Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his former wife, MacKenzie Scott, are both in the news, but for different reasons: he for an unflattering New York Times investigation into how Amazon treats employees, and for paying no income tax in 2007 and 2011, she for “Seeding by Ceding,” an article in Medium, announcing “$2,739,000,000 in gifts to 286 high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically overlooked.”
Two of those 286 gifts have come our way: one to Arts Midwest in Minneapolis and one to Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, which is evolving into a center of racial healing.
Scott, her husband Dan Jewett, and “a constellation of researchers and administrators and advisors” are “all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.” Her divorce settlement included a 4% stake in Amazon.
There are other names on the list of 286 beneficiaries that Minnesotans will recognize, because some of our arts organizations (the Arts Partnership at the Ordway, Northrop, Minnesota Orchestra, Walker Art Center) have brought them here: Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispánico, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Sphinx Organization, Urban Bush Women.
Neither Arts Midwest nor Penumbra has yet specified the amount they received.
This is the second year Scott has given major no-strings-attached gifts to organizations “both to enable their work, and as a signal of trust and encouragement, to them and to others.” In 2020, she donated $6 billion.
The SPCO goes to Vail to perform with Joshua Bell
On the heels of announcing its 2021-22 concert season, the members of the SPCO are packing their bags for a quick trip to Vail, Colorado, where the orchestra will make its debut at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival. They’ll open the 2021 season in three performances with superstar violinist Joshua Bell.
How cool is that?
The London-based Academy of St. Martin in the Fields was originally scheduled to open the season with Bell but had to cancel because of travel restrictions. Inviting the SPCO to take their place was “a joint decision between Joshua Bell and Bravo! Vail,” according to the SPCO. Bell is a former SPCO artistic partner (2005-07).
Opening night (Thursday, June 24) will feature an all-Mozart program with Bravo! Vail Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott at the piano for Piano Concerto No. 9, Bell performing Violin Concerto No. 5 (“Turkish”) and the SPCO on its own for the “Prague” Symphony. On Saturday, June 26, the SPCO will perform “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi (the original) and Piazzolla (“Four Seasons of Buenos Aires”). Sunday, June 27, will feature SPCO artistic director and principal violinist Kyu-Young Kim and violist Hyobi Sim with Bell in chamber music by Schubert and Brahms.
FMI and tickets, in case you’re in Vail or heading there.
The James J. Hill Reference Library building is sold
The Pioneer Press reported on Tuesday that the James J. Hill Reference Library building in downtown St. Paul has been sold. The buyer is Peter Remes, founder of First & First, which also owns the Minneapolis event center Aria (former home of Theatre de la June Leune); bought, redeveloped and sold Vandalia Tower (the former King Koil mattress factory) in St. Paul; and redeveloped the Icehouse Plaza on Nicollet using stones recovered from the late, lamented and legendary Metropolitan Building, among other projects.
Like the George Latimer Central Library, with which it shares a roof, the Hill Reference Library (renamed the James J. Hill Center in 2013) faces Rice Park. Indoors, it’s spectacular, with fluted Roman columns, ornate ceilings and ironwork, and floor-to-ceiling shelves with catwalks. Most recently, it was used as an event center, and we were lucky to attend one of the final events there: a Schubert Club Mix concert by pianist David Greilsammer on Oct. 3, 2019. By then, it had already closed to the public. It was put up for sale on Nov. 19. Four months later, COVID came.
The Pioneer Press further reported that the Hill Center’s collection of books and art “will be preserved for the public’s benefit.” Parts will be acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society, University of Minnesota, Ramsey County Historical Society, St. Paul Public Library, Minneapolis Public Library and others. Some of the art and historic objects will eventually return to the James J. Hill House on Summit Ave., a Minnesota Historical Society property.
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person
V and L Now through Sunday, June 20: American Swedish Institute: Midsommar Celebration 2021. Midsommar is in full swing at ASI, both live and virtually. The Midsommar pole will officially be raised today (Thursday, June 17) at noon. Grab-and-go Midsommar meals are available from FIKA. There are lunchtime concerts, courtyard games, and a make-your-own Midsommar crown activity. Would you rather enjoy the festivities at home? Take a virtual workshop or two. FMI. Museum admission required for onsite activities; walk-up museum admission now available. Note: ASI is now open Thursday evenings until 8 p.m.
V Tonight (Thursday, June 17), 5:30 p.m.: Rain Taxi: Arthur Sze in conversation with Eric Lorberer. Sze’s latest book from Copper Canyon Press, “The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems,” gathers five decades of poems filled with dazzling, precise, emotion-filled images. His conversation with Lorberer will complete a perfect circle; Rain Taxi’s first event, 23 years ago, featured Sze. Free with registration.
V Tonight (Thursday, June 17), 7 p.m.: Twin Cities Jazz Festival: Jazz Fest Live: Isaiah Collier and the Chosen Few. Livestreamed from the Dakota’s stage, music influenced by masters including John Coltrane, Roscoe Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, Ari Brown and Gene Ammons. With Collier on soprano and tenor sax, Michael Shekwoaga Ode on drums, Jeremiah Hunt on bass and Mike King on piano. Free with registration.
L Tonight (Thursday, June 17) through Sunday (June 20), 7 p.m.: Bakken Museum: Open Eye Theatre: “LOG JAM! A Paul Bunyan Musical Spectacular.” Written by Josef Evans, directed by Joel Sass, Open Eye’s summer musical is a big dose of smart, silly fun. Staged on the beautiful green roof of the Bakken Museum – which is shady in the evenings, and breezy – it downsizes Paul Bunyan, turns his myth into a love story, makes Babe the Blue Ox an anti-capitalism, pro-labor agitator with his bull-ringed nose in a book, adds original songs and hilarious puppetry, and ends up being a perfect way to spend an evening. We saw it last night with about 100 other people on lawn chairs and blankets, parents and kids and grandparents, and everyone laughed and just relaxed. The Bakken is poised to be a treasure of the summer and is adding events to its calendar: food trucks, another play, an improv festival, a concert by Jeremy Messersmith. Four performances of “LOG JAM!” remain. FMI and tickets ($30-15).
L Starts Friday (June 18) in the Lyndale Park Rose Garden: Classical Actors Ensemble: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Shakespeare outdoors; Shakespeare for the people. After skipping summer 2020, as everybody did, Classical Actors Ensemble returns for its seventh summer of free, family-friendly Shakespeare in the parks. “Midsummer” is one of the Bard’s most popular plays, a comedy of love set in a forest of mischievous fairies and merry “mechanicals” rehearsing a play. Directed by Joe Wiener. Run time two hours. Free and non-ticketed; register if you want weather updates (which you do). Donations encouraged. Note: Lyndale Park Rose Garden is Friday’s performance only; check the schedule to see where CAE will go next.