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A new director takes the helm at the Minnesota Fringe Festival

The Minnesota Fringe Festival has named a new executive director.

Dawn Bentley, whose latest leadership role was running the Art Shanty Projects on Medicine Lake, will take the reins of the organization April 3.

 “I am honored and humbled to be given this opportunity,” Bentley said in a prepared statement. She vowed to be “an effective leader and passionate advocate for the Fringe."

A body-builder and marathon runner, Bentley has experience in non-profit management. She was director of business development for the Northern Spark festival and has been an adjunct faculty member at several institutions, including McNally Smith College of Music and the University of Minnesota.

Bentley assumes leadership of one of the state’s largest performing arts festivals at a time of change and challenge.

The fringe was sued last year by Sean Neely, a controversial Arizona-based performer. Neely's pedophilia-themed show, “Having Sex with Children in My Brain,” won a slot in the festival’s lottery, but then was later rejected. That lawsuit is remains active.

Bentley succeeds Jeff Larson, a longtime fringe employee who resigned last fall, followed by his deputy, Ann B. Erickson.

The fringe has grown exponentially since its founding in 1994. It has an annual budget of $740,000 and three fulltime employees — a number that balloons to about 70 for its two-week festival.

About 48,000 tickets were sold to 168 fringe show in 2016, a year when the festival paid out over $230,000 to artists, according to fringe officials.

The 2017 fringe festival runs August 3 - 13, 2017.

Brother Ali's first album in five years looks to be a 'Beauty'

Brother Ali stepped back to the stage in 2015 for the Rhymesayers 20 concert at Target Center. / Leslie Plesser for Star Tribune

Brother Ali stepped back onto the stage in December 2015 for the Rhymesayers 20 concert at Target Center. / Leslie Plesser for Star Tribune

While Twin Cities hip-hop fans are impatiently awaiting tomorrow's lineup announcement for this year’s Soundset festival, Rhymesayers Entertainment did surprise them with some other big news this morning: Brother Ali will drop a new album a few weeks ahead of the big bash, titled “All the Beauty in This Whole Life.” Details of the record and the first track debuted via RollingStone.com.

Due May 5, the 15-track collection was produced entirely by Ant of Atmosphere and is Ali’s first full-length release in five years, going back to “Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color.” He went on something of a sabbatical in recent years, though he has been getting back in the performance ring of late, once again serving as Atmosphere’s opening act. It looks as if the songs on the record will explain the personal and spiritual journey he went on in that time.

Among the tracks we already know is “Dear Black Son,” which addresses police brutality and stunned the crowd when he debuted as a spoken-word piece at the Rhymesayers 20 concert in December 2015. More than political, though, it sounds as if this record will be hopeful and inward-looking, as evidenced by the first single, “Own Light (What Hearts Are For),” which is posted below along with a promo video for the record and another vide for the song "Pen to Paper."

“This entire album is based on the reality that beauty is the splendor of truth," Ali said in a press release from Rhymesayers. "Beauty in all of its forms is the outward manifestation of love and virtue. It soothes the soul and pulls it gently toward the truth it communicates. Every word and note of this album is intended to either reflect beauty, or expose the ugliness that blocks us from living lives of meaning."

Pre-orders for the album are now being taken via Rhymesayers.com.
 

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