As arts and culture organizations reopen to the public, who will be running things? Here’s a roundup of recent and upcoming leadership changes.
Jack Reuler, the founding artistic director of Mixed Blood Theatre, will step aside in July 2022. Reuler started Mixed Blood in 1976 and has produced hundreds of shows over the past 45 years. He will spend his final year at Mixed Blood reshaping the venerable Twin Cities institution “from a theater that addresses social issues to a social justice organization that uses theater as a way to catalyze action,” Reuler said in a statement. “Our goal is to use theater to disrupt injustice and to more effectively bring about systemic change.”
Productions slated for Reuler’s final year include “Animate,” a play about race and philanthropy, to be produced at Como Park Zoo in fall 2021, and “The Most Beautiful Home … Maybe,” a play about housing policy that will premiere here in fall 2021 and travel to Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and Syracuse, New York. A national search for a new leader will begin in May 2021, with results expected in early 2022.
A recent Minnesota Fringe newsletter included this announcement from Dawn Bentley: “A mixture of emotions fills my heart as I announce my departure from Minnesota Fringe as Executive Director as of August 15 at the end of the 2021 Fringe season.”
Bentley was named executive director in April 2017. In April 2020, almost eight weeks into the COVID lockdown, she canceled the 2020 Fringe and furloughed herself, then returned with a virtual Fringe during what would have been the regularly scheduled festival time.
“I feel privileged to have played a role in producing the largest performing arts festival in the Midwest,” Bentley said in a statement. “Fringe’s ongoing development of year-round work has strengthened relationships within Minnesota’s vibrant arts community and established value as an economic engine for the arts in our state. … Our carefully crafted transition plan ensures Minnesota Fringe is in a good place financially, reputationally, spiritually, and artistically.”
In March, Pillsbury House Theatre announced that Co-Artistic Director Faye M. Price would leave her role effective June 30. Last week, the Star Tribune reported that longtime company member Signe Harriday will succeed Price in June. Harriday will shadow Price part time starting this month before assuming the full-time role of artistic producing director on July 1.
Harriday is a director, actor, deviser and collaborator whose first job out of college (St. Olaf, then Harvard for her MFA in acting) was at Mixed Blood Theatre in audience development and PR. She was director of Penumbra’s production of Trey Anthony’s “How Black Mothers Say I Love You,” which was scheduled to open at Penumbra on April 24, 2020, but fell victim to COVID.
Graywolf Press has a new executive editor. Yuka Igarashi, editor-in-chief at Soft Skull Press, founder of Catapult magazine, former managing editor at Granta, will acquire fiction and nonfiction titles. Jeff Shotts, executive editor since 1976, will focus on poetry and creative nonfiction and essays. Igarashi will work remotely from Hawaii. Graywolf publisher Fiona McCrae said in a statement, “We needed a fresh vision to shake us up a bit, and to help guide our talented rising editors.”
Though not a leadership change in the usual sense of the word, Milkweed Editions President and CEO Daniel Slager has announced three editors-at-large and an intriguing new series worth looking out for. The editors-at-large are poet and translator Fady Joudah, who “brings to this role … rich relationships extending far beyond the national poetry scene,” Slager said in a statement. He described Helen Whybrow as “keenly atuned to the burgeoning field of ecological literature.”
Poet Chris Martin proposed and will curate Multiverse, a new series that will emerge “from the practices and creativity of neurodivergent, autistic, neuroqueer, and disabled cultures.” Slager sees the series “questioning and augmenting what literary culture is, has been, and can be.” The inaugural title, to be published in spring 2022, will be “The Kissing of Kissing” by Hannah Emerson, a nonspeaking autistic artist and poet.
Weisman to close its galleries for the summer
While other museums and galleries are limiting the number of visitors who can pass through their doors, the Weisman will close to the public altogether on May 17 until sometime this fall. The reason: maintenance. Following a forensic study earlier this year of its Frank Gehry-designed building, it will replace the fire protection system to meet current code standards.
But closing its galleries won’t mean the Weisman will shut down. Mid-May will see a new outdoor installation on the building’s exterior. “Just Yesterday” will feature a poster campaign that calls attention to systemic racism from the recent past to the present. Virtual visits will remain available, virtual events will take place, a new app will feature free audio tours and the WAM Shop will stay open – online.
Several exhibits are on view now, if you want to pop in within the next two weeks. They include a show of Marsden Hartley’s landscapes and “Pressing Issues: Printmaking as Social Justice in the 1930s United States.”
Fun fact: The Weisman (which preceded the Guggenheim Bilbao) is nearly 30 years old. Gehry just turned 92 and has several projects currently under way, including the scenic design for a new jazz opera by Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding and a pair of spectacular new skyscrapers for Toronto. He won’t hear of retiring, asking the New York Times, “What would I do?”
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
L Now at the Lagoon: “About Endlessness.” New from Swedish auteur Roy Andersson: a surreal, slow-paced but riveting series of seemingly random and mostly unrelated vignettes, many filmed under gray skies and one in Hitler’s bunker. There’s no narrative thread, no recurring characters except a priest who has lost his faith, just the sense that we’re observing other people’s lives coolly and objectively. A helpful voice tells us what we’re about to see and provides some context, which also, of course, skews how we feel about them and what we read into them: “I saw a couple floating over a city once renowned for its beauty, now in ruins.” “I saw a woman who loved champagne. So much, so much.” “I saw a man who wanted to conquer the world and realized he would fail.” Each frame is a painting, each scene a mixture of despair and humor and sometimes profound beauty. It’s a perfect film to watch in a socially distanced theater, and about as far away from the Marvel Universe as you can get, except for the couple who flies. FMI, trailer and tickets ($7-12).
V Starts today (Tuesday, May 4), 10 a.m., at the Walker: “The Dawn Chorus.” On May 3, 2020, 35 artists from over 13 countries got up really early (or stayed up really late) to film the sunrise. This was during the first COVID lockdown, so the message is kind of obvious – after the darkness comes the dawn, hold on to hope – but it’s still beautiful to watch, and you can do that for free. Directed by Patrick Shen. On the Walker’s website, on demand through May 17.
V Wednesday, May 5, 1 p.m.: Rain Taxi: Olivia Laing. In her latest book, “Everybody: A Book About Freedom,” British author Olivia Laing journeys through the long struggle (still going on) for bodily freedom, from gay rights to sexual liberation, feminism and the civil rights movement. This ticketed event includes a signed copy of the book and the opportunity to ask Laing a question that may be incorporated into her talk. FMI and tickets $28/33). Note the time; most Rain Taxi author events take place in the early evening.
V Starts Thursday, May 6, 6 p.m.: Walker Art Center: Virtual MN Artists Presents: Maia Maiden. A leader in the dance community for over 20 years, Maia Maiden might be most widely known for her annual “Rooted: Hip Hop Choreographers’ Evening,” a high-energy show whose 10th anniversary took place at the Ordway in September 2019. Maiden is guest curator for a program that spotlights the Minnesota hip-hop community. Filmed on site at the Walker, it features Maiden, Sherine Onukwuwe, Desdamona, Roosevelt Mansfield (DJ Digie), Tish Jones and True Headz Clothing (Neil Taylor). Free. On the Walker’s website, on demand through May 31.