Sculpture Garden renovation plans firming up; Heart of the Beast facing financial challenges

Photo by Courtney Perry
The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board has received $10 million in public funding for Sculpture Garden renovations.

After 25 years and more than 8 million visitors, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s infrastructure needs attention. Areas identified as “deterioriated and inadequate” by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board are irrigation, drainage and stormwater systems, walkways and retaining walls. Accessibility and energy efficiency require updating, and the glass-enclosed Cowles Conservatory, home to Frank Gehry’s “Standing Glass Fish,” is due for renovation.

The MPRB has received $10 million in public funding for the project: $8.5 in state bonding funds from the Minnesota Legislature in May, and up to $1.5 million from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization. Water is a particular problem in the low-lying garden, which was built on a former marshland. Mary Abbe reports that the Oslund and Associates landscape architecture firm and Snow Kreilich Architects are likely to be chosen for the project. If approved by the MPRB at its meeting in early September, a community engagement process will begin in October. Construction will start in July 2015 and end in Fall 2016. The garden and conservatory will be closed to the public during that time.

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre is in financial straits. A perfect storm of events – the expiration of a multiyear operating support grant; a drop in the appraised value of HOBT’s home, the Avalon Theatre, and the immediate need to refinance the mortgage to the tune of $20,000; and the untimely reduction of a line of credit – has depleted cash reserves at the 40-year-old nonprofit. Staff and programming will be reduced, but HOBT vows to fulfill its contractual and financial obligations: an educational partnership with the Phillips Project; an appearance at the State Fair; co-hosting the Handmade Worlds Festival with Open Eye Figure Theatre in September; staging this year’s holiday show, La Natividad, with St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and the Basilica of St. Mary’s. Planning for the annual MayDay Parade and Festival, HOBT’s signature event, will begin in the fall.

The HOBT board has pledged to match every dollar donated by Aug. 31 to meet a $15,000 goal. Donations can be made through the website. The website is not quite up to date – there’s no mention there of the board matching donations – but we confirmed this with board chair Kirstin Wiegmann, who emphasized that “anything donated directly to the website will go to general operating or programming.” What’s the next step for HOBT? “Right now, we’re focusing on developing a sound and secure budget we can go forward with, making sure we have all our ducks in a row and that our year is really positive. … This is a challenging time, but we’re in good spirits and excited about what’s next for the theater. We greatly appreciate community support, now and always.” Like most arts organizations, HOBT has weathered similar storms in the past. Its importance to the community was underscored earlier this year, when artistic director Sandy Spieler received the 2014 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award.

Arts on Chicago, an arts-based community development project in Minneapolis, has been awarded a 2014 Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grant. The $196,700, two-year grant allows the group to continue its creative placemaking work in the neighborhoods of Central, Powderhorn, Bancroft and Bryant. Arts on Chicago is a collaborative of four nonprofit organizations – Pillsbury House + Theatre, Upstream Arts, the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association, and The Third Place – and the Ward 8 council office of Elizabeth Glidden. At the conclusion of the two-year grant, Arts on Chicago will draft a Creative Community Development Play.

Arts on Superior in Two Harbors also received a Community Innovation Grant. It will use its $42,240, two-year grant to continue hosting a monthly forum that encourages the community to share ideas on how to improve their city’s economic, social and cultural status.

Individual tickets to the SPCO’s 2014–15 season are now on sale – all except events that will take place in the new, now-being-built Ordway Concert Hall (March 13 to June 6). The season begins with Beethoven on Sept. 13-14, then moves to Bach, Handel and Vivaldi, tours Florence with Tchaikovsky and comes to Beethoven for the Fifth. Roberto Abbado will conduct opening night. Here’s the calendar.

What we’re reading: Laurie Hertzel’s piece on New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger. If you want, you can meet him in person tonight (see below). 

The Picks

Tonight (Tuesday, Aug. 19) at the Minnesota History Center: Okee Dokee Brothers. The Grammy-winning, Parents’ Choice Award-winning duo sings songs that make us want to run outdoors and enjoy nature. It’s bluegrass, folk and mountain music for the whole family, for real. Pre-show activities (lawn games, bubbles and toys) from 5:30–7:30 p.m., dance instruction (clogging) at 6:30, music at 7:15. Bring a chair or blanket and a picnic. In case of rain, the show will move inside to the History Center’s auditorium. You might want to arrive early for this one. Free.

Tonight at the Dakota: Davell Crawford. “The Prince of New Orleans,” Crawford is a force of nature, a gifted young pianist and vocalist who draws from the wells of traditional jazz, gospel, funk and R&B. His grandfather is James “Sugar Boy” Crawford; his godmother is Roberta Flack. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).

Tonight at Once Upon a Crime: William Kent Krueger publication launch and Edgar Award Party. Today’s the pub date for Krueger’s latest Cork O’Connor mystery, “Windigo Island,” and he’s beginning his national tour here at the indie bookstore on West 26th. Pat and Gary at Once Upon a Crime will also use this occasion to congratulate Krueger on the Edgar he won last May. There will be wine and cake, discounted copies of “Windigo,” and the paperback edition of Edgar winner “Ordinary Grace.” 7 p.m. Free.

Thursday at the Minneapolis Central Library: “All About Bees.” Crystal Boyd, an entomologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, will talk about our native bees, bee research, recent pollinator legislation and what makes a bee-friendly backyard. Stay after to see the Eloise Butler Wildflower Florilegium Exhibit and watch artists demo botanical painting techniques. Reception at 6:30 p.m., program at 7. Register here. Free.

The Weekend

Opens Saturday at the Goldstein Museum of Design: “A Right to Establish a Home.” In August 1931, Arthur and Edith Lee bought a house at 46th and Columbus in south Minneapolis. They were black; the neighborhood was white. This new exhibit puts the protests and responses that followed in the broader context of race and housing in Minneapolis, racism in Minnesota, and the individuals and organizations that defended the Lees. Opening reception 6 to 8 p.m. Free. (In July, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Here’s Steve Brandt’s story for the Strib.)

Plan Ahead

A partnership between the SPCO, Minnesota Opera, Ordway, Schubert Club, and Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Concrete and Grass is a charmingly diverse event in a beautiful location, Mears Park in St. Paul’s Lowertown. This year’s line-up is still being finalized, but so far it includes a SPCO chamber ensemble playing Beethoven, singer-songwriter Martin Devaney (formerly of the hip-hop ensemble Heiruspecs), Prairie Fire Lady Choir, the Latin band Salsa Del Sol, the Adam Meckler Big Band (original jazz), the classical Ancia Saxophone Quartet, members of the Minnesota Opera, and Breaking Brass, a New Orleans-style brass band from McNally Smith. Save the dates: Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 4-6. Free.

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