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MN Orchestra offer raises more questions; Canada imposes fees for cross-border acts

ALSO: The Cedar to open its season with Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits; St. Anthony Main’s update; JazzMN Orchestra at Artists’ Quarter; and more.

Will Osmo Vänskä stay on with the Minnesota Orchestra?
Courtesy of the Minnesota Orchestra

Will there be a Minnesota Orchestra 2013-14 season? Will Osmo Vänskä stay on? Will the orchestra play Carnegie Hall in early November? Will the Symphony Ball on Sept. 20 be festive or, as some have suggested, picketed? Although the silence lifted briefly Thursday in the ongoing labor dispute, by the end of the day, none of these questions had been answered and a new one had been raised: Why isn’t management working with its negotiator, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell?

In a climate of increasing public pressure, management put out details of a play-and-talk offer on Thursday morning. Their offer called for the musicians to return to work by Sept. 30 at “previous contract rates” (their former salaries) for a two-month period, after which, if no agreement is reached, a new annual average salary of $102,200 would be imposed ($135,000 with benefits) for the 24 months of the contract. For most musicians, that would be a 24 percent pay cut. The offer came with a letter that said, “This offer is submitted outside the provisions of the Mediation Agreement between the parties and Senator Mitchell.”

The musicians responded swiftly with a strongly worded statement: “The board and management of the Minnesota Orchestra totally abandoned the mediator they recommended … The offer management presented is the same offer the Musicians unanimously rejected a few weeks ago.” That offer came from management, not Mitchell. In the interim, Mitchell made a proposal that the musicians accepted but management rejected. Mitchell’s proposal called for a two-month play-and-talk period, followed by two more months at a 6 percent salary cut, after which, if negotiations proved unsuccessful, things would revert to where they are now.

Management calls its proposal a way to “guarantee our concertgoers a full concert season.” Arts administration writer Drew McManus calls it a “trap door” for the musicians. “The offer removes all measure of risk for the MOA and they only need to run down the clock in order to achieve an agreement crafted without mutual stakeholder input.” The musicians maintain that “if management had accepted the mediator Mitchell’s independent proposal the Musicians would be back to work now.” 

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O, Canada! The Canadian government has done something even more whacky than our state Legislature did when it limited travel for artists receiving Minnesota State Arts Board grants. As of July 31, bars, restaurants, and coffee shops that book live music by international artists must pay an application fee of $275 per musician and those traveling with the band (tour manager, sound person, etc.), in addition to an extra $150 for each approved musician and crew member’s work permit. So booking a four-member American band, for example, at the Canadian equivalent of Cause Spirits and Soundbar would cost $1,700 Canadian – just for the band. Before paying the band or anyone else. Even worse, if the application is rejected, the money is nonrefundable. Music writer/video blogger Joel Friemark writes, “Supporters of the change state that it was a move to encourage Canadians to hire local workers as opposed to out-sourcing.”

Major “outsourcers” in the Twin Cities include the Cedar, the Schubert Club and its International Artist Series, and the Walker, whose upcoming Performing Arts Season features six international collaborations and artists from 13 countries. (Great infographic, Walker, BTW.) We asked the Cedar what they think of Canada’s new fees. Executive director Rob Simonds had this to say: “Many tours by artists from outside North American combine U.S. and Canadian dates. While Canadian festivals and performing arts centers are exempt from this huge fee increase, smaller presenters and clubs play an important role on a tour as fill-ins. The fewer opportunities there are for those fill-in dates in Canada, the less viable the economics of an entire tour can become. There is no question that this new Canadian law will potentially force some international artists to forgo a North American tour entirely.” has posted an online petition protesting the new fees. Simonds signed it Thursday.

Lawmakers who make laws confining artists to within their own borders and/or sealing those borders against artists from elsewhere aren’t seeing the big picture. Sheila Regan has been covering this topic well and without shouting for the Daily Planet. Take a look at her latest, “Travel grants for artists: Two talking points,” and her earlier piece, “Nude Fringe plays, travel grants and the conservative agenda.” (While you’re at it, read Vickie Benson’s “Open Road, Open Mind” on the McKnight Foundation’s blog.)

We spoke with Sen. Richard Cohen soon after the Minnesota Legislature imposed travel restrictions on artists receiving Minnesota State Arts Board grants. (Briefly: Artists may no longer use a portion of their grant money to travel outside of Minnesota for work related to their project, nor may they bring other artists into Minnesota from elsewhere.) We have great respect for Sen. Cohen, without whom we would not have the Legacy Amendment. We understand that when the travel grants fracas erupted, he was caught between the rock of a ticking clock and the hard place of public opinion, and he really does believe that state arts money should spread art across the state. But travel restrictions are not the answer. How can we work to get them lifted? Where can we start?

Zimbabwean musician and humanitarian Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi

The Cedar, our own National Geographic of music venues, is launching its 25th anniversary season with a free concert Saturday by Zimbabwean musician and humanitarian Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits. Zimbabwe is not a city in Minnesota (that would be Zumbrota), so Mtukudzi must be one of those outsourced musicians. Standing show, doors at 7 p.m., music at 7:30, all ages. FMI. Here’s a video from a performance earlier this year at Globalfest in New York City. September at the Cedar continues with a parade of musicians Not From Around Here: Scotland’s Battlefield Band (Sept. 6), the British ska revival band the Selecter (Sept. 13), Australia’s Colin Hay from Men at Work (Sept. 14 at the Pantages), India’s master slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya with his group Modern India (Sept. 15), Ethiopia’s Krar Collective (Sept. 18), Sweden’s folk music trio Väsen (Sept. 20), England’s barking Billy Bragg (Sept. 27), Germany’s singer/songwriter Herbert Grönemeyer (Sept. 23), and Finnish-Norwegian folkies Frigg (Sept. 29). And American artists, too, of course. See the complete September line-up here.

Non-musical artists, the Cedar could use your help. They’re looking for a local designer/artist to conceive and build a donation vessel to live on-site in the Cedar’s hall. Project budget: $3,000 to cover all expenses including materials and the commission fee. FMI and RFP. Deadline for submissions: Sept. 9.

Love the Film Society, hate the seats at its St. Anthony Main Theatre? The Business Journal reports that the $2 million renovation currently under way “will include digital projection technology, improved sound systems, new décor, new heating and air conditioning and new seating.” Theater co-owner John Rimarcik says the renovations should be complete by Thanksgiving. Our backs and butts thank you. The Film Society should save one of the worst seats and put it on display in a glass case in the lobby, as a reminder of our past suffering.

Courtesy of the MIA
Soundsuit, 2010, left, by Nick Cave, right.

The Friends of the Institute of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, who need a shorter name, have announced their 2013-14 Mary and Mark Fiterman Lecture Series. Sept. 12: Nick Cave (the Chicago-based visual artist, not the Australian musician of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds), “Body of Work.” Oct. 10: Henry John Drewal, “Making Sense of African Art: Yoruba Arts and Culture” (the MIA’s redesigned African art galleries reopen Nov. 10). Nov. 14: David Lowe, “The Artists of Montmartre.” Dec. 12: Alain Gruber, “The Splendour of Table Decoration in the Period of Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour” (ideas for your holiday table?). Jan. 9, 2014: Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel, M.D., “The Age of Insight: the Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain from Vienna 1900 to Present.” Feb. 3: Deborah Pierce, “Art Theft and the FBI” (Pierce is a former FBI special agent). March 13: Emily Allchurch, “Tokyo Story: Journey in the Footsteps of a Master.” April 10: Elyse Karlin, “Jewelry of the First Ladies.” May 8: Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt, “Michelangelo’s Genius: Nature vs. Nurture.” Thursdays at 11 a.m. in the museum’s Pillsbury Auditorium. Free and open to the public.

Rain Taxi Review of Books has announced the featured guest line-up for the Thirteenth Annual Twin Cities Book Festival. The actual festival takes place Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds; events kick off Thursday with a Pen Pals presentation in Hopkins by short story writer George Saunders and continues with the Friday Night Soiree, both ticketed events. The day-long festival of readings, panels, signings, the Used Book Sale, Lit Mag Fair, raffles, and more is free and open to the public. Participating authors include novelists Nicholson Baker (“The Anthologist”) and Mircea Cartarescu (“Nostalgia”); poets Rae Armantrout (“Just Saying”) and Minnesota native David Wojahn (“World Tree”); nonfiction authors Delia Ephron (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”), Howard Mohr (“How to Talk Minnesotan”), and Ytasha L. Womack (“Post Black: How a New Generation Is Redefining African American Identity”); and three-time Caldecott Medal-winning artist David Wiesner (“Tuesday,” “The Three Pigs,” “Flotsam”). FMI.

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grumpy cat
Courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair/Gene Pittman
“The Original Grumpy Cat” won the Golden Kitty, the Internet Cat Video Festival’s People’s Choice Award.

The people have purred. On Wednesday night at the State Fair Grandstand, “The Original Grumpy Cat” won the Golden Kitty, the Internet Cat Video Festival’s People’s Choice Award. If you weren’t among the 10,000 in the audience for the screening, here’s a playlist of selected videos.

Our picks for the weekend

Tonight (Friday, Aug. 30) and tomorrow at the Artists’ Quarter: JazzMN Orchestra. How will the 17-member JazzMN squeeze onto the stage at the St. Paul basement jazz establishment? Watching that happen is one reason to be there for JazzMN’s first-ever club dates. Now in its 15th year, this is a first-class big band of top Twin Cities players. Seeing them at the AQ will be a thrill. 9 p.m., $20 at the door. 408 St. Peter St. in the historic Hamm Building.

jazzmn orchestra
Courtesy of JazzMN Orchestra
Tonight (Friday, Aug. 30) and tomorrow at the Artists’ Quarter: JazzMN Orchestra.

Friday and Saturday at Public Functionary: “Sougwen Chung: Chiaro/Oscuro.” This is art best viewed at night, so the hours are 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday. Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist Sougwen uses light and dark, dense and delicate line drawings, digital manipulations, projection mapping and dimension to create an immersive experience that leads you from one piece, one pause to another. Friday includes activities: collaborative art-making, henna artists, live models and screen printing. If you can’t make it this weekend, visit the exhibition page to learn what’s happening on future Friday nights.

Sougwen Chung: Chiaro/Oscuro
Courtesy of Public Functionary
Sougwen Chung: Chiaro/Oscuro

Saturday at Stone’s Throw Urban Farm in south Minneapolis: “Agent Fidelio: A Picnic Operetta.” Now in its fifth year, the theater company Mixed Precipitation brings opera to gardens, orchards and parks, with snacks. This year’s offering: an adaptation of Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” a tale of whistle-blowers, media suppression, “hacktivists” and privatized prisons — sound familiar? Served with a sampling of locally sourced bites by chefs Nick Schneider (Café Brenda, Spoonriver) and Chris Roberts (Piccolo, Patisserie 46), it features a cast of 16 and music by Beethoven and Jimmy Cliff performed by a chamber orchestra. Suggested donation $10-$20. Reservations recommended; go here or call 1-800-838-3006. On Saturday it moves to the Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings. Reserve here or by phone. Performances are at 4 p.m. See the schedule for more dates through Sept. 15.

Today through Monday: the Fair. The People’s Choice awards are in, and these are voters’ favorite vendors: Henna Art by Sole Shine (Best Product or Service), Carl’s Gizmo Sandwich (Best Food or Beverage), Eco Experience, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (Best Attraction), Hamline Church Dining Hall (Best Value), Mancini’s Al Fresco (Best Customer Service). Especially on Monday, the last day, there’s an air of melancholy, a lees-of-summer feel that leaves you wanting that last cheese curd, Pronto Pup and ride on the Ferris wheel.

Photo by Lisa Venticinque
Wednesday at the Dakota: Nancy Harms

Wednesday at the DakotaNancy Harms CD Release. Harms grew up in Clara City, started teaching school in Milaca, then realized she wanted to be a singer. She moved to the Twin Cities and was performing in public within the year. Today she lives in New York and sings in legendary clubs like Birdland and Smalls. She’s coming home to release her second CD, “Dreams in Apartments,” a mix of originals and standards that tell her story of restlessness, change and reinvention. Here’s our CD review. 7 p.m., $10 at the door. FMI.