From the Top

Having earned rave reviews and a Grammy nomination for its CDs of all nine Beethoven symphonies, the Minnesota Orchestra hits the studio again this month to record the Piano Concerto No. 4, as well as a Bruckner symphony. The ensemble plans to record all five concerto’s within three years. That’s no small feat, especially given the high cost of recording classical music. But the investment is well-worth it, says Robert Neu, the orchestra’s general manager: “It generates interest about our tours and there’s a certain amount of hometown pride, too.” Pictured, clockwise from left, are orchestra members Gina DiBello, Michael Sutton, David Williamson, and Adam Kuenzel.

2010: A Political Odyssey

Sure, the recent election season ended approximately, oh, seven seconds ago. And, no, Governor Tim Pawlenty hasn’t yet announced whether he’ll seek another term. But that hasn’t stopped a horde of Democrats from lining up to run for governor in 2010. And while there will be plenty of time to discuss the candidates’ policies, the challenge now is just figuring out who’s who. Think you can tell the difference between Paul Thissen and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen? Tom Bakk and Bok Choi? Take this test to find out:

1. Once ran for attorney general. Earned a law degree from Oxford. Met his wife at a debate tournament in high school.
2. First attorney to successfully introduce DNA evidence in a criminal trial in Minnesota; first person to declare 2010 candidacy.
3. University of Chicago law grad; features an “idea board” on his website.
4. Fiery Iron Ranger who once said: “I need a zipper on my mouth.”
5. First name is actually Raymond; recently declared, in a video on YouTube: “I may not have the world’s best driving record, but I know where to park.”
6. Played goalie for the Yale hockey team; once beat Eugene McCarthy in a Democratic primary.
7. Journeyman carpenter and former volunteer firefighter; runs powerful tax committee in the state Senate.
8. Won his last election by 38 points; plays bagpipes; father was majority leader of the state Senate.
9. Became Minnesota House Speaker at age 38; has been credited with “Buddha-like” calm.
10. Former state rep; current president of the Minnesota Farmers Union; was both a football player and art major in college.

a. Former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton
b. State Representative Tom Rukavina
c. Former State Representative Doug Peterson
d. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak
e. Forner State Representative Matt Entenza
f. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner
g. Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher
h. State Representative Paul Thissen
i. State Senator Tom Bakk
j. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman

Answer Key: 1=e; 2=f; 3=h; 4=b; 5=d; 6=a; 7=i; 8=j; 9=g; 10=c

Keeping Track

Ox News

According to the Chinese zodiac, this year marks the Year of the Ox—a fine time to assess the state’s connection to that legendary bovine, Babe the Blue Ox. Here, the numbers:
3 Number of Babe the Blue Ox statues in Minnesota.
1837 Year of the Lower Canada Papineau Rebellion, to which the legend of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox can be traced.
1937 Year the Bemidji Rotary Club built the Paul and Babe statues to promote Bemidji as a tourist destination.
2 Rank of Bemidji’s Paul and Babe on Kodak’s list of most photographed statues in the country (Mount Rushmore is first.)
30,000 to 40,000 Number of Bemidji visitors who view the statues every year.
$2.50 Price of a copy of the novel, Paul Bunyan, by James Stevens, when it was first published.
$100 Current value of a first-edition copy of Paul Bunyan.
$5.99 Price of the “Sorry Babe” roast-beef sandwich at the Blue Ox Sandwich Factory in Burnsville.

The Cities Explained

Dark Beer

Q: Why isn’t the iconic Grain Belt Beer sign in Minneapolis lit at night?
A: Actually, the bottle cap sign next to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge hasn’t been illuminated since 1993 (it was last refurbished in 1989). According to Ted Marti, president of the Schell Brewing Company, which brews Grain Belt, there’s interest in restoring the sign, which dates back to 1940, but it would require significant investment. “It was really an energy user—with the incandescent bulbs and neon, which was always breaking,” he said. “We’ve talked with some groups about solar options. We want to replace the lighting so that it’s acceptable for the historical people and not take away from the look.”


Colossus of roads: Here’s something to ponder next time you’re stuck in traffic: traffic. According to a recent study conducted by the nonprofit Reason Foundation, Minnesota’s highway system ranked a respectable 18th in overall performance and cost-effectiveness. But it also ranked 49th—ahead of only California—when it came to the level of congestion on urban interstate highways. The state with the least congestion? North Dakota (of course).

Photo by Todd Buchanan

Q&A: Thomas Stinson

Minnesota’s state economist explains just how bad it’s going to be


How will this recession compare to past recessions here?
It’s going to be worse. The recession in 1990-91 was really a bicoastal recession; it pretty well skipped Minnesota. The recession in 2001 was worse in Minnesota at the start, but we actually came out of it quicker than the rest of the country. [But] beginning in 2006, Minnesota pretty much hit the wall, and we haven’t grown much since.

So it will be more analogous to the downturn in the mid-1980s?
It wasn’t caused by the same type of problems, and this one is going to be much broader. Will there be anything unique about how it affects Minnesota? The housing sector seems to have been hurt more and hurt earlier here than most of the rest of the nation. That’s compounded by the fact that the lumber-and-wood-products sector of the economy—the people who manufacture the windows and doors—serve a national market. So we’ve taken a double hit there. The other side of it is on the health-care side. We’re a national center for medical services, and health care employment has tended to grown faster here than it has in the rest of the United States. That sector is going to grow in importance.

Why did we hit a wall before everyone else?
That’s the big question. There are things that went on in Minnesota that didn’t go on nationally. The construction sector shut down faster. We had a series of discouraging events with the transportation sector: strikes, bankruptcies. We had some bad news with the Ford plant. But all those things are one-time things that hopefully go away. The question is whether the rest of it was just due to bad luck or if there is some structural change that means Minnesota won’t do as well as it has in the past.

Is there any good news? Seriously, anything?
Oil prices are down. There’s a rule of thumb: For every penny per gallon that gasoline prices go down, over a year that generates about a billion dollars in discretionary income for consumers. Gas prices are now about $2 below their peak from this summer. That’s $200 billion in discretionary income.

The $64,000 question: When is the economy going to stop being a horror show?
We think the first quarter [of 2009] is going to be very weak. The second and third quarter, hopefully, won’t have as much of a decline, but we could have a decline. For Minnesota—because of the peculiarities of the weather—I think if we’re going to see a pick up, it’s not going to be until the first quarter of 2010.


10 things we hope Prince refrains from commenting on in 2009

Red State vs. Blue States
Stem-cell research
Gay marriage
The future of General Motors
The surge
The Lincoln-Douglas debates
String theory
Spanking vs. time-outs
Anything besides music

Great Expectations

Five rising artists to watch in the new year 


Eric Powell Holm
In 2005, Holm led a handful of his fellow graduates from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA acting program to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they formed a critically acclaimed Shakespeare ensemble. Now he’s back, launching the area’s newest troupe, the Bottling Company, and focusing on potent plays inspired by politics, classical literature, and film.

Eddie Oroyan
Oroyan was once simply among the best dancers in town, performing with several top companies—TU Dance, Black Label Movement—before debuting his own choreography last summer, a playful piece supported by the Walker Art Center about meeting a woman on Craigslist. Now, having won a Sage Award for the work, he’s a bonafide double threat.

Lisa Elias
An Iron Age artist in the Digital Age, Elias has become the Twin Cities’ public artist of the moment via the venerable craft of metalwork. Inspired by organic art-nouveau forms, she recently transformed the Loring Bikeway bridge. And she’s now slated to spruce up 12 blocks of downtown Minneapolis with an elegantly designed drinking fountain, bike racks, and tree fences.

Dessa Darling
The queen of the local hip-hop scene has helped put Doomtree on the country’s underground rap map. She also recently joined the faculty of the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, writes book reviews for Spin magazine, hosts a trivia night every Monday at Nomad World Pub in Minneapolis, and this month releases a book of essays called Spiral Bound.

Dietrich Sieling
The autistic son of a playwright and film producer, Sieling is poised to become the region’s next big outsider artist—despite only recently graduating from high school. At a show last fall, his line drawings sold quickly to prominent collectors, and a short film about his life (by the award-winning local director Lu Lippold) premiered at the Walker Art Center last March.

The Curtain

Who’s up, who’s down in local arts and culture


The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Sells out much of its International Chamber Orchestra Festival
Olga Viso
The Walker Art Center director authors a biography of Mexican artist Ana Mendieta
Jon Ferguson
Named theater programming director—at the embattled
Southern Theater
Sage Dance Awards
Rocked by charges of favoritism
Minnesota Film Arts
Demolition of its Oak Street Cinema now appears inevitable


Skewed Visions

10 arts stories you (probably) won’t see in 2009

With the premiere of Tony Kushner’s new play and the 50th anniversary production of Raisin in the Sun by Penumbra Theatre, could the new year get any more artistically interesting? You bet—with a little imagination:

1) Prince stars in West Side Story at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
2) The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra goes strictly improv
3) The Minnesota Shubert Performing Arts and Education Center goes condo
4) The Museum of Russian Art throws in a few Swedish artists to see if anyone’s paying attention
5) The Guthrie Theater casts Sarah Palin in its summer musical, My Fair Lady
6) The Walker Art Center admits its new building is supposed to look like an angry monkey robot
7) Southern Theater board members lock themselves out of the building
8) Mayor R. T. Rybak resigns to pursue his first love: juggling
9) Dominique Serrand and Steven Epp buy back the Theatre de la Jeune Lune building after 300 straight perform-ances of A Christmas Carol
10) Diablo Cody finds religion, writes new film, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Diablo