Arts accessibility nonprofit to close in 2019; VocalEssence’s Welcome Christmas 2018

‘Polo Players’ by Ken Dobratz
VSA Minnesota
The art of Ken Dobratz will be showing through December 2018 at Vision Loss Resources on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis. Dobratz lost his sight 13 years ago to Ischemic Optic Neuropathy.

A statewide nonprofit that has worked to make the arts more accessible to people with disabilities will close at the end of September 2019. The board of VSA Minnesota, originally Very Special Arts Minnesota, made the announcement earlier this week, citing three main reasons it will cease operations: Financial resources to support its work have been steadily decreasing. Executive Director Craig Dunn and Accessibility and Grants Coordinator Jon Skaalen are about to retire. And VSA Minnesota will lose the rights to its name on Jan. 1, 2020, over trademark issues with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which manages the international VSA affiliate network.

Dunn emphasized in a statement that “mission accomplished” was not one of the factors leading to closing. “We have indeed created strong inroads to our mission ‘to create a community where people with disabilities learn through, participate in and access the arts.’ … However, we cannot say that every person with a disability in this state has full and equitable access to the arts in all its form.”

The VSA Minnesota staff and board is working to find new homes for its programs and services. Springboard for the Arts has agreed to incorporate services to artists with disabilities into its program offerings. COMPAS will be absorbing school arts programming for students with disabilities and special education need. MRAC, which has funded VSA’s ADA Improvement grants, will administer the program.

VSA Minnesota is seeking stewards for its accessibility assistance service, Accessibility Arts Calendar, and Emerging Artists with Disabilities grant program, which has been funded by the Jerome Foundation for 23 years.

Among VSA Minnesota’s 2019 programs are Emerging Artist grants, applications by metro nonprofits for ADA Access Improvement grants, performances by artists with disabilities at the 29th annual ADA celebration, and an exhibit of new artwork created by 2018 Emerging Artist grant recipients.

In a letter to supporters that was posted on Facebook, Dunn wrote: “VSA Minnesota will close with grace, thoughtfulness and care. Employees will be let go having been fully paid, all current program obligations will have been discharged, all vendors will have been paid and all physical assets of the organization will be released to appropriate nonprofit entities. We are hopeful that the organization’s records and historical artifacts will find an archival home.”

You can hear a recorded statement by Dunn and learn more here.

Dameun Strange
Matt Mortensen, SAS Visual Media
Dameun Strange

Composers Forum announces ACF | Create winners

Two Minnesotans are among the five winners of this year’s career-boosting ACF | Create grants from the American Composers Forum. Supported by the Jerome Foundation, formerly known as the JFund grants, ACF | Create commissions new works by early-career composers and supports their production. Composers apply with partners to present a new project. Each composer receives $8,000 in commissioning funds and $3,000 in production and promotion support.

PaviElle French of St. Paul partnered with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra on a work that speaks of her mother’s life and legacy. SPCO composer-in-residence Lembit Beecher and orchestrator Michi Wiancko have been PaviElle’s mentors for this project. “A Requiem for Zula” will have its world premiere with the SPCO in February 2019.

Dameun Strange of St. Paul teamed up with Northeast Minneapolis gallery Public Functionary to create “Flight,” a conceptual, afrofuturistic black opera exploring freedom, the study of history and alternative history. Strange recently performed at the Walker as part of its “Moore at 60” event in honor of the Sonic Youth co-founder’s 60th birthday.

The other winning composers – David Adamcyk, Dana Lyn and Felipe Nieto-Sachica – are all from New York.

Lindquist & Vennum Poetry Prize to expand, continue under new name

Established in 2011 by the downtown Minneapolis law firm, the annual Lindquist & Vennum Poetry Prize is a major award. It includes a $10,000 cash prize and publication by Milkweed Editions for a poet residing in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota or Wisconsin. It’s a poetry jackpot: the most lucrative award for regional poetry in America plus publication by an award-winning and respected independent literary publisher.

So when we heard that Lindquist & Vennum would merge with Ballard Spahr and the L&V name would go away, we wondered if the poetry prize would go away, too. It’s unusual enough that a large law firm would sponsor and devote resources to a poetry prize. Would Ballard Spahr, a national firm based in Philadelphia, even care?

On Tuesday at a reading at the Bell Museum – poet Claire Wahmanholm read from her dark and beautiful new book, “Wilder” (rhymes with bewilder), winner of the 2018 L&V prize – Milkweed publisher Daniel Slager shared good news. The prize will continue as the Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry. The eligibility footprint will expand to include poets who live in Michigan. And the 2019 judge will be poet, essayist and literary translator Khaled Mattawa.

Submissions to the 2019 Ballard Spahr Prize competition will open January 3. FMI.

The picks

Friday and Saturday at Midtown Global Market: No Coast Craft-O-Rama. It’s the 19th year for this reliably eclectic, modern, urban and indie-style arts-and-crafts show. Go to see what local artists and crafters are up to. Shop for gifts you won’t find anywhere else – everything from T-shirts to pet toys, grow-your-own mushrooms kits, ceramics, body lotions, prints and paper goods. Meet the makers. Eat well at Hot Indian, Moroccan Flavors, Café Finspång or any of the many other food stops; they don’t call it Midtown Global Market for nothing. 3-8 p.m. Friday, 9-5 p.m. Saturday. FMI. Free. View updates on Facebook and Instagram.

Stuffed monster pillows by Monica Heiland
No Coast Craft-O-Rama
Stuffed monster pillows by Monica Heiland
Friday through Sunday: VocalEssence: Welcome Christmas 2018. For many Minnesotans, VocalEssence’s annual holiday concert is a beloved tradition. But there’s never been a Welcome Christmas concert like this. Along with a world premiere by composer Nico Muhly – Philip Glass’ former assistant, now one of the most sought-after composers of his generation – the program also features Christmas premieres from the past several years and two new carols (more world premieres!) by Minnesotan Shruthi Rajasekar and former ¡Cantaré! composer-in-residence Rodrigo Cadet. 7:30 Friday at Roseville Lutheran Church; 4 p.m Saturday and Sunday at VocalEssence’s home base, Plymouth Congregational Church. FMI and tickets ($20-40).

Sunday at Hamline’s Sundin Music Hall: Chamber Music Society of Minnesota Annual Family Concert. K-12 students get in free, so bring the kids to this late-afternoon show. The music will be fun, the performers top-notch, the hall warm and intimate. This year’s holiday program includes two works by Bruce Adolphe, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” for clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano and narrator, and “Farmony for String Quartet and Farm Animals with a carrot” (and audience participation). Sang Yoon Kim, the new principal clarinet of the SPCO, will be featured in selections from Mozart’s radiant Clarinet Quintet in A major. Other participating artists include Maria Jette, Ariana Kim and CMSM founder and Artistic Director Young-Nam Kim. 4 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25/20/15); 651-450-0527.

Sunday at the Cedar: Lisa Gutkin: The Music and Musicians of “Indecent.” The Guthrie’s production of Paula Vogel’s play “Indecent” was a highlight of 2018. Music wove through the heartbreaking story of a Jewish playwright’s controversial Broadway debut and a Jewish acting troupe caught up in the Holocaust. Grammy winner Gutkin, Klezmatics member and co-composer of the “Indecent” score, will be joined by Pat O’Keefe (winds) and Spencer Chandler (accordion, guitar, banjo) for an evening of Klezmer dance tunes, original songs, improvisations and selections from the play. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30. FMI and tickets ($20 advance, $22 day of show). 

Monday at Icehouse: JT’s Jazz Implosion Featuring Chris Bates’ Red 5. After 20 years of evolution, excellence and surprises, drummer JT Bates’ long-running, cutting-edge modern-jazz series is coming to an end. For some inexplicable reason, Bates no longer wants to commit every Monday night of his life to being at Icehouse (and before then, the Clown Lounge in the basement of the Turf Club), managing the music and staying up super late. For the second-to-last Jazz Implosion event (the final one is next Monday, Dec. 17), he’ll bring in the hot ensemble led by his brother, bassist Chris Bates, in which he plays the drums. 9:30 p.m. FMI. $10 at the door.

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