The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 3, 2014

Minnesota arts gets recognition

Why it matters: Reaping what Minnesota artists sow is what winter here is all about.


The Mankato Free Press

---- — Ah, what a week it was for not only weather but for the arts in Minnesota.

Not only did the Minnesota Orchestra win a Grammy a week ago, but the victory came on the heels of a 15-month lockout. The Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance was for a recording of Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4 by Sibelius conducted by Osmo Vanska.

Unfortunately, Vanska resigned in October during the lockout, but the Grammy should provide a boost in morale to the longtime orchestra and to its fans. The orchestra will perform March concerts in Minneapolis to celebrate the Grammy win and Vanska will conduct the orchestra’s performance of the Sibelius symphonies. And word was spreading that he might come back to the orchestra.

In addition to the orchestra’s Grammy, Windom native and classical music composer Maria Schneider’s “Winter Morning Walks” won four Grammys.

But not all of the accolades were for music last week in Minnesota. Kate DiCamillo of Minneapolis just won her second Newbery Medal, this time for her children’s book “Flora & Ulysses.” DiCamillo, who grew up in Philadelphia, has made Minnesota her home and has been cranking out quality children’s literature. She won her first Newbery Medal in 2004 for “The Tale of Despereaux.”

DiCamillo has good company in our own backyard. The same American Library Association that hands out the Newbery chose North Mankato’s Kirstin Cronn-Mills book for a national award for her young adult book about a transgender teen, “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children.” Cronn-Mills’ co-winning book is sponsored by the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table.

An instructor at South Central College, Cronn-Mills has brought attention to Mankato/North Mankato in the past with publication of her other works, including “The Sky Always Hears Me And the Hills Don’t Mind,” which was a Minnesota Book Award finalist. She is among a rich community of writers here who write in an assortment of genres and repeatedly receive nominations, awards and positive reviews.

Last week Rachael Hanel of Madison Lake, Gustavus professor Matt Rasmussen, Minnesota State University alum Thomas Maltman and West High School graduate Carrie Mesrobian were named as Minnesota Book Award finalists.

Living here can’t just be measured by mercury; we need to notice what is happening beyond frozen pipes and dead car batteries.

This brutal winter is a perfect time to appreciate the artistic fruits in Minnesota that can be harvested all year long. Turn on some Minnesota-made music, curl up with a locally written book, and suddenly the weather’s not so bad.