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NEA grants go to 42 Minnesota groups and artists; David Mura wins Sexton Award

ALSO:  “100 Years and Counting” show at the M; Henry Threadgill Festival at the Walker; and more.

In its first major funding announcement for FY 2019, the National Endowment for the Arts has approved more than $1 million in Art Works grants, Challenge America grants and Literature fellowships to 42 Minnesota arts organizations and individuals.

The average grant amount is $25,000. The biggest grants will go to Children’s Theatre Company ($75,000), to support the development and production of new work; Graywolf Press ($70,000), Milkweed Editions ($60,000) and Coffee House Press ($55,000) to support the publication and promotion of new books; Artspace ($50,000), to support a training program for arts and culture organization leaders to advance their facility and space-related goals; and Minnesota Opera, to support the world premiere and additional performances of “The Fix,” a new opera about baseball, which opens in March. The Minnesota Orchestra will receive $40,000, and so will Northrop (for its dance season), Penumbra Theatre and the SPCO.

Poets Amy Munson of Columbia Heights, Michael Torres of Mankato and Roy G. Guzmán of Minneapolis will each receive a $25,000 Literature Fellowship.

These FY 2019 grants will reach all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Minnesota was one of seven states (plus DC) to be awarded more than $1 million in NEA grants; New York took the lead with nearly $7 million. Here’s a list of all the grantees, sorted by state.

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David Mura wins 2019 Kay Sexton Award

photo portrait
David Mura
Author, critic, teacher, mentor and performance artist David Mura has won the 2019 Kay Sexton Award, the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library announced today. The award is given annually to an individual or organization in recognition of longstanding dedication and outstanding work in fostering books, reading, and literary activity in Minnesota. Sexton, who died in 2014, was a nationally influential bookseller and mentor to many booksellers and writers.

Mura has taught at Hamline, Macalester, and the Loft, among other places. At the Loft, he inaugurated a class for writers of color. He co-founded the arts organization Asian American Renaissance and served as its artistic director. His latest book, “A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity and Narrative Craft in Writing” is a finalist for a 2019 Minnesota Book Award. Mura is also the author of two memoirs, a novel, and four books of poetry. His Kay Sexton Award honors his efforts to increase literary accessibility and audiences and foster writers of color.

In a statement, author Alexs Pate said, “For the past 30 years plus, David has been on a journey, a largely successful one I might add, to create a more humane life in this state for writers of color.”

Mura will be honored at the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards ceremony on Saturday, April 6.

Jorie Graham to read in UMN English Writers Series

American poet Jorie Graham will be trailing a long list of prizes and awards when she gives this year’s Esther Freier Lecture in Literature – an evening of her poetry. So far, she’s won a Pulitzer (for “The Dream of the United Field: Selected Poems”), a MacArthur Fellowship, the Wallace Stevens Award and, most recently, the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress. Graham won the Bobbit for her 2017 collection “Fast,” which she wrote while her parents were dying and Graham was in treatment for cancer. The New York Times called it an “autopsy of self and nation in the face of overwhelming loss.” Graham is a professor at Harvard. She’ll read at Coffman Memorial Union Theater on Thursday, April 4.

Graham’s reading is part of the Spring 2019 UMN English Writers Series, which also includes a First Books Reading; the launch of the 2019 Tower magazine, with creatuve work by U of M undergrads; and the 11th Annual Hunger Relief Benefit. All events in the series are free and open to the public.

Jorie Graham

The picks

Tonight (Thursday, Feb. 14) through Sunday at the Minnesota Museum of American Art: “100 Years and Counting.” The first show in the M’s sweet new space in the Pioneer Endicott Building is an introduction to the depth and breadth of its collection. From old favorites we haven’t seen for many years to recent acquisitions, it’s part revelation, part affirmation, part taste of things to come. FMI. Free. Open tonight (and every Thursday) until 8 p.m., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The show closes Sunday.

Henry Threadgill
Friday and Saturday at the Walker: Celebrating Henry: A Henry Threadgill Festival. One of the towering figures in music today, Threadgill is an alto saxophonist, flutist, composer, improviser, visionary, and major influencer. In 2016, he became one of only three jazz musicians to win the Pulitzer Prize for music. (Wynton Marsalis won in 1997, Ornette Coleman in 2007.)  On Friday, 24 Minnesota musicians, curated by Michelle Kinney, will perform works by Threadgill from the past 40-plus years. On Saturday, after an opening set by New York power-jazz trio Harriet Tubman, Threadgill will perform with his quintet Zooid. If you plan to go, be sure to read Britt Robson’s radiant, intelligent interview of Threadgill for the Star Tribune. 8 p.m. both nights. FMI and tickets ($25/20, $35/28).

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Friday through Sunday: The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Tapestry19: “Songs My Mother Taught Me.” The SPCO has long taken its music into the community, performing in neighborhood venues throughout the Twin Cities. With Tapestry, a new biennial festival, it begins drawing music from the community, asking community members to lend their voices and viewpoints to a shared exploration of issues we face today. Tapestry19 asks the question, “How do I recognize my home?” Concerts this weekend will feature the world premiere of Twin Cities soul singer and composer PaviElle French’s “A Requiem for Zula,” a tribute to her mother and growing up in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, and the world premiere of composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh’s “Don’t RipEat After Me,” about growing up in Syria in the 1980s. More world premieres will follow next week. The goal, in the words of SPCO artistic director and principal violinist Kyu-Young Kim: “To magnify the ability of music to engage our whole selves and our whole community.” Friday and Saturday at 8 the Ordway Concert Hall, Sunday at 2 p.m. in Benson Great Hall. FMI and tickets ($12-50, kids and students free).

PaviElle French
Monday at the Dakota: A Celebration of Black History Month with Bruce A. Henry. Sarah Greer will join Henry in songs by Paul Robeson, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye and other great African American artists. This will be stirring, powerful and gorgeous – those voices! The band: Kavy Kaviraj on piano, Jeff Bailey on bass, Daryl Boudreaux on percussion and Kevin Washington on drums. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25-30).

Plan ahead

For Friday, March 16, at the Fitzgerald Theater: Live from Here with special guest host Jon Batiste. Bandleader for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” scion of a long line of Louisiana musicians, Batiste has a new album out, “Hollywood Africans,” and an excess of charisma. He’ll stand in for host Chris Thile. Doors at 4 p.m., live broadcast at 4:45. FMI and tickets ($45-55).

For Thursday, March 28, at the Cathedral of St. Paul: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. Last chance to see and hear one of the world’s most esteemed and popular choral groups – through numerous recordings, annual radio and TV broadcasts (“A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols,” “Carols from King’s”), and live performances – with longtime music director Stephen Cleobury, who will retire in September. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($45-59; sold through the Fitzgerald Theater, but the concert will take place at the Cathedral).

For Friday, April 12, at Mixed Blood Theatre: Double Sided: A Literary Reading. Dessa (rapper, singer, essayist, author most recently of “My Own Devices”), Donte Collins (award-winning poet, author of “Autopsy”), Maggie Ryan Sanford (award-winning science writer and fiction writer), and Shane Hawley (writer, performer, author of “ABC Death”) will read and perform from their own work, KARE 11’s Jana Shortal will host, plus there will be a surprise musical guest. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).