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Big summer events canceled or postponed; relief funds for artists and arts groups

Rock the Garden 2019
Photo by Lindsey Kusteman/Courtesy of the Walker Art Center
A scene from 2019’s Rock the Garden.

It won’t be summer as we know it, have ever known it or want to know it again. Many events – big, beautiful, summer-defining events – were canceled or postponed over the past few days. These include Art-A-Whirl (May 15-17), the largest open studio tour in the country. And Rock the Garden (Saturday, June 20), which was to feature (for the first time) almost all women and nonbinary artists.

And the Twin Cities Jazz Festival (June 25-27). And Twin Cities Pride (June 27-28), our annual celebration of the LBGTQ+ community. And the star-studded Minnesota Beethoven Festival in Winona (Jun 28-July 19). The Guthrie has canceled the rest of its 2019-20 season. No “Emma,” no “Cabaret” (the summer musical), no “Destiny of Desire” or “Sweat,” no Dowling Studio performances.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has canceled or postponed all MPRB events through Aug. 31. No music or movies in the parks, no summer programs or team sports that don’t allow social distancing. Beaches, wading pools, waterparks and the Webber Natural Swimming Pool won’t open. The Fourth of July fireworks are on hold.

And what about the State Fair (Aug. 27-Sept. 7)? No word yet.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) has announced an emergency relief fund. Small arts groups and nonprofits in the seven-county metro area can apply for grants of up to $2,500 for immediate expense needs due to loss of earned income because of COVID-19. Go here FMI or to apply.

Information about Springboard for the ArtsPersonal Emergency Relief Fund is now available in Spanish, Somali, White Hmong and Green Hmong. (White Hmong and Green Hmong??? Think British English and American English.) Artists can request up to $500 to compensate for canceled work that was scheduled and lost due to COVID-19. You can help feed the fund at GiveMN.

MNSure is offering a special COVID-19-related enrollment period (SEP) for qualified individuals who are currently without insurance. The SEP runs through Tuesday, April 21. It is for eligible Minnesotans who don’t have current health insurance. You don’t need to be sick to qualify. Go here FMI and to enroll.

Checking in with Sheila Smith

The executive director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts (MCA), Sheila Smith was our first interview in the age of COVID-19. She has agreed to speak with us on a regular basis, or as regular as possible, and that starts now.

“The ongoing damage to the arts community is staggering and building every day,” Smith said by phone on Monday morning. “The more you look at the models, the longer it seems this [COVID-19] will go on. … Everybody wants to know if the State Fair is going to be canceled. The State Fair people say they’re going to keep planning until they’ve decided not to do it. …

“How long will it take for audiences to return to events? That’s very high on everyone’s minds. The sudden, dramatic end to events means there’s been an unplanned cessation of all activities that get revenue into nonprofit arts organizations. So every organization in the state is scrambling to figure out how can they survive until things go back to normal without knowing when normal will happen. Nonprofits are eligible for the Small Business Association loan in the Federal Care Act. They’re scrambling to figure out how to apply for that.”

Photo by Adam Kissick
Sheila Smith: "Donate directly to the organizations you love and help them make it through. That is No. 1."
You can find a link to the SBA on MCA’s coronavirus resources page. A lot of organizations have resources pages, and if you’re wondering which one(s) to go to, this might help. Statewide services that fund the arts met (virtually) to mitigate some of the confusion. Smith explained, “It was agreed that resources for individual artists and creative workers would be centralized at the website for Springboard for the Arts. The best information for nonprofits in general is the National Council of Nonprofits.” See especially the recording of the recent webinar, one of the links you’ll find at MCA.

And: “Our website [at MCA] has centralized everything we can find about funding.” This includes links to the four regional arts councils (RACs) – Arrowhead (ARAC), East Central (ECRAC), Central Minnesota (CMAB) and Metro (MRAC) – that have set up special funds of various kinds.

The phrase being used, Smith says, is “stabilization dollars.” The goal? “To help arts organizations survive the crisis and be there on the other side.” What can ordinary people do to help? “Donate directly to the organizations you love and help them make it through. That is No. 1. If you bought tickets and the event hasn’t happened yet, it probably won’t happen. Let the organization know you want to donate the value of the tickets.”

Is there a bright side, or a hint of one?

“In Minnesota, our default position is collaboration and helping the field as much as we can together,” Smith said. “I have been really heartened by all of the organizations who work on a statewide basis, and all of the funders who fund the arts on a statewide basis, doing our best to work together and coordinate, to be as helpful to the field as we can. All of the funders have announced their intent to work on stabilization funding, extending deadlines to help organizations make it through. Everybody is very focused on that.

“The collaboration extends to the public, because I’m hearing that a lot of people are donating their tickets for events that couldn’t go on. Even though there’s so much stress, you can see the civic energy that Minnesota generally has, rising up here again.

“The overall message right now is the unanimity of purpose in the field of trying to be as helpful as possible, to get the organizations to live through this period. That’s the main thing. And directing people to the resources we’ve found so far.”

The picks

Members of the cast of "Speechless" from left to right: Nathan Keepers, Heidi Bakke, Steve Epp and Masanari Kawahara.
Courtesy of the Moving Company
Members of the cast of "Speechless" from left to right: Nathan Keepers, Heidi Bakke, Steve Epp and Masanari Kawahara.
Now through Friday, April 10: Free streaming of The Moving Company’s “Speechless.” After canceling their spring production, The Moving Company announced it would make the filmed version of its critically acclaimed “Speechless” available free of charge for one week. It was a very different world when we saw “Speechless” live at the Lab in 2017. The devised play made our year-end list of the 25 best things we saw and heard. Back then, we wrote: “In a time of many words – often angry, cruel and divisive — the Moving Company gave us a wordless evening of beauty, hope, grace and lovingkindness.” Don’t we need that even more today? Conceived by Dominique Serrand, Stephen Epp and Nathan Keepers, directed by Serrand, it features Heidi Bakke, Epp, Holo Lue Choy, Masanari Kawahara and Keepers. Access the link from the Facebook Event Page. And contribute, if you can, to The Moving Company’s emergency fundraising campaign. Over the coming weeks, The Moving Company will send out more links to filmed versions of past shows. These were shot for documentation purposes, so please don’t expect HD or perfection. Just extraordinary theater.

Ananya Dance performing “Sutrajāl: Revelations of Gossamer,” which will be available for viewing May 1 through May 8.
Courtesy of the artists
Ananya Dance performing “Sutrajāl: Revelations of Gossamer,” which will be available for viewing May 1 through May 8.
Now through May 8: Ananya Dance Theatre performance videos. Dance has been called the most ephemeral art form, and while we would happily argue that live music and theater are equally ephemeral, we would agree with anyone who said there’s a lot less dance online than music or theater. Which makes this so remarkable. Ananya Dance Theatre, the famed Contemporary Indian Dance company led by Ananya Chatterjea, is releasing a full-length video of a complete dance performance every week for five weeks. This week: “Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine” (2015). Next week: “Durrbaar: Journeys into Horizon” (2006). And so on. Here’s the complete calendar, with live links as they become available at noon each Friday and links to program notes and production credits. Videos are free to view; donations are welcome.

New online screenings from the MSP Film Society: Ken Loach’s “Sorry We Missed You,” an intimate and wrenching family drama that exposes the dark side of the “gig economy,” and Diao Yinan’s neo-noir “The Wild Goose Lake,” the eagerly anticipated follow-up to his 2014 award-winning “Black Coal, Thin Ice.” Continuing: Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Balloon, Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band and The Whistlers. FMI and tickets ($12) at the links. Your purchase(s) will directly support MSP Film.

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