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Word of Mouth®

A Web & Radio Guide to the Arts, hosted by Chris Roberts
    State of the Arts

Minnesota is proud of its arts community. The state abounds with theaters, musicians, dance companies, and visual artists. Minnesota arts organizations enjoy unusual amounts of financial support from private foundations. But how are we really doing? Once a month the Word of Mouth team takes a closer look at one of the several art disciplines in Minnesota to find out about its strengths and weaknesses.

Philanthropy - McKnight, Jerome, Target, General Mills: for many artists these foundations are vital to their ability to survive doing what they love. Minnesota has more than 135 foundations giving money to the arts, and their long history of generosity has made the state a leader nationwide in arts funding. But recent reports suggest that reputation is no longer as justified. The economic recession has left its mark and 2003 promises to be a tough year for artists and foundations alike.     (November, 2002)

Jazz - It may come as a surprise to some, but compared to other metro areas its size, the Twin Cities jazz world is amazingly vibrant and loaded with talent. While the struggle to strengthen audiences is ongoing, Word of Mouth's Chris Roberts reports in some cases the biggest enemy the local jazz community has is... itself.     (October, 2002)

Poetry - The word "poet" conjures up images of a solitary writer at a desk, choosing words carefully. But today poets are more visible and more active than ever in Minnesota, - on the streets, in the schools, in coffeehouses and bars, poetry is holding forth, and attracting big audiences.     (September, 2002)

Choral Music - In August 2002 thousands of people from over 50 countries descended on the Twin Cities. No, it wasn't a hostile takeover - it was the Sixth annual World Choral Symposium. For the first time this international event came to the United States.    (August, 2002)

Film - For years the Minnesota film scene has been defined by the movies that Hollywood has made here, such as Fargo, the Mighty Ducks series, Jingle All the Way, and A Simple Plan. The strategy of attracting major motion pictures to the upper Midwest began to fizzle when Canada, with its tax breaks and cheap labor, began to lure Hollywood away. Now, members of Minnesota's film community are turning inward, intent on building an indigenous scene that produces its own work and sells it to the rest of the world.    (July, 2002)

Acoustic Music - Minnesota has more than its share of extremely talented folk- and acoustic-music artists, yet they rarely get played on the radio and have fewer opportunities to play live because of a lack of venues.    (June, 2002)

Criticism - There's a wealth of artistic events that take place on any given week across Minnesota. But many artists and art lovers say that, for such a rich arts scene, there's remarkably little criticism to be found in the Minnesota media.    (May, 2002)

Distribution - It's been argued that modern technology is helping artists. Computers make it quicker and easier to write songs and plays, to make films, and to publish books. New materials make it easier to make pictures, sculpt, and weave. But new technology and the realities of the modern world can also make things harder.   (April, 2002)

Orchestral Music - The upper Midwest enjoys an abundance of top-notch orchestras but some observers say it may be an overabundance. The Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra suffer from lagging audiences.    (March, 2002)

Dance - Most Minnesotans know of the state's strong reputation for the arts, but are they aware that its dance scene—not theater, or music, but the dance scene—particularly in the Twin Cities, is one of the best in the country?    (January, 2002)

Theater - Statistically, Minnesota has one of the most jam-packed theater communities in the country. Minnesota is nationally and internationally recognized as a theatrical center. Minnesota theater has boomed in the last 40 years, but does having a lot of theater mean Minnesota has good theater? Some say lack of leadership and state support threatens both the quality and quantity of theaterical productions in Minnesota.    (December, 2001)

Popular Music - At one time, Minneapolis was a popular-music world power. People would make pilgrimages to First Avenue looking for Prince, or Dinkytown looking for echoes of Bob Dylan. While Minnesota's national reputation has since faded, fans argue that the music is actually stronger than ever.   (November, 2001)

Visual Arts - Artists from across the country come to the Twin Cities to take advantage of the many foundations based in Minnesota that support artistic work. As a result, Minnesota abounds with a wide variety of visual artists.    (October, 2001)

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