What happens when foundations and major donors join forces to save historically underfunded nonprofits and arts institutions from the ravages of COVID-19 and the almost certain drop in charitable giving ahead? Money flows.
In September 2020, the Ford Foundation named 20 organizations America’s Cultural Treasures. Just one, Penumbra Theatre, is in Minnesota. Penumbra received a transformational $2.5 million operating grant to be spread out over four years and $100,000 more for strategic planning support.
On Tuesday, May 18, the Minnesota-based McKnight Foundation announced a $12.6 million regional initiative of the America’s Cultural Treasures program that will provide new funding for Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian American-led arts organizations.
Ten in Minnesota were named Regional Cultural Treasures: the American Indian Community Housing Organization Arts Program, Ananya Dance Theatre, Indigenous Roots, Juxtaposition Arts, Mizna, Pangea World Theater, Somali Museum, Theater Mu, TruArtSpeaks and Walker|West. Each will receive unrestricted grants of at least $500,000 to be distributed over the next five years or more.
Lana Salah Barkawi, Mizna’s executive and artistic director, called the award “staggering” in a release. “The recognition of and investment in our work is incredible and far from typical for us. … This award affirms our work and our values.”
America’s Cultural Treasures will continue with the Seeding Cultural Treasures program. With $5.6 million provided by the Ford, McKnight, Bush and Jerome foundations, grants will be awarded to grow the future of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian American artists and cultural organizations in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native Nations that share that geography – the same swath of the Midwest covered by the Bush Fellowships. Information on how to apply for funding will come later.
McKnight Musician Fellows announced
At first glance, they couldn’t seem more different. One is from West Africa, one from Tennessee, one from Chicago, one from the southern border of the U.S. One plays drums, one is a singer-songwriter, one is a hip-hop artist, one is a classical flutist. All have been named 2021-22 McKnight Musician Fellows, a distinguished award with a $25,000 purse.
Born in Conakry, Guinea, Fode Bangoura plays the djembe, a traditional goblet-shaped drum carved from a single piece of African hardwood and an animal skin drumhead, tuned with ropes and played with the bare hands. The lead drummer with the African dance and music group Les Merveilles de la Guinée, he has taught and performed around the world. In 2008, Bangoura co-founded the Duniya Drum & Dance Company and began the Fakoly Dance and Drum Project, an annual drum and dance conference held in Minneapolis.
Born in Tennessee to a black blues musician and a white Irish mother, Chastity Brown is a storyteller in the blues tradition, singing of marginalized characters and staking her space as a queer Black woman. A Red House Records artist, she has toured internationally as a backing vocalist and opening band for the Indigo Girls, the National, Justin Vernon and Ani DiFranco. In 2019, she presented an evening of her original songs with the Minnesota Orchestra directed by Osmo Vänskä.
Originally from Chicago’s south side, growing up in the foster system, Chad Heslup turned to music and became a member of the Boys Hope Scholarship program at age 12. Continuing his education, he spent two years at Drake University, where he took the name Longshot and became known as a rapper and MC. His 30-track LP, “Civil War pt. 2,” was critically acclaimed; his song “Hip Hop Is …” won the Jake One/RSE Song Writing Contest. His next single will be produced by Jake One and distributed by Rhymesayers.
Born in Phoenix to Colombian and Mexican-American parents, Catherine Ramirez grew up in El Paso, Texas. She picked up the flute in sixth grade and didn’t begin private lessons until age 18, a late start that hasn’t slowed her down. Equally at home with symphony, ballet and opera orchestras, she has performed around the world and taken top prizes. You can sometimes find her in musical theater and popular music, including at the State Fair Grandstand with “Weird Al” Yankovic and the Orpheum with the “Phantom of the Opera” tour. Ramirez is currently artist-in-residence at St. Olaf College.
NEA sends more than $5 million to Minnesota
In early February, in the first round of its fiscal year 2021 funding, the National Endowment for the Arts (NA) awarded 38 grants totaling $957,500 to arts organizations and artists in Minnesota. Last week, in the second round, it released 40 grants totaling $3,488,700.
Led by Kathy Saltzman Romey, Minnesota Chorale already knows what it will do with its $25,000 grant. It will collaborate with Border CrosSing, led by Ahmed Anzaldúa, on a new concert series, “Reimagining the Choral Canon,” that amplifies the voices of artists of color. The series will extend over two seasons and feature four guest conductors.
In between the NEA’s two fiscal funding rounds, at the end of April, came the first phase of American Rescue Plan funding. President Biden’s $1.9 trillion ARP includes $135 million for the arts. Of that, 40% will go to the 62 state, jurisdictional and regional arts organizations for regranting through their funding programs. In Minnesota, the Minnesota State Arts Board will receive $825,500.
The remaining 60% of ARP funds will be awarded by the NEA directly to nonprofit organizations. Two sets of guidelines are expected to be available in June, one for arts organizations and the other for local arts agencies that operate on behalf of their local government.
In the CARES Act, eligible applicants were limited to previous NEA grantees. That won’t be the case for ARP funding. Also, in a significant shift in policy, grant recipients may use ARP funding to cover general operating costs.
Now that we can all go wherever we want and do whatever we want (slight exaggeration, but still, the CDC threw the masks off and the doors open awfully quickly), what does this mean for arts organizations that have planned for a near future of virtual or safely distanced performances? Will intermissions be added back? Will audience sizes no longer be capped? Will proof of vaccination be needed for entry? At Hennepin Theatre Trust houses, we’re wanded and our bags are screened. Everyone has gotten used to that.
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
V Streaming on demand at MSPIFF: “The Claw.” Featured during MSPIFF’s opening weekend, when it screened outdoors for a live audience at Como Lakeside Pavilion, “The Claw” is now available for streaming through May 23. A loving look back at the weird world of professional wrestling in the 1960s through the early 1990s, it tells the story of “Jimmy Raschke from Nebrasky,” a pudgy kid who grew up to be wrestling legend Baron “Fritz” von Raschke from Germany, aka “The Claw.” Fierce in the ring, he was, according to his daughter, “a tender little nugget” with his family.
Filmed in and around Minneapolis, where Raschke trained with Vern Gagne in Chanhassen and raised his family in Hastings, directed by Philip Harder and produced by Raschke’s only son, Karl, this is a charming film with a warm heart and more than a few surprises. (Did you know the Calhoun Beach Club once hosted professional wrestling?) Vintage family Super 8 footage mixes with convincing re-creations of real events. If the story seems familiar, maybe you saw the play it was based on. “The Baron” ran at the History Theatre in 2007. FMI and tickets ($13/10 members).
V Tonight (Wednesday, May 19), 7 p.m.: Minnesota Historical Society Press: “Sparked: George Floyd, Racism and the Progressive Illusion” book launch. Next week brings the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. New from the press, edited by Walter R. Jacobs, Wendy Thompson Taiwo and Amy August, this book includes essays by three dozen contributors reflecting on the murder, the uprisings that followed and the history of racism in Minnesota. At the launch: Jacobs, Taiwo, and contributors Yohuru Williams and Terrion L. Williamson. FMI. Free on the Historical Society’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
V Thursday, May 20, 7:30 p.m.: Schubert Club Mix: An Evening With Composer-in-Residence deVon Russell Gray. For his Courtroom Concert in February, Gray played piano and bassoon in a series of improvisations with Kip Jones, a violinist in the famed string quartet ETHEL. This event completes his tenure as composer-in-residence for the esteemed Schubert Club. There will be no program notes, so we asked him to tell us something about it.
“I’m calling it ‘An Open Letter,’” he said by phone late Tuesday afternoon. “Every piece I’ve written since my string quartet at the Cedar five years ago has, in some way, been about America’s hypocrisy, America’s lies, America’s failings. How this place is mean and hateful. In the face of that, what do you do? My choice is always to pursue things that are beautiful, pursue things that are about understanding where we are and acknowledging the work we need to do to get to the promised land.”
Recorded in January, March and early May, “An Open Letter” starts with Gray solo, then moves to his current quintet (Gray on piano, Davu Seru on drums, Nathan Hanson on soprano saxophone, Josh Granowski on bass, Eric Fratzke on guitar), and finally to a trio with Gray on bassoon, Hanson on soprano sax and dancer Renée Copeland moving (Ananya Dance Theatre, Hiponymous, BRKFST).
V Saturday, May 22, 8 p.m.: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: “Songs of Sorrow, Songs of Hope.” The SPCO has dedicated this concert – music of mourning and healing – to George Floyd’s life. The program will include the slow movement from George Walker’s string quartet “Lyric,” written in honor of his grandmother who escaped slavery; selections from Rachmaninoff; the world premiere of American Indian composer Brent Michael David’s “Taptonaha” for solo flute, an SPCO commission; and Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross.” Livestreamed from the Ordway Concert Hall on Saturday, rebroadcast Thursday, May 27, 7 p.m. Free. Note: The SPCO will perform the final concert of its 2020-21 season on Saturday, June 12.