It was only a matter of time before this land of ice and snow found a way to join its annual winter doldrums with its love of the arts.
Presenting: St. Paul Snowblower Ballet, brought to you by Richard Chin and a grant from the Knight Foundation.
The project, which plans to incorporate the St. Paul Ballet, the Metropolitan Symphony and, perhaps, Toro, is one of 27 winning ideas announced Tuesday as part of the Knight Arts Challenge for St. Paul.
Chin, a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, was awarded nearly $35,000. He must find matching money, which Chin said he hopes to obtain through sponsors and other grants.
He admits he’s not a ballet impresario. “I just came up with an idea,” he said. “I downsized and my mother downsized, leaving me with two snowblowers.”
Knight Foundation asked grant applicants a simple question: “What’s your best idea for the arts in St. Paul?”
Other winning projects include a Frogtown garage concert series, a documentary film festival uniting the youth of St. Paul’s Skyline Towers and Gordon Parks High School, and a series of short plays staged at CHS Field.
Called “Safe at Home,” the project by the Mixed Blood Theatre will stage nine eight-minute plays around the ballpark — from the dugout to the clubhouse to a luxury suite and mascot area, said Jack Reuler, Mixed Blood’s artistic director. The plot involves a 25-year-old Dominican pitcher about to play in the seventh game of the World Series and rumors about what he might do in the national spotlight. The play won a grant of $50,000, and must attain matching funds.
“Stories That Unite,” a project by the Independent Filmmaker Project Minnesota, won a $10,000 grant. Andrew Peterson, executive director at IFP, said filmmaker Mohamud Mumim will act as a mentor to 20 young filmmakers who will produce six to eight films to be screened near Gordon Parks High and Skyline Towers, on a vacant lot that has been bought for a new park.
“We want to tell the stories of the people who live in the area and will be using the park to be developed there,” Peterson said.
The Frogtown Garage Concert Series seeks to fill every block of the alley between Sherburne and University avenues, running from Dale Street to Lexington Parkway with local music in the summer of 2017, said Sam Buffington, community organizer for the Frogtown Neighborhood Association. The project is meant to help ease tensions between area businesses and residents after the construction of the Green Line light rail project.
Chin’s snowblower ballet is expected to be staged on St. Paul’s Harriet Island in February 2018, coinciding with the Winter Carnival and the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Chin said he expects a snowblower ballet will have no trouble attracting attention from the news outlets here for the Big Game.
But he has no plans to drop his day job.
“There’s no money in art,” he said, noting his grant money will go to musicians, dancers, a choreographer — and snowblowers. “I’m hoping we can get Toro as a sponsor.”
The full list of the projects, which will share $862,633, can be found at knightarts.org.