Weather notwithstanding, living in Minnesota has its perks. The state has hosted the national championships for gymnastics twice in the past five years, for example. Arguably the world's best apple, the Honeycrisp, was bred by University of Minnesota horticulturalists. And most importantly, Prince is from Minneapolis.
Which brings me to what may be the best reason of all to call Minnesota home: The Twin Cities area has one of the most vibrant and well-funded art scenes in the country.
Knight Foundation president Dennis Scholl famously gave St. Paul props when he noted, "The thing I see in St. Paul that I don't see as much in other communities is a real sense of collaboration." In fact, Scholl's comment, coupled with the fact that many large foundations continue to pour money into the area, led us to ask, "Why Are the Twin Cities a Magnet for So Much Arts Funding?" (You'll have to read the whole thing for an answer.)
Today brings further evidence attesting to the Twin Cities' excellence in the form of Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellowships.
As you could tell from the name of the fellowship, the program is funded by the Jerome Foundation. If the outfit sounds familiar, it should. We've previously written about how the Jerome Foundation, named after filmmaker and artist Jerome Hill, enjoys awarding grants to artists in the two states that were pivotal to Hill's artistic development—Minnesota and New York.
Our post looked at the foundation's general program grants for nonprofit arts organizations, while only briefly looking at opportunities for individual artists. And so I'd like to remedy that by focusing on the fellowship opportunities for playwrights.
Fellowships are awarded annually, providing emerging American playwrights with funds and services to aid them in the development of their craft. Four $16,000 fellowships will be awarded for 2015-2016, in addition to $1,500 in development support. Fellows spend a year-long residency in Minnesota and have access to Playwrights' Center opportunities, including workshops with professional directors, dramaturgs, and actors.
The fellowship's secret weapon is the residency requirement. It enables fellows to fully immerse themselves in the region and build important relationships with actors, producers, and theaters. Cindy Gehrig, who is stepping down after 38 years (!) at the Jerome Foundation, notes that, "The reason we went to the residency requirement was because the Playwrights’ Center argued that one needed a good length of time for this sort of fellowship program—for reading, writing, development workshops. We began to believe it wasn’t enough for someone to come from the outside for a month or two. They needed to move here so they could become part of the community."
Throw in the fact that the Playwrights' Center develops 50 to 70 new plays a year and it's easy to see why many fellows move to the area and then never leave. (That, and the fact that Minnesota has 90,000 miles of shoreline, more than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined.)