Sometime during the next year or two, we’ll see a “Romeo and Juliet” remake that pits the Latino Garcias against the Hmong Vangs, and a gender-bending production of “Pirates of Penzance.” The exterior of Walker West Music Academy will bloom with a large-scale permanent art installation by Ta-coumba Aiken. A St. Paul watertower will be transformed with a backlit stained-glass mural. Improvisational telegrams will be delivered to offices, parks and homes.
A 100-member flute chorus will perform with MacArthur Fellow and flutist Claire Chase. The Northern Spark Festival will take place along the Green Line. Instruments made of ice will sound at Winter Carnival, and tiny bronze bees will appear in St. Paul neighborhoods. Buy a cup of coffee and it might come in a sleeve featuring words by a local writer of color.
These ideas and more are among the 40 winners of the second round of the St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge. All 40 were announced Tuesday at a reception in Vandalia Tower by Knight’s new VP/Arts, Victoria Rogers, who was making her first official appearance in St. Paul. Nearly 600 ideas were submitted and 61 finalists were named in July.
Rogers confessed to being on the job just over five months, emphasized the importance of the arts in her own life, then told the crowd, “Here in St. Paul, we want you to have an encounter with art everywhere you go. Something that piques your interest, something that surprises and delights you, something that challenges the perceptions that we hold so deeply.”
This year’s big winners are Public Art Saint Paul ($115,000), which will create bee habitat environments throughout the city, and Northern Lights.mn ($100,000), which will hold the 2017 Northern Spark all-night arts festival along the Green Line. The smallest projects, funded at $5,000 each, include the coffee sleeves (by Coffee House Press), colorful flamenco processions down St. Paul streets (Deborah Elias Danza Española), and handmade, crank-operated music boxes in public spaces for anyone to play (Greg Herriges).
The winners have a year to find matching funds equal to Knight’s commitment. Most will succeed. It helps when you can tell potential donors that your idea was given the thumbs-up by Knight, one of the nation’s largest grantmaking foundations.
The three-year, $4.5-million Knight Arts Challenge was announced in January 2014, along with $3.5 million in outright grants to five arts organizations: the Ordway’s Arts Partnership, Penumbra Theatre, Springboard for the Arts, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and TU Dance. The $8 million investment was a vote of confidence in St. Paul as a city serious about the arts.
The 42 winners of the challenge’s first round were revealed in September 2014. How are they doing? Several projects are complete, some are in process, and some winners are still working on securing their match.
A few early fruits: Snelling Avenue has a series of vibrant new murals. Ananya Dance has presented its new work “Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine” at O’Shaughnessy and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy. IFP Minnesota recently launched its screenwriting residency.
The “smallest museum in St. Paul” is up and running in a vintage firehose cabinet at Raymond/University on the Green Line, outside WorkHorse Coffee Bar. Button Poetry launched a monthly series of spoken-word performances and workshops on Monday. The Saint Paul Classical Musical Crawl – more than 110 free classical mini-concerts in 10 locations over eight hours – will happen this Saturday, Oct. 10, during the Saint Paul Art Crawl.
Applications for round three of the Challenge opens in April. Start thinking now about your best idea for the arts in St. Paul. Learn more here about the winners.
Tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 7) at the American Swedish Institute: Veterans of Orphei Drängar Concert. The 35-voice, all-male choir from Stockholm, Sweden, performs in both Swedish and English. Their repertoire includes songs by Nordic composers Edvard Grieg, Hugo Alfven and Jean Sibelius, and international hits “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Fever” and more. 7 p.m. FMI and registration ($15/$20).
Thursday at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul campus: “Why Love Letters Matter, Even in the Digital Age.” In a national study of more than 800 people from 18-89, Whitman College (Washington) sociologist Michelle Janning found that 88 percent saved their love letters. “Love letters matter,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “They become our relationship counselors.” Janning’s study appears in her forthcoming book, “Family Communication in an Age of Digital and Social Media.” Her talk is part of the Healthy Relationship series sponsored by St. Thomas’s Family Studies program, but it’s free and open to everyone. 6 p.m. in the Great Room (Room 100) of McNeely Hall.
Starts Thursday: Cantus: The Four Loves. The esteemed men’s vocal ensemble begins its 2015-16 season with an ambitious exploration of love in four manifestations: romantic, familial, friendly and unconditional. The program includes premieres by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang, Ysaye Barnwell (formerly of Sweet Honey in the Rock), Roger Treece and Joseph Gregorio, plus music by Beethoven, Poulenc and Grieg and a Kurt Elling song (“These Clouds Are Heavy, You Dig”). 7:30 p.m. at MacPhail’s lovely Antonello Hall. FMI and tickets. Barnwell and Gregorio will be in the house on opening night. Also Saturday, Oct. 10 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater; Friday, Oct. 16 at Colonial Church of Edina; Saturday, Oct. 17 at the Ordway Concert Hall; and Sunday, Oct. 8 at Saint Bartholomew Catholic Church in Wayzata.
Thursday at the History Theatre: “Glensheen.” We’re hearing nothing but raves for this wicked new musical, a sordid true tale of wealth, greed, and murder in a Duluth mansion, told by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher and composer Chan Poling of the New Standards and the Suburbs. With Jennifer Maren as Marjorie Caldwell, Dane Stauffer as Roger, and the incomparable Wendy Lehr as heiress Elisabeth Congdon, nurse Velma Pietila and a criminal defense attorney named Beshmesher, heh. FMI and tickets ($15-$45). Ends Oct. 25.
Friday through Sunday: Fall 2015 Saint Paul Art Crawl. Over 300 artists at 28 buildings in Lowertown and beyond, plus live music at the Jax Building, AZ Gallery, the Black Dog, Dow Art and Framing, and that Saint Paul Classical Music Crawl we keep writing about, a dance showcase at Union Depot, whiskey tastings, and an After Crawl Ball at Bedlam. And art, so much art. Just show up and take your chances (get your free Metro Transit pass first) or be planful. The website has a map and all the directories you need. Friday 6-10 p.m., Saturday noon-8 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m.
Thursday through Sunday at the Ordway Concert Hall: Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion.” An expression of Bach’s Christian faith, this work is often called his crowning achievement, which is saying a lot. Led by English conductor Paul McCreesh, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is exploring it in depth and performing it with singers from the Gabrieli Consort, who are using a unique and historically appropriate one-voice-to-a-part arrangement. On Thursday, there’s an open rehearsal where you can see and hear it come together. This is followed by performances on Friday and Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.). Rehearsal tickets ($12) here. Concert tickets ($15-$53) here.