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Knight Arts Challenge re-ups for 4th year in St. Paul; 'Purple Rain' event with Bobby Z coming up

Courtesy of Twin Cities PBS
Twin Cities PBS’ ART Is project won a 2016 Knight grant.

Good news for anyone with an idea for engaging and enriching St. Paul through the arts: The Knight Foundation is back with another $1.3 million.

Knight announced Tuesday that the Knight Arts Challenge will return to St. Paul for a fourth year.

The Challenge, originally a three-year program of $4.5 million, was announced in 2014 as part of $8 million in funding for the arts in St. Paul. The other $3.5 million was shared among five “anchor institutions”: the Arts Partnership, Penumbra Theatre, Springboard for the Arts, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and TU Dance.

In the first three years of the Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul, there were 109 winning ideas. True to the open-minded, open-hearted and refreshingly jargon-free spirit of the competition, they were fun and serious, simple and complicated, down-to-earth and sky-high.

Winning ideas have included a tiny museum in a vintage fire-hose cabinet, a food opera, concert series, film series, music festivals, cultural festivals, comedy cabarets, mosaics, murals, radio shows, fashion shows, dance performances, sculptures, plays, parades, printed coffee-cup sleeves, a floating library of artist-made books, a public art project about bees, a snowblower ballet and (still a personal fave) a light show projected on the steam plume of the downtown St. Paul power plant. That was awesome and we wish St. Paul would bring it back, as their unique version of the lighting display on top of the Target Building in Minneapolis. Find all of the winning ideas to date here, here and here.

Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation, said in a statement, “Three years ago, we set out to build on the creative momentum in St. Paul. We are now seeing how Knight Arts Challenge winners have helped put the arts at the center of the economic and cultural boom of this city, by bringing unexpected artistic experiences into neighborhoods and reflecting a range of voices and experiences authentic to St. Paul.”

As before, you don’t have to be a St. Paulite to apply. You don’t have to be an artist. The challenge is open to anyone: individuals, groups, arts organizations, businesses, schools and colleges. The initial online application is just 150 words long. There are only three rules: 1) your idea must be about the arts, 2) your project must take place in or benefit St. Paul and 3) if you win, you must find matching funds. (It’s easier to raise funds when you’re asking as someone who has been named a winner by the Knight Foundation.)

Submissions will be accepted March 29-April 28 at knightarts.org. Past winners have been announced in September or October. Knight Foundation staff will hold information sessions in St. Paul during the week of March 13. We’ll share the specifics when we learn them.

Projected deficit in legacy fund puts temporary hold on new arts grants

An online post Sunday at MPR News had us wondering about the flow of legacy money – grants to Minnesota arts organizations and artists from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, one of four funds created when Minnesota voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota constitution in 2008. Here’s the post:

A number of grants funded by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Amendment have been delayed.

 Sue Gens, Executive Director of the Minnesota State Arts Board, said it's due to lower consumer spending than predicted when appropriations were decided two years ago.

 “The constitution says that none of those funds can overspend – it’s not like a credit card where you can spend more than is coming in and pay it off later. If the money isn’t in the fund it can’t be spent.”

 The Arts and Culture Heritage Fund, the Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Clean Water Fund and the Parks and Trails Fund all depend on Minnesota's state sales tax revenue.

 Gens said she hopes the deficit – when spread across various agencies – will be manageable.

 Agencies are waiting for end of the year revenue numbers before making their final allotments.

We reached out to Gens by email and phone seeking clarification and details. She responded by email Tuesday morning, pointing us to a post on the State Arts Board’s Facebook page and noting that “we will be communicating directly with applicants that are affected as more information becomes available.” Here’s the post:

A story about arts and cultural heritage fund grants that aired on Minnesota Public Radio over the weekend has created some confusion. The State of Minnesota’s November economic forecast projects a small deficit in the arts and cultural heritage fund for FY 2017. That fund cannot overspend, so Minnesota Management and Budget is working with agencies to develop a plan to resolve the deficit. There is a temporary hold in place that prevents agencies from entering into new obligations of arts and cultural heritage funds. That means that, for the moment, we can’t issue new grant contracts in our Artist Initiative and Partners in Arts Participation grant programs. Any Arts Board grants that are already underway are not impacted by the temporary hold. We have communicated directly with the applicants affected by the temporary hold and will provide updates to them as we have new information. If you didn’t receive an e-mail from your program officer about this situation, your grant is not affected. Please call your grant program officer any time you have a question about an application or a grant. 

The picks

Thursday at TPT: “The Lowertown Line” taping with Siama Matuzungidi. See a free concert, then maybe see yourself on TV when it airs. TPT’s first “Lowertown Line” of the year features Siama Matuzungidi, a Congolese singer, guitarist, and composer (and McKnight fellow) who helped popularize the infectious dance music known as soukous. Have a listen to “Jungle Zombie” and sign up for tickets (required). 7-9:30 p.m. Act fast if you want in.

One Voice Mixed Chorus in rehearsal with composer Steve Milloy (standing in front center).

Saturday and Sunday at the Ordway Concert Hall: One Voice Mixed Chorus: “Out of the Shadows.” Minnesota’s LBGTQA community chorus (the A stands for Straight Allies), now nearing 30, is the largest of its kind in North America. Its Martin Luther King Jr. weekend concerts honor the work of African-American artists and activists. The centerpiece is the world premiere of a One Voice commission, Steve Milloy’s “The Man Behind the Dream,” honoring the life and work of Bayard Rustin, an openly gay civil rights activist, MLK mentor and 1963 March on Washington organizer. Narrated by T. Mychael Rambo and Aimee Bryant, the Ordway Concert Hall performances will be conducted by Milloy. 2 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($15-40). On Monday, MLK Day, at South High School, One Voice will give a free performance of “The Man Behind the Dream.” 7:30 p.m.

Saturday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: “Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future.” Filled with super high-def (6K) drone footage, this up-close-and-personal look at Saarinen’s sweeping, swooping creations is hosted by his son, Eric, who was also the co-producer and director of photography. Eero Saarinen is known for the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the TWA Flight Center at JFK International Airport, and iconic furniture pieces including the Tulip chair. (His father, Eliel, designed Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis.) This documentary opened the 2016 Architecture and Design Film Festival (ADFF) in NYC. It aired on the PBS series “American Masters” in December, and you can probably find it online somewhere, but if you do, you’ll miss seeing and hearing from Eric, who will be present for Saturday’s screening. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($8.50).

Sunday at St. Joan of Arc: “When I Think of Home.” A concert and conversation for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday exploring themes of home, place and community in the African-American experience, with musicians and speakers Yolande Bruce, Dan Chouinard, Bruce Henry, T Mychael Rambo, Robert Robinson, Mahmoud El Kati, Nothando Zulu, the Mapping Prejudice Project, and the combined choirs of St. Joan of Arc and Mayflower United Church of Christ. 7 p.m.; doors at 6:15. $20 general admission/$10 students.

Coming up

Want to listen to “Purple Rain” on vinyl, spun and presented (with personal stories) by Bobby Z, a former member of The Revolution? Victor’s on Water, the Italian-inspired restaurant in downtown Excelsior, will host its first “Victor’s on Vinyl” event on Friday, Jan. 27. Come to listen and dine ($55) or just to listen ($25). 6:30-9 p.m. Space is limited and reservations are recommended. Call 952-474-8879.

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