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Penumbra reaches funding goal, will open 'Spunk' in March

Happy news for theater in the Twin Cities (and nationally): Penumbra announced Monday that it has exceeded its fundraising goal and will resume programming this spring. More than 1,400 individuals, corporations and foundations donated $359,000 by Dec. 30, 2012. In September, following an income shortfall in August, Penumbra suspended its fall programming, reduced its FY13 budget by $800,000, eliminated six full-time staff positions including that of associate artistic director Dominic Taylor, and set a goal to raise $340,000 by calendar year end.

Lou Bellamy
Lou Bellamy

“Spunk,” a George C. Wolfe adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s “Three Tales,” opens March 13. “It will be good to see everyone in the lobby again,” Penumbra founder and artistic director Lou Bellamy said in a press release. It will also be good to see T. Mychael Rambo, Dennis Spears, Jevetta Steele and Austene Van back on the Penumbra’s stage. Seems like the perfect cast for “Spunk,” a mix of storytelling, dance and the blues. Through April 7. Tickets on sale now.

Austene Van is keeping busy in “Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida” at the Pantages, where she plays the starring role. A co-production by Hennepin Theatre Trust and Theater Latté Da, “Aida” launches a new series called “Broadway Re-Imagined” that aims to grow Latté Da’s audience and strengthen Hennepin Theatre Trust’s ties to the local theater community. Up to now, the Trust has mainly been a presenting organization, bringing big touring shows into town for short runs. Latté Da has mainly played to smaller houses. Will touring shows be born here someday soon? That’s part of the plan. Graydon Royce told the story in Friday’s Strib. Directed by Latté Da’s Peter Rothstein, with an all-local cast that also features Jared Oxborough, T. Mychael Rambo and Cat Brindisi, “Aida” opened last weekend and runs through Jan. 27. FMI and tickets.

aida
Photo by Michal Daniel
Austene Van plays Aida at the Pantages.


Both the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra managements and musicians are talking and/or suggesting dates for talks, an improvement over the past few months of cobwebs at the negotiating tables. We don’t know more than that, since all parties have agreed (at least for now) to converse in person instead of through the press. Meanwhile, former SPCO concertmaster Romuald Tecco has cut the SPCO out of his will, the Minnesota House has scheduled a hearing later this month on the economic impact of the NHL, Minnesota Orchestra, and SPCO lockouts (the NHL lockout ended Sunday morning), and the musicians of the SPCO have announced two more on-their-own concerts in January.

On Thursday, Jan. 24, and Friday, Jan. 25, SPCO musicians will perform Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and other Italian baroque concertos. Soloists will be Ruggero Allifranchini, Gary Bordner and Lynn Erickson, Kathryn Greenbank, and Alicia McQuerrey. The Jan. 24 concert takes place at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, the Jan. 25 concert at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. Tickets here and here.

ArtPlace has released its first-ever list of America’s Top ArtPlaces, the neighborhoods across the country identified as “most successfully combining art, artists and other creatives, independent businesses, retail shops and restaurants, and walkability to make vibrant places.” We didn’t crack the Top 12, but we did land on the big list (of 44) twice. Minneapolis was named for parts of Downtown West and Loring Park, St. Paul for Lowertown. Here’s the complete “America’s Top ArtPlaces 2013” report, recommended reading for anyone interested in creative placemaking. How can we make the Top 12 in 2014?

Paul Winger's
Photo by Paul W. Winger
Paul Winger's "Windswept Trees"


St. Paul photographer Paul Winger has won first prize in the St. Paul Winter Carnival Juried Art Exhibition, on display in Lowertown through Feb. 3 at the Black Dog Café and Wine Bar. The theme was St. Paul/Winter, and Winger’s “Windswept Trees,” taken in 2010 at the intersection of Lexington Parkway and Nebraska Avenue looking back toward Lake Como, expresses it eloquently. “This was my first entry into a juried art show,” Winger says, “so to win was quite surprising.” He notes that “the scene can no longer be replicated because annoying bushes have been planted in front of these trees.” More reason to go take a look at the original.

Last Friday we noted that charitable giving to arts, culture and humanities organizations in Minnesota grew 20 percent in 2010, according to the Minnesota Council on Foundations’ most recent “Giving in Minnesota” report. Yesterday MCF reported that Minnesota grantmakers plan to give slightly more in 2013 than they did in 2012. Education will get the biggest bump, but some grantmakers are projecting an increase in their arts/culture/humanities giving. Most will hold steady and a few will give less. Here’s the complete “2013 Outlook Report.”

In early 2011, we had the ridiculous good luck to see cellist (and 2011 MacArthur Fellow) Alisa Weilerstein play Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 in C major at the Southern. She hasn’t been back to the Twin Cities since, but she’ll be here tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 8) for her debut performance in the Schubert Club’s prestigious International Artist recital series.

Alisa Weilerstein has her debut performance in the Schubert Club’s prestigious I
Courtesy of the Schubert Club
Alisa Weilerstein has her debut performance in the Schubert Club’s prestigious International Artist recital series Tuesday.

We’ve been inviting members of Theoroi, the group of “arts ambassadors” ages 21-35 sponsored by the Schubert Club, to preview events they’re attending and tell us what they think. Here’s what Jeff Lin says about this concert: “Most classical music performances involve ensembles or orchestras, where several musicians take the stage. The Schubert Club’s International Artist Series turns the focus to the individual, where concertgoers are offered an opportunity to not only enjoy great music, but also to really get to know an artist through his or her performance. The upcoming show featuring Alisa Weilerstein is no exception. Weilerstein’s solo career has taken her around the globe. Her stop in St. Paul is a rare opportunity to enjoy the music of Beethoven, Barber, Stravinsky, and Rachmaninoff, brought to life by an artist who has emerged as one of the most accomplished and engaging solo cellists of the next generation.”

Weilerstein will be accompanied by Israeli-born pianist Inon Barnatan, whose “Darknesse Visible” CD, released last April, is so beautiful it hurts. Here’s Weilerstein playing a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR. Here’s Barnatan playing Schubert in Mexico City. FMI and tickets.

What is it with musicians named Baker? As Bruce Weber’s documentary “Let’s Get Lost” (1988) made painfully clear, jazz trumpeter Chet Baker was a musical genius but a horrible human being. Not even his mother could find something nice to say about him. In “Beware of Mr. Baker” (2012), director Jay Bulger reveals Ginger Baker, best known as the red-haired drummer for Blind Faith and Cream, as a prodigiously talented jerk. But what a film!

Bulger trains his camera on the 73-year-old Baker, chain-smoking, high, and mean as a cornered badger in his South African compound (where he lived until recently with a young African wife and several polo ponies), then lets him vent. He weaves in clips from the drummer’s glory days, hair-raising tales from Baker's three ex-wives, and comments from many musicians who worked with him, including Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Carlos Santana, Femi Kuti, and Johnny Rotten. (At one point, Clapton generously calls Baker a “lovable rogue.”) When film is not available to illustrate the narrative, animation by David Bell and Joe Scarpulla bridges the gaps; the animated Baker looks like a devil. “Beware” is a perfect rock doc: thrilling, terrifying, irreverent, revealing, and loud. Winner of the South by Southwest 2012 Grand Jury Award, it screens at the Trylon Microcinema tomorrow night (Wednesday, Jan. 9) as part of the ongoing Sound Unseen series of music documentaries. Here’s the trailer. (Warning: language.) FMI and tickets.

It’s always fun to see what our McKnight artist fellows have been up to. On Wednesday, the Loft will screen films by four Minnesota mid-career filmmakers who were each awarded $25,000 in 2012: Melissa Brandt, Stephen Gurewitz, Norah Shapiro and Matthew Stenerson. Watch, then chat with all four in a discussion moderated by producer Christine Kunewa Walker. 7 p.m. at Open Book, free.

Mid-career composers: Friday, March 8, is the application deadline for this year’s McKnight Composer Fellowship. Four fellowships of $25,000 in unrestricted funds will be awarded. Fellows also have an opportunity to spend up to one month in an artist residency setting of their choice. Guidelines and application here. Another faster-approaching deadline for composers: January 15, 2013. That’s when Zeitgeist wants to see your score written for any combination of two percussion instruments, one woodwind (B-flat bass clarinet, B-flat clarinet) and piano. Two to four works will be selected and performed at the May 2013 concert in Studio Z. Composers of each selected work will receive $400. FMI, write to info@zeitgeistnewmusic.org.

Northern Lights.mn has issued a call for a fifth round of Art(ists) on the Verge, an intensive, mentor-based fellowship for Minnesota-based emerging artists or groups working experimentally at the intersection of art, technology and digital culture. Five $5,000 commissions will be awarded, with additional support available for technical development and public presentation. Application deadline Monday, Feb. 11. FMI and submission form.

Some of the best jazz musicians in America today are from Israel. How did that happen? Jazz journalist Andrew Gilbert spelled it out in a 2008 article for JazzTimes. Close Israel-US ties, the years Walter Blanding (a saxophonist with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) spent in Israel, and Israel’s educational system all played important roles. Bassist Omer Avital was one of the early Israeli arrivals in the U.S., moving to New York in 1992 and quickly forming ties with influential American musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau and Roy Haynes. Today he’s a major player on the jazz and world music scenes.

Omer Avital
omeravital.com
On Thursday, Jan. 10, Omer Avital brings his Band of the East to the St. Paul Jewish Community Center, an under-the-radar jazz venue if there ever was one.


On Thursday, Jan. 10, Avital brings his Band of the East to the St. Paul Jewish Community Center, an under-the-radar jazz venue if there ever was one. And how did that happen? Jeffrey Richman, the JCC’s cultural arts director, is determined to bring important Israeli jazz artists to the Twin Cities, and he manages it about once a year. (Here’s his track record so far: 2008, bassist Avishai Cohen and pianist Shai Maestro. 2009, pianist Omer Klein with Avital and drummer Ziv Ravitz. 2010, flutist and composer Mattan Klein, with Yuval Lion on drums. 2011, guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and his quartet. Not bad, Jeffrey.) Here’s a recent interview of Avital for the American Jewish World. Jazz and world music fans, this is a rare opportunity to hear one of the greats. Avital will perform with Daniel Freedman on drums, Jason Lindner on keys, Greg Tardy on tenor saxophone, and Nadav Remez on guitar. 7 p.m. Tickets ($15 members/$20 nonmembers) at the door or call 651-698-0751. Be sure to bring a photo ID.

Along with extending the run for its hit exhibition “China’s Terracotta Warriors” from Jan. 20 to Jan. 27, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is staying open later (until 8 p.m.) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays starting tonight. The museum will be open until 9 p.m. Thursdays and 5 p.m. Sundays as usual. Short of bringing a warrior or two to your door, the MIA is doing everything it can to make sure you don’t miss this. So far, more than 70,000 people have seen the show.

In the words of Columbo, just one more thing: your Artscape columnist is an occasional Art Hound for MPR, and this is one of those weeks. Tune in Thursday at 8:25 a.m., during "Morning Edition," or 4:45 p.m., during "All Things Considered."

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