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Theatre Unbound bows out; NEA adds $80 million in pandemic relief

ALSO: Skyline Mini Golf at the Walker; a “Lakewood 101 Wednesday Night Walking Tour”; and more.

A scene from Theatre Unbound’s 2019 production of “Iphigenia and Other Daughters.”
A scene from Theatre Unbound’s 2019 production of “Iphigenia and Other Daughters.”
Courtesy of Theatre Unbound

Founded in 1999, Theatre Unbound: The Women’s Theatre had a noble goal: to deliver live theater conceived and created by women in a field dominated by men.

Since then, Theatre Unbound has given opportunities to 137 female directors, 435 female actors and 126 female playwrights. It produced the annual 24-hour Xtreme Theatre Smackdown, the most female-centric theater event of the year, and four installments of the Director’s Gym for female directors. Its all-female “Julius Caesar” won an Ivey Award.

Twenty years and more than 50 productions after its founding, Theatre Unbound’s 2019-20 season began with Margaret Atwood’s own stage adaptation of her book, “The Penelopiad.” COVID prevented what would have been the final show of the season, “Girl Shorts.”

On Monday, Theatre Unbound announced that it would dissolve. “Borrowing words of wisdom from our colleagues at Patrick’s Cabaret,” the board said in a release, “we are courageously deciding that survival is not the goal, and our volunteer-run organization is no longer sustainable.”

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It’s not completely over: “We look forward to celebrating the legacy and impact of Theatre Unbound with our community this summer. Stay tuned for more to come.”

Theatre Unbound leaves us by nodding toward theaters they think it’s worth keeping an eye on: Prime Productions, Rough Magic, New Dawn, Theatre Elision, Grumble Theatre, Theatre Pro Rata. “We believe that the work Theatre Unbound did to create opportunities for women artists helped make space for theaters like these,” the board said.

Sarah Schultz to leave the American Craft Council

Have there really been more leadership changes at arts organizations during the pandemic than in a so-called “normal” year, or does it just seem that way?

Sarah Schultz
Courtesy of the American Craft Council
Sarah Schultz
Sarah Schultz, who spent more than 20 years at the Walker, became executive director of the American Craft Council in April 2018. Earlier this month, ACC board chair Gary Smith announced that her last day will be Aug. 31, 2021.

“Sarah did what she promised to do,” Smith said in a statement. “She brought creativity, energy, and vision to an organization that is on its way to celebrating its 80th year, and she has positioned the organization for the future in a way that celebrates and supports the talent and diversity of American craft artists and makers.”

Schultz said, “My reasons for leaving are deeply personal, and deeply rooted in where I need to be now.”

Under Schultz’s three years of leadership, ACC’s flagship publication, “American Craft,” was redesigned; new programs were introduced, including an award for craft writing; and a new national conference explored craft’s relevance and influence in American culture today. When COVID forced the cancellation of ACC’s annual in-person craft shows in Baltimore, Atlanta, San Francisco and St. Paul, a major source of income for artists, ACC built out new e-commerce marketplaces.

ACC’s development director, Judy Hawkinson, will serve as interim director while ACC conducts a nationwide search for a new ED.

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ACC is a national nonprofit with national impact. It has been part of our local arts economy and scene since 1987, when Sam Grabarski and the 11 members of the Minnesota State Arts Board persuaded the ACC to move its Dallas show to Minnesota. In 2010, the Craft Council relocated its offices to Minneapolis from New York City.

NEA widens access to $80 million in pandemic relief

If you’re part of a nonprofit arts and culture organization or local arts agency that has never applied to the NEA for funds, or has never received support from the NEA, read on.

The federal arts organization last week opened the door wider to $80 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. Two new opportunities are available: one for arts and culture organizations, and one for local arts agencies. For the first, approximately $60 million is available in amounts of $50,000, $100,000 or $150,000. For the second, approximately $20 million is available in amounts of $150,000, $250,000 or $500,000.

Unlike other NEA grants, these don’t require matching funds. They don’t have to support specific projects or programmatic activities. They are meant to help with day-to-day businesses expenses and operating costs that keep the doors open.

Guidelines are now available for both programs. The application deadline for local arts agencies is July 22; for arts and culture organizations, the deadline is Aug. 12.

The NEA is offering what it calls “robust technical assistance” to applicants. Nonprofit arts or culture organizations can register now for a webinar on July 6 at 2 p.m. Central time. The webinar for local arts agencies took place on June 29; you can register to view the recording.

Along with first-time applicants, the NEA is encouraging applications from small- and medium-size organizations, urban or rural, and those that “serve populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by ethnicity, economics, geography or disability.” Acting Chair Ann Eiler said in a statement, “A primary goal for the National Endowment for the Arts is to incorporate principles of equity, access, and inclusion in its implementation of the ARP grant program. These efforts constitute a critical step in the agency’s engagement with communities traditionally underserved by government.”

The $80 million is part of the $135 million the NEA received in the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill Congress passed in March. The other $55 million is going to state and regional organizations, other NEA partner agencies and administration costs.

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The picks

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

L Thursdays through Sundays at the Walker: Skyline Mini Golf. Have you ever played a round of mini golf while looking out at Siah Armajani’s bridge, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Minneapolis skyline? It’s a view you won’t find in the Dells. Plus the holes are all designed by local artists. Thursdays 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sundays 11 p.m.-5 p.m. Buy tickets at the Main Lobby Desk ($10/8 Walker members and ages 7-18).

Olivia Diercks and Karla Colahan of the OK Factor.
Photo by Tim Dodd
Olivia Diercks and Karla Colahan of the OK Factor.
L Thursday, July 1, 7:30 p.m. on the green roof of the Bakken Museum: The OK Factor. The new-classical crossover duo of Olivia Diercks (cellist) and Karla Colahan (violinist) – the O and the K of OK – will play a concert of folk-inspired music on the lush roof with the splendid views (and, this evening, a cocktail bar). Your ticket includes admission to the museum starting at 5 p.m., so arrive early enough to do some exploring. FMI and tickets ($25).

Signe V. Harriday
Courtesy of the artist
Signe V. Harriday
L Opens in previews Friday and Saturday, July 2 and 3, 5:30 p.m., in the Pillsbury House Theatre parking lot: “What to Send Up When It Goes Down.” Pillsbury House returns to live, in-person theater with Aleshea Harris’ play, which rejoices in the resilience of Black people throughout history. Harris wrote it for a Black audience but all are welcome. The cast: Aimee K. Bryant, Alexis Camille, Ryan Colbert, JuCoby Johnson, Rajané Katurah, Darrick Mosley and Mikell Sap. Pillsbury’s new artistic producing director, Signe V. Harriday, will make her directorial debut. Limited capacity (50 people per show). Bring your own seating. Performances run July 7-18. FMI and tickets (pick-your-price $5-25).

L Next Wednesday, July 7, at Lakewood Cemetery, 6-7:15 p.m.: “Lakewood 101 Wednesday Night Walking Tour.” One of the most beautiful parks in the Twin Cities, with gorgeous buildings and grounds and famous residents (Hubert and Muriel Humphrey, Paul Wellstone, Tiny Tim, Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra founder Emil Oberhoffer), Lakewood is a perfect place for a guided tour. As part of its 150th anniversary celebration, you’ll also receive a free copy of Lakewood’s history book, “Haven in the Heart of the City.” Don’t wait until the last minute to get tickets; these are popular events, and more tickets have already been added to this one. FMI and tickets ($10 advance, $12 door).