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Nearly $900,000 in grants coming to MN from NEA; orchestra board responds to musicians

ALSO: ‘The Mother of Masks’ at Bedlam; ‘Sounds Like Home’ to benefit People Serving People; Bobby Vee’s signed prints in St. Joseph; and more.

Among the NEA grant winners was Theater Latté Da, whose production of 'Company' wrapped up in November.
Courtesy of Theater Latté Da/Tom Sandelands

Thirty-two Minnesota arts organizations will receive almost $900,000 in grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2013, the NEA announced earlier this week. Grants range in size from $10,000 to $100,000 and will be used for all sorts of projects: concerts and residencies, plays, poetry, exhibitions, an opera, tours, dance, theater and music. Grantees include large organizations (the Minneapolis Institute of Arts) and small (Rose Ensemble); complete list here

Perhaps the most provocative: will receive $15,000 to support the re-creation of Marcel Breuer’s St. Paul house to scale, following the original architectural plans but using wood instead of concrete blocks. The completed house will be floated down the Mississippi River as part of 2013’s Northern Spark dusk-to-dawn arts festival, then set on fire as a symbolic act of celebration and destruction. Also: Ragamala Dance has received $20,000 to support the creation and presentation of a new dance work in collaboration with saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa. We’ve heard Mahanthappa play. This could be as hot as that burning house.

The Minnesota Orchestra board responded Tuesday to the musicians’ “no confidence” vote and call for removal of CEO Michael Henson. Dismissing the vote as “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,” board chair Jon R. Campbell praised Henson as “a perfect leader at this challenging time.” The op-ed page of Thursday’s Star Tribune gave plenty of ink to both sides of the conflict. The musicians restated their inability to counteroffer “without a full, joint, independent analysis of the orchestra’s finances.” In one of the least jargony statements we’ve seen so far, the board laid out its position, expressed perplexity that “the musicians have been busy with publicity stunts and attempts to discredit their greatest supporters and most generous donors,” took a poke at the “scintillating news coverage” provided by Graydon Royce’s Monday article digging into the orchestra’s finances, and noted that “while we have been clear that we seek savings of $5 million annually, the approach we use to reduce these costs can be adjusted through the course of good-faith negotiations.” Nothing will happen until the two sides sit down together at the table. Can someone call a meeting, please?

Arts organizations: Applications are due January 11, 2013, for Operating Support grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This new pilot grant program takes the place of the previous Institutional Support and Institutional Presenter Support grant programs. It enables qualifying organizations to maintain their ongoing programs, services, and facilities without special emphasis on new initiatives as justification for funding. The grant program information document includes these uplifting words: “The arts are interwoven into every facet of community life. Minnesotans believe the arts are vital to who we are. People of all ages, ethnicities, and abilities participate in the arts. The arts thrive in Minnesota.” Hear, hear. Now go get some of that MSAB money. FMI.

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Artists are invited to apply to the St. Paul Winter Carnival Juried Art Exhibition. Theme: St. Paul/Winter. Submissions due Dec. 15. If you’re accepted, you’ll know Dec. 22. Three-submission limit, size limit 48″. (Tall? Wide? Deep? Square? I’d ask if I were you.) $10 hanging fee per work if accepted; all fees go towards the cash prizes given to the winners. The show will be hosted by the Black Dog Café and Wine Bar in Lowertown from Jan. 1 to Feb. 3. Opening reception Jan. 4; closing reception Feb. 2. Send hard copy or CD submissions to Amy Clark, c/o AZ Gallery, 308 Prince St. #103, St. Paul, MN 55105; email

The Bell Museum of Natural History at the U of M is launching a Resident Artist Research Project (with the lovable acronym RARP). Two artists will engage with university researchers and scientific collections while exploring ways to use art to interpret science in the public realm. Artists of any discipline may apply, including (but not limited to) writers, poets, storytellers, dancers, designers, map-makers, musicians, painters, sketchers, video and film artists, and artist collectives. Application deadline: Dec. 21. FMI.

Musicians: if you’re at your computer next Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m., you can stream a live conversation between pianist Dan Tepfer and NEA Jazz Master Lee Konitz on the art and business of music. (If you’re in New York, you can see it in person at St. Peter’s Church on Lexington at 54th starting at 3.) The stream will be available at Chamber Music America’s website. Musicians and presenters: CMA recently published two in-depth studies of local and natural cultural environments and economic conditions affecting classical/contemporary chamber music and jazz.

Mankwe Ndosi
Photo by Michele Spaise
Mankwe Ndosi

Tonight (Friday, Nov. 30) at the new Bedlam Theatre in Lowertown: The Mother of Masks. This is the debut performance of a dream band: singer/storyteller/spoken word artist/activist Mankwe Ndosi, poet/educator/community organizer Louis Alemayehu, saxophonist/educator Donald Washington, bassist Anthony Cox, and percussionist Davu Seru. All of the musicians are connected in some way; Seru brought them together in the spirit of collaboration and expecting they would do something new. He explained the concept in an email: “On the one hand, the name ‘The Mother of Masks’ is a reference to the Dogon of Mali (a group that, due to their sophisticated cosmogony and resistance to cultural imperialism, has, for decades now, been the source of much pride among Black Americans interested in Africa) … It is meant to signify on our varying degrees of Afro-centricity. On the other hand, the Black mask takes on different meanings for Africans in Diaspora – it’s quite an inheritance.” Doors at 7, music at 7:30. Suggested donation $5-$10. Seating limited to 80. 213 4th St. East, St. Paul.

Tonight at the historic Grain Belt Bottling House in northeast Minneapolis: “Sounds Like Home,” a concert benefiting People Serving People’s programming for homeless children and their families. Toki Wright will emcee; Melismatics, Alison Scott, MaLLy, Villa Rosa, and DJ Espada will perform. This is People Serving People’s 30th year. A wonderful time for the worthiest of causes. 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. 79 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis. FMI and tickets

Opening tonight at the Satellite Gallery in St. Joseph: a brief exhibition and sale of limited-edition signed prints by 1960s singing icon Bobby Vee. (“Take Good Care of My Baby,” “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” “Earth Angel” – that Bobby Vee.) The Minnesota legend has been painting for pleasure for many years; the show includes idyllic scenes of his small-town Midwest roots. Proceeds go to the Bobby Vee Foundation for the Arts, which supports Central Minnesota arts and education. Earlier this year, Vee announced on his website that he has Alzheimer’s. He’s still actively recording and is about to release his latest CD, “The Adobe Sessions – with Family & Friends.” Way to go, Bobby. Tonight 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m. 15 East Minnesota St., St. Joseph, Minn.

1960s singing icon Bobby Vee's artwork is on exhibit at Satellite Gallery in St.
Courtesy of Bobby Vee
1960s singing icon Bobby Vee’s artwork is on exhibit at Satellite Gallery in St. Joseph.

Saturday at Ramsey Junior High: the 18th annual Art at Ramsey holiday art fair. Shopping doesn’t get smaller or more local than this charming fair in a school gym. Meet the artists and bring home the perfect gifts: one-of-a-kind jewelry, pottery, glassware, leather, wood, paintings, sculptures, glass, paper art, baskets, wearables. Look for Duke Klassen and LaDes Glanzer, jewelers recently returned from a trip to the Amazon. And Alice Strand, whose tiny fabric animals are exquisitely crafted works of art and playful imagination. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 1700 Summit Ave., St. Paul.

Saturday at Uncle Hugo’s, Minnesota author Kelly Barnhill and Wisconsin author Kelly McCullough will autograph their new books. Barnhill’s “Iron Hearted Violet” is a fantasy novel for ages 8 and up. McCullough’s “Crossed Blades” is the third novel in his “Fallen Blade” fantasy series. 1 p.m. – 2 p.m., 2864 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis.

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Saturday at the Minnesota Museum of American Art: the grand opening of the Project Space, the first step in reestablishing the museum’s physical presence in St. Paul. MMAA describes it as “an incubation place for all things artsy and creative.” The featured exhibition, “Painting the Place Between,” includes work by Minnesota landscape artists Betsy Byers, Jil Evans, Holly Swift and Andrew Wykes. MMAA is among the recent NEA grant winners. Members only opening reception 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.; public opening 7:30 – 10. Historic Pioneer Building, 4th and Robert Streets, St. Paul.

Sunday at the Cedar: the Andy Statman Trio. Winner of a 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellowship, Statman is a virtuosic mandolinist and clarinetist whose music embraces jazz, bluegrass, Chassidic, and American roots. He’s also an astonishing improviser. Mordecai Specktor interviewed him for American Jewish World and also spoke with Paul Shaffer (that Paul Shaffer), who says about Statman, “He is impeccable in everything he does … a consummate musician.” 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets.

Monday at Christ Church Lutheran: The chamber group Accordo celebrates Debussy’s 150th birthday with music by Janácek, Ravel, Fauré, and the man himself. Pianist Benjamin Hochman is their guest. We’ve been asking 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 Libby Holden says about this concert: “Like a lot of casual art enthusiasts, I especially love Impressionist painting: it is often gentle in color, yet exciting in its complexity, cohesive from far away, but nearly broken up close. Accordo’s presentation this Monday is a chance to experience the music of that same time and witness what the two art forms share. On the advice of a more musically-inclined friend, I’ll be watching for the little dots of influence in each piece. Can I hear the refined technique of Professor Fauré in his protégé’s works? Does the tone of Debussy’s music play like light and color on lily pads? And do pixels of Czech folk show up in the Janácek piece as easily as Basque heritage in the Ravel? Like icing on a birthday cake, these pieces will be played in the Eliel Saarinen-designed Christ Church Lutheran, itself a tribute to the interplay of light and material. I may close my eyes, but don’t think I’m falling asleep; I’ll be looking at what this music paints.” 7:30 p.m., 3244 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis. FMI and tickets.

On sale today (Friday) at noon: Tony Bennett at the State Theatre on Jan. 20. At 86 (he’ll be 87 by then), the legendary crooner still brings it home. We saw him in September and he was amazing, commanding the crowd, singing song after song. His long list of achievements includes 17 Grammys and Kennedy Center honors. Plus he recently painted Lady Gaga naked, and he plans to make a “big swinging” jazz album with her as soon as they can coordinate their calendars. Catch him if you can. FMI and tickets.