Minnesota arts groups, schools get $1 million in grants from NEA

Courtesy of Franconia Sculpture Park
Franconia Sculpture Park’s $15,000 in NEA money will
support its artist residency program.

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded $1,085,000 in Art Works grants to 38 Minnesota arts organizations and schools. The big winners are Children’s Theatre Company and School ($100,000 for new works), Coffee House Press ($90,000 for new books of fiction and poetry), MacPhail Center for Music ($80,000 for Early Childhood Music teaching artists and classroom teachers), Minnesota Opera ($75,000 for “The Manchurian Candidate”), Graywolf Press ($60,000 for new books of poetry and Chinese poetry in translation) and Milkweed Editions ($60,000 for new works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction). Grants also went to St. John’s University; Katha, Ananya and Ragamala Dance companies; the Guthrie, Mixed Blood and the Playwrights’ Center; the American Composers Forum and the Twin Cities Jazz Festival; the Ordway and the SPCO; among others.

Franconia Sculpture Park’s $15,000 in NEA money will support its artist residency program, which awards fully-funded residency fellowships to emerging and mid-career artists to create and exhibit large-scale, three-dimensional artwork at the park. John Hock, Franconia’s artistic director, said in a statement, “The NEA’s support of this program is vital to expanding the portfolio of American art and providing Americans the opportunity to engage and experience art in an unfettered rural setting.” Located on 25 acres in Shafer, Minnesota, in the St. Croix River Valley, Franconia may be least fettered and most rural in the winter, its sculptures in the snow. The park is open dawn to dusk, 365 days/year, and always free.

New NEA chair Jane Chu said nice things about Minnesota when she arrived last month to help Minnesota Citizens for the Arts celebrate its 40th birthday: “Minnesota understands how to bring together the pieces that create an artistic environment; not only for appreciating the beauty of the arts themselves, but also the value that the arts have in our everyday lives.” She had special praise for the Legacy Amendment: “This amendment groups together some of life’s most basic necessities: Clean rivers. Unpolluted land. It suggests that the arts are just as fundamental a part of our world as our lakes and prairies; and they are just as vital to our well-being as a healthy environment.”

Lanesboro Arts in Lanesboro has won a 2014 Bush Prize for Community Innovation. Not long ago, Lanesboro was a small town on the Root River with an aging population, few jobs and a vacant downtown. Today it’s a destination for arts lovers and tourists. Underused green spaces have been transformed into gathering places, and historic buildings house the arts. Lanesboro Arts has become a national model for arts-focused rural development. It will receive $123,528 over two years.

In Minnesota, “poetry is a public pastime,” Marianne Combs said on MPR’s Daily Circuit earlier this week. “Poetry is everywhere you look. You can literally stumble across it, embedded in the sidewalks of St. Paul.” In this worthy listen, Combs considers whether poetry is enjoying a modern renaissance in our fair state. She’s joined by Bao Phi, poet/spoken word artist and program director at the Loft, Graywolf Press executive editor Jeff Shotts, and Motionpoetry’s Todd Boss.

The Picks

Let’s all go hear some music.

Friday at the Cedar: Omar Souleyman. East meets West on the dance floor in the music of Souleyman, a Syrian who sings in Arabic and Kurdish and combines traditional songs with synthesizer and trance-inducing techno rhythms. Here he is performing at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize concert. Vacation Dad opens. A standing show, co-presented with the Walker Art Center; Mizna is a sponsor. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8. FMI and tickets ($25/$30).

Saturday at the Parkway: New Orleans Night. Love brass bands and the sounds of NOLA? Based in Madison, Wisconsin, Mama Digdown’s Brass Band is an eight-piece brass band at home in traditional music, funk, soul, street and Michael Jackson. Minneapolis’ Southside Aces (clarinet, Sousaphone, guitar, trumpet, drums, trombone) is old-school cool and modern shimmy, adept at Duke Ellington and Lady Gaga. Sousaphonist Erik Jacobson leads both. The Aces start at 7 p.m., Mama Digdown’s at 8:30. FMI and tickets ($15).

Monday at First Avenue: 35th Annual John Lennon Tribute. Every year for the anniversary of Lennon’s death, Curtiss A puts on a show with a little help from his friends. The imminent closing of Nye’s Polonaise Room – and the news that a high-rise will be built in its place – is just another reminder that nothing lasts forever. If you’ve been saying for years that someday you’ll see Curtiss A’s John Lennon show (we, um, know someone like that), don’t sleep. Here’s a taste from 2011. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15).

Holiday fare

Saturday and Sunday in the Baroque Room: A Baroque Christmas. Traditional carols, Renaissance and Baroque classics performed by John West (recorder), David Ross (baroque flute), Marc Levine (baroque violin), Tulio Rondon (baroque cello), Phillip Rukavina (lute), and Tami Morse (harpsichord). The program includes Bach’s Second Orchestral Suite in B minor and Telemann’s Double Concerto for Flute and Recorder in E minor. 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($15/$10).

Sunday at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul: TubaChristmas. We stumbled on this and had to share. Local tubists and maybe some euphonium players will gather at the church to play classic Yuletide tunes in four-part harmony. First, they’ll rehearse, and they’ve been given these instructions: “Decorate instrument and self.” This is listed on the website as “27th Anniversary” so they’ve done it before. 4 p.m. Free will donation.

Sunday, Dec. 14 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater: The SPCO plays Bach’s Brandenburgs. One concert, all six of Bach’s bright, sprightly masterpieces. It’s not officially holiday music, but somehow the Brandenburgs have become an SPCO holiday tradition, and nobody seems to mind. This date is your best chance at tickets; all the earlier concerts – on Dec. 11 at Temple Israel, Dec. 12 at Wayzata Community Church and Dec. 13 at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ – are sold out or nearly so. Tickets here

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