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MN Orchestra settlement spurs reactions near and far, positive and negative

ALSO: New shows at Northern Clay Center; Walker loses chief curator to NYC; a weeklong furlough at the Guthrie; and more.

Orchestra Hall will see Minnesota Orchestra concerts in February.
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

The end of the 15-month lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra musicians made news all over. Responses ranged from elated to cautionary. NPR: “Strike up the band!” The New York Times: “The orchestra is facing daunting challenges.” The Washington Post: “The contract represents something that was starting to seem impossible in the increasingly hostile environment: a genuine compromise from both sides.” Chicago-based arts consultant and blogger Drew McManus: “By all means, be happy that the lockout has come to an end, but wait patiently for the full details before forming conclusions and question everything.” The Guardian: “One of the US’s finest orchestras will be back in February in its own hall, playing so-called ‘homecoming’ concerts for the people it owes the most to – the concertgoers of Minneapolis.”

Blogger Scott Chamberlain praised the musicians: “Without a formal, practical background in this area, you created and maintained your own concert season. (In the future, when we look back at the whole debacle, that may be the most remarkable development of all.) MPR’s Euan Kerr notes that “in many ways the hard work is just beginning … there are huge logistical issues to overcome,” including moving into the new hall and unpacking the music library. Alex Ross, who gave the orchestra some of its highest praise and lobbed some of the most memorable stingers at management during the lockout, is on sabbatical. If you haven’t read Doug Grow’s thoughtful take on what lies ahead, you can find it here.

Some commentators stuck pins in our party balloons. British author and arts blogger Norman Lebrecht: “Peace has been declared in Minneapolis. But who wins? No-one. The Minnesota Orchestra today is a broken reed.” The World Socialist Web Site: “The musicians fought courageously for 16 months … Their defeat at the hands of Minnesota’s political and financial elite marks another step in the nationwide assault on the social right to culture.” And the Strib’s editorial board: “If nothing else, the 15-month standoff should convince both sides that a status quo approach is not acceptable. Artistic excellence is no longer enough.”

Leonard Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (and of our own Sommerfest from 1980-89), told the Times, “The biggest thing they have to do now is not about the music – it’s about reconnecting with everybody in the Twin Cities.” Slatkin has been there, done that; the DSO almost went under three years ago. It’s back in the black today in a city so strapped for cash it has been considering selling the contents of its own art museum.

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Is there a chance that Osmo Vänskä will return? KSTP blogged, “[We] stopped by Vanska’s home to ask him that question in person. But when we buzzed him to get let in, he didn’t answer.” Maybe because he wasn’t there? Graydon Royce wrote, “Vänskä was flying from Finland to Israel on Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.” Royce also reported the “tantalizing item” that appeared in Finland’s main newspaper: that “in response to Facebook pleas for his return to Minnesota, the conductor reportedly posted: ‘I’m going to try! But they have to ask me!’ ” At least Vänskä, who’s doing a lot of guest conducting, hasn’t taken another job in the interim.

While the musicians prepare to return to work, the full-time staff at the Guthrie will get a week off in January without pay. About 120 employees will be furloughed while the theaters are dark (public tours resume Feb. 7, but no plays are scheduled until Feb. 13, when “Tristan & Yseult” opens) and workers perform routine maintenance. Carpets will be cleaned, floors refinished, and house-light operating systems replaced. The Guthrie’s director of external relations, Trish Santini, told MPR’s Marianne Combs that the furlough is not linked to last year’s $438,000 deficit, the theater’s first in 18 years.

victoria theater
Photo by Aaron Rubenstein
Victoria Theater at 825 University Avenue

If all goes well, Frogtown will one day have a community-owned and managed arts center, with space for arts engagement, education, and performance. The Twin Cities Community Land Bank is purchasing St. Paul’s historic and long-vacant Victoria Theater at 825 University Avenue, between an Ethiopian restaurant and a planned commercial/residential redevelopment project. The Land Bank’s purchase is on behalf of the Victoria Theater Arts Initiative (VTAI), which intends to revitalize the building. Built in 1915, the theater has served as a silent movie house, nightclub, cabaret, café and lamp store. It narrowly escaped demolition before being named a historic preservation site by the City of St. Paul in 2011. Learning about the Victoria, we thought immediately of the Capri in North Minneapolis, which is now an anchor in its community. 

Courtesy of the Wakler/Mitro Hood Photography
Darsie Alexander

The Walker’s chief curator, Darsie Alexander, has been named the new executive director of the Katonah Museum of Art in New York. She will start there on March 1. Alexander came to the Walker in early 2009 from the Baltimore Museum of Art, where she was senior curator of contemporary arts. At the Walker, she oversaw programs in exhibitions, visual arts, design, performing arts, and film/video, along with the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The BMA was an encyclopedic museum; the Walker is a contemporary art center; the Katonah is a non-collecting museum that hosts a dozen or so art exhibits each year but doesn’t have a permanent collection. While at the Walker, Alexander brought us “Benches & Binoculars,” talked John Waters into guest curating “Absentee Landlord,” and orchestrated the purchase of the 3,000-object Merce Cunningham Dance Archive, one of the Walker’s most important acquisitions to date. Her “International Pop” opens at the Walker in 2015 before traveling to Dallas and Philadelphia. Olga Viso, the Walker’s executive director, is “delighted to have a new colleague among the museum director ranks.” Viso will oversee curatorial affairs at the Walker “as we search for new curatorial talent for the team.”

When congressional leaders unveiled the Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill earlier this week, arts advocates breathed a sigh of relief. The bill includes $146 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which took a $7.3 million sequestration hit in FY 2013. Also included: $25 million in funding for the Arts in Education program at the U.S. Department of Education. Earlier, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed reducing the NEA by 49 percent, and efforts were made to zero out Arts in Education. The Omnibus bill is expected to pass Congress this weekend.

Many jazz fans know the voice of Leigh Kamman. He spent 60 years in broadcasting, most in the Twin Cities, first at WLOL, then KSTP-AM, and then, starting in 1973, at MPR as host of “The Jazz Image,” where his final broadcast was Sept. 29, 2007. He interviewed hundreds of jazz artists including Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan and Stan Kenton. Starting this week — on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11:30 a.m. — Jazz88 KBEM (88.5 FM) is broadcasting a series of 13 painstakingly restored and edited interviews, including fresh commentary from Kamman. Listen during broadcast times or online anytime. The first episode, “Count Basie,” is available now. An audio wayback machine, complete with the sound of Alice Babs, the series was made possible by the Legacy Amendment.

So were the $4.2 million in Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage grants handed out Wednesday to dozens of organizations in 47 counties throughout the state. The Minnesota Historical Society, which administers the grants, announced the newest recipients of 111 grants to nonprofit and educational organizations, government units and tribal organizations. Among the big winners: the City of Granite Falls, which received $153,990 to stabilize and restore the foundation and footings of the Andre J. Volstead House, a National Historic Landmark used as a community reception space; the Wabasha County Historical Society, $303,410 for the exterior rehabilitation of Reads Landing School, also on the National Register and currently used as a museum; the University of Minnesota, Duluth, $100,000 to begin researching and drafting a scholarly manuscript on the history of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; and the Dakota County Historical Society, $25,200 to research, finalize and design an exhibit on the beginnings of the computer industry in Minnesota. Here’s the complete list of grantees.

The next Talk of the Stacks season has been announced. Now in its eighth year, hosted by Friends of the Hennepin County Library, this free series brings top authors to the downtown Minneapolis library for readings and discussions. Feb. 8: Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine contributing editor and author of “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting.” March 7: novelist and short story writer Lorrie Moore (“Bark”). April 3: poet Ron Padgett (“Collected Poems,” new from Coffee House). May 12: novelist Francine Prose (“Reading like a Writer,” “Lovers at the Chameleon Club Paris 1932”). All events at 7 p.m., doors at 6:15.

In case you’re already dreading the end of Season 4 of “Downton Abbey,” the Oratorio Society of Minnesota has a palliative for you: a “Music of Downton Abbey” concert scheduled for Saturday, March 8, just one week after the final credits air on TPT. Over 100 choral and orchestral musicians will take a tour of post-Edwardian England, pairing musical selections with memorable events from the series. Actress Marsha Smith will play the role of a fictional visitor to Downton Abbey and convey the history of each piece to the audience. The music will include one world premiere and two U.S. premieres of recently rediscovered works from the era, music by the series’ Emmy-winning composer John Lunn, and sing-along hymns including “Jerusalem” and “Rule, Britannia!” 7:30 p.m. at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church. FMI and tickets ($20/$10). Funded, in part, by Legacy money.

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Our picks for the weekend and Monday

Courtesy of Northern Clay Center
Bowl by Karen McPherson

Tonight at Northern Clay Center: Opening reception for “Three Jerome Artists” and “Fogelberg, Red Wing, and APS Artists.” The main gallery features work by Michael Arnold (wood-fired, wheel-thrown pottery made primarily from Minnesota clay), Karen McPherson (hand-built vessels for plants), and Ginny Sims (decorative motifs on majolica-based surfaces), all recipients of 2013 Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grants. In the Emily Galusha Gallery: work by award-winning artists Kevin Rohde (Baltimore), Josh Stover (Palm Beach), Colleen Riley and Adam Gruetzmacher. Artists lecture and talk at 4:30 p.m., reception 6-8 p.m. Free.

Tonight through Sunday at the Lab Theater: “Antigone.” The students of the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts tackle Sophocles’ great tragedy, third of the Theban plays. Oedipus is dead, and things are about to go south for his sons and daughters. 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, noon Sunday. Tickets here ($10).

Saturday at Hopkins Center for the Arts: Leon Bates. The classical pianist performs works by African American composers in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Concert: 8 p.m. Social: 7 p.m. Pre-concert talk by Bates: 7:15 – 7:45. FMI and tickets ($24)Here’s Bates playing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Sunday at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church: “Rondo ’56.” In honor of MLK Day, pianist Dan Chouinard and friends – vocalists Yolande Bruce, Bruce Henry, Cynthia Johnson, T. Mychael Rambo, and a band with a horn section — remember St. Paul’s African American Main Street, pre-I-94, in songs, stories, and images. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20).

Sunday at the Ted Mann: 33rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute. With Bill Banfield and Jazz Urbane and performances by Ysaye Barnwell (Sweet Honey in the Rock), Yolanda Williams, and high school students from the FAIR School in Minneapolis. This concert honors both Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Reginald Buckner, U of M School of Music professor and founder of the concert. 4 p.m. Free and open to the public.   

Monday at the Cedar: “Henry … Mr. Bones, in Memory of John Berryman.” Composer and sound designer Greg Brosofske presents his 416 Club Commission, a journey through the language, imagery and rhythms of Minnesota poet John Berryman, who died a suicide in 1972. Brosofske will use a “fugue-like conversation between many musical voices” to mirror the style of Berryman’s best-known book, “The Dream Songs.” The performance will be followed by a reading and discussion of Berryman and his poems by writers including poet Michael Dennis Browne and Berryman scholar Richard Kelly. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30. Tickets here ($5) or at the door.