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The Victoria Theater at 825 University Ave. in Frogtown will be refurbished to put on live shows once more. Photo by Kimmy Tanaka.
If the walls of the Victoria Theater could talk, they'd sing. And dance. Singing and dancing will be happening there again if a neighborhood booster group can raise enough money. The century-old space with a colorful history in St. Paul's Frogtown won't become a parking lot, said writer/director Tyler Olsen, founder of the St. Paul troupe Dangerous Productions. The Twin Cities Community Land Bank will buy the Franklin Ellerbe-designed theater on behalf of the Victoria Theater Arts Initiative, a group that wants to restore the vacant eyesore, most recently a lamp store, and turn it into a combo-use space including an intimate (200-seat) theater and possibly elements of a community center.
Built in 1915, the theater originally showed movies before becoming a nightclub and then a speakeasy during Prohibition."Moonshiners' Dance: Part One," an historically influential song included in the American Anthology of Folk Music, was recorded there in 1927.The St. Paul City Council granted the Beaux Arts building historic designation in 2010.
The bank paid about $275,000 for what is “right now, a shell,” Olsen said. “No furnace, no bathrooms, but if you look hard, you can see a theater.” He said that while Bedlam Theatre’s move to Lowertown is a good thing, the closing of Gremlin Theatre on University last year leaves a need for another small performing space in St. Paul. “This brings theater out to a part of the city that thousands of people will be commuting through every day, the Central Corridor. Our goal is to engage those people as well as the neighborhood.”
A fundraising campaign is being planned, Olsen said.
Theater Latte Da's "Steerage Song," which was produced last fall, will tour the state because of a state arts board grant./photo by Michal Daniel.
The Minnesota State Arts Board has posted the winners of 2014 arts touring grants. The program allows groups and individuals to bring the arts to greater Minnesota. Forty-one grants were made, totaling just more than $1.7 million.
The jazz group, The New Standards, was awarded $93,000 to tour several cities throughout the state, including a holiday show in Rochester. VocalEssence will be granted $92,000 to tour southeast Minnesota and Theater Latte Da is authorized to use $88,000 to tour its original show, "Steerage Song," about the early 20th century immigrant experience.
The grants come with reporting requirements and certain levels of accountability. In the case of the Minnesota Orchestra, for example, the grant would only be paid if the organization has its musicians back at work for the September program in Bemidji. The Orchestra previously conducted a Common Chords tour to Grand Rapids in 2011, and in Willmar in 2012.
The full list is here.
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.
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