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Salary cuts for Minnesota Orchestra musicians and staff; ‘A Breath for George’ honors the life of George Floyd

Photo by Travis Anderson
The Minnesota Orchestra
On Tuesday we learned that Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media had laid off 28 workers. This was not long after 14 staffers took voluntary buyouts. On Wednesday we heard from the Minnesota Orchestra. In a series of what are described as “cooperative actions to contain costs during the COVID-19 pandemic,” all full-time employees will see their salaries reduced by the end of June.

Musicians have volunteered to temporarily lower their salaries by 20 percent. Music Director Osmo Vänskä and President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns will each take a 30 percent reduction. Administrative leadership team members’ salaries will dip by 20 percent. All other full-time staff will experience cuts at a lower level.

Musicians had previously agreed to re-arrange and reduce contracted vacation weeks. All full-time musicians and staff will still receive full health-care benefits.

Nearly 200 part-time events staff members have been on hiatus since the orchestra stopped performing in mid-March and won’t return until the orchestra is able to play concerts again. For now, concerts are scheduled to resume in early August. We’ll hear in early July if any changes will be made based on updated health and safety restrictions.

“We know these salary reductions are necessary for the longer-term viability of the Orchestra as our organization navigates this unprecedented situation, and musicians are committed to doing our part,” said Musicians’ Negotiating Committee Chair Tim Zavadil in a statement. “Mostly, we cannot wait to perform for our audiences again.”

In an email sent to MPR members Wednesday morning, CEO John McTaggart said that MPR/APM would cancel merit pay increases for all employees for the coming year, combine some departments and teams, selectively reduce work hours, make changes to internal operating systems, end John Moe’s podcast “The Hilarious World of Depression,” and cease national production of “Live From Here,” hosted by Chris Thile. “Live From Here” was the successor to “A Prairie Home Companion,” and Thile was Garrison Keillor’s hand-picked host.

The picks

Lots happening this week on Saturday. Close your eyes, make sure your mask is securely positioned over your nose and mouth, and it will almost feel like a regular Saturday in a Minnesota summer.

“A Breath for George” is a filmed collection of songs, interviews and poems that honor the life of George Floyd. Participating artists and interviewees are James T. Alfred, Sarah Bellamy, Harvey Blanks, Aimee Bryant, Melvin Carter Jr., Wanda Christine, James Craven, Perri Gaffney, Peter Macon, Thomasina Petrus, T. Mychael Rambo, Frank Sentwali, Jevetta Steele, Talvin Wilks, Regina Marie Williams and professor John Wright. Free screenings are being held outdoors at several Twin Cities venues. Tonight (Thursday, June 18) at Plymouth Congregational Church; Friday, June 19, at Penumbra Theatre; Saturday, June 20, at Pillsbury House and Theatre; Sunday, June 21, at Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo. 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., all locations. FMI with links to organizations and support. And one more, just added: 8:30 p.m. Monday, June 22, at the History Theatre in St. Paul, where the film will be projected on the wall of the main entrance at 30 E. 10th St.

Celebrate Midsommar at home on Saturday, June 20, with plenty of help from the American Swedish Institute. In a non-pandemic year, we’d be running around their grounds, the Castle and the Nelson Cultural Center. This year there’s a full slate of events and activities online, including a concert by Sofia Talvik at 1 p.m. on Facebook Live, downloadable patterns for paper crowns to print, color, assemble and wear, a Midsommar Bingo game, Swedish recipes to try (strawberry cake!), and two Nordic Know-How Zoom sessions, including one with drinking songs. Here’s the events page. Also starting Saturday, in time for Father’s Day, you can view the online exhibition “Swedish Dads” by photographer Johan Bävman. Later this summer, the exhibition will move to ASI’s fence along Park Avenue for public viewing.

As museums begin to reopen, it looks like the Bakken will be first out of the gate, with plans to start receiving visitors this Saturday, June 20. Located in a historic mansion on the western edge of Bde Maka Ska, with beautiful grounds, the Bakken’s specialties are electricity, magnetism and medical technology. The first floor is currently under construction, part of a series of renovations launched in January. You’ll need a timed ticket ($5; ages 3 and under free).

Joshua Huyser, "Knit Cap," 2019
Burnet Fine Art & Advisory
Joshua Huyser, "Knit Cap," 2019
Meet artist Joshua Huyser from a safe distance, wearing a mask, but still in person. Huyser, whose watercolors look so real you want to reach up and touch them, will be at Burnet Fine Art & Advisory on Saturday, June 20, from 3-6 p.m. This small gallery in Wayzata has been the scene of some of our favorite exhibits over the past few years (R.J. Kern, Chris Olson, Bly Pope and Rowan Pope, HOT TEA). The number of visitors allowed inside at a time will be limited. Hand sanitizer will be available. Study the art, talk to the artist – you know, the way we used to do.

We almost lost the Hook & Ladder during the events that followed the death of George Floyd. This Twin Cities institution, long the home of Patrick’s Cabaret and now a well-established music venue, is next door to the Third Precinct, someplace you did not want to be on the night of May 28. Saturday, June 20, will see the delayed launch of its HookStreams live streaming concert series. Davina & the Vagabonds will perform, and there’s poetry in that: like the Hook, Davina is a survivor. Tickets are $15 and part of the proceeds will be donated to the Association for Black Economic Power (ABEP). 8 p.m. FMI and link to buy.

In the summer of 2018, the SPCO performed “A Nighttime Story.” A collaboration among the orchestra, playwright Harrison David Rivers, composer Jessie Montgomery, actor H. Adam Harris and conductor Christian Reif, this story of a boy and his grandmother was originally conceived for young audiences. It’s back as a free stream at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 20. The concert also includes Beethoven’s “Coriolan” Overture and Dvorák’s Larghetto from Serenade for Strings. Flutist Alicia McQuerrey will host, and the artistic team will reunite for a post-performance discussion. This broadcast will be dedicated to George Floyd. Here’s the link.

Toni Morrison
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Toni Morrison
Starting Sunday, June 21, at 1 p.m., you can catch a 24-hour free virtual screening of the film “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” courtesy of MSP Film Society. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ documentary examines the Nobel Prize-winning novelist’s life, works, and thoughts on race, history, America and the human condition. With Hilton Als, Angela Davis, Fran Lebowitz, Walter Mosley, Sonia Sanchez and Oprah Winfrey, who turned Morrison’s novel “Beloved” into a film. Register here no later than Sunday at 11 a.m.

Much of what’s offered online – concerts, movies, operas, Frank Lloyd Wright house tours, museum tours, performances of all kinds – ask that we passively observe. Created in 2014 for use in classrooms and by individuals, co-produced by PBS Digital Studios and the global online educational company Complexly, “The Art Assignment” is an opportunity to do more. Established and emerging artists talk about their art and share an assignment for you to try. We stumbled on the latest episode to find jazz vocalist (and visual artist) Cécile McLorin Salvant, who last sang at the Dakota in June 2019, and a cool project to do at home: a mobile that reflects her interest in characters, silhouettes and playing with shapes and her thoughts on social distancing. “The Art Assignment” YouTube channel has much to explore, including travel episodes, cooking lessons and special topics. Series creator and host Sarah Urist Green also has a podcast, “The Art Angle,” presented by Artnet News.

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