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‘Balancing Ground’ wins public-art challenge; Ordway to do singalong ‘Grease’

ALSO: Second ‘Music of Downton Abbey’ scheduled; “Peter and the Starcatcher” at the Orpheum; meet composers at McKnight Salon; and more.

The $75,000 commission for 'Balancing Ground' will be shared by a team led by Amanda Lovelee, a visual artist and city artist-in-residence for St. Paul.

The winner of this year’s Creative City Challenge project is “Balancing Ground,” an interactive space with reflective prisms overhead and talking see-saws below. The $75,000 commission will be shared by a team led by Amanda Lovelee, a visual artist and city artist-in-residence for St. Paul. The winner was determined by public vote, and hurray for voters who chose what looks like a fun and thought-provoking space to visit – part playground, part chapel. “Balancing Ground” will debut at the Minneapolis Convention Center on June 14 as part of the Northern Spark festival. FMI including a video with toy dinosaurs.

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The Ordway has announced its 2014-15 season, a buffet of 17 performances from right here and around the world. If you love “Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music” (which returns Saturday, March 22, by the way; tickets are still available for both the 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. shows), get in line for “Sing-a-Long-a-Grease” in July. In August, “Evita: the Musical” by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber returns, followed in October by the Tony-winning Broadway musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” featuring songs by the Gershwins. This year’s holiday offering is “A Christmas Story: the Musical” in a new staging, set for Nov. 29-Dec. 28. In March, “The Illusionists” makes magic on the Ordway stage; in April, “The Pirates of Penzance” precedes a new touring production of “Camelot” in May. (Note to self: send note to Ordway suggesting “Sing-a-Long-a-Camelot.”) A new Ordway production of “Damn Yankees” closes the season in August.

Photo by Eric Chazankin
This year’s holiday offering from the Ordway is “A Christmas Story: the Musical”

The Ordway promises two new “Broadway Songbook” programs and a “Broadway Songbook” Minnesota tour in the fall of 2014. On the World Music and Dance schedule: Twin Cities resident and Dakota favorite Nachito Herrera and his Cuban Orchestra on Oct. 5, the Creole Choir of Cuba on Oct. 22, and Afro-Cuban dance-theater company Contra-Tiempe on Feb. 7, 2015. Also in 2015: Ivory Coast singer/dancer/percussionist Dobet Gnahoré in January, Camille A. Brown and Dancers in February (this show will take place at O’Shaughnessy,” and Diavolo in April, performing a new work co-commissioned by the Ordway. In between – drum roll – Cherish the Ladies will perform on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) in the new Ordway Concert Hall.

Nineteen Minnesotans have been named 2014 Bush Fellows for exceptional leadership in their respective fields. Four are leaders in the arts. They include Tane Danger, co-founder and host of the improv comedy troupe Theater of Public Policy; Somali artist Nimo Farah; journalist, playwright and communications consultant Syl Jones; and Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts. Winners will receive between $50,000 and $100,000. What they do with the money is up to them, although each has declared an intent. Danger will pursue a degree from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Farah will work toward a master of arts in leadership. Jones will pursue a master’s degree in narrative medicine at Columbia University, then work with physicians and public health officials on films, theatrical presentations and journalism to move our region to create a more equitable health-care system. Zabel will engage with a national network of colleagues to develop strategies to help communities see artists as problem-solvers. The Bush Foundation once awarded generous Artist Fellowships to 15 artists each year. In 2010, those fellowships were discontinued and replaced by a broader program encompassing more disciplines.

After 14 years of managing the United Arts Fund, a re-granting program that supports many local arts organizations through funds donated in workplace giving campaigns, COMPAS (Community Programs in the Arts) has passed those duties on to Community Shares of Minnesota, a workplace giving organization. COMPAS will focus on its core mission – bringing art to people by pairing professional, trained artists with schools and other community organizations – and Community Shares will do more of what it already does really well for social-justice nonprofit organizations, with employer relationships, human resources and administrative efficiencies already in place, so more of every dollar donated will go directly to the recipient artists and organizations. COMPAS calls this “a win-win all around.” Through a cooperative agreement, contributors will see no difference in their United Arts Fund interactions during 2014.

Last Friday we made Gremlin Theatre’s production of Tennessee Williams’ seldom-seen “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” a pick for the weekend. Almost immediately, we had to add an update; due to a last-minute snafu with the venue, the plug was pulled and the play was suspended. But this is Minnesota, and thanks to offers of help and support, the show will go on starting this Thursday, March 13, at the Studio next to Open Eye Figure Theatre at 508 E. 5th Street in Minneapolis. Susan Haas of Open Eye reached out, Gremlin toured the space, and, according to a jubilant press release issued Sunday, “the fit couldn’t be better. The show will go on!” The setting is a ground-floor studio apartment; seating is just for 40, putting the audience in the midst of the characters’ lives. Appropriately, the press release begins with this quote from the play: “We must pull ourselves together and go on. Go on, we must just go on.” FMI and tickets ($25). Through March 23. Lucky break, Gremlin. Nice work, Theater Community.

Graywolf Press, the prize-winning juggernaut, has a horse in this year’s PEN/Faulkner fiction award race. The list of five finalists includes Percival Everett’s “Percival Everett by Virgil Russell,” published by Graywolf. The other finalists are Daniel Alarcon’s “At Night We Walk in Circles” (Riverhead Books), Karen Joy Fowler’s “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” (Putnam), Joan Siber’s “Fools” (W.W. Norton), and Valerie Trueblood’s “Search Party: Stories of Rescue” (Counterpoint Press). The winner, announced April 2, will receive $15,000; the four finalists will receive $5,000 each. This year’s judges were Madison Smart Bell, Manuel Muñoz and Achy Obejas. 

Starting March 14, the Walker will raise its adult admission fees to $14 from $12, a $2 bump. The Strib’s Mary Abbe did a good deed by reporting that fact, then doing a quick survey of other museum fees around the Twin Cities metro. Are there some museums you visit often, or would like to visit more often? Membership has its privileges, and breezing through the door is one. 

If you missed the “Music of Downton Abbey” concert at St. Mark’s Episcopal last Saturday because it sold out, you may now ring your little bell. A second concert has been added for this Saturday, March 15, in the same place at the same time (7:30 p.m.). It does sound like a lot of fun: the “Downton Abbey Suite” by series soundtrack composer John Lunn, period pieces by Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and others, sing-along hymns (“Rule, Britannia!”), and a costumed narrator, plus performances by soprano Maria Jette and baritone Philip Zawisza. FMI and tickets ($25).

The 2014 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is less than a month away. New this year: As well as taking over all five screens of the St. Anthony Main Theatre, the festival will screen selected titles in the brand-new, state-of-the-art 168-seat theater at the renovated Northrop, located in a “found” space under the third balcony that became available when the back wall of the auditorium was pushed forward. In addition, several 3-D titles will screen at the Walker’s refurbished cinema. Oh, and by the way, the brand-new official website is now live, with the complete listing of all 250+ Festival films. Lookin’ very, very good, Film Society.

Way to muck things up, Amtrak. What was once a great and glorious idea – writers’ residencies on trains – has become a bureaucratic, butt-covering hash written by the Fun Police. And it wasn’t even your idea to begin with, Amtrak; it started as a wishful tweet, made the rounds, and someone on your end said “Sure, let’s give it a try.” Between Jessica Gross’s dreamy report for the Paris Review and whenever this went up, your marketing department and lawyers pounded out 3,000 words of stern and jargony Official Terms including a Grant of Rights that gives you “the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy Applicant’s Application, in whole or in part, for any purpose.” Tip: Writers hate that.

Our picks for the week

Tonight at the Burnet Gallery at Le Meridien Chambers Hotel: Panel discussion on “Living and Sustaining a Creative Life.” How do artists make a living these days? For artists, obviously, but also for anyone who enjoys the arts, the panel will be moderated by artist Sharon Louden, editor of “Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists.” Panelists will include artists Chris Larson, Andrea Stanislav, and Justin Quinn, plus Carter Foster, curator of drawings for the Whitney Museum of American Art. Cocktails & lite fare available. 6-8 p.m. Free and open to the public. Doors at 5:50. Kindly RSVP to

Opens tonight at the Orpheum: “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Based on the best-selling novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, the five-time Tony-winning musical is a grown-up’s prequel to Peter Pan. The original Broadway set was made almost entirely of recycled materials. In that spirit, the show’s proscenium is built from reusable items sent by the four cities on the tour (Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, Dallas). Our contributions include children’s toy figures, old silverware, buttons and whopper poppers. FMI and tickets. Through March 16. As you walk down Hennepin to the theatre, check out the “Made Here” storefront window at 705 Hennepin Ave., created by local artists and inspired by the show.

Thursday at the Minneapolis Central Library: Poetry Out Loud State Competition. High-school students compete to represent Minnesota at the 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Finals this April in Washington, D.C. Only one will win. 11:30 a.m., Pohlad Hall. Free and open to the public.

© Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.
Edward Hopper, 1882-1967 Study for Office at Night, 1940 Fabricated chalk on paper 8 1/2 x 11 in. (21.6 x 27.9 cm) Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.167a-b

Opens Thursday at the Walker: Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process.” If you’ve been to the Walker, you’ve probably lingered before Edward Hopper’s “Office at Night,” one of the jewels in the museum’s permanent collection. Through June 20, it’s part of a new show that pairs major Hopper paintings with their preparatory drawings and related works, many of which have never before been on display or researched. More and more, museums are letting us in on the steps leading up to major works; this happens at the MIA’s “Matisse” exhibition as well, and it only makes us smarter. The Walker is celebrating Hopper with an opening-night party, one of its free First Thursday events. Dress up as someone from the 1930s or ’40s, enjoy a period cocktail from the cash bar, watch a screening of “The Savage Eye,” a film Hopper loved, try your hand at drawing in the Old School Art School, take a selfie in the “Office at Night” photo booth, and don’t forget to check out the show. 5-9 p.m.

Thursday at the Weisman: First Books Reading. There’s nothing quite like getting your first book published, no one quite as enthusiastic as a first-time author. Meet three, hear them roar, um, read, and listen as they talk about the path to publication with Coffee House Press publisher and editor Chris Fischbach. Kate Hopper will read from her first memoir, “Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood.” Joshua Ostergaard will present “The Devil’s Snake Curve: A Fan’s Notes from Left Field.” And Andy Sturdevant, who writes MinnPost’s column “The Stroll,” will share his essay collection “Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow.” Free and open to the public. 7-8:30 p.m.

Thursday at the Landmark Center: McKnight Salon. Originally scheduled for one of those horrible, below-zero, icy and probably stormy nights from which we are only now emerging (fingers crossed), this annual event features the current year’s McKnight Composer Fellows in conversation and performances of work they’ve done this year. Meet and hear Joshua Musikantow, Scott Miller, Randy Bauer, and David Evan Thomas. 7 p.m., Courtroom 430. Free and open to the public. Hosted by the American Composers Forum.

Closes this weekend at Open Window Theatre: “A Man for All Seasons.” When Robert Bolt’s historical-drama-turned-film opened on Broadway in 2008, parallels were drawn between Sir Thomas More’s story and the hot political issues of the day: the separation of church and state, government’s role in private beliefs, freedom of conscience, the role of organizations in matters of faith and morals. Those issues are even hotter today, and this play is a lens through which to view them. Gabriele Angieri is Thomas More, Meri Golden is Alice More, Charles Numrich is the Duke of Norfolk in a staging directed by Joe Hendren. Tonight through Sunday, March 16. FMI and tickets ($24).