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Grants lift Red Cedar ensemble, Hancher, Czech & Slovak Museum during coronavirus slump

Red Cedar Chamber Music will finish its current season with its third family concert livestreamed from home. Performance
Red Cedar Chamber Music will finish its current season with its third family concert livestreamed from home. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday, featuring (from left) Adrian Bostian, cello, Oliver Bostian, viola, Miera Kim, violin, and Carey Bostian, cello. (Red Cedar Chamber Music)
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Red Cedar Chamber Music is closing out its current season with an eye toward developing a new season that may continue in a virtual world.

Based in Marion, it’s also one of three Corridor organizations charting uncertain waters with help from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids also have received the highly competitive NEA grants.

Red Cedar was awarded a $10,000 Art Works — Music grant, which will help develop the ensemble’s Rural Outreach Concerts, taking performances to community gathering spots around Eastern Iowa. Even if COVID-19 prevents the musicians from performing in-person next season, the grant will cover the development of the concert series, to be presented when it’s safe to gather in churches, libraries and community rooms.

“We’re just thrilled,” said Carey Bostian, Red Cedar’s core cellist and artistic director. “This is 15 times in our history that they have funded our Rural Outreach program. They like the program — part of their mission is building audiences in rural communities.”

Red Cedar’s model of taking concerts to outlying communities aligns “really well with the NEA’s mission,” he added, “which is not just to have great artwork created, but to share it widely.

“It feels really good to have one of our main programs be a current, vibrant, living model. That’s the great feeling,” Bostian said.

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“The other thing about these NEA grants is that they’re extensive, and the review process is extremely competitive. ... We spend an awful lot of time listening — and it has to be live performances — so we spend lot of time listening and trying to find ways to get our best work out there.

“It’s a great award both from a vision standpoint, from a philosophical standpoint that our mission is valuable. But also, it’s a validation of our artistry. Anytime you get it feels great.”

Cultural museum

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, which has reopened to the public at 1400 Inspiration Place SW, has received $15,000 in the Art Works — Folk & Traditional Arts category. Like Red Cedar, the museum will use the funds for rural outreach, said Jim Miller, vice president for development and marketing.

“We are really trying to focus more on culture and the history,” he said. “We certainly understand that history goes away if you don’t pay attention to it.”

The grant will help finance researching the culinary traditions of Czech-Americans in Iowa, so far slated for Protivin, Spillville, Cedar Rapids and Tama. “There’s pockets all over the state,” Miller noted.

This field work will be turned into an exhibit in the second half of 2022, titled “Roots and Recipes,” about the culinary life of Czech Iowa. It will explore the people preserving this history; various ways to make kolaches and traditional meals; and Czech and Slovak food festivals across the state.

Miller agreed with Bostian that the NEA has been “very flexible” in accommodating timeline changes because of pandemic protocols. The museum’s interviews around the state, previously slated to start July 1, have been pushed back to Jan. 1.

Both organizations also have received Iowa CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) grants, for cultural and humanities groups that have lost income during the coronavirus shutdowns.

The museum received $18,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities State Humanities Plan. The funds will help defray expenses for the current “Artist as Activists” art exhibit, including the cost for a guest curator and the museum’s personnel working on the exhibit.

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“We also are working already to say when the exhibit’s done here, can we travel it to Decorah, Council Bluffs or out of state,” Miller said. “What would it take for us to close it down, pack it up and send it somewhere else, which I think would be really cool.”

Red Cedar received $4,500 in NEA CARES Funds for emergency relief in the wake of canceled programming and other financial hits during the pandemic.

“We could certainly demonstrate loss of revenue, like every arts organization,” Bostian said. “We’re in good shape, but there wasn’t much problem demonstrating we had been impacted.”

Hancher

Hancher will apply its $50,000 NEA grant toward commissioning new works by the Step Afrika! dance troupe and the Kronos Quartet contemporary string ensemble.

“These works (will) delve deeply into the African American experience. That, of course, is a crucial conversation to be having right now,” Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson said in a prepared statement. “We are working with the artists to create extensive residencies over the next several Hancher seasons, that we believe will lead to wonderful, essential and frank conversations on campus, in the community and beyond. We’re thrilled the NEA is helping us make that happen.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Step Afrika! presented Hancher’s commission of “The Migration: Reflections of Jacob Lawrence,” on the University of Iowa stage in 2016. The San Francisco- based Kronos Quartet has a long history with Hancher, presenting several commissioned works there.

Red Cedar concert

Red Cedar Chamber Music, led by Bostian and his wife, violinist Miera Kim, will again be joined by their teenage sons as guest musicians, rounding out the 2019-20 season with a concert for all ages. Their “Biber, Bach & Beethoven” concerts will be livestreamed Wednesday through Saturday from the Bostian family’s home in Iowa City.

The program begins with Franz Biber’s Sonata “Representativa,” drawing upon a musical menagerie of birds and animals. Between movements, Carey Bostian will read verses by author Janet Burroway, and Oliver and Adrian Bostian will switch from viola and cello to tech instruments to show corresponding artwork by Philip Wharton.

It’s a 15-minute multimedia piece that easily could be worked into virtual music and art projects, if the pandemic prevents Red Cedar from going into schools this coming year.

“We will have captured it on video,” Bostian said, which will make it easier to explain the programming to teachers. “They can sit down and watch it. It’s a great way to open a concert and it’s wonderful development for our future programming.”

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Other works on this week’s concerts are Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G major and Beethoven’s String Trio, Opus 9, No. 1, which Bostian said is giving them a run for their money in rehearsals.

“We’re just thrilled to be able to do this,” he said of the program. “It’s a good way to end the season. It’s a good way to remind people we’re here, we’ve finished our season and we’ll be back in the fall.”

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

Want to watch?

• What: Red Cedar Chamber Music: “Biber, Bach & Beethoven”

• When: 1 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday

• Where: Livestreams on YouTube on Red Cedar Chamber Music’s channel, on Facebook.com/RedCedarChamberMusic, or redcedar.org. Downloadable program also available

• Program: Biber’s Sonata “Representativa,” Bach’s Sonata for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord Obligato, Beethoven’s String Trio, Op. 9, No. 1

• Details: redcedar.org

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