Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


HOBT: Yet another arts group struggles to survive; ‘The Children’ at the Jungle

ALSO: “Calling the Light” at East Side Freedom Library; Rosy Simas Danse: “Weave” at the Ordway; and more.

The longtime arts organization will significantly reduce its staff and programming, buying time to develop new strategies to rebuild and stay alive.
Photo by Bruce Silcox

Patrick’s Cabaret is shuttered. Bedlam Theatre is defunct. The Soap Factory is in trouble. Intermedia Arts is no more. VSA Arts will close this year. NEMAA, which produces Art-A-Whirl, didn’t get big grant money it was counting on; same for Art Shanty Projects. Red Eye Collaborative is homeless. Rose Ensemble is in its final season.

Et tu, HOBT?

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre announced Wednesday that “multiple anticipated income sources for HOBT’s programming year did not materialize.” HOBT said that if the theater were to continue at its current staff and programming levels, it could expect to run out of cash and close permanently as soon as June 2019. In response, the longtime arts organization will significantly reduce its staff and programming, buying time to develop new strategies to rebuild and stay alive.

Article continues after advertisement

This will be the final year that HOBT produces its annual MayDay parade and festival on its own. MayDay is a 45-year South Minneapolis tradition that has continued uninterrupted since 1975. In 2018, it drew an estimated 60,000 people. The 2019 MayDay will also be the last one led by HOBT founder Sandy Spieler.

In recent years, MayDay has brought in about $150,000 in income, mainly from individual donors. But MayDay costs between $180,000 and $200,000 to produce. In 2018, it operated at a loss of more than $50,000. That amount was covered by reserve funds, a risk HOBT can no longer assume solo.

Like many arts organizations across the state, HOBT receives generous support from the Minnesota State Arts Board (MSAB), which is funded in large part by the Legacy Amendment. About 5 percent of HOBT’s budget comes from MSAB operating support grants, which provide general operating funds. Project grants fund specific projects, including touring productions.

In fiscal year 2018, HOBT received nearly $200,000 in arts board funding – nearly 20 percent of its budget. For FY 2019, operating support funds increased to $60,000, but proposals for two projects were denied. So HOBT’s Arts Board funding was $130,000 lower in FY2019 than it was in FY2018. A very informative document on HOBT’s website notes that “an organization must be careful not to rely on receiving these project grant funds in any given year.” (That document, worth a read, spells out other challenges arts organizations are facing today.)

Despite the cutbacks, the following planned events will still take place: Puppet Cabaret on Feb. 14 and Puppet Lab performances on March 15-16 and 21-22. And MayDay on May 5. HOBT will continue to offer residencies and share its home, the Avalon Theater, as a rental venue. But the rest of its future looks uncertain.

Executive director Corrie Zoll said in a statement:

This has been a difficult process. After a lot of hard work, we determined that we simply cannot continue on our current path. Our neighbors and allies have been the most important part of HOBT’s work over the past 45 years, and we will include you in conversations about what happens next. Whatever the future brings, we want the important work we have built together to continue to be of value to our neighbors.

To learn more and find out how you can help, go here.

The picks

Clay figure by Austyn Taylor, 2017
Courtesy of Northern Clay Center
Clay figure by Austyn Taylor, 2017
Friday at Northern Clay Center: Exhibition openings and artist talk. This will be a good night to visit Northern Clay, especially if you’ve never been there before, because there’s so much going on. Two shows featuring emerging artist grant winners (“Three Jerome Artists” and “Fogelberg, Red Wing and Anonymous Artists”) will open in the main gallery. The three featured artists in the sales gallery are all associated with the Leach Pottery in St. Ives, U.K., one of the most influential potteries in the world. The great potter Warren MacKenzie, who died last week, studied with founder Bernard Leach from 1949-52 before moving to Minnesota. That show includes current Leach production ware, work by Leach potter Kat Wheeler and work by Minnesota potter Jeff Oestreich, who apprenticed there from 1969-71. Plus Oestreich will give an artist talk on the Leach Pottery. 6-8 p.m. Free.

Opens Saturday at the Jungle Theater: “The Children.” Lucy Kirkwood’s post-apocalyptic thriller is about as hot as a play can get – in more ways than one. The tale of three nuclear scientists who reunite after a nuclear meltdown at a power plant, it earned glowing reviews and a Best Play Tony nomination. This will be only the second production after its American premiere. The cast: Stephen Yoakam (“The Nether”), Laila Robins (“Homeland”) and Linda Kelsey (“Lou Grant”). The director: Casey Stangl. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($40-50). Closes Feb. 10.

Article continues after advertisement

Saturday at SteppingStone Theatre: 24:00:00 Xtreme Theatre Smackdown 2019. Six new plays created in 24 hours with Twin Cities female theater artists. They could be great. They could be not-so-great. But all are short and none will kill you. Take a chance. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($18-22).

Photo by Douglas Beasley
Sam Mitchell, Val Oliveiro, Zoë Klein and George Stamos performing in "Weave."
Saturday at the Ordway: Rosy Simas Danse: “Weave.” For many native peoples, weaving is a way of life. A new dance project from Haudenosaunee (Seneca) choreographer Rosy Simas, “Weave” meshes stories, dance, moving image and quadraphonic sound in a tribute to the interwoven, interdependent nature of our world. Created in collaboration with international artists including composer François Richomme, performer Sam Mitchell (Yaqui) and writer Heid E. Erdrich, “Weave” was developed to be site-specific at the Ordway. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($22-37). Pre-show at 6:30 p.m., post-show talkback and mingle following. Presented in collaboration with the O’Shaughnessy.

Saturday at the East Side Freedom Library: “Calling the Light.” An evening of music conjured in the moment, made from drums and horns, rainsticks, didgeridoo, bells, chimes and gongs, flutes and cymbals. The musicians are four visionary and revered improvisers: Douglas R. Ewart, Steve Hirsh, Babatunde Lea and Donald Washington. 7:30 p.m. Suggested donation $20. No one turned away. Come a little early and page through ESFL’s recent gift, Langston Hughes’ “The First Book of Jazz,” which will be on the resources table.