Factory stuck.
Then Kehoe collaborated with director Natalie Novacek on another show. They used The Peanut Butter Factory name because it was easier to market than "presented by Natalie Novacek and Christopher Kehoe."
After a third production the name stuck, and Kehoe says they realized they had a sort of theater company, but it was more of a straw-man placeholder for whenever they were up to a full production. And what was wrong with that?
There's an unwritten law in this town that having a theater company somehow legitimizes an artist's work. I don't want to dismantle that notion so much as challenge it. This model is really meant to cater to passionate, individual theater artists ready to self-produce their own work (there's no way this administration could peacefully co-exist with another company's administration). By partnering with The Peanut Butter Factory, a producing artist is no longer working in a vacuum; today's project can benefit from yesterday's inroads with the press, public, advertisers, local businesses, and also help pave the way for future producing artists.
Kehoe adds - and recognizes he could catch hell for saying it - that artists make lousy administrators:
Artists are historically bad at administrating themselves. As a freelance actor, I have been in many situations where the art has suffered from the "producer" (director, or playwright, or lead, or all three) wearing too many hats. With The Peanut Butter Factory, you have an administrative body saying to the producing artist "go make a show, only worry about the show, we'll keep our hands out of your process" and then turning around and saying to the public "we're excited to bring you the work of [Producing Artist]" That alone is a much more refreshing narrative than an artistic director begging: "come see MY show from MY theater company."
Kehoe says this model allows artists to produce work without getting tied down to a long-term commitment. And he's careful to insist that the staff of The Peanut Butter Factory are not there to critcize the work - they're just there to smooth the bumps in the road on the way to getting it onstage an in front of an audience.
I'd like to think that no application would ever be rejected out of hand, only returned to its owner showing the areas that still need to be developed. I'm hoping that, by letting the artistic side develop without any administrative meddling, a subtle curation begins to float to the surface: confident theater that truly reflects the artists who are making it. Whether that theater is "good" or "bad" is decided entirely within the person who experiences it.
Kehoe points to the closing of Theatre de la Jeune Lune in 2008, which sent shockwaves through the theater community. Kehoe says while the closing was unfortunate, the fact is that nobody died, and almost all of those talented artists continue to work in the Twin Cities today.
I guess the best possible outcome would be if The Peanut Butter Factory could "future-proof" the Twin Cities theatre community. Theatre companies will come and go, business models can't always predict the future, and public money can dry up in one election cycle. So, in the face of all that, here is an organization that cuts through companies and speaks to the needs of individual artists.
I'm not deluding myself in how little profit we'll see. If self-produced work from already-talented artists can be better managed and promoted, that's the far more precious "profit" in my book. If The Peanut Butter Factory can lift the tide for artists even a little bit, then everyone's boat will benefit (mine included).
Recent changes at the Minnesota Orchestra have some people worried, including professional conductor Bill Eddins.
Eddins, a resident of the Twin Cities and Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, co-writes a blog called Sticks and Drones. In his latest post he compares the Minnesota Orchestra to the battleship USS Minnesota, which was eventually sold for scrap after hitting a mine.
There is a confluence of events pointing to the 2012-13 season. First, they're in contract negotiations. Second, they're being kicked out of the hall [for renovations]. Third, the deficit is looming. Suddenly, and I mean very suddenly, the Minnesota is in desperate waters.
For those able to read tea leaves we reached a tipping point last week when Sarah Kwak, Associate CM of the Minnesota, announced she was signing on as Concert Master of Oregon.
Eddins goes on to say while orchestra management seems determined to get costs under control, it doesn't appear to have a vision for artistic sustainability. Eddins declares that, based on the upcoming season, "The 'plan' seems to be to convert the Minnesota into a glorified Pops orchestra."
You can read all of Eddins' thoughts on the matter here.(1 Comments)
Minneapolis lost a devoted arts advocate this week with the passing of Carol Daly.
Last June 11, on the occasion of her retirement, Mayor R. T. Rybak declared it "Ms. Carol Daly Day."
Public Arts Administrator Mary Altman had this to say about Daly:
When it came to the arts, Carol was the most enthusiastic and avid participant and volunteer that I have ever met. She was a walking advertisement for whichever event she had most recently attended, and she often went to several a week. She loved her work as a Minneapolis Arts Commissioner and former board member of Forecast, and was a passionate spokesperson for artists, arts groups and public art.
Jack Becker at Forecast Public Art added the following:
Carol was naturally inquisitive, a life-long learner, and she took that spirit wholeheartedly into the arts. But it was her style of sharing her enthusiasm for what she learned and what she loved that made Carol the significant torch-bearer for the arts and humanities here. Her stubborn attitude of "why not?" meant that she would fearlessly challenge status quo and confront leaders to consider the aesthetic and creative and innovative -- not simply the functional or economical. She went to more plays and museums and musical events than anyone I know -- and that's saying a lot! And then she had to TALK about whatever she saw -- to anyone who would listen... How can you NOT be an arts enthusiast after all that?
A memorial service will be held for Daly at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis at 11am this Saturday with a family greeting beginning at 10am. In lieu of flowers, it's requested that donations are made to the Minneapolis Arts Commission.
The Minnesota Theater Alliance, headed by Leah Cooper, has announced it's hosting a national conference on sustainability in theater this spring. The tag line for the two-day event is "Inspiration and innovation from around the world on how greener practices can make your work and our communities more sustainable."
I asked Cooper to answer a few questions about the conference and how sustainability applies to theaters. Here are her responses:
1. Why are you holding the conference?
Sustainable practices are changing the way many industries approach their work, their missions, and their communities, and the perforing arts industry is lagging behind in this area that is critical to survival. Minnesota is home to many leaders in sustainability, so hosting the conference here is a great opportunity to bring those leaders together with our industry.
The conference came about through discussions among members of the Twin Cities Sustainable Theatres group, a working group of theaters already working in this area. When Brave New Workshop, a member of the group, announced they were opening a new green event center with webcasting capabilities, it seemed like the perfect time and place.
You can learn about how the Brave New Workshop has been working on becoming a sustainable theater by clicking here.
2. What does sustainable theater look like?
We're still learning what it looks like. And it varies based on what organizations can afford to do and where they can make changes that have the greatest immediate impact.
There's the obvious stuff like recycling, composting, using less materials, less toxic materials, more sustainable materials for paper, paint, lumber, concessions, cleaning.
For organizations with facilities, there's energy reduction through newer fixtures, better HVAC, insulation, LED lighting, turning off lights and monitors at night.
The less obvious and also more interesting things are new business models that reduce transportation, shipping, better management of human resources (which also need to be sustainable).
And even more interesting is considering sustainable themes as inspiration for art-making - sets made entirely of found materials, community participation in art making, shows with ecological themes. There are some super inspiring examples from all over the world that we will be sharing through webcasting.
3. What are the biggest challenges theaters face to "going green?" What waste are theaters creating?
The biggest challenge is that it's not as simple as just recycling paper and that there's no one best solution for everyone. To do it successfully requires a change in the way an organization approaches everything it does - a paradigm shift in thinking and a culture shift in doing. Another challenge is that nonprofits think it's expensive to go green and that they'll never be able to do it. Many changes don't have a cost; in fact, some yield cost savings that can make it possible to have extra funds to spend on initiatives that do have a cost.
The biggest environmental impact theaters are making varies depending on activities. For some, they're just wasting a lot of energy heating an old building. For others it's using tons of lumber from unsustainable sources and toxic paint to build sets that they throw out after every show. For others, it's using incandescent lights when LED would work better with a fraction the energy. For those with big admin infrastructure, it's paper and electricity for computer monitors left on all night. For those that travel a lot, carbon emissions from airplanes and cars is the biggest impact. The most important first step is a commitment to changing the way they think. The second is to assess what they are doing now and how it is impacting both the environment and their own survival.
4. It sounds like this is not just about the environment, but about survival - how are the two connected?
Currently, most individuals and organizations don't pay the real cost of materials and energy we use, or waste we produce. So survival for the planet and survival for an organization might not seem connected. But increasingly, we will pay through hard costs of inefficient resource usage, through health impacts on our artists, staff, and audiences; through loss of philanthropic support as granters and donors start asking for accountability in this area.
Also, we work in the field of human inspiration and learning. We can not inspire and learn if are culture and business models are out of date, disconnected from our environment, and wasteful. Lastly, as innovators and, as local theater director Ben Krywosz calls those of us in the arts, "soul workers," we should be inspiring our communities to see themselves connected to a healther more holistic community that cares for its resources.
5. What do you hope to see come out of this conference?
I hope theaters are inspired to start engaging in these critical and empowering ideas and efforts. And then I hope they work collectively to start taking action. Day 1 of the conference is a series of presentations about what's been done elsewhere and what's possible - that's the inspiration part. Day 2 will be peer-to-peer brainstorming sessions with experts from other fields to discuss what we can do next, together.
By the way, what makes this national is that Day 1 will be live Webcast, Day 2 will have concurrent breakouts at regional partners around the country with national collaboration over the Web. We hope to make the whole conference a model for remote presentation and collaboration - another great way to reduce carbon emissions and be efficient.
The Museum of Russian Art has chosen Christopher P. DiCarlo as its next President and Director. He begins March 5.
DiCarlo replaces retiring TMORA President Brad Shinkle. Shinkle took up the position of President in 2010 for a second time, replacing then President Judi Dutcher.
Editor's Note: Thanks to MPR's Bill Catlin for this post
St. Paul, Minn. -- Sarah Lutman is leaving her position as president and managing director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra to start an independent consulting practice. Her last day as president will be March 1. On that date, Lutman will begin a consulting arrangement with the SPCO.
Dobson West, chair of the orchestra's board will serve as president during the transition to a new leader.
"Sarah has made many contributions to the SPCO during her tenure, and she leaves the organization in a very good place," West said in a news release. "We have a clear vision for the future, a road map for achieving that vision, and an extremely strong and talented group of staff, musicians and volunteer leadership who are eager to bring that vision to fruition. Most important, the organization has a large, growing audience and a community that generously and steadfastly supports it."
Lutman said she has wanted to be an independent consultant for many years, "but family obligations have not made that a smart choice," she said in the release.
She said her adult children are completing post-graduate education this year and the SPCO has a clear direction, so the timing seemed right.
Last December the Orchestra announced it had completed its fiscal year with a balanced budget, but projected a shortfall of as much as $1 million for the 2011-2012 year. Lutman said at the time that foundation and corporate giving in the Twin Cities is shifting toward meeting human needs, and that has ramifications for the orchestra's budget.
Lutman came to the orchestra in December, 2008, from a senior position at Minnesota Public Radio. It was a very difficult time in the overall economy and, by extension, for many arts organizations as well.
The Great Recession was still underway and would continue officially for another six months. In Lutman's first nine months with the orchestra, Minnesota employers shed more than 100,000 jobs, a huge drop. As of the end of 2011, payroll employment in the state was still down by some 60,000 jobs from December of 2008.
Margaret Miller, the longtime Executive Director of the Textile Center, is retiring.
Miller was instrumental in forming Textile Center, and she has been the only executive director during Textile Center's 18-year history.
Located on University Avenue in Minneapolis, the center has grown in scope over the years, hosting classes in weaving, dyeing, felting and other textile related skills, while also exhibiting work by some of the most pre-eminent fiber artists.
In a release sent out late yesterday, Textile Center Board President Ruth Stephens said:
Margaret has brought Textile Center to the point where program and space needs have outpaced the present location and the organization is gearing up for expansion. With the exciting changes Central Corridor Light Rail will bring to our neighborhood, Textile Center's next decade should be just as dynamic as this past decade.
Miller plans to step down on July 1, after which she plans to pursue a long-term goal of providing volunteer services overseas. In the meantime, the Textile Center board of directors and its transition committee are undertaking a search process to name a new executive director.
The Bush Foundation announced today that President Peter Hutchinson has resigned.
He will step down later this month.
Hutchinson joined the Bush Foundation in November 2007, not long after his run as the Independence Party of Minnesota candidate for Governor of Minnesota in 2006.
Under his leadership, the Bush Foundation made significant changes to its grantmaking, focusing on community leadership, education, and governance in Native nations. Many artists complained that in so doing, the foundation reduced its funding of artists.
In a release sent out today, Bush Foundation Board Chair Jan Malcolm stated:
Peter Hutchinson brought exactly what the Bush Foundation sought in moving from a responsive grantmaker toward proactive funding to achieve specific strategic goals. The goals and strategies in each of our three areas of focus - student achievement, governance in Native nations, and community problem-solving through leadership development and citizen engagement - are on track. Our next step is execution and refinement of these strategies. Peter's gifts of envisioning and bold goal-setting have served both the Foundation and the region very well. We are committed to finding as strong a fit in our next leader as we found in Peter almost five years ago.
Hutchinson will continue to serve the foundaiton in an advisory capacity on select initiatives.
A transition committee will begin a search process; in the interim, senior staff of the Foundation will report to Malcolm.
Do the Twin Cities need more small theater spaces?
This was the question I was left with after a recent discussion on the closing of the Loring Theater.
The question drew strong responses, from artists who have obviously been dealing with this situation for a long time.
Frank Theater's Wendy Knox offered a blunt, "No, there are not" (FYI, Frank Theater is known for performing in less traditional locations, occasionally including abandoned buildings).
Screenwriter Marvin Joel Rubin said it's not just an issue of performance space, but rehearsal space as well. To which dancer Kenna Cottman added there's also a need for spaces that can serve dance companies.
Robin Gillette runs the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and is very familiar with performance spaces all over Minneapolis. She immediately had this to offer:
Seems like you can't just talk about numbers of venues - you have to factor in whether they're affordable, well-equipped and maintained, and conveniently located.She went on to say:
There are not enough 100-200 seat venues that are affordable, well-equipped and conveniently located. HOWEVER... I don't think the answer is to run around creating new venues, necessarily. If there was a way to either improve existing venues or clear them off the deck so there's demand/funding/staff/equipment for new ones, that'd be great. I don't know that the *total* number of venues needs to improve, but some shifting in the pool might be useful.
With that in mind, I asked which venues out there are models for how best to serve performance artists.
Jennifer Ilse, one of the creative partners behind "Off-Leash Area," a company that performs out of its, and other people's, garages, had this to offer:
I'd vote for the Playwrights' Center - really reasonably priced, maintained and equipped and efficient and straightforward to work with. Red Eye Theater is also great in providing inexpensive space and providing enormous room for artists to do what they want to create their vision. Rehearsal space - Patrick's Cabaret is tough to beat. Great, efficient staff, very well priced, especially helpful having cheaper prices for off-peak hours, and the space is really well kept and getting better all the time.
But running a performance space for other companies to rent is not that easy. Actor/director Paul Reyburn shared this:
This has been a discussion for several years. I tried to open a space about ten yrs ago but couldn't finance it. It's an ongoing need, to be sure, but finding the money seems to be the biggest issue. I'd love to see a couple more in St. Paul.
Ben Heywood, director of The Soap Factory, a gallery which also hosts performances, added:
In terms of City code not to mention equipping costs theater spaces a very expensive to set up. With limited seating it's then very hard to make them financially viable for anything other than stand up. Hence the popularity of the Fringe.
Liz Neerland, along with her husband Josh Cragun, runs Nimbus Theater. They recently moved into their own space in the Nordeast neighborhood, and rent it out to other companies. She echoed Heywood's thoughts and elaborated on them.
Speaking as someone who just did it, it's incredibly difficult to create new performance space. The city zoning/permitting/licensing process is a maze and there is no one to help figure it out. Funding is always an issue, and the amount of equipment needed to make a space desirable is a huge expense. Trying to balance - between needing to have a space that people want to work in, that is inviting to artists and audiences alike, and needing to pay the rent every month and keep the lights and heat on - it is a huge challenge. We may need more spaces, but we also need enough people to capably manage them.
And finally, actor and Minnesota Playlist staffer Levi Weinhagen had this to add:
In my humble opinion the real question is whether or not the Twin Cities can support more 100-200 seat performance spaces.
Artists of any stripe, whether writer, painter, actor, or wig-maker, do not have inherent value. Everyone should have the right and probably encouragement to make cool things and do their art but that doesn't mean they're entitled to an audience interested in consuming their art. By that same token, if theater spaces aren't being created and thriving perhaps at times it's an indication of management issues but most of the time the indication is that audiences aren't spending their money to see shows in those spaces. If a venue can't support itself with audiences & revenue, or find a behemoth corporate sponsor than what makes the space worth keeping open?
So what's to be done? Does city management need to provide a process for helping small venues get up and running? Do current spaces need an injection of business training? Or is this simply the nature of market forces at work?
Share your thoughts in the comments section.(1 Comments)
The end of 2011 marks the end of the Loring Theater, at least under its current management. Managing partner Steve Barberio posted this to the theater's website:
Friends of Loring Theater:
The Directors, LLP has decided not to renew its lease on Loring Theater (a.k.a. The Music Box Theatre) located at 1407 Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. The company will cease operating in the building effective December 31, 2011.
In early 2010 we began to transform The Music Box Theatre into a modern day variety house under the building's original name Loring Theater. With the support of a group of investors, the owner of the building, a talented staff of professionals and many others we built an operating infrastructure that added a fantastic 440-seat venue back into the vibrant Twin Cities performing arts scene.
Since we opened, over 15,000 people walked through the doors and hundreds of artists performed on the stage. We are proud of our work, honored to have been stewards of the space, and grateful to all who contributed their time, talent and money to this amazing venture. Loring Theater is an amazing building in a phenomenal location and there are many, many artists who love performing on that stage. Our hope is that someone will pick up where we left off and continue to make Nicollet Avenue and 14th Street in the Loring Park Neighborhood a destination for affordable quality entertainment.
Best wishes to all for a happy and prosperous New Year.
The Directors, LLP
Back in November the Loring Theater canceled shows and cut staff in response to a lack of attendance.(1 Comments)
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is losing its Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
Jon Limbacher is leaving the SPCO for the position of Chief Development Officer at the Cleveland Orchestra.
The news comes the day after the SPCO announced that it projects a deficit for up to a million dollars for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
In a message to SPCO members, President Sarah Lutman wrote that Limbacher will be missed:
Under Jon's leadership individual giving to the annual fund has grown by over $1.4 million, annual revenue from fundraising has increased from $4.4 million to over $7 million, the subscriber base has grown by more than 40% (with significantly better net ticket revenue), and we have grown the number of individuals who are engaged in our work through the Board, the Governing Members program, club2030, and other volunteer capacities. ...We will take this opportunity to step back and consider the best way to structure the SPCO's management team for efficiency and effectiveness; therefore we do not have immediate plans to fill Jon's position. We look forward to your input and ideas.Limbacher steps down from his position January 20.
Looking for a unique gift at a reasonable price?
Tomorrow may be your "black Tuesday."
The Arts and Culture Partnership of St. Paul presents "Raise the Curtain," a one day deal where you can buy half-price tickets to a number of shows and concerts taking place in St. Paul in the coming weeks... and months.
Participating organizations include The Rose Ensemble, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Saint Paul City Ballet, Ballet Minnesota, Steppingstone Theatre, the Fitzgerald Theater, and the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company.
The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts has speedily named a new Executive Director, after the abrupt resignation of Frank Sonntag.
Lynn Von Eschen
MPR Photo/Chris Roberts
He is Lynn Von Eschen, vice president and general manager of the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul. Von Eschen has worked in various leadership positions at the Ordway for 18-years. Before that he was at the Childrens Theatre Company. He says the Cowles has been built and opened to great fanfare. Now it's ready to be led into the future.
"This is not an organization that's been around for 20 years," he said. "It's a brand new organization. And there's going to be the opportunity to really shape and mold and really have an impact on how things can develop and move forward and really be a part of that creative process."
Von Eschen says his biggest challenge will be building relationships with the dance and larger arts communities, which he wants to do as quickly as possible.
The hiring comes at a crucial time for the Cowles Center - just months after its initial launch, and at the start of the annual fundraising season (this blogger received a fundraising letter from the Cowles yesterday, signed by Frank Sonntag, but with no mention of his departure).
Von Eschen takes over operations of The Cowles Center in January 2012.(1 Comments)
Editor's note: In case you missed this story on Friday night, I thought it was worth a reprint here. Chris Roberts reports on what the departure of Executive Director Frank Sonntag means for the new performing arts center.
After Frank Sonntag's resignation as executive director of the brand new Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts in Minneapolis earlier this week stunned the local dance community, fans are wondering what it all means for the center.
Sonntag had been in the job for just 10 months. It leaves Minnesota's so-called 'flagship center for dance' searching for a new leader midway through its inaugural season.
Ultimately, it was a culture clash that led Sonntag to leave what he considered his dream job at the Cowles Center. He arrived in Minnesota from the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts in New York. Here, Sonntag's self-described New York-style directness collided with a certain Midwestern politeness.
"I had heard from lots of folks about the whole 'Minnesota Nice' thing, and the truth is, its' pretty hard to wrap your head around that until you step in it," he said. "And I stepped in it, pretty early on."
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
Sonntag said he is entirely to blame for not being able to overcome the difference in work and communication styles.
"It tripped me up and that caused me some consternation and other people some consternation," he said. "At the end of the day, we made the mutual decision that it might be best for the organization if I stepped aside," he said.
When asked for specific examples of how Minnesota Nice became particularly aggravating, Sonntag declined to point fingers.
"I do not want to get into specifics but you know it's what everyone says," he said. "People don't tell you what they think, they talk about it behind your back. And so that causes you to bob and weave and I've never been very good at that."
In a statement released Monday, Sonntag said "after spending most of my professional life in New York, I don't feel Minnesota culture is one I'm well suited for." In parts of the arts community and beyond it was interpreted as a put down and it triggered a minor uproar.
The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
Sonntag said he wasn't referring to the state's cultural scene, for which he has the utmost respect, but its culture of social interaction. Colin Hamilton, senior vice president of national advancement for the Cowles Center's parent organization, Artspace, said he knows when Sonntag made the statement he was trying to be gracious.
"But when it came out, people heard the exact opposite, right?" he said. "A lot of the buzz has been this sense that somehow Minnesota's honor has been challenged. To me that's a little microcosm of the whole thing. You just have a slight failure of languages to connect, personalities to connect. And it's not about anybody being right or wrong, good or bad, just 'fits' not being what they should be."
Hamilton credits Sonntag with doing a wonderful job guiding the Cowles Center through its gala opening and into its inaugural season.
"There's a very short-term harm," Hamilton said of the impact of Sonntag's departure. "But I don't think in the long term it is going be all that disruptive."
Hamilton said the Artspace team, led by president Kelley Lindquist, which has spearheaded the Cowles Center effort for the last 12 years, is still solidly in place. He said Sonntag will stay at the Cowles through December.
Artspace hopes to name his replacement within weeks as opposed to months. Hamilton said Artspace will be looking for someone with extensive experience in the nuts-and-bolts operation of a performing arts venue, who can also effectively communicate the Cowles Center vision in the community.
Meanwhile, Minneapolis dance writer Caroline Palmer said Artspace has quite a bit of work to do to ease concerns among dance artists and audiences.
"I think that the management is going to need to do a bit of soul-searching and a bit of outreach in order to let people know that this venture is still proceeding as planned, it's still on steady legs and we're not going to see any major shifts from what we've been told about in the future," she said.
Palmer also hopes the Sonntag situation won't lead Artspace to only consider Minnesota candidates to succeed him. That, she said, would be a knee-jerk reaction.
Today it was announced that, just two months after the center opened to the public, Sonntag has resigned.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
In a sparsely worded release, Sonntag explained his decision this way:
I have the utmost respect for the leadership of Artspace and I'm confident that The Cowles Center will continue to thrive. I came to Minnesota because I believed in the mission of The Cowles Center, and I still do. But after spending most of my professional life in New York, I don't feel the Minnesota culture is one I'm well suited for. It has been a struggle, but ultimately I think this is the best decision for the organization.
Sonntag will remain at his post through the end of the year.(20 Comments)
It is one of the wonders of the modern age that today's aspiring artist can run his or her own company pretty much with a laptop and a cell-phone, and the occasional trip to Kinko's.
The idea is that you're around this daily creative community, and you have permission to talk to strangers. Unlike at a coffee shop, we're trying to foster conversation around work and ideas. That's something I miss from grad school when I got my M.F.A. - that daily creative community.
Intermedia Arts offers office space for artists looking for a place out of which to base their work.
Thompson calls himself the "curator and host" of the ArtsHub. An artist himself, Thompson's work includes the "Art Shanties" project, and a series of tents designed for creating conversations. So he's naturally interested in the creative use of space to get people engaged and talking to one another.
Thompson says he sees the ArtsHub as an ideal place for freelancers or small performance companies who can't afford their own space.
My sense is that in this economy this is a great resource - people don't need to lay out a lot of money to create their own temporary office space. It seems like everyone is trying to start their own thing right now.
Intermedia Arts lives in a large building, and owns a second smaller building just a short walk away. It's taken its surplus space and converted it into a series of desks and conference rooms.
People interested in using the office space have a choice of a variety of passes that give them access for a day, a week, a month, or more. They can take over a particular desk and leave their materials there, so they don't have to constantly haul them around.
Table Tennis at ArtsHub
Thompson says participants also get to attend a range of meet-ups, including something as casual as a round of table tennis, to Grant Jam Days, where people applying for the same grant can work on their applications together.
The idea is that it will begin with a roundtable discussion around the same grant. Where are you in the process? Wwhat questions do you have? And in some cases a representative can come and answer questions.
One of Thompson's favorite events is the "lunchtime skill share" when people take turns sharing what they know over their lunch break.
I think everybody that I've talked to about the hub has had something to offer to the other members. The example I use is that I'm a sailor and a knot-tier, and I've slowly figured out how I can work it into my artistic practice. Skill sharing allows you to find out what someone is really passionate about in really informal and fascinating way.
For Thompson, a sure sign that the ArtsHub is a success would be for a couple of people to meet each other at Intermedia Arts and end up working on a project together - something that wouldn't have existed otherwise.
The next open house for ArtsHub is Friday December 9.
Editor's Note: I called the Loring Theater last week for an interview when I heard they were cancelling shows, but have yet to hear back from the staff. FYI, Steve Barberio was also a major player in the power shift at the Southern Theater a few years back.
Under his management, both venues came out swinging with very dynamic seasons, but weren't able to build a financial base to support them.
Update 11:44am: Steve Barberio e-mailed me this morning to make a clarification about his role in Southern's programming:
"I did not select any content while on contract with the Southern and the financial difficulties preceded me by several years and extended well beyond my tenure. All content was selected by Jeff Bartlett and my contract ended six weeks after Jeff left. He had put together all content for that upcoming season."
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The newly rechristened Loring Theater in Minneapolis has canceled some shows and relocated others but remains open.
Managing partner Steve Barberio says the 440-seat theater still plans to put on a half-dozen events this year.
Barberio says the Loring is not getting the attendance it needs in the tough economy. But he adds, "We're not closing the doors."
The jewel-box theater on Nicollet Avenue South formerly was the Music Box Theatre, longtime home of the comedy hit "Triple Espresso."
Last January it was renamed to its original name, the Loring Theater. Barberio says the intent was to create a variety theater, with music, movies and theatrical shows.
Barberio says the theater has cut back staff but still has six permanent staff members.
The Loring opened in 1920.
Children's Theatre Company (CTC) announced today it has found a replacement for outgoing Managing Director Gabriella Calicchio, who steps down November 11.
Photo courtesy Children's Theatre Company
Tim Jennings, the head of Seattle Children's Theatre, will take over the post in full in February, joining Artistic Director Peter Brosius at the helm of the Tony Award winning theater in Minneapolis.
Previous to his work at STC, Jennings managed the Roseneath Theatre Company in Toronto. Roseneath produces and tours original dramatic work for young people and, under Jennings' direction, grew more than 500 percent, becoming Ontario's largest touring theatre company. Jennings also earned Roseneath six Dora Awards, Toronto's equivalent to a Tony Award.
"Tim has made it his life's work to bring extraordinary theatre to young people," says Brosius. "His work in Canada was marked by national and international success as well as numerous honors for the creation of new work. He has been a true leader - building financial stability, deepening ties in the communities he serves and enthusiastically supporting the artistic work. I am delighted to have him as my new partner, here at CTC."
Jennings also serves on the Board of Directors for the Theatre Communications Group, which is currently led by former CTC Managing Director Teresa Eyring.
Posted at 9:00 AM on September 26, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Arts management
Six arts managers from Minnesota have been selected to participate in a national leadership program designed "to re-imagine how cultural institutions can contribute to civil society." They are:
Kaywin Feldman, Minneapolis Institute of Art
Chris Fischbach, Coffee House Press
Jocelyn Hale, The Loft Literary Center
Michael Henson, Minnesota Orchestra
Sarah Lutman, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Laura Zabel, Springboard for the Arts
Called the "Chief Executive Program," the two year initiative brings together 100 arts leaders from around the country. The organizing institution, National Arts Strategies, describes the motivation for the program this way:
We believe that our cultural institutions are at a crossroads at which their relevance and even the role of the arts in civil society are being questioned. Cultural leaders are grappling with many complex and intractable questions. How do you take an institution designed in a bygone era and make it relevant today? How do you compete in an increasingly crowded market? What does a thriving financial model look like for a nonprofit cultural organization? In the face of such difficult questions it's hard to find the time and support to explore the answers. There are exceptional leaders - across the country and abroad - who are working on creative solutions. The challenge is to support these leaders and harness the power of their ideas to create solutions that will reverberate throughout the cultural sector.
After five years in London running that city's sinfonia, Barry Kempton is returning to St. Paul to lead Minnesota's oldest arts organization, the Schubert Club.
Kempton will assume his responsibilities sometime after the first of the year.
It's been an interesting year for the McKnight Foundation Dance and Choreography Fellowships. They were the mishandled funds at the center of the Southern Theater meltdown, which saw that West Bank Institution dismantled and reconstituted.
However while much has been said of the Southern, there not been much public discussion of the Fellowships themselves.
Today the McKnight Foundation announced the program will be managed by Northrop Concerts and lectures, which oversees the Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota.As in the past the program will award three $25,000 fellowships for dancers and three $25,000 fellowships for choreographers.
"The biggest change will be the international residency component, which we are all very excited about," says McKnight Program Officer Laura Zimmerman. "That's so new I think that none of us know how it will turn out."
The program will now offer a $10,000 grant to fund one choreographer each year to collaborate with Twin Cities dance artists and showcase works-in-progress. There will be additional money to cover expenses and studio costs.
Zimmerman sees it as an opportunity to enhance Minnesota dance here and elsewhere.
"Have people who come in with new ideas, new ways of working, new relationships, and be able to interact with our dance community and then bring some of that here, and take some of what is happening here out into the world," she says.
Zimmerman says one of the attractions of the Northrop collaboration is to tap into the expertise of director Ben Johnson. She says there will be opportunities for both dancers and choreographers.
"I think Ben will be able to facilitate opportunities and connections for people outside of Minnesota and that's a great improvement to the program," she says.
Johnson is also very jazzed by the opportunity. He spoke from Edinburgh, Scotland whre he is attending the International Arts Festival to see the premier of the Scottish Ballet presentation which will open the Northrop season in the fall.
"When McKnight approached us it really aligned with the new vision of how we wanted to really support Twin Cities-based artists - kind of with a twist - and really align them with our international profile and then our national networks, and really think about what ways we could leverage the resources of the university to really highlight and support and inspire Minnesota artistry," he said.
Johnson says the choreographer selection panel will now include people from outside Minnesota, which will help spread the word about work being developed here. He says that will also be true of the international residency, which he believes will also bring greater recognition to the actual dance spaces in Minnesota.
The opening of the new Cowles Center next month, and then the renovation of the Northop itself will be a significant boost to the dance venues in the Twin Cities. The Northrop is now closed for the building work, but Johnson sees that as an opportunity to work with other venues and spaces.
"So the opportunity for this fellowship to happen is perfect," he said.
Neither Johnson nor Zimmerman believes the problems at the Southern have hurt the fellowships themselves. Indeed Zimmerman says she was extremely heartened by the way the McKnight Board quickly stepped in when it heard about the problems and worked hard to make sure the artists who faced losing grant money were made whole.
"It was a crazy, stressful couple of months, she admits. "But it was also incredibly affirming."
"To my mind the reputation of the program remained solid," she continued. "And people were just really hopeful that it would continue, and that it would continue in some place that really would have the administrative backbone to support it."
The Fellowships have been administered this year by Springboard for the Arts, and it will continue working with the current fellows. Work is already underway for the 2012 program and details are expected to be announced in October.
However she's only going as far as the University of St Catherine near St Paul's western boundary where she will become director of The O'Shaughnessy.
Spehar became managing director at the History Theater in 2007. Prior to that she was managing director of Mu Performing Arts where she was involved in Minnesota's first Asian American Play Festival. She has also taught at the University of Florida and in the University of Minnesota's Department of Theatre Arts and Dance.
In making the announcement St. Catherine University Vice-President Tom Rooney said Spehar's blend of skills will be an asset to the theater and the school.
"As the leader of The O'Shaughnessy, she will fill a key role guiding strategic planning and programming for our unique arts and academic space while helping advance the St. Catherine mission," he said.
And the History Theater also has been heaping on the praise, crediting her with helping it weather the rough economy including developing the Turnaround plan to stabilize the organizations finances. Among the many shows and events she brought to the theater was the broadcast of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" during the 2008 Republican National Convention.
Artistic Director Ron Peluso wishes her well in her new job. "With Kathleen's passion for performing arts, her instinct for community collaborations, and her keen business sense, the O'Shaughnessy will definitely be in good hands and History Theatre will miss her," he said.
Of course the two organizations share natural affinities, and Spehar suggests there may well be opportunities for collaboration on the future.
And just for fun, here's a reminder of that Jon Stewart Show:
The Managing Director of the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis is leaving to take over as CEO of the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
Gabriella Calicchio has served at the CTC since 2007, working with Artistic Director Peter Brosius to restructure and streamline the theater in the face of the economic downturn.
In a release this afternoon CTC Board Chair Peter Carter celebrated Calicchio's tenure in Minneapolis.
"Gabriella's management skills and passion for the mission of CTC will be missed," he said. "Her drive brought us through a tough recession and today we have a stronger infrastructure, increased donations and tickets sales and a budget surplus. She leaves us stronger than when she came which is a testament to her effectiveness as a leader. We wish her well as she heads back to the warmer climes of California."
Calicchio moved from the West Coast to take the CTC job. She starts her new job in November. The CTC Board says it will begin a search for a replacement immediately.
Preliminary numbers indicate 48,350 tickets were issued to the 2011 Minnesota Fringe Festival, down 3.7% from last year's record of 50,222 tickets. But this year also had two fewer productions - 167 instead of 2010's 169.
In a press release issued by the festival earlier today, Executive Director Robin Gillette said she's proud of this year's numbers.
"The past several years have seen enormous growth in the festival's attendance and we're happy to see those new audience members have become loyal Fringers in their own right.
"The numbers may be down a tad, but it was still a blockbuster year," said Gillette. "And what's more important to me than the numbers is the overwhelmingly positive response we got from participating artists, audiences and volunteers."
Preliminary estimates of this year's ticket sales total $357,567, down 3.1% over last year. Festival organizers attribute the discrepancy between revenue and tickets issued to a price increase for the festival's Ultra Pass, which offers holders an unlimited number of tickets for a set fee.
Meanwhile, the 19th annual Minnesota Fringe Festival has already been scheduled: Thursday August 2 through Sunday August 12, 2012.(1 Comments)
Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the American theatre, now has a Minnesota on its board.
Photo: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
Michelle Hensley, artistic director of the nationally recognized Ten Thousand Things theater company, is one of seven new board members joining TCG.
TCG represents nearly 700 theatres and affiliate organizations nationally and more than 13,000 individuals worldwide. It serves as the US Center of the International Theatre Institute. TCG also is North America's largest independent publisher of dramatic literature.
The TCG's board is comprised of 37 members from around the country, including it's Executive Director, Teresa Eyring. Eyring moved to New York to take the TCG job from Minnesota, where she was the Managing Director of the Children's Theatre Company.
Michelle Hensley has a long list of accomplishments in theater, most recently being awarded the 2010 Sally Award for Vision.
The Winona-based Great River Shakespeare Festival announced today that Commonweal Theater co-founder Eric Bunge will become its new Managing Director July 18th.
Bunge (pictured left) replaces Jeff Stevenson who has resigned from his position as GRSF General Manager effective August 31st. Stevenson has been GM at GRSF since May 2006.
The overlap allows Bunge to come in mid-season and learn the day-to-day running of the festival with Stevenson still at the helm.
Bunge co-founded the Commonweal Theater in Lanesboro in southeastern Minnesota in 1988.
The theater is credited as being central to the town's resurgence as a cultural and tourist center. Bunge led the Commonweal until 2010, a period marked by an aggressive fundraising campaign to keep the company stong, and to build a new theater which opened in 2007.
The Commonweal board asked Bunge to resign in December last year as it refocused its mission under the leadership of Hal Cropp.
The GRSF is clearly looking to Bunge to help take the Festival into a new phase. In a release today Producing Director Paul Barnes is quoted as saying: "It's rare to find someone of Eric's theatre management background and experience outside a major metropolitan area. I look forward to working with Eric in the coming years as the Festival deepens its roots in Winona and throughout the region."
The Minnesota History Center
Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Each summer the Minnesota Historical Society hosts two concert series; Nine Nights of Music takes place on the lawn of the Minnesota History Center on Tuesday nights, while the Mill City Museum on the Minneapolis riverfront hosts the Mill City Live concert series for seven consecutive Thursdays.
Tomorrow Chris Osgood and the "Mill City Rockers" are supposed to open the Mill City Live series, but unless Governor Mark Dayton and the GOP reach an agreement before then, that too will be cancelled.
John B. Davis, an educator known for his ability to save struggling schools and arts organizations, died Tuesday from a rare brain disease. He was 89.
John B. Davis
Photo courtesy of Macalester College
MPR's Curtis Gilbert looked back on Davis' career, which in retrospect appears almost superhuman:
Davis was developing a reputation as someone who could turn around the most troubled of institutions. So in 1984, when the founder of the Children's Theater Company was charged with sexually abusing three students, the theater asked Davis to take over. At the time, Davis vowed the theater would survive with the help of the community.
"Parents, members of the board of directors and friends of the theater have all rallied and have assured that when the situation has cleared, that great theater and school shall be preserved. And I shall be one of the instruments working to that end," Davis told MPR at the time.
Davis went on to help Minnesota State University-Mankato improve relations between faculty and the administration. He helped the Minneapolis College of Art and Design through a difficult stretch and came to the rescue of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, too. In 1993, when the Minneapolis School Board suspended its superintendent, they called Davis back to the job until a permanent replacement could be found. He even served as chairman of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve during the 1980s.
You can listen to the entire story by clicking on the link below, or read the full story here.
For the first time in its history, the National Endowment for the Arts looked at future job prospects for a variety of artist occupations in Artist Employment Projections through 2018. The data are based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)' Occupational Outlook Handbook: 2010-11.
Happily for artists, the news is good overall. Here's an excerpt from the report's summary:
This report examines the projected growth rate for artist occupations through 2018, over which time artist occupations will increase by 11 percent, compared with an overall increase in the labor force of 10 percent.
The artist occupations with the highest projected growth rates are museum technicians and conservators (26 percent), curators (23 percent), landscape architects (20 percent), interior designers (19 percent), architects (16 percent), writers and authors (15 percent), and multi-media artists and animators (14 percent).
Artist occupations likely to increase at a rate on par with the growth of the overall U.S. labor force are: graphic designers and actors (both 13 percent), art directors, photographers, and film and video editors (12 percent), and fine artists (9 percent), including painters, sculptors, and illustrators.
The artist occupations with the lowest projected growth rates are choreographers (5 percent), fashion designers (1 percent), floral designers (-3 percent), and media announcers (-4 percent).
The NEA note explores expected trends for more than a dozen artist and cultural occupations, including designers, writers, fine and multimedia artists, archivists, architects, camera operators, and musicians. In addition to occupation growth rate, the note also looks at the projected competition for jobs as well as the industry trends and macroeconomic factors that influence the demand for arts workers.
The Minnesota Historical Society... the Perpich Center for Arts Education... the Minnesota State Arts Board... these are just a few of the cultural organizations that are closed today due to the state government shutdown.
Some venues are partially affected by the shutdown - for instance the Minnesota Zoo is closed, but its summer concert series continues.
Others narrowly missed being shut down, such as Interact, a center for visual and performing artists with disabilities. The government pays Interact to mentor and care for 125 adults with a variety of physical and mental challenges.
Initially, care providers such as Interact were not considered "essential services," and so for weeks the organization prepared for a shutdown.
It wasn't until a staff member read the court ruling on MPR.org on Wednesday that they realized that they would still be paid for their work. Interact's Sally Moore called the Department of Human Services this morning just to make sure.
The past few weeks have felt like a ride at Valley Fair. We encouraged staff to find summer jobs, and so they did. So we're now working that out. We've just lost weeks worth of productivity.
Moore says the budget negotiations have been so secretive that it was almost impossible to get any information via official channels.
Executive Director Jeanne Calvit says the staff was planning on working anyway, because they couldn't not serve their clients.
These folks are living in group homes that are not staffed - we can't just send them home, because they don't have people there to look after them.
For a while the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona was concerned it would have to move elsewhere, because its annual festival takes place on the campus of Winona State University. Fortunally MNSCU is still up and running, and GRSF's Doug Scholz-Carlson says the run should be unaffected.
Jeff Prauer of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council says his office will continue operation with cash on hand, which should last for 3 to 4 months.
We have an Arts Activities Support program deadline on July 11, with panel reviews in mid-September. We will continue to process those applications in the hope that the shutdown would be over by the end of September. Since we don't provide general operating support, I can't tell you at this point which specific organizations would be affected.
The other regional councils have varying cash reserves; some will be able to stay open for a month, others up to six months.
For more on how the shutdown is affecting the arts, click here to read reporting by Susannah Schouweiler at mnartists.org.
For more on the shutdown in general, click here.
Kathleen van Bergen
Kathleen van Bergen has been named CEO of the The Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, Florida.
Since January 2008, van Bergen has served as the Executive Director of the Schubert Club, replacing it's founder, Bruce Carlson.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the philharmonic is a rising regional star:
The Naples Philharmonic is the youngest of Florida's four major regional orchestras, yet in less than 30 years its annual budget has become roughly comparable to those of the 62-year-old Sarasota Orchestra, the 61-year-old Jacksonville Symphony and the 42-year-old Florida Orchestra in Tampa Bay...."The Phil" opened its doors in 1989, added the 30,000-square-foot Naples Museum of Art to its complex in 2000, and now presents about 450 events annually in music, theater, dance and education. It also established a youth orchestra and two chorales.
34-year-old Van Bergen starts her new job on September 1. Among her first duties will be the selection of a music director for the Naples Philharmonic to succeed current director Jorge Mester, who steps down at the end of the 2011-12 season, and the hiring of a museum director.
It's official. After a two-year transition process, Coffee House Press founder Allan Kornblum is handover the reins to longtime Associate Publisher Chris Fischbach.
Kornblum, who started Coffee House Press in 1984, will stay on as Senior Editor.
Over its 27-year history, Coffee House has become one of the most highly regarded independent literary presses in the country. Fischbach started as an intern more than 15 years ago. He says he sees one of his biggest challenges as "walking the line between respecting and honoring Allan's legacy and establishing my own leadership."
In terms of the job itself, I currently see a couple things happening that I am already having to deal with somewhat, but which will only become more to a head in the coming years. That is, how to deal with sales expectations between print and e-book when we don't really know where the e-book market is going, nor do we have any kind of history with which we can make accurate predictions. If, for instance, print sales decline but e-books go up, what does that mean for our business model? Will it be 10% different or 40%? No one knows where the dust will settle with e-books, or if it will.
The other is that because of so much uncertainty in the economy and with
e-books, bookstores are ordering fewer copies and ordering them later. Then
they just re-order when they need more. This makes predicting how many books
to print for our initial print runs difficult, and risky. Learning how to manage this new bookstore behavior is something everyone is dealing with.
Fischbach says there are some changes in the works. Names, he plans on Coffee House Press being much more visible in the community.
I will be looking for creative ways to collaborate with other local arts organizations as much as possible, working to allow connections to be made between our authors and other artists, and other arts organization. I have great admiration for the Walker's Open Field, the spirit of collaboration and experimentation in engenders. I want to bring some of that energy to Coffee House. I grew up here, and I love the Twin Cities. I want Coffee House to continue to be a part of what makes this place such a fertile area for vital and exciting art.
The Southern Theater released a plan Friday which board members hope will help it emerge from a budgetary crisis, reduce costs and become more accessible to artists.
The Minneapolis theater will become primarily a rental facility for the 2011-2012 season. It projects 40-weeks of performance activity, with a first year budget of just over 165-thousand dollars. That compares to an average one-point-one million dollar budget annually since 2008. It will add its own programming only when it's feasible and fully underwritten. Anne Baker chairs the Southern's board.
"We looked at a number of plans, and this was the one that reduced expenses but increased access. We were looking for a very simple plan and it helps us to stabilize and address these negative cash flows," she said.
The Southern has suffered from chronic cash flow issues for years and had a financial emergency in April when the McKnight Foundation asked it to return 300-thousand dollars in mismanaged grants. Baker said longstanding organizational, operational and managerial problems caused the crisis.
"For at least seven years, the theater has shouldered too much of the financial risk of presenting and producing performances of dance, music, theater, and film, and has not effectively made the case to enough individuals, foundations, and corporations that donations, sponsorships, and underwriting will produce sufficient added value to merit full support," said Baker.
The Southern is also reducing staff down to one general manager. 32-year old Damon Runnals has been named to that post. Runnals has served as the theater's production and operations manager since 2008.
The position of Executive Director, held by Gary Peterson, is being eliminated as of June 10. Peterson has been elected to the Southern's Board of Directors. His position is the ninth position to be eliminated in recent weeks.
While the Southern is trying shore up its finances by becoming a rental facility, Baker said that move isn't necessarily permanent. She said it's possible the theater could reassume more of a curatorial role in the future.
"I think that that's the board's hope, that we will be able to move back to a time, once we are stable, and we need to refine strategies for future programming, she said. "But that's our hope, that we would be able to do that."
Jack Reuler says it just makes sense.
After a long and heart-felt discussion about how to serve the mission of the theater company he formed 35 years ago, and had led ever since, the board of Mixed Blood Theater decided to stop charging admission for mainstage productions.
Reuler calls it 'radical hospitality.'
"Anyone can come to the theater and get in for free, it really is that simple," Reuler said this afternoon.
"The only transaction there is is contact information: we want to know who you are, we don't ask for anything beyond name address, email and phone number."
Admission will be on a first come, first served basis, although patrons can guarantee a seat with an on-line reservation at a cost of $15.
When quizzed as to how Mixed Blood will meet its bills, Reuler says in the past box office receipts have only made up 15-18 percent of the annual budget, and there is enough money in reserve to make it through the first year at least.
"The great thing is we just closed our 35th season, and it was the best one we have had in a decade," he said. "So when we had our greatest box office we are eliminating our box office, to really show this is who we want to be."
Reuler founded Mixed Blood after being inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King's message of egalitarianism. He says while the USA has changed in the years since, the Mixed Blood mission has not.
In discussions with leaders of various communities around the Twin Cities, Mixed Blood heard time and again that ticket prices were the biggest hurdle preventing people from attending. He says the board made the decision to drop admission fees first, and then began working on how to do it.
"It's really to create an open and inviting place that everyone can come to and call their home," he said. "It is new and unusual in our field, but it's just an expansion of what's been in our hearts and the way we have tried to reach out since the beginning."
There are only a few other theaters nationwide that have gone the free ticket route, and Reuler admits he doesn't expect many others will follow. He says it just works for them.
"We are trying to be the best 'Mixed Blood' we can be, and not lead a charge," he said. "It could be that in 50 years, it's the way everybody's doing it, or we could still be the only ones doing it."
However, he says the free-for-users model has worked in other arenas locally, pointing to the MIA, City Pages and even Minnesota Public Radio as examples.
Reuler announced the new policy at the same time as the 2011-2012 season. It includes "Neighbors," a scathing comedy exploring race relations in modern America. Reuler said he wanted to bring it to Minneapolis after he saw it done in Los Angeles.
"It really talks about black-and-whiteness in harsher ways than I have ever seen," he said. "When it was hilarious it was really hilarious, and when it was serious it was electric, the silence in the room."
It will be followed by "Center of Margins," a three-play festival exploring different aspects of living with a disability; "Crashing the Party," a world premiere starring Sally Wingert, and the season will round off with "Learn to be Latina," which follows the adventures of a Lebanese singer who is coached to try to adopt a Latina style after her record company decides it won't be able to successfully promote an Arab artist.
Reuler says the quality of the lineup shows they are serious about what they are doing.
"There is a misperception that if something costs nothing it has no value," he said. "And we contend quite the opposite. When you have high quality work for no cost, that actually optimizes value, and that's what we intend to do."
You can listen to my discussion with Jack Reuler about the season by clicking the link below:
Bruce Coppock, former president of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra who left his position in 2008 to undergo cancer treatment, has found work in a more southern clime.
Coppock will become the Managing Director of the Cleveland Orchestra's Miami Residency.
The Cleveland Orchestra's Miami Residency, now in its sixth year, features a series of subscription concerts the orchestra performs in the Miami-Dade area.
Coppock considers himself nearly fully recovered from his bout with cancer and will assume his position on a full time basis on June 27.
"The Miami Residency is one of the most compelling and creative initiatives ever undertaken by an American orchestra. It is an honor to be given the opportunity to serve Miami's growing and vibrant cultural life, and to work with The Cleveland Orchestra, which has long had my deepest admiration," Coppock said.
I must admit, when I first reported on the MN Arts Count back in March, I thought "really? You're going to count ALL the artists in Minnesota in just seven weeks?"
Turns out the Minnesota State Arts Board has realized that finding all of those artists may take a little more time. Today the MSAB announced it's extending the count to May 31. It was originally set to close at the end of April.
According to MSAB Executive Director Sue Gens, "there are so many arts and community events in May where we can further promote participation in MN Arts Count that we felt that extending the deadline was prudent."
The Arst Board's definition of "art" is quite broad, and is hoping to get an initial estimate of the following:
- Individuals: anyone who, professionally or personally, sings, acts, dances, writes, draws, paints, sculpts, illustrates, photographs, films, knits, weaves, directs, plays an instrument, composes, shares stories, designs or engages in any other form of creative expression.
- Businesses/organizations that support, host, produce or perform creatively: venues, restaurants, coffee houses, taverns, galleries, theaters, groups, troupes, bands, ensembles, companies, local governments, schools, community education departments, churches, arenas, festivals, fairs, programs, businesses, social service agencies, or any other type of organization which displays, hosts, or otherwise supports creative expression in the state of Minnesota.
The state legislature directed the State Arts Board and the state's eleven regional arts councils to conduct the census to help measure the influence of arts in the state.
You can participate in the MN Arts Count here.
Bowing to financial realities the Southern Theater today laid off five staff members and cut the hours of the remaining four.
Executive Director Gary Peterson says it's the responsible thing to do. The Southern launched an emergency fund drive almost three weeks ago to raise $400,000 by last Saturday. In a posting on the Southern's website today Board Chair Anne Baker says it's received $45,000 in donations plus a further $50,000 at the Southern Exposure fundraiser on Saturday.
Both Baker and Peterson say the $400,000 target is still attainable, but in the meantime the Southern needs to prepare for the tight financial situation by developing a new sustainable structure. Speaking by phone this evening Gary Peterson said the 15 member board is now working on that.
"People are asking, and rightfully curious, what we are asking them to invest in, and we are moving as quickly as we can," he continued. He says the board hopes to flesh out that structure in the next two weeks.
However the board also eliminated the Southern's dance and theater curator positions, the part-time communications manager, and two full-time production positions.
Peterson says those positions may not be restored even if the Southern makes its goal.
"No, some of those positions are gone for the foreseeable future, and others may come back in some fashion," he said.
Peterson, who is one of the people whose hours have been cut said he and others at the Southern are still working with various foundations in Minnesota and outside to see what might be possible. The Southern website also reports the possibility local artists may launch another fundraiser.
Still outstanding however is the repayment of $300,000 to the McKnight Foundation which were funds intended for dance grants which ended up in the Southern's general fund. Finding that money will be over and above the $400,000 requested in the appeal.
Peterson sounded sad as a result of the layoffs, but he is an optimist, and he remains ever hopeful. He says just looking back over the last few days he sees a remarkable effort, and change in an organization he hopes to lead back to strength.
"We have made more progress in the last three weeks than in the last three years," he said.
The fellowships had long been run by the Southern Theater, but McKnight ended that relationship after discovering the Southern had co-mingled the dance grant money with the theater's general fund, and current fellows had gone unpaid.
In today's release McKnight President Kate Wolford says the arrangement will allow this year's awards to go forward.
"Springboard has a rich history of connecting artists with resources," Wolford in quoted in the release. "With these important fellowships in need of a home this year, we recognized our longtime grantee as uniquely positioned and well equipped to help. We are grateful that Springboard agreed to step in and lend a hand."
Springboard will co-ordinate the already-started application process to select three dancers and three choreographers who will each receive $25,000 in support of their work.
McKnight which offers fellowships in a variety of disciplines, ranging from ceramics to music, film and photography, hopes to find a permanent home for the dance and choreography fellowships by the end of the summer.(3 Comments)
One of the casualties of the Southern Theater's financial meltdown will go ahead in a different form (and a couple of days later.)
Tomorrow's International Contemporary Ensemble show was cancelled five days ago, but ICE has decided to perform the concert in its Brooklyn studio instead, and then provide the show as a webcast for ticketholders on April 29th.
The release from ICE, sent out this afternoon continued: We are saddened to have this performance canceled so suddenly, and want to do everything we can to follow through on our commitment to perform for our loyal Minnesota audience, said Claire Chase, executive director of ICE, This webcast will give ticketholders in Minnesota and new music lovers everywhere a taste for what they would have seen and heard at The Southern on Tuesday.
The program features hot-off-the-press works commissioned through ICElab, a new program that places the ensemble in close collaboration with emerging composers and multimedia artists to develop boundary-pushing new work. Among the pieces included on the webcast are the would-be Minnesota Premieres of Aurum II (2010) and The Flesh Needs Fire (2009) by Mario Diaz de Len, Manifold (2011) by Steve Lehman, and the World Premieres of Glass Clouds We Have Known (2011) and Beneath a Trace of Vapor (2011) by Phyllis Chen.
Details for viewing the concert will be released through the ICE website on Thursday.
Other shows also cancelled are:
Shara Worden with yMusic - May 4 & 5
Mx. Justin Vivian Bond - May 6
Tandem - June 2-4
Johannes Wieland - June 10 & 11
However Southern staff are seeking an alternate venue for the Tandem show
Sheila Smith, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, is heading to the White House. Smith, along with Minnesota State Arts Board Director Sue Gens, have been invited to take part in an arts briefing there on Tuesday afternoon.
Their trip is part of National Arts Advocacy Day, an event which actually takes up two days.
Smith says as part of the trip, Minnesota advocates will be talking with their members of Congress.
We know there is a big budget fight going on in DC and arts funding is a very small part of the big picture, but the arts are vitally important to our economy and huge employers, so we will be talking jobs. Some of our members of congress are important committees with jurisdiction over various arts things (For example, Betty McCollum of St Paul is high ranking minority member on Interior which funds the NEA) so when we meet with them we will be focusing on whatever committee they are on.
Smith says this is the first time in her memory that there's been a "White House Arts Briefing." Smith, who's been the MCA's Executive Director since 1996, says the last time I was at the White House was the day after Jesse Ventura was elected Governor:
It was for the presentation of the President's Arts & Humanities medals. Pres. Clinton made fun of Minnesota electing a pro-wrestler and I was very embarassed.
We'll check in with Smith when she gets back to find out just what gets discussed.
Say the name Martin Friedman to most people in the Minnesota Arts scene and they'll immediately recognize the name of the mann who directed the Walker Art Center for almost 30 years. Friedman, who retired from the Walker in late 1990, is credited with transforming a regional art museum into a world class cultural institution.
He's not just been sitting around since leaving the Walker, and one of his enterprises has been as a consultant for 20 years to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. When he announced his impending retirement from that job, the Hall Family Foundation which had funded his work asked Friedman to commission a work in honor of his time with the museum.
Friedman, who also oversaw the creation and launch of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, knows a thing or too about sculpture. He immediately turned to Roxy Paine, a New York based artist and commissioned "Ferment." Friedman and Paine are shown below discussing a site for the piece.
It's a huge stainless steel tree which will be installed this week at Nelson-Atkins. Paine worked as an artist in residence at the museum and the commission is seen as a testament to the institution's success in encouraging developing artists .
Paine has been concentrating on a form he calls Dendroids since the late 1990s, and there are now 24 of these tree shapes in the US and around the world. Fans describe Paine's work as exploring how nature and technology co-exist.
That co-existance has been on view as the piece, which began as an Indian ink drawing (right) has grown into a metallic reality as can be seen on a video produced by the Museum, which includes Friedman.
Just as was done at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's "Steel Roots" show, opening in April, the Nelson-Atkins museum also used digital technology and a photo of a model to see how the piece, which will be 56 feet tall, will look in place (below.)
The museum poured a special concrete pad last year for the piece which was constructed at Paines's studio in Treadwell NY. It's also installed a webcam so people around the world can watch the installation. While work won't start for a while, the image is already up and running.
Howard Oransky is a man with a strong resume in both art and education. And so he seems a fitting choice to lead the University of Minnesota's Katherine E. Nash Gallery.
For 14 years Oransky worked at the Walker Art Center; among other duties he served as the museum's staff project manager on its internationally touted expansion project.
In the mid-nineties he taught critical studies as an adjunct professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design; when he left the Walker he then became MCAD's director of continuing studies.
In addition, he's a co-founder of Form + Content Gallery, where he has curated two group shows, including Love Never Dies.
About his new job, Oransky writes "I feel fortunate and excited to become the next director of the Nash Gallery. The University of Minnesota is a major center for research in many fields and my vision for the Nash Gallery is that it will become a research center for the practice and interpretation of the visual arts."
Oransky started his new job at the U of M today.
After a search which took a little longer than expected, the Minnesota Historical Society has named Stephen Elliott as its director and chief executive officer, effective May 1, 2011.
According to a release, Elliott has been the head of the New York State Historical Association since 2005, which involved leading both the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers' Museum. Before that, Elliott was the executive director of the First Freedom Center in Richmond, Va. He's also served on numerous museum, history, education and civic boards and currently is the chair of the American Association of State and Local History and the vice president of the Museum Association of New York.
Longtime MNHS director and CEO Nina Archabal announced her retirement in April of 2010, and expected to have a replacement ready when she stepped down at the end of the year. But when January came around, the search was not yet over, and so longtime staffer Michael J. Fox became interim director. Fox joined the Society in 1987; to ensure a smooth transition he will remain on staff until his planned retirement at the end of May.
Posted at 12:04 PM on March 24, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Arts management
Jim Lichtscheidl (Captain Bluntschli) and Mariko Nakasone (Raina Petkoff) in the Guthrie Theater production of ARMS AND THE MAN by George Bernard Shaw.
Photo by Michal Daniel
In the war between idealism and pragmatism, it's clear which side George Bernard Shaw is rooting for. "Arms and the Man" at the Guthrie Theater finds a self-important soldier up against a self-professed coward who carries chocolate in his gun holster; guess which one works his way into the heart of the beautiful girl? Performances run through May 8.
Following a critically acclaimed world premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Ragamala brings "Yathra" to The O'Shaughnessy stage. A visual meditation of the human experience, "Yathra" represents the cycle of one day, metaphoricallytracing a human being's journey from the dawn of birth to the twilight of life. Performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Minnesota Chorale presents a performance of Johannes Brahms' "Ein Deutsches Requiem" this Friday and Saturday at Sundin Music Hall in St. Paul, with a twist; It's combined with poetry by visiting Macalester Professor Juanita Garciagodoy.
Socrates' Oedipus Rex becomes Oedipus El Rey in Luis Alfaro's modern spin on the ancient Greek Tragedy. The time is the present; the place is a California prison system and a Los Angeles barrio. Oedipus makes his epic journey along Highway 99, venturing from San Francisco to Los Angeles. In this collaboration between Pangea World Theater and Teatro del Pueblo, Oedipus struggles against his tragic fate, all the while accompanied by a chorus of prison inmates. Performances run through March 27 at the Lab Theater.
Banfill-Lock Center for the Arts presents "Geographies." Together with four guest artists, BLCA Artist-in-Residence Curt Lund plays with ideas of place. Installation, maps, screened prints, altered books and more offer surprising and provocative observations of how we experience where we are on this planet Earth. Exhibition open through April 30.
So, what are you doing this weekend?
Frank L. Sonntag took a tour of his new home today and he admits it was both exciting and emotional. The recently named executive director of the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts says he was stopped short by the sight of a class underway at the Minnesota Dance Theater School.
"And I was standing looking through a glass wall into the studio that was filled with these, you know, four-year old, five-year-old ballerinas. They were doing stretching exercises, bending back and forth, and the hallways were lined with parents. and... I got a little choked up," he said this afternoon.
He notes this is a sight he's likely to see a lot in coming months and years. Not only does the Cowles Center, which comprises the Shubert Theater and the Hennepin Center for the Arts, serve as a performance and rehearsal space, it's home to some 20 dance and performance groups, and two dance schools.
"It's astounding, the level of activity that happens right here," he said.
The Cowles Center will celebrate its grand opening on September 9th.
At a time when the tough economy has put paid to a number of dance venues around the country, a new dance venue is a rarity. Sonntag, who was general manager at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts in New York, says being able to shape such a venue from the ground up is "the opportunity of a lifetime."
He's filled with praise for Kelly Lindquist and the rest of the ArtSpace team which has wrestled with the project for years and brought it to this point. He says the way they have put it together is very smart.
"I think it's remarkable and I think that it's rare," he said. He says the Cowles set-up is very sound
"In part because of the economies of scale that is created by having all of these cultural non-profits in one building, and that's very appealing."
He's looking forward to helping provide a new level of support for these organizations in terms of marketing, fundraising, and management advice as needed. Not only is his goal to make the organizations stronger, the Cowles Center mission is to grow the dance audience in Minnesota.
He also likes the Cowles Center education component, including a distance-learning project which is available to every teacher in Minnesota.
Sonntag officially takes up his new post next week, and he's very much in the getting settled mode. But he says he's ready.
"The challenges, they are many. Fundraising is always a challenge, and anyone who says fundraising is easy is lying, because it isn't, and particularly in this kind of economic environment it gets much more difficult. But you know a lot of the heavy lifting has been done."
"I am coming in for the sexy part," he continued. "The bricks and mortar are rising, and I just walked through the theater, and when you stand in the auditorium and look at the proscenium opening it's very exciting. And I think that the community here will get more and more excited about it as the finishes come on- line, and I really look forward to that."
The Minneapolis theater company known for presenting musical theater in an intimate setting has got a new manager.
John Thew has been selected as Theater Latté Da's new Managing Director effective immediately. Thew replaces Kimberly Motes who was recently appointed Vice President of Institutional Advancement at the College of Saint Benedict.
Thew is the former Director of Public Relations and former Director of Development for New York's Tony Award-winning Second Stage Theatre, and a former Production Manager for Twin Cities Public Television. Most recently Thew has been a consultant for AchieveGlobal.
Posted at 3:27 PM on January 25, 2011
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Arts management
The Walker Art Center today announced Clara Kim will become its new Senior Curator of Visual Arts in August. She is currently gallery director and curator of the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles, where she has worked since its inception in 2003.
REDCAT, housed in the Frank Gehry designed Disney Concert Hall, specializes in innovative visual, media, and performing arts. Kim's recent shows include "Small Case Study House" based on the work of the Tokyo architectural firm Atelier Bow Wow. It examined contemporary models for housing in LA, while also serving as a critique of modern living.
Kim has also specialized in curating the work of artists working around the Pacific Rim.
In a release from the Walker Chief Curator Darsie Alexander says Kim has emerged as "a singular voice among curators. Her broad perspective on contemporary art, enthusiastic engagement of new curatorial practices and partnerships, and deep connection to artists are the foundation of remarkable career. We are delighted that she will be joining the staff at the Walker, bringing a fresh and exciting perspective on our legacy and future in the visual arts."
Kim actually began her curatorial career as an intern at the Walker in the late 1990's. She has also worked at the San Francisco Art Institute and SFMOMA.
She will take up her position at WAC after completing an international conference in Los Angeles on alternative practices and models.
Josh James squeezed us into a tight schedule today. He's had a busy time of it since St Paul's Turf Club closed its doors on New Year's Eve "for construction" and he emerged as the new general manager. He knows people want some answers as to what's going on.
"Oh man, I got a meeting coming in ... " he said over the phone, "So I got just a few minutes, so hit me. Hit me as hard as you can."
It's not every day you get an offer like that, but of course it's clarity and information St. Paul rock fans want. The Turf has long been the go-to club in St Paul for its mix of cutting edge bands and local heroes.
A nervous ripple passed through many of the Turf Club faithful when news broke that owner Tom Scanlon let go long-time manager Dave Wiegardt. He's credited as a major guiding force at the club for a decade and a half.
It's a truism of the indie rock fan that while s/he likes to be constantly riding the wave of what's up-to-the-minute and shiny and new, there can be a deep conservatism where it comes to changes in venerated venues.
As someone who has worked behind the bar at the Turf Club for five years James knows this.
"I understand the club," he said. "And I understand what my capabilities are within it, and what I'm not great at. One of the things I'm not great at would be the booking side of the business which is a huge part of this business obviously, it being a club."
James says the first thing he did on Saturday was have lunch with Ryan O'Rourke, one of the Turf's bookers, to rehire him. He's also working on contacting booker Christie Hunt about a job too. He said they'll be given pretty much a free hand to do bookings through the next couple of months.
"It's a lot of little changes that'll add up to big changes right away," James said. "I have some ideas about what the bar needs to do to really make money right away."
One of the first things will be hours of opening. He anticipates meeting a projected re-opening date of January 11, but under the new set-up the club will be closed on Sundays and Mondays.
"And Tuesdays through Saturday the bar will open at 5 or 6, I haven't decided yet," he said. He says this is the plan in the short term and the bar may well open on Sundays and Mondays if he can work it out in a way that makes sense.
"It's in essence a rock and roll club," James said. "And it needs to stay that way. It has to be fun and bring people out and have a party."
He said the Turf Club's eclecticism has always been great appeal of working there.
"Sometimes you'll have a noise-rock band, plus a hip-hop band, plus an indie-rock band, plus an alt-country band, all on one bill all on one night, and I love that diversity. It's a blast."
So why is the change in management necessary?
"The change was coming," he said, choosing his words carefully. "The bar was going to close. I can't really comment on all of that. I don't really know all the ins and outs of it. I can tell you that I run a, as a manager, a really lean and tight crew of people who are really dedicated to service and quality and that's what I am focusing on for the first six months."
Josh James predicts patrons will see few physical changes to the Turf Club when it re-opens.
"It'll feel very familiar," he said. He says there will be some change in staff, but not much, and he has been touched by the way the music community in the Twin Cities has reached out to welcome him in his new role in the last couple of days.
"It's been very humbling, to be honest with you," he said. He says he's grateful for the response. "Even down to the people who worked here and who were unceremoniously let go, everyone has been so positive that it's been fantastic."
And then he went off to that next meeting.
Lanesboro's Commonweal Theatre is paring down its leadership.
Managing Director Eric Bunge has resigned after being requested to do so by the theater's board of directors. In a press release, the theater's leadership said "the organization will be best served by a single leader focused on producing the highest quality art and entertainment possible while also strengthening the Commonweal's long-term sustainability." To that end, Artistic Director Hal Cropp has been named interim Executive Director.
In the same release, Eric Bunge was quoted as saying that "this is a milestone that I had anticipated for some time and a necessary step for Commonweal to become an institution that outlives any one person's contribution or service."
The Commonweal has produced more than 100 plays; attendance at the theater has grown steadily from 15,000 to almost 21,000 patrons over the past five years.
Can the former head of the SPCO save a dying symphony?
For over two months now the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have been on strike because, according to the musicians, they "and their many supporters have a starkly different vision of the orchestra's future from the DSO's Board of Directors and management."
DSO management has proposed salary reductions of 30 percent for existing players and 40 percent for new hires. Musicians say such cuts would hurt the symphony's ability to attract and retain talent. Meanwhile DSO management argues the quality of its talent will hardly matter if it's forced to fold.
In order to come up with some creative solutions that can appeal to both musicians and management, the orchestra has hired on Bruce Coppock as a consultant. Coppock oversaw dramatic changes at the SPCO while president, including eliminating the position of Music Director (that role is now taken on by a series of artistic partners). Coppock also served as executive director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra during Leonard Slatkin's tenure there as Music Director (Slatkin is now Music Director of the DSO).
But orchestra business writer Drew McManus questions whether Coppock will have much good advice to share. On his blog Adaptistration he writes:
...the DSO has hired Bruce Coppock as a consultant although what he's doing with the organization beyond his meeting presentation is not clear... What is known is that the far-reaching changes Coppock put into place at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra during his time there as the president and managing director don't seem to be helping that organization fare any better than their peers. Over the past decade, the organization has had endured numerous staff cuts and musician base pay has been cut three times, the most recent of which was in 2009. Whether or not this was taken into account by the DSO when deciding to hire Coppock is unknown.
Coppock stepped down from his position at the SPCO in July of 2008 for health reasons.
The Minnesota Historical Society has named Michael Fox to serve as the Society's Interim Director, effective January 3, following the retirement of current Director Nina Archabal.
Fox has more than twenty years experience working for the MHS. He started in 1987 as Head of Processing and was named Director of Library, Publications and Collections in 2000. He has served as Deputy Director for Programs since 2005, leading the Society's 26 historic sites and museums, its library and archives, and the MHS Press, among several other duties.
Last April, upon announcing her retirement, Archabal named Fox as the Society's Chief Operating Officer, putting him in charge of overseeing all of the Society's programs, as well as operations, including finance, human resources and external relations.
It is expected that the director post will be filled permanently by summer 2011.
MacPhail Center for Music has named former board member and non-profit consultant Tom Moss as Interim CEO. He takes the reigns December 1, replacing David O'Fallon, who recently accepted the position of President of the Minnesota Humanities Center.
Moss will hold the position until a new CEO is named; he's not a candidate for the position. That's expected to be completed by late spring of 2011
Moss has a very personal connection to the MacPhail Center for Music; his grandfather is the Center's founder, William S. MacPhail.
Madison Opera's Allan Naplan has been named President and General Director of Minnesota Opera effective March 1, 2011.
After a national search, the Minnesota Opera has found a new President. And it turns out he doesn't have far to move. Allan Naplan has served as the General Director of the Madison Opera since 2005.
Naplan, an accomplished arts administrator, was named a "40 Under 40" honoree by In Business Magazine in 2009. He's also worked as a professional opera singer, a composer and a radio producer/host. Prior to the Madison Opera, Naplan worked for both the Pittsburgh Opera and the Houston Grand Opera.
Naplan's compositions have been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Avery Fisher Hall, the White House and in 36 foreign countries. Trivia tid-bit: His "An American Anthem" was chosen to be the inaugural wake-up song for NASA astronauts on Space Shuttle Columbia.
Minnesota Opera's President and CEO Kevin Smith announced he was retiring back in May; Naplan will take his place on March 1, 2011.
If you were looking for a single person to represent the arts and culture scene in Fergus Falls, Rebecca Petersen would be a really fine choice.
Earlier this week Petersen, the director of "A Center for the Arts" gave me a whirlwind tour of the cultural offerings of the eclectic small college town. We visited the art department at MN State Community and Technical College, checked out the relatively new Kaddatz gallery, visited the Lakes Region Art Council, and stopped in at "The Spot," the local wine bar that hosts spoken word, live music, and open mic nights. And then there's her own Center for the Arts, located in an old vaudeville house turned movie theater, that hosts everything from Gamelan music to an International Guitar Summit to theater. Not bad for a town of 13,000 people.
Walking through the streets, Petersen waved and greeted by name practically everyone we saw. Petersen writes articles in the paper about upcoming cultural events, and even appears on the local TV channel. This week, she and her husband are making a daily drive to Fargo/Moorhead in the evenings for rehearsals of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony; Petersen plays the violin, her husband plays the cello.
Rebecca Petersen stands beside the movie equipment in the office space of "A Center for the Arts" in Fergus Falls.
Petersen sounds a bit like a one-woman visitors bureau as she speaks with pride of her town's cultural scene:
The arts are an integral part of life here - as evidenced by the college setting, the roadside poetry, the art galleries, the dance schools, the music instruction, the performing arts venues. Getting more directly involved in the arts in a town like Fergus Falls is easier...you have time and space and money to afford it all. Fergus Falls is VERY affordable. Tickets are more affordable. Parking is more affordable. Food and restaurants are more affordable.
Petersen is part of a team of cultural leaders who are organizing a "rural arts summit" in Fergus Falls next June. Petersen says she's hoping to attract people from rural areas all over the country to talk share ideas about building rural arts, culture and heritage:
There will be opportunities to do art and to hear art and to see art and to talk about art and to network and to also travel around the region to see all of the great art happening in Fergus Falls, NY Mills, Elbow Lake, Battle Lake, Barret, Detroit Lakes, and the countryside and landscape artists all over the place out here.
Petersen says the summit arises out of the fact that there are particular challenges that face cultural organizations based in rural areas. For instance, scheduling is key when half of your audience can be taken away by a wedding, funeral or sports tournament.
It's also difficult to identify target audiences and markets, especially when some feel that they will only find quality arts experiences if they travel to a larger metropolitan area. Then there's also the challenge of several generations in rural areas where arts and culture did not play a major role in social, community and educational programming.
Petersen says too often people take for granted their cultural and artistic connections, whether it's their church choir or community band or local museum. But she says these are all worthy cultural experiences, whether they happen in a bustling metro area or on a back country road.
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres' new logo
It's been about eight months since the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres were bought by a group of investers led by longtime CDT artistic director Michael Brindisi and choreographer Tamara Kangas Erickson.
In that time they've made a few changes - most of which they're hoping people won't even notice.
According to a release, one of the first steps the new owners took was to hire a Director of Sales and Marketing. And along with the new director comes a new look in the form of a new logo.
Kangas Erickson stated, "There is a new feeling here, and it's a good one. Our intention as a new ownership group is to make this theatre strong and viable once again. It's a fresh, new beginning - with fresh, new energy. We want that to be reflected in our new logo."
In addition the CDT plans to launch a completely redesigned website in December.
That's a lot of newness for a theater founded in 1968.
Humphrey Institute's Professor Ann Markusen may be in Scotland on a Fulbright scholarship, but that's not stopping her from continuing to make waves state-side on issues surround the arts and economic development.
On Friday, Markusen presented a white-paper - via satellite - to the National Endowment for the Arts. The white paper is for the Mayors' Institute on City Design, which is dedicated to transforming communities through smart design.
The main thrust of the paper is that creating spaces that foster creativity - say, through the use of public art, or by converting empty warehouses into artist studios - fosters economic development by both reinvesting residents' money locally at a higher rate, and by attracting non-arts-related businesses and skills to the community.
You can read Markusen's full report here.
Patricia Mitchell says one of the best parts of her job is when she serves as a "one person prize patrol."
As President of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts she gets to drive around Minnesota to quietly tell the winners of the annual Sally Awards that they should turn up to the gala celebration in March. Then she has to swear them to secrecy.
To complicate matters, she also has to ask them if there are any friends who should get invitations to the gala, although again there can only be a hint as to why.
"We have a little slip that goes into the invitation that says 'This invitation is sent to you at the request of one of this year's honorees.' And Wendy Lehr, who was honored the year before last, said 'The women in my bridge club kept saying they'd got this invitation, and they just couldn't figure out why,'" Mitchell laughed.
Mitchell is out beating the bushes for a couple of reasons this year. First of all there is a new Sally, the Legacy award.
"There have been until now four category of awards: for vision, committment, initiative and education. And this year inspired by the Legacy Amendment, we have decided to add an award specifically to reward individuals or programs that increase the access to the arts for people in Minnesota."
So what does that mean?
"Well, the interesting thing is you get other people's ideas as to what access means," she responds." When I think of it, it's ways to connect people and arts experience, either by giving them direct experience of practicing art, or witnessing it, or listening to it or participating in it. Anything that brings people and art together is increasing access in our book."
Mitchell is also getting the word out that she's looking for nominations from all over the state of Minnesota. The Sallys have always had a healthy metro representation, but she knows there is great art going on all over the state.
Nominations are open now through November 15th. Mitchell stresses anyone can make a nomination, and you can nominate yourself, (as people have already done.) The awards ceremony is March 22nd, but Mitchell will have been on the road on her secret trip before that.
"So if you get a mysterious invitation, come," she laughs again.
Lee Mark Nelson and Emily Gunyou Halaas received rave reviews for their performances in the Guthrie Theater production of The Master Butchers Singing Club - so why is the show closing early?
Photo by Michal Daniel
As Euan Kerr reported earlier this month, the Guthrie Theater's production of "The Master Butchers Singing Club" is closing on October 30th and cancelling the last five programmed performances.
It was news that came as a surprise to many, especially those who bothered to read the reviews:
"Terrific acting - Lee Mark Nelson is triumphant--the finest performance I've seen all year"
- Tim Gihring, Minnesota Monthly
"[Playwright Marsha] Norman has transformed Erdrich's book about her German and Native American forebears into something grander, adding vivid patches to the national quilt...[Emily] Gunyou Halaas' Delphine is a font of gorgeous sensibility and heart."
- Rohan Preston, Star Tribune
"Francesca Zambello, the driving force behind the production, directs with a flair for simple theatricality and with a tone that stays likably light even while it depicts believably wrenching events."
- Steven Oxman, Variety
"I can't imagine leaving the play without a smile on your face."
- Kelly Krantz, Metro Magazine
Sure the show drew some criticism for being long-winded or trying to cram too much story into one performance. But even mediocre shows often get a full run at the Guthrie.
So why the cancellations? The Guthrie's Director of Publicity Melodie Bahan said tickets for the last five shows "just weren't selling."
The skeptic in me can't help but wonder if maybe the Guthrie itself is to blame for its own show's failure.
I went to see The Master Butchers Singing Club at the Guthrie earlier this month, and I had a great time. But my tickets were free, and I suspect that many of the other people in the audience had also gotten in without forking over a dime.
How is this? One weeknight evening I received a call at home from a Guthrie telemarketer. She informed me that, as a Guthrie regular who had just attended The Great Game: Afghanistan, I qualified for a free pair of tickets to The Master Butchers Singing Club, if I would agree to buy tickets to three other shows in the season at a deeply discounted price.
I admit, if I hadn't received the call, I probably wouldn't have made it to see the show, not for lack of interest, but because I had just invested a large chunk of personal savings in seeing what was billed as a "major theatrical event" - namely The Great Game: Afghanistan - also on a Guthrie stage, but on tour from Tricycle Theater in London. The three part production set me back $120 (I'm reimbursed by MPR for my tickets, but I pay for my husband's), and I was leary of spending another $40 - $60 to see yet another production at the Guthrie, when my duty is to get out and see the breadth and depth of Twin Cities performing arts.
Isn't it likely that many other theater-goers, who also shelled out $120 or more apiece to see three plays in a row at the Guthrie, are suffering from a little "big blue fatigue?"
The Master Butchers Singing Club opened on September 11... The Great Game: Afghanistan ran from September 29 - October 17, creating serious competition for Guthrie audiences for a large chunk of TMBSC's run. The Great Game: Afghanistan came with rave reviews already in hand, while TMBSC was a world premiere, with no stage pedigree.
Perhaps next time the folks at the Guthrie will think twice before scheduling one of its own productions up against a timely international success.
Jeff Rathermel, the new Executive Director of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis.
After a six month search for a new Executive Director, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts has named its own Artistic Director, Jeff Rathermel, to the position.
For the past six months Rathermel has been serving as interim Executive Director in addition to his curatorial and program management duties. While the MCBA board conducted a national search, in a letter to members Board Chair Luca Gunther stated "Jeff Rathermel stood apart outstandingly from the other applicants" due to his deep understanding of the craft, his sense of innovation and his management experience.
A press release announcing Rathermel's appointment stated it "is a sign that MCBA is refocusing its mission on the artist."
Back in April the MCBA let go of its then Executive Director, Dorothy Goldie, just as the organization was celebrating its 25th anniversary, citing a desire to expand its scope and reach as an organization.
There are just 10 days left of the Science Museum of Minnesota's Dead Sea Scrolls show, and the SMM is expanding its hours to offer last minute patrons as much opportunity as possible to take in the exhibit.. Starting today the SMM will be open from 9.30 am to 9.30 pm until the Dead Sea scrolls closes on October 24th.
The SMM's Sarah Imholte says it's a standard practice for big shows at the museum. As the Body Worlds show came to an end the museum stayed open 24 hours a day.
"And we did have some people come through at 2 am," she recalls.
The Dead Sea Scrolls won't get that treatment, but people who come in at 9.30 will have an hour to go through the exhibit.
In other museum news, today is the launch of the Walker Art Center's new free tickets for teens initiative. Starting at this evening's Student Open House, visitors 18 and under will get in free. The Walker's Ryan French says this is an expansion of the WAC's committment to teens. Some 84,000 teens come through the Walker's doors each year, about 14 percent of overall attendance.
Last week the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts posted a video interviewing the DFL candidates for Minnesota Governor about how they have - and would, if elected - support the arts.
This week - just in time for today's primaries - the MCA is following up with a more thorough report on where 2010 political candidates and federally elected officials stand on the arts. Click on your district number to find out what your Senator or House Rep thinks should happen to the Legacy Fund, whether they would support policies to increase accountability for school standards in the arts, and what music they enjoy most.
Note, many candidates did not respond to the MCA survey. In those cases it's hard to know whether we should take that to mean they don't care about the arts, or there was perhaps a legitimate reason for them not finding the time.
It could have been much, much worse, given the economy. The Guthrie released its annual report for fiscal year 2009-2010 this evening and while attendance dropped slightly the Minneapolis company finished the year with a slight surplus.
The Guthrie began the year with the much anticipated and critically acclaimed Tony Kushner Festival, rolling out a total of 21 theatrical productions, plus a couple of WorldStage shows, including the successful "Brief Encounter."
The Guthrie filled almost 436,000 seats during the fiscal year, a drop of about 27-and -a-half thousand over the previous year. When all concerts, training and other events are included it did mount more productions - 45 compared to 41 the year before. The Guthrie ended up with a surplus of $134,000 on a $23.5 million budget.
Guthrie Artistic Director Joe Dowling is expected to announce plans for his own future at the Guthrie's annual meeting this evening.
The Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts Rocco Landesman will visit the Twin Cities August 25th as part of his "Art Works" tour.
Landesman is visiting communities around the US to gather information and to promote the "Our Town" initiative, a proposal to use $5 million in up to 35 communities to support planning and design projects, and arts engagement strategies.
The examples cited in Landesman's statement to the Appropriation Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies committee include the integration of public art into civic spaces; a community waterfront festival; affordable housing for low-income artists; rehearsal spaces to serve as research and development space for our performing arts companies; outdoor exhibitions and performances to enliven civic spaces and engage citizens. All of these have been tried in various forms in Minnesota.
The visit is at the invitation of US Representative Betty McCollum who sits on that particular committee. It has jurisdiction over both the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
A representative from Rep. McCollum's office says the specifics of the visit are still being worked out but should be released in the next few days.
Landesman arrived at the NEA after a career in business, academia and the arts, including several years at the helm of Broadway show producer Jujamcyn. Landesman himself produced both of the "Angels in America" shows and "The Producers" musical.
Many Minnesota organizations receive NEA funding (including, in the spirit of full disclosure, Minnesota Public Radio.)
Architects rendering of the proposed expansion of Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis (Image courtesy Minnesota Orchestra)
The Minnesota Orchestra announced today that a $5 million donation from Target Corporation means it now has enough to fund the $40 million dollar expansion and renovation of Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
"It quite clearly shows that we have an exciting viable project that is very clearly going ahead," Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson said today.
The State of Minnesota contributed $14 million in bonding money, and the Orchestra has raised another $29 million in private funds.
The fundraising will continue as the Orchestra works to complete its larger $100 million capital campaign. It's already pulled in $82 million towards that goal.
Henson says the Orchestra and the architects are still working on a myriad of details, so they have not announced a groundbreaking date yet, but he says the project is on track to re-open in June of 2013.
Orchestra Hall will have to close for a year while the work is done, and one of the challenges facing the organization is maintaining a full subscription series for the hometown audience in other halls around the Twin Cities.
Incidently Target now has naming rights on the new lobby and the expanded terraces outside the renovated hall.
The Walker Art Center says Visual Arts Curator Peter Eleey is leaving to become Curator of P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, an affiliate of The Museum of Modern Art, in New York. He starts his new job in July.
Eleey joined the Walker in March 2007 and he oversaw the Walker's major exhibit on conceptual art called "The Quick and the Dead."
Eleey follows the Walker's former Chief Curator Phillipe Vergne to the Big Apple. Vergne left to head up the Dia Art Foundation in the middle of 2008 and in 2009 he hired away Associate Curator Yasmil Raymond.
The Museum of Modern Art also created a position of Associate Director specially for former Walker Art Center Director Kathy Halbreich.(1 Comments)
Posted at 7:28 PM on April 14, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Arts management
The Minnesota Center for Book Arts is looking for a new Executive Director.
According to the MCBA, Execturive Director Dorothy Goldie's last day was today. She served in that position for seven years.
In a press release, Luca Gunther, chairman of the MCBA Board, stated the center - the largest of its kind in the country - is looking to expand its scope and reach as an organization. To that end, the board has formed a search committee for Goldie's replacement.
In the meantime, Artistic Director Jeff Rathermel will take on the duties of Interim Executive Director.
The announcement comes just as the MCBA is marking its 25th anniversary.
Posted at 10:27 AM on March 17, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Arts management
The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, one of the leading incubators of new plays in the nation, said goodbye to its producing artistic director, Polly Carl, last August. Carl gave the PWC a few months notice of her departure, and the center's board launched a national search for someone to replace her.
Now, more than seven months later, it's back to the drawing board.
According to Erika Eklund, PWC Director of Development, the board is re-opening the search, because "the initial process didn't result in identifying someone for the position."
While Eklund says the second search will be as efficient (read that "quick") as possible, it does mean an extended gap between leaders. In light of that, Managing Director Craig Harris has been renamed Interim Director.
So what does it say that the Playwrights' Center was not able to draw up a substantial enough list of candidates to find at least one who would take the position? In a recession you would think you'd have more than enough qualified individuals to choose from. Eklund says it's a function of the unique qualities of how the organization works and how it's funded (in part, but not wholly through membership).
The Southern Theater, which went through a shake-up in leadership back in July of 2008, has announced it's hired Gary Peterson to be its new Executive Director, replacing interim Executive Director
Steve Barberio. Patricia Speelman.
Peterson is probably best known for serving as the Executive Director of the James Sewell Ballet, but he's also on the board of directors for Ananya Dance Theater, and has worked with the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus. Peterson writes about the arts on his blog "Minnesota Mist."
The unexplained firing of Jeff Bartlett from the position of Executive Director for the Southern created a rift between the board and the artists who regularly perform there, as well as longtime audience members. However efforts to be more transparent, and to include artists on the board, appear to have quelled the original bitterness.
Peterson assumes his new duties January 1, 2010.(2 Comments)