Quarterly Newsletter

Arts Midwest sends out quarterly updates and an end of year report to let you know about our progress during the year. Sign up for our e-mail list to stay informed about our programs and activities.

Quarterly Newsletter – Spring 2015

Modern Spirit returns to Minnesota

After traveling throughout the United States since 2013, Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison celebrated a homecoming in February at the Minnesota History Center, where the exhibition is now on view through April 26, 2015.


Sponsoring partner, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s General Council and his guest discuss Morrison’s artwork at the Minnesota History Center. Photo by Tiffany Rodgers.

Describing the collection of works as “a visual feast rooted in scholarly research,” Mason Riddle said it best in a 2013 Star Tribune review: “Modern Spirit illuminates Morrison’s impassioned relationship with art and the natural world, and his place as an American Indian artist working in a world of European-based art. Through more than 80 paintings, prints, drawings, collages and sculpture on loan from public and private collections, the show…chronicles Morrison’s 60-year aesthetic trajectory with clarity and intelligence.”

In February, Arts Midwest invited our partners and supporters to a special reception and exhibition preview at the Minnesota History Center. More than 150 people gathered over hors d’oeuvres and cocktails to inaugurate the return of this must-see retrospective of one of Minnesota’s most beloved artists. Remarks at the reception, which included comments by Arts Midwest’s David J. Fraher, Minnesota Historical Society Executive Director, D. Stephen Elliott, Minnesota Museum of American Art Executive Director, Kristin Makholm, and the exhibition’s curator, W. Jackson Rushing III, reflected on the impact of Morrison’s work, as well as that of the successful partnerships that made this project possible.

To miss the exhibition entirely would be tragic. Why? Because Modern Spirit is not only achingly beautiful, but it is also a scholarly gateway to understanding the eye and hand of a remarkable 20th century modernist artist…
—Mason Riddle, Twin Cities Daily Planet (March 2015)

Arts Midwest’s 30th Anniversary

On July 1, 1985 Arts Midwest was born. Well, actually, it was created from a merger of two previous organizations (the Affiliated State Arts Agencies of the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes Arts Alliance), which came together to increase efficiencies and maximize new synergies on behalf of the Midwest’s cultural community. Arts Midwest set forth with a visionary board and the same CEO we have to this day, David Fraher.

Since then, millions of audience members, thousands of artists, arts organizations, and leaders have benefited from Arts Midwest programming throughout the region and the world. Our story is long and imbedded in places you may not even realize. We’ve toured music ensembles not only around our nine-state region, but traveled to the far corners of the U.S.—from Crockett, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska—and collaborated with visual and performing artists on five continents.

In order to celebrate this significant anniversary, we will be spending the rest of 2015 sharing stories, following up with past partners, speaking with current friends, and asking you to come along for the ride.

And what would a celebration be without food? We at Arts Midwest would be remiss if we didn’t recognize some of our best moments were shared over a meal with our colleagues in the field—moments where we’ve been able to bring friends together to share new experiences and cultures, and to make lasting memories. And so, in honor of our 30 years, we will be pairing some of our past and current success stories with some of our favorite meals.

Please, sit back, relax, grab a beverage, and help us celebrate!

An Da Union in 2008 with students

Arts Midwest World Fest delights audiences across our region

As part of the current Arts Midwest World Fest season, Paulo Padilha and Group (Brazil) and Shanren (China) ensembles traveled to Sisseton, SD; Orange City, IA; Grand Forks, ND; Bemidji, MN; Rice Lake/Cumberland/Barron/Shell Lake, WI; Harrisburg, PA; Medina, OH; Midland, MI; DeKalb, IL; and Hanover, IN. Partner communities were delighted to host these energetic artists and experience the zest of Brazilian and Yunnanese cultures through school workshops, community dinners, and public concerts.

Hailing from ethnic minority groups who live in the beautiful mountains of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, Chinese folk-fusion band, Shanren, presents the rich but largely unknown heritage of this region of China. Through original compositions and traditional songs, the four musicians fuse their indigenous music with modern styles from around the globe, creating a fresh sound in China’s increasingly diverse music scene.

The four artists of Shanren proved especially talented at engaging audiences and teaching communities about their culture. Fu Te’s demonstrations of the Left Foot Dance of the Yi called for audience participation, evoking great fun and glee from students at school workshops.

Left Foot Dance of the Yi
Shanren’s most energetic member, Fu Te, dances with students during a workshop. “Left Foot Dance of the Yi” is a song written by the group and inspired by an ancient tradition of the Yunnanese people. Photo by Shigeyo Henriquez.

The ensemble also drew particularly deep connections between the Native American traditions from the Sisseton community and those of their home region in the Yunnan and Guizhou provinces—discovering similarities in expressions of spirituality, peace, and ancestral remembrance. Sisseton Wahpeton High School students became the teachers during a workshop when Native students invited members of Shanren to join a drum circle.

Arts Midwest World Fest ensemble Paulo Padilha and Group also charmed audiences during their residencies this fall and winter. Lead musician Paulo enlisted participation from students teaching them lyrics and instrument names in Portuguese and inspired them to get up and move to the contagious rhythms and sounds of Brazil. The ensemble made special connections and found kindred spirits among the many young student musicians. His workshops even invited the students to celebrate their talent by performing on stage with the band at school and public concerts.

Arts Midwest World Fest school workshops
Photos by Beto Gonzales and Shigeyo Henriquez.

Arts Midwest meets Board Matching Challenge

Kicking off in November on Minnesota’s Give to the Max Day, Arts Midwest launched our first Board Matching campaign. Challenging our donors and friends to help us reach our match by raising $2,000 in new and increased donations through the end of 2014, the calendar year ended on a on a high note for Arts Midwest. Thank you again to the many generous contributions from new friends and dedicated donors! And thank you to our Board of Directors for inspiring our donors with new opportunities to help Arts Midwest fulfill our mission year after year.

Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art continues funding for Caravanserai: A place where cultures meet

From a selection of almost 100 applications, nearly doubling the competition from the prior year, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art announced in March support to nine organizations for their Building Bridges program. Arts Midwest was honored to receive one of these awards in support of the next season of Caravanserai.

We are thrilled to continue sharing dynamic Muslim artists with U.S. communities as a grantee of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art…Extending the project’s vision of a new cultural Silk Road in America, audiences in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan will host immersive residency experiences with dynamic contemporary Muslim-American music artists in 2016.
—Adam Perry, Arts Midwest senior program director

Commencing January 2016 the program will feature Muslim music ensembles from the U.S. by conducting residencies in Grand Forks, ND; Fergus Falls, MN; and Traverse City, MI.

How we’re making arts and culture a recognized, valued, and expected part of everyday life

In fall 2014, Arts Midwest embarked on a national research project designed to understand existing, deeply held public values. Our theory—supported by a building public will approach used by the social change agency, Metropolitan Group—was that by identifying and understanding these values, we would gain new insight into how the arts and cultural industries could connect with new audiences, find new advocates for our work, and deliver programs and services that are relevant to our constituents.

We know that the arts are essential to strong communities, enriching lives, deeper understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures, and competitive industries. And we are working to ensure that our efforts, and those of our colleagues, experience a bright future. Therefore, in the coming years we are using the findings from this research project to launch a communications and engagement initiative that will support our goal of making arts and culture a recognized, valued, and expected part of everyday life. We look forward to keeping you updated on our progress.

Featured Resource

Building Public Will report As part of our long-term effort to build public will for arts and culture, Arts Midwest and Metropolitan Group recently published “Creating Connection,” a report detailing the findings and recommendations from our initial research around public values, behaviors, and attitudes as they relate to arts and culture. Read the full report and learn more about our future plans around this critical issue.