The Flanagan Memo: NEA gift an opportunity for Hennepin fix-ups

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN
  • Star Tribune
  • August 2, 2011 - 8:09 AM

The Flanagan Memo -- Re: Everybody has to give money and accept a wee gift of it to keep Minneapolis perfect -- or almost so.

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Our town recently received a goodly little sum of dough from a major donor.

Downtown Hennepin Avenue is the recipient and the National Endowment for the Arts is the giver. The idea is to turn Hennepin into some kind of a green dream or, specifically, a "cultural corridor'' that is vital and green, of course.

Now, I am for that and have been ever since the first time we looked at Hennepin when some sculptors wanted to give us metal trees as décor. Thank goodness, enough people of note rose up and said, "No, no, no.''

The result was the revival of several theaters, a new hotel, and a fairly good batch of restaurants, plus housing and pretty decent transit.

Now, I know that more needs doing. A start will be the dedication of the Cowles Center -- the renovated Shubert Theater -- next month. It should be a good one.

However, the space from the Mississippi River to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Loring Park and Walker Art Center is mighty. As I said about 40 years ago, Hennepin Avenue Needs Work and, yes, it still does.

The $200,000 endowment is nice, but not enough to do a lot. I mean, there is still Block E to deal with. And the old movie theater between 7th and 8th Streets remains a mess worth getting rid of.

But we are getting there and nicely.

Say, how about spending a bit of that money on more sidewalk stars saluting our famous? We still must add Judy Garland.

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By the way, that proposed ordinance to stop noise in sidewalk cafes -- or, perhaps, close them -- has been put on the December docket (yes, December) by the City Council and, specifically, Council Member Meg Tuthill. She first brought it up.

As I said last month, sidewalk cafes, to me, are a lively and occasionally noisy addition to our towns. I love them and I also like those that reign on the rooftops.

Cafe operators have gotten the word to keep their customers under control and I believe they are working at it. Let's hope so.

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Thanks to Mary and Gene Frey, I had a good talk with Kathleen van Bergen, director of the Schubert Club in St. Paul for the past three years. Now, she is moving to Florida to take over as the chief of the Philharmonic Center in Naples.

In that job, she will not only be in charge of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, but will also book the hall -- a center of superb year-around entertainment (Gene Frey is a member of the board and was on the search committee).

Since she is only 34, a young age for so much responsibility, I wondered how she came to her job or jobs. She worked for the Philadelphia and St. Louis orchestras before coming to the Twin Cities.

Music has always been a part of her life, she said, beginning at about age 4 on the violin, which she continues to play. And, yes, she loves the musical classics, but also enjoys all things musical.

Even John Pizzarelli, the super singer and jazz guitarist? She said, "Oh, yes,'' so I trust he will be booked.

Meanwhile, reader Norma Anderson tells me not to miss Pizzarelli on KBEM (88.5 FM) every Saturday beginning at 4 p.m. Believe me, since I got that news, I haven't.

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Now I mentioned that money is needed -- about $75,000 -- to replace the floor coverings at the American Swedish Institute at 26th Street and Park Avenue S. The rugs have been doing their duty since -- are you sitting down? -- the year 1908. Some of the carpeting is about 40 years old, but it is all wearing out. Or worn out.

Curator Curt Pederson found an 8-by-12 piece of the original carpet in a storage closet, and that is what will be copied. The carpet will be woven on an Axminster loom, the same type that produced the original. And the cost, again, is $75,000.

Knowing those Swedes, they will raise the money!

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Finally, if you don't like rhubarb pie, which I cannot imagine, try a rhubarb tart instead.

Tosca has a good one and Cafe Maude offers a splendid one, plus great booths that are truly comfortable. Enjoy!

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