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Political trio seeking decisive civic action to save Minnesota Orchestra

Former Gov. Arne Carlson and Minneapolis mayoral candidates Jackie Cherryhomes and Dan Cohen call for quick action to find money to end the lockout.

Former Gov. Arne Carlson and Minneapolis mayoral candidates Dan Cohen and Jackie Cherryhomes spoke in front of Orchestra Hall, calling for government intervention in the Orchestra dispute.
MinnPost photo by Karen Boros

Just hours before Osmo Vänskä begins his farewell concerts with the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, an unlikely political trio has come forward to say it is time for drastic action to save the orchestra.

“When there was a problem relative to both our baseball team and our football team, leadership stepped up immediately to the plate,” said former Gov. Arne Carlson, who appeared at a Friday news conference with Minneapolis mayoral candidates Jackie Cherryhomes and Dan Cohen.

Their short-term goal is finding enough money to end the yearlong lockout of the musicians by the Minnesota Orchestra Association and then concentrate on a long-term solution to the funding problems.

“Where are our priorities?” asked Carlson, who said the cost of getting the musicians back to work would be a lot less than the cost of starting over to rebuild an orchestra and attract a conductor. “Once you lose a facility, I know from experience how difficult it is to get it back.”

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Cohen and Cherryhomes contacted Carlson and asked for his help after he blogged about the lockout and the need to resolve the dispute.

“When you compare the amount of money we’re committed to delivering to other activities, like a stadium and streetcars, the amount of money it would take to get operating funds to put this orchestra back on its feet … my answer is whatever needs to be done the city should step forward and do it,” said Cohen in response to a question about a direct bailout with city funds.

“This is not about politics. This transcends all of us. It’s about leadership for our city,” said Cherryhomes, a former City Council president. She suggested that one possible solution to the long-term funding problem could be an increase in the amount of Legacy funds the Orchestra receives from the state. “We need to figure out how to get this done,” she said.

The three suggested the possible formation of a committee to work on a solution, perhaps involving the City Council and the mayor, and seeking donations from outside the arts community.

“I would like to see the Vikings step forward and say, ‘Yes, we have got an overly generous deal from the taxpayers, and we are going to be part of the solution for Orchestra Hall,” said Carlson. “It’s entirely appropriate.”

“We need to look at every creative source we can to ensure that we have sustainable funds for the arts in our city,” said Cherryhomes. “It’s a tragedy that we don’t have the orchestra right now.”

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“In order to attract the scientific, the academic, the intellectual, the artistic talent this city needs, we need to present them with a world-class symphony as a major attraction drawing major talent to our city,” said Cohen. “This is an investment, not a bailout.”

“What are you going to say as members of the media, as members of the public and as leaders a year from now, when there isn’t anything but silence coming out of this building?” asked Carlson.

The three said the first step would be to attract others interested in finding the funds to end the lockout and then moving ahead to find sources of funding.