The fate of the Guthrie Theater's new national center for theatre arts and theatre education rests in the hands of Governor Jessie Ventura, who has 13 days to sign, veto or line-item-veto the recently passed Capitol Bonding Bill.
The bill, which passed the Minnesota Legislature May 19, includes a $24 million grant to the Guthrie Theater. The money would go towards the creation of the Guthrie's new arts center, which is budgeted at $125 million. To date, the theatre has raised $59.6 million toward a private fundraising goal of $75 million. Although state support represents less than one-third of the center's total cost, that support is critical for the project's realization.
The $979 million bill package passed over the weekend includes a $60 million lab for the state departments of agriculture and health, $65 million for road and bridge improvements, $20 million for a busway, $10 million for a Minneapolis planetarium and the aforementioned $24 million for the Guthrie. Governor Ventura is reportedly upset that the package did not include funds for the Northstar commuter rail line, which is his top bonding priority, and there is word that he may line-item-veto the $24 million allocated to the Guthrie.
"The public-private partnership is absolutely critical to the success of the project," said James Morrison, a spokesman for the Guthrie. Morrison explained that a veto by the Governor would effectively stop the project completely. "The project itself," Morrison continued, "is expected to provide $285 million in economic impact to the state's economy and employ more than 1,500 construction workers over the four-year period. The project was scheduled to break ground this fall." Additionally, the Guthrie employs over 900 artists a year, serving an audience of over 500,000.
The new Guthrie arts facility was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and will include an 1,100-seat thrust theatre, a 700-seat proscenium stage, a flexible 250-seat studio theatre and classrooms for more than 100,000 annual education participants. Production facilities, restaurants and rehearsal spaces will also be part of the proposed center. The Guthrie Theater was founded in 1963 by Irish director Sir Tyrone Guthrie. Joe Dowling is the theatre's current artistic director.
Ventura, a former pro wrestler, won the Governor's seat on the Reform Party ticket in a surprise victory over Democratic and Republican contenders.
—By Andrew Gans