Artistic State of the Arrowhead

Sam Black

Northeastern Minnesota, home of the Twin Ports - Duluth, MN, and Superior, WI, at the tip of Lake Superior - is the least populated community I have ever called home. I have lived a life filled with poetry and music in Oklahoma City, OK, San Diego, CA, and Louisville, KY. Simply put, none of those experiences prepared me for the artistic exuberance readily available to residents of St. Louis, Lake, Carlton, Cook, and Itasca counties in this Arrowhead Region of Minnesota.
Since the summer of 1995 I have thoroughly enjoyed attending, reviewing, as well as performing at a multitude of venues throughout the region. It would appear, at times, that the creative artists outnumber the public audience, except during the brief summer, when tourists from all over the world flock to these Twin Ports. During the months from September through May, this area is overflowing with music (in every imaginable style), drama (nearly a dozen companies), visual art in every neighborhood, and creative writing (again, in considerable variety). All an interested individual need do is pay attention to the advertisements, and attend as frequently as the calendar will allow. With a little luck, the audience will outnumber the performers on one occasion or another.
In the world of music, the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra is engaged in a brilliant metamorphosis. Executive Director Rebecca Peterson and Music Director Dirk Meyer have embarked on creative programming unmatched in the past twenty years. Opera, ballet, movies, and narration have been included in recent performances, while the March 21 concert expands on a fashion-show runway. Matinee Musicale, in its 114th year of recitals in Duluth, still has two stunning programs coming up in March and April. Minnesota Ballet, based in Duluth, will share Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” on the last weekend of March. At the same time, faculty recitals at University of Wisconsin-Superior, University of Minnesota- Duluth, and The College of St. Scholastica are as powerful as any other recitals booked in Duluth.
Choral music is strongly represented at all three area universities as well, while the Arrowhead Chorale is getting ready to share J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” on the 27th and 29th of March at First Lutheran Church. Professional and college choirs pass through the Twin Ports regularly throughout the academic year.
Dramatically, this is the 100th season of the Duluth Playhouse, and they are sharing old favorites and new adventures on both the main stage and the Underground. Meanwhile, Renegade Theater is constantly improvising, and getting ready to open a new adaptation of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Once again, the university theaters, the Wise Fool Shakespeare Company, Lundeen Productions, and a few others, keep play-goers happy throughout the year.
Stay alert for more intriguing information about the upcoming season from the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra. For the past twenty-five years this ensemble has enlivened the classical music summers in Duluth. Several creative surprises for this coming summer are well into the planning stages.

Toward the end of May the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards will be announced, celebrating authors who have a particular sensitivity to our Arrowhead Region. Lake Superior Writers sponsors poetry readings, as do the English Departments of the local colleges. Almost every week you can visit a book release/book signing event by local authors at area bookstores.
And without question, nearly every neighborhood across the Arrowhead has one form of ‘art gallery’ or another, with exhibits constantly changing year round. There are too many to mention in this column, but look through the pages of the Reader for specific announcements.
Keep in touch weekly for reviews and reflections concerning arts events taking place around the area. Remember: a recent report from MN Citizens for the Arts discovered that the arts bring nearly $40 million dollars into the Arrowhead Region on an annual basis. Let’s all work together to keep the arts significantly representative of our life-style in northeastern Minnesota.