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Jack Becker leaving ED post at Forecast Public Art; ‘Newsies’ at the Orpheum

Courtesy of Forecast Public Art
Jack Becker

Forecast Public Art is looking for a new executive director. After 38 years, founding ED Jack Becker will transition from the big chair to a new role as director of Forecast’s community services program.

Based in St. Paul, with a global reach, Forecast is one of the nation’s top nonprofits dedicated to advancing the field of public art. It works with communities to plan and bring public art projects to life; supports artists with grants, professional development and technical assistance; offers a K-12 education program, Public Art in the Schools; and publishes the biannual Public Art Review.

Earlier this year, Forecast awarded $86,000 in grants to nine Minnesota-based artists for a wide variety of public art projects, installations and activities.

Demand for its community services has grown. Becker said in a statement, “This is perhaps the most exciting development in my 38 years working in the public art field. I now have the opportunity to take what I’ve learned and help countless communities and allied professions desiring a foothold in the public art world.”

Forecast has launched a national search and expects to select and announce its new ED in mid-2016. 

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For the past 12 years, if you’ve wanted to know who was playing jazz when and where in the Twin Cities and why you should care, you went to the Jazz Police website. Founded and published by Don Berryman, who loves a good joke and who thumbed his nose at the usually pejorative meaning of the term, the site became a reliable source of current jazz news and an indispensable grassroots historic archive of jazz events, artists, venues and reviews – our Elmer L. Andersen library of local jazz.

The software used to run the site aged, not gracefully, but the content remained intact, so when Berryman announced that technology issues would finally force him to retire the site, we feared its wealth of information would go away.

Big whew, it won’t. Up stepped Steve Kenny, trumpeter, composer, bandleader, producer, curator of multiple jazz concert series — and oh, btw, he’s currently finishing up his master’s in computer science. “The clock was ticking,” Kenny said. “We knew the old site was about to go down, and so in a mammoth series of all-nighters a week ago, the new site was created and launched.” It went live on Thursday, Feb. 4, in the nick of time.

Kenny is now the CEO and chief technology officer, and the site is owned by his company, Illicit Productions. Andrea Canter, whose title at the former site was contributing editor but who has written much of the content from the start (and taken most of the photographs), has been promoted to senior editor.

Everything now on the site is new, but Berryman has provided the past 12 years in raw form; plans are to integrate it into the new site as a searchable archive. Ever confident, Kenny said, “That presents some technical challenges, but the work is under way and we hope to be announcing its availability soon.”

The picks

Photo by Deen van Meer
Original company, North American Tour of “Newsies.”

Tonight at the Orpheum: “Newsies.” Based on the Disney film based on the New York newsboys’ strike of 1899, the hit Broadway musical won the 2012 Tonys for best score and choreography. It has impeccable credentials: score by Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Jack Feldman (“The Lion King II”), book by Harvey Fierstein (“La Cage Aux Folles”), choreography by Christopher Gattelli (“South Pacific”) and direction by Jaff Calhoun (“Big River”). And lots and lots of dancing. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($39-$154). Ends Feb. 14. Buy in person at the State Theatre box office and save on fees.

Friday at noon in the U of M’s Lind Hall: Samuel Freedman talks about “Dying Words: The AIDS Reporting of Jeff Schmalz and How It Transformed the New York Times.” Freedman is a columnist for the Times, a professor at Columbia University and the author of eight books; in fall 2016 he’ll be a visiting professor in English and journalism at the U. In “Dying Words,” he looks at LGBT journalists’ experiences during the first wave of AIDS. His main focus is Jeff Schmalz, who had kept his identity as a gay man hidden to protect his career at the Times; after his AIDS diagnosis, he began reporting on his disease, forever changing the newsroom climate. Noon in room 207A. Free and open to the public.

Opens Friday at the Illusion Theater: “Only One Sophie.” Michael Robins, Illusion’s founder and executive producing director, plumbed his own family history to create a new musical about understanding one’s place in the world. The “Sophie” in the title is Robins grandmother, who “walked across Poland” to America in 1905, fleeing the anti-Semitic pogrom. In words by Robins and music by Roberta Carlson, it explores the rituals of Midwestern American Jewish life and the influences of Jewish immigrant culture and traditions. Bradley Greenwald, Kersten Rodau and Beth Gilleland lead the cast, with live music by Carlson on piano, Joe England on cello and Doug Haining on clarinet. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25-$42). Ends March 5.

Friday through Sunday at the Cowles: “The Work: 4 Women in Choreography.” The artist-led St. Paul Ballet (SPB) presents four world premieres by four women choreographers from the Twin Cities, Washington, D.C. and Utah. Sally Rousse’s “Back Foot Dancing” (working title), set to the music of Augusta Read Thomas, focuses on the use of the pointe shoe and human back to create new shapes and ways of moving. Diane Coburn Bruning’s “Six” emphasizes daring, unexpected partnering work and the sliding and rebounding of dancing in stocking feet. Jamie Johnson’s new work features her elegant phrasing and sublime line. SPB artistic director Zoé Emilie Henrot’s “Locked Key” explores the circular nature of human psychology through fluid strength. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($15-$35).

Courtesy of the artist
Igor Levit

Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 16 and 17) at the Ordway Concert Hall: Igor Levit. Born in Russia, now living in Germany (where his family moved when he was 8 years old), Levit has been called the future of piano, the player of the century and “the leaner, meaner piano machine.” Still in his 20s, he has several acclaimed recordings on Sony Classical, including his award-winning debut disc of the five last Beethoven sonatas. His recordings are tremendously exciting and live performances are always better. Levit will play Bach’s Fourth Partita, Schubert’s “Moments Musicaux,” Beethoven’s Sonata No. 17 and Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7. Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., coffee concert Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Preconcert talks for both Schubert Club performances start an hour earlier. FMI and tickets ($27-$66).

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