I empathize with both sides in the orchestra's contract negotiations.
The Sept. 6 Star Tribune contained two articles that should strike fear in the hearts of all Twin Citians who are concerned with the state of the arts in our community. The first updated us on the serious financial state of our two world-class orchestras, the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Both are in contract negotiations with their musicians, which could lead to reduced number of performers, reduced programming and probable reductions in pay by as much as 40 or 50 percent.
The second announced that the Penumbra Theatre, the premier African-American theater in the country, was not able to commit to a production schedule this year, as it had to lay off 38 percent of its staff while seeking additional funding support.
Astounding amounts of money are spent on new facilities and excessive compensation for sports teams, with the rationale that it is necessary in order to attract people to our first-class community. For me and, I believe, many others, the availability of top-rank cultural assets such as the orchestras and the Penumbra are of equal if not greater importance in making this a desirable place to live.
While I do not have any original suggestions, other than renewed efforts at nonprofit fundraising, I am struck with the belief that this situation needs to be viewed in a larger context. As people like me have less resources to contribute to the causes we think are important, the arts become supported and controlled by fewer and fewer wealthy individuals. I believe we should all consider this distressing development as we consider national priorities for the future.
PETER H. SAMMOND, MINNETONKA
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I empathize with both sides in the orchestra's contract negotiations, but there's a larger issue at stake.
In March 2010, Alex Ross, the music critic of the New Yorker magazine, called the Minnesota Orchestra "the greatest orchestra in the world," and while a superlative as such may be overstated for any orchestra, all agree we have one of the greatest orchestras in the world. About what else in Minneapolis-St. Paul can we make that claim? Not our sports teams, not our theaters or museums (wonderful as they are, they aren't among the best in the world), nor our university (in one or two departments, perhaps).
We should take pride in being the best at something, and being the best costs money. Let's not risk compromising this great asset of the Twin Cities. Let's step up right now and pay for the best, whether we do so publicly or privately. Believe me, the cost is a mere fraction of what we've paid for the mediocre Twins and Vikings.
RICHARD STEVER-ZEITLIN, MINNEAPOLIS
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I was shocked to read that the St. Paul Saints stadium proposal has the bases loaded with no outs ("Play ball? $47.5M in state funds on deck," Sept. 11). Outstate legislative leaders may be "crestfallen," but they walked batter after batter at the end of the legislative session and now seem surprised that more than half of the available funding could subsidize a minor-league baseball team in the capital.
While I concede that Litchfield may need a new sewer project, public funding for another sports stadium smells far worse. Bonding bills were created to build roads and bridges, schools and convention centers, resources that generate public goods and investment for a broad cross-section of the community.
Have we become so enamored with professional sports that, in a time when we can hardly find funding for education, health care or transportation, we salivate like rapid dogs whenever someone yells "play ball"?
MATTHEW FLORY, ST. PAUL
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Eighty percent of Minnesotans do not smoke, yet smoking is allowed at the largest gathering of Minnesotans, the State Fair. Is breathing cigarette smoke, ducking lit cigarettes and stepping on cigarette litter an acceptable part of the experience? Large outdoor venues such as college campuses, the Minnesota Zoo and Target Field are smoke-free. Would the State Fair board please explain its thinking? What push does it need to make the fair smoke-free?
CATHERINE BENSON, MINNEAPOLIS
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It sounds to this reader that although University of Minnesota vice provost for student affairs Jerry Rinehart states that any discussion about the future of the U's golf course will not be a "light decision, and it will be made very transparently," he's already made up his mind that the golf course should close shop, and the U could find another use for the property ("U ponders future of its golf course," Sept. 11). Throughout the article, Rinehart makes comments that indicate that his part of the conversation will be to advocate for its closing.
JIM STROMBERG, WHITE BEAR LAKE
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