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Sculptor Randy Walker wins $50,000 McKnight project grant

ALSO: Guthrie names casts for Hampton celebration; SPCO president responds to musician’s article; Pease is new Park Square leader; and more.

Early design rendering of Randy Walker's Forecast Public Art project.
Courtesy of Forecast Public Art

Minnesota sculptor Randy Walker, who uses fiber and frameworks to create small and large works of art, has won Forecast Public Art’s first McKnight Mid-Career Project Grant. The $50,000 award is the largest of its kind in the country. Walker will partner with YouthLink, which coordinates services for homeless youth, on a public art sculpture that will also function as a creative outlet for the Kulture Klub Collaborative, a YouthLink program. Walker will create a permanent structure that the Kulture Klub kids will continually renew with temporary elements. Here’s a segment Minnesota Original did on Walker in March 2011. Several other artists will receive professional development and project grants of $5,000 or $7,000, all for public art.

After 32 years with Park Square Theatre, Executive Director Steven Kent Lockwood is retiring. He was hired in 1980 to direct Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing” and stayed on, serving as director, costume designer, and actor before assuming the executive director role. C. Michael-jon Pease has been named the new executive director, effective Sept. 1. Pease has been with Park Square for seven years, initially as its first development director and then as its first external relations director. During Pease’s tenure in the latter role, audiences have grown 33 percent, the business has grown 27 percent, the artist roster has nearly doubled, and Park Square is well on its way to adding a 200-seat theater to its home in the Hamm Building in St. Paul.

The Guthrie has announced the complete casting for the three plays of its Christopher Hampton celebration: 39 (!) actors including Keir Dullea, probably best known for portraying astronaut David Bowman in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” (“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.” “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”) Dullea makes his Guthrie debut as novelist Heinrich Mann in “Tales from Hollywood.” Other actors to watch for: Harry Groener, James A. Stephens, Lee Sellars, Allison Daugherty, Shawn Hamilton, and Guthrie faves Stephen Yoakam, Sally Wingert, Greta Oglesby, Barbara Bryne, Nathaniel Fuller, and Richard Ooms.

The Loft must be feeling sassy. In a recession that has kicked other arts orgs in the pants, its annual gathering on Wednesday was full of good news: ending each of the past five fiscal years in the black, with a balanced budget; completing a $1 million Wallace Excellence Award challenge six months ahead of deadline (earning $850,000 toward the Loft’s endowment and a $150,000 cash reserve for audience-building activities); launching a successful online learning program. Looking ahead, the Loft plans to expand its spoken-word programming and give its teachers raises.
Matt Peiken

Matt Peiken, whom many of us know as an arts journalist (Pi Press, Walker Art Center) and videographer (“3-Minute Egg”), is launching a new website,, and curating a new monthly concert series, “étude à Trois,” at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater. Peiken’s goals: to create a comprehensive classical music resource for the Twin Cities and boost coverage of classical music, and to feature member ensembles and musicians (MNuet is a membership model) in live performance. Susannah Schouweiler has the story here. Those of us who were lucky enough to see Nadia Sirota, William Britelle, Michael Mizrahi and musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra at the BLB in March know what a great little venue it is for classical music. Small, intimate, casual, comfortable in a worn and slightly raggedy way, with a full bar and a Kim Bartmann kitchen. The launch party features the chamber ensemble Accordo, Minnesota Opera teaching artist Bergen Baker, and a brass quintet from the Dakota Valley Symphony. 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4. FMI.

On Tuesday, we published an excerpt from an opinion piece in the Pioneer Press by St. Paul Chamber Orchestra assistant principal violist Evelina Chao. On Wednesday, we spoke by phone with Dobson West, the SPCO’s interim president. The SPCO had requested an opportunity to respond to what management views as untrue allegations in Chao’s op-ed.

evelina chao
Evelina Chao

Chao wrote, “The SPCO management and board have proposed wage cuts of 57 percent and 67 percent.” West said, “We have never proposed and wouldn’t propose salary cuts in the 57 to 67 percent range. That magnitude is way beyond anything we have proposed. The way that musicians are compensated involves a minimum scale for many people and additional amounts for whatever reason that can vary dramatically from person to person. … The way the musicians calculated that percentage appears to be [based on] the minimum guaranteed amount.”

Chao wrote that the SPCO plans to drastically reduce the number of concerts involving the full orchestra. West: “We are not reducing in any way our commitment to the community in terms of the number of concerts we perform. We perform roughly 120 concerts per year. We will continue to do that. Depending on the programming, we don’t always use the full ensemble, so not necessarily all of the players will be playing. We have no intention of programming strictly on a financial basis, which I think is the implication in Evelina’s piece.”

What of the musicians’ claim that the management envisions reducing costs by forcing out SPCO musicians and bringing in musicians to perform on a per-service basis? West: “It is not our intention at all to turn this into a per-service orchestra. We understand that it is important to the overall sound to have a constancy among our musicians. Having said that, we already contract with individual musicians who are not our regular musicians to fill in or sub when our musicians are not available for whatever reason. We have also on a number of occasions contracted with extra musicians. We do this on a per-service basis.”

Chao noted that she fears for “our orchestra, as we know it.” What she means by this (explained further in her complete article) is an orchestra that has melded as an ensemble and developed a distinctive sound, unity, and excellence. Does West think the SPCO can maintain its quality and cohesion with the concessions management wants? “We believe we will find a way to do that by working with the musicians to accomplish that result,” he said. “We have a great ensemble. Everybody – the musicians, staff, board, and management – loves this ensemble. We do not want to do anything to damage it. But we cannot ignore the financial realities we face, and that other arts organizations – in particular, orchestras – face. We need to address the largest single cost we have, which is our musicians.”

Until journalists are invited to the bargaining table, this is what we know. More negotiations are scheduled for Sept. 10, 11, 21, 22, 29 and 30. Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, management wants to reduce the number of musicians in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra from 87 to 63, slash wages by 45 percent, revisit the musicians’ pension, and cut the performing schedule from year-round (52 weeks) to 36 weeks.

Over at MPR, Euan Kerr asked, “Do the Twin Cities need 2 orchestras?” If you’ve ever wondered about this, take a look. We’ve always thought the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra are apples and oranges, and we happen to like both very much.

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Following up on a few more earlier items: Prince will not give a live concert in St. Paul in September. According to Joe Campbell, the city’s Communications Director, the concert, which “was never scheduled to begin with,” has been postponed … Jane Minton, recently and abruptly terminated as executive director of IFP Minnesota after 25 years, posted an explanatory letter on her Facebook page calling her dismissal “heartless, cold, mean, and calculating.” Describing IFP Minnesota as “healthy and stable” despite a projected one-month cash shortfall in May 2013 (“a shortfall that I would have easily addressed long before that date”), she noted 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.” Andrew Peterson is now serving as interim director … A tribute to Suzy Greenberg, founder and artistic director of the Soo Visual Arts Center and founding member of Rosalux Gallery, will take place Monday, Sept. 10, at SooVAC and the nearby CC Club from 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. By proclamation of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Sept. 10, 2012, has been declared Suzy Greenberg Day. Greenberg died on Aug. 16.

Need a few ideas for the holiday weekend? You know about the Fair, which ends Monday. On Saturday, you might bring the kids or your own children’s-books-loving self to the Walker for “Free First Saturday: Get Up and Read,” a day with Nancy Carlson. FMI. On Sunday, Minnesota institution Leigh Kamman celebrates his 90th birthday at the Artists’ Quarter. Kamman hosted MPR’s “The Jazz Image” for many years (back when MPR had a jazz program, hint hint). Performers include Carole Martin, Pete Whitman’s X-Tet, Brad Bellows and other guests who will honor this gentleman of jazz with their music. 6 p.m. No cover. The “Real Pirates” exhibition at the Science Museum ends Monday (arghhh!). Tickets here. On Monday night at the Dakota, Davina and the Vagabonds share the stage with the Duke Robillard Band. It should be a combination love fest and smackdown. 7 p.m. Tickets here