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The Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview. Photo from theater's Facebook page.
The Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview, Minn., is closing. Named for the esteemed writer who grew up in the town of about 3,300 northeast of Rochester, this little drama house on the prairie founded 14 years ago drew critical praise for the quality of the more than 60 plays staged there. Its home, a former farm-plement dealership, also houses a bookstore and art gallery.
The rising costs of putting on shows factored into the decision to close,said Dean Harrington, CEO of the Rural America Arts Partnership, the umbrella orgnazation that runs the theater. But that was only one reason.
“Attendance plateaued after the first few years and after that we didn’t get the increases we needed,” Harrington said. “Also part of our mission was to produce challenging work, and there was some audience for that in this area, but not enough to make it a satisfying endeavor.”
The Hassler will continue to house productions on a rental basis through 2014, to honor prior commitments to high school and community groups who have planned shows and other events.
“We hope the school or someone else might buy it so it can continue being used as a theater, but if there’s no interest it will be redeveloped as a commercial space of some sort,” Harrington said.
“It does take a bigger investment than just ticket sales to keep a theater going,” said Brett Olson, a supporter of the Hassler who runs a rural-arts advocacy nonprofit called Renewing the Countryside. “The Guthrie couldn’t survive on that. The money that goes to the urban arts may be geographically proportional to the amount of taxes paid, but the rural areas can wind up being left out.”
Olga Viso of Walker Art Center.
Two of three new appointees to the National Council on the Arts are from Minneapolis. Olga Viso, executive director of Walker Art Center, and Ranee Ramaswamy, founder and co-artistic director of the Ragamala Dance Company were recently named by President Obama to the council, which is the governing body of the National Endowment for the Arts.
The council, which meets three times a year, wields considerable influence. It votes on grant funding and rejections, advises on the NEA's budget and policies and gives the President recommendations on who to nominate for the National Medal of the Arts.
Viso, who as led the Walker since 2008 after a 12-year stint at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., called the appointment, which also had to be approved by the Senate, "a huge honor. It will be a privilege to be a part of this group, to bring a new generation of thinkers to the table as well as a Minnesota presence to conversation."
Ramaswamy has been a master choreographer, performer, and teacher of the South Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam dance since 1978, founding Ragamala in 1992. Among her many awards and honors are 14 McKnight fellowships, a Bush fellowship and being named the Star Tribune's Artist of the Year (with co-director Aparna Ramaswamy, her daughter) in 2011.
The third appointee to the 17-member council is Rick Lowe, an artist and founder of a nonprofit that revitalizes neighborhoods in Houston. Six ex-officio legislator members on the council include two members of Congress from the Upper Midwest: Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
Ranee Ramaswamy (right) with her daughter and co-artistic director, Aparna Ramaswamy. Photos by Tom Wallace.
Poet Robert Bly is the subject of one of four documentaries that got finishing funds from MNFilmTV through legacy money. Photo by Renee Jones Schneider.
The only kind of funding harder for indie filmmakers to get than start-up money is finishing money -- for that least sexy but oh-so-necessary step, post-production. That's why local moviemakers are encouraged by the Minnesota Film and TV Board's reimbursement grants,made possible through the Legacy Amendment.
The four 2013 winners are Dominic Howes, Al Milgrom, Mike Scholtz and Norah Shapiro. Each project -- they're all documnetaries -- will be reimbursed for 50% of post-production costs, up to a limit of $80,000.
Howes' " Robert Bly: A Thousand Years of Joy," is a portrait of the prominent Minnesota poet and social critic. Milgrom's "The Dinkytown Uprising" chronicles the two-month occupation of the social-change hotbed of a neighborhood in 1970.
Shapiro looks at what happens to a Tibetan-American teen who goes to the Himalayas to compete in a beauty pageant in "Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile." Scholz's "Wicker Kittens" tells the story of the country's largest jigsaw puzzle competition, held each January at the St. Paul Winter Carnival.
Above: Minneapolis Interactive Macro Mood Installation (MIMMI), the 2013 Creative City Challenge winner
A consortium of Minneapolis arts and culture agencies is seeking entries in a competition to produce a $75,000 temporary art installation on the plaza adjacent to the Minneapolis Convention Center for the summer of 2014.
Entrants must be Minnesota residents. All proposals must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. central time, November 18, 2013. Three finalists will be selected by a professional jury and given $2,500 each to prepare a final proposal, due in December. Finalists will be judged by public voting in February 2014. The winner will be announced March 3, 2014.
Contest rules and information can be found online at http://www.minneapolis.org/minneapolis-convention-center/ccc/creative-city-challenge-submissions.
The 2014 Creative City Challenge is sponsored by the Minneapolis Convention Center, the Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy of the City of Minneapolis, and Meet Minnepolis, Convention & Visitors Association in collaboration with Northern Lights. mn and the Northern Spark festival.
Robb Asklof as The Dancing Master and Kelly Kaduce as Manon Lescaut in the Minnesota Opera production of Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" last month. Photo by Mikal Daniel.
It hasn't been the greatest week for classical music in America, but the MInnesota Opera can't complain. As the Minnesota Orchestra's woes continue and the 70-year-old New York City Opera closed its doors for good, Minnesota Opera received two six-figure grants within several days of each other.
On Tuesday, the opera announced a $100,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. The money will be used to simulcast the opening-night performances of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons at Landmark Plaza, free and open to the public. A previous grant from Knight in 2011 enabled the company to develop more sophisticated HD capture for broadcasting.
Last week, the opera announced a different grant for the same $100,000 amount from the Hearst Foundation. That grant is earmarked for education and community outreach.
Bucking a national trend in audience decline for opera companies, Minnesota Opera has had steady attendance and last year recorded an 11-year high in subscription sales, said marketing and communications director Lani WIllis.