Carlson, mayoral candidates call for urgent action to save Orchestra

(From left) Mayoral candidate Jackie Cherryhomes, former Gov. Arne Carlson and mayoral candidate Dan Cohen. Credit: Photo by Sarah McKenzie

Former Gov. Arne Carlson, along with mayoral candidates Jackie Cherryhomes and Dan Cohen, called for bold actions to save the Minnesota Orchestra at a news conference this morning outside the newly renovated Orchestra Hall.

Carlson said he wants to see a broad group of community leaders come together to close the Orchestra’s $6 million funding gap. The orchestra reported a $6 million budget deficit in 2012. 

“We are in the midst of losing one of the greatest treasures of Minnesota,” Carlson said, adding that it would be a “serious black eye” for the state to lose the symphony.

He urged the Minnesota Vikings to step forward and contribute money to the Orchestra given what he described as an “overly generous” deal from taxpayers to pay for the new Vikings stadium. He’d also like to see government entities and more Legacy arts funding be involved in helping the symphony.

Cohen, who served on the City Council in the late 1960s and early 1970s, urged Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council leaders to find money in the city’s budget to help shore up the Orchestra’s operating funds. He said it would be an “investment,” not a “bailout.” 

“The city needs to speak with one voice to get the Orchestra back on its feet,” he said. 

Rybak, however, is not convinced that’s a good solution, said the mayor’s spokesman John Stiles. 

“While Mayor Rybak has been working to help resolve the Orchestra impasse, he does not believe that Minneapolis taxpayers would be willing to pay 2 percent more in property taxes to do it,” Stiles said, noting a 2 percent tax increase is equivalent to about $6 million. “A contribution to the Orchestra would also require City Council action, and no City Council member has expressed an interest in it.”

Former City Council President Cherryhomes said urgent action is needed to save the Orchestra and in the long-term, more sustainable funding sources should be identified to support the arts in the city.

“If a year from now we don’t have the symphony, what does that say about the city?” she asked. 

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Orchestra’s world renowned music director Osmo Vanska resigned when the symphony cancelled concerts planned for Carnegie Hall in New York City in early November. Orchestra management and musicians have been in a lockout for more than a year because they can’t come to an agreement on compensation for the musicians.

Vanska is planning farewell concerts with the Orchestra tonight and tomorrow at the Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota.