Thrilling, not-at-all-appalling news today out of Minneapolis! Read all about it:
Either those are fireworks, or the entire city is orgasming.
I never saw this one coming. No one else did, either… Not even US Bancorp CEO Richard Davis, as recently as February 2012:
I caught up with U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis on Friday to ask about a rumor that had the Minneapolis-based lender offering to pay for naming rights to a new Minnesota Vikings football stadium. The catch, my tipster said, was that the stadium would need to be in Minneapolis…
But it didn’t check out. Davis, speaking as a past honoree at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s Executive of the Year event in Minneapolis, told me that neither he nor his bank has made any such offer.
Davis said the opportunity makes sense for the bank, but that such discussions would be premature since there’s no stadium location or financing plan yet.
And I definitely did not, day before yesterday, have dinner with friends at Brit’s and swear on the patio that it was only a matter of time before this announcement happened. I was completely, utterly blindsided.
Obviously my first thought is: “this really speaks to the quality of US Bank’s corporate leadership.” This is, after all, the same Richard Davis who brought us the popular Minnesota Orchestra lockout (Mr. Davis, in fact, was chair of the management’s negotiating committee for months, months, and months). And I remember during his tenure there, back in 2012, when regional finances were deemed so tight that the Minnesota Orchestra’s deficit of a few million dollars a year was rendered completely unsolvable by the combined wealth of the state. But since that “very painful time“, US Bank’s fortunes have apparently improved…so much so that they now have $220 million to invest in naming rights for a stadium. O, what bold and intrepid leadership! From dredging the lowest depths of poverty to buying a stadium name in a mere three years! That is some “fortitude and consistency of planning,” right there. Indeed, every Minnesotan taxpayer is in US Bancorp CEO Richard Davis’s debt.
Well, before the story moves on and my memories become completely irrelevant, here are my thoughts on the 2013 Symphony Ball – or, to be more precise, the rally that Save Our Symphony Minnesota planned and executed during the 2013 Symphony Ball.
To my intense irritation, the media played up our gathering like they were expecting a second Haymarket Riot. The New York Times sported the headline MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA PLANS GALA; DISSONANCE IS EXPECTED. One local television station warned of an upcoming “tense protest.” WCCO called it “a situation.” People on Facebook said that things could “get ugly.” A politician even Tweeted that he was excited to mock us. It was ridiculous, especially since I’d sat in on conference calls with my fellow SOSMN volunteers, and I’d heard firsthand how they’d spent untold hours planning the event and mapping out messaging. They could not have made it any clearer in their media advisories and press releases that this was meant to be a peaceful celebratory rally led by audience advocates. Of course, this angle was the focus of approximately none of the mainstream media’s coverage.
Jon Stewart once said in an interview:
The bias of the mainstream media is toward sensationalism, conflict, and laziness.
There may be something to that.
I chose to wear evening dress (albeit with leg warmers, two layers of socks, and long underwear). After I got dressed, a friend brought me to the hall, and my mom and I walked around the block, taking in the scene. A large crowd had already gathered around Peavey Plaza, which looked like a combination circus, prison, and ShopKo garden center. There were tents, guards, and shrubberies. A tented sidewalk extended out from the hall’s main entrance, made a sharp turn to the left, and drained down to the empty Peavey Plaza fountain, which now was the location of a Symphony Ball tent, in which exciting activities would no doubt take place (dinner? dancing? dozing?). The tents didn’t have any windows, but there was a plastic French door on the Twelfth Street side that bravely attempted to add elegance to the proceedings. Generators buzzed near the sidewalks with massive cords leading into the great white tent. What were they for? Lighting (a blue hue eventually began glowing from the ceiling)? Heaters? A DJ booth? Endless possibilities! Parked next to the generators were trucks full of wine bottles. Caterers were unloading them. They were dressed like stewards on the Titanic.
Yesterday was quite the day: the Young Musicians of Minnesota made metro-wide news.
Yeah, unbeknownst to the locked out Minnesota Orchestra musicians, the Young Musicians of Minnesota brought their instruments to Nicollet Mall to play a concert of Tchaikovsky 4 in front of US Bancorp. Their mission? To send a message to Richard Davis to end the lockout of their mentors and heroes. YMM members deliberately didn’t tell the musicians what they were up to. I’m sure there are rumors floating around the upper floors of US Bancorp and Wells Fargo that those damn musicians put ’em up to it, but to believe that would be to succumb to the worst kind of cynicism. (Hear that, Minnesota Orchestral Association monitors? Good.) Sadly, Richard Davis didn’t acknowledge the crowd, nor did he send anyone down to say hello, but they did get an awful lot of attention on the Mall.
Some of YMM at the US Bancorp gig
I couldn’t be there, but I was tipped off about the show beforehand, and so I shooed some dedicated Twin Cities Larkers to downtown Minneapolis, and I heard a couple reports of how the afternoon went. Well it turns out there was press there, and US Bancorp couldn’t really do much about any of it except watch uneasily and talk to people on cell phones.
Consequently the following three videos aired last night on KSTP at 4:30, 6, and 10. Kudos to YMMer Emily Green, who has more composure in a major interview than any other teenager I’ve ever seen.
I did notice, though…. There’s something in the first video that got snipped out of the second two. See if you can spot it!
A few days ago, the following letter appeared in the Strib.
On July 18, Minneapolis Institute of Arts members will vote on a slate of 10 nominees for vacant three-year positions on the board. One of the nominees is Richard Davis, the CEO of US Bancorp and a major architect of the current disastrous Minnesota Orchestra lockout.
Unfortunately, MIA members must vote on the entire slate rather than for or against individual nominees. We therefore urge all MIA members concerned about the future of the arts in the Twin Cities to contact the MIA and request that Mr. Davis withdraw his name from the ballot.
We are proud to live in a city noted for its philanthropy (both corporate and individual), and appreciate those who volunteer to lead our nonprofits. But orchestra fans horrified at the catastrophic damage inflicted by this board’s tactics do not want to see Davis governing another Minnesota gem. Even under the most charitable interpretation of his actions with the orchestra, the continuing stalemate and controversy make him a very unwise choice for another local arts board.
This letter was signed by the following members of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Jackson Bryce, St. Paul (Marjorie Crabb Garbisch Professor of Classical Languages and the Humanities Emeritus, Carleton College); Carolyn Hawkins, Minneapolis; Christine Gregory Knutson, Minneapolis (associate director of development, MIA, 1989-1993); Nita Krevans, St. Anthony; Sheila McNally, Minneapolis (Professor Emerita of Art History, University of Minnesota); Philip Sellew, St. Paul; Patti Stuhlman, Edina, and Stephanie Cain Van D’Elden, Minneapolis.
So while the Strib’s on the topic… Let’s talk a little bit about Richard Davis.
The leaders of the Minnesota Orchestra think that you’re the stupidest audience in the United States. Maybe even in the world. Maybe even in the known universe. There’s no other way to explain what’s on the front of their webpage right now.
Is it true you are asking musicians to accept 1983-level salaries?
That is not the case. In 1983, Minnesota Orchestra musicians earned $33,000 a year, and health care and pension costs were more modest, manageable expenses.
Today, we are offering an average annual salary of $89,000 per musician in addition to a benefit package that is far more generous than that of the average professional, totaling $30,000.
I don’t comb the Minnesota Orchestra website every day anymore, so I’m not positive when this was put up, but I’m guessing it came about after violist Sam Bergman’s impassioned speech at the Bruckner/Mozart concert, and the musicians’ full-page ad last weekend in the Strib.
The bankers (may I repeat, the BANKERS) (the ~FINANCIERS~, if you will) in charge at the Minnesota Orchestra might be interested to know that there’s a thing called “inflation.” It even has a Wikipedia page, so you know it’s real.
Inflation. Turns out, it checks out.