Cowles Center for Dance and Performing Arts 'pulling the plug' in downtown Minneapolis

The Cowles Center for Dance and Performing Arts announced Wednesday that it would end its dance programming at the Goodale Theater as of March 31. The downtown Minneapolis center's educational and community programs will, however, continue through the end of the 2023-24 school year in May.

"It became clear, probably several months ago, that Artspace, our largest donor and administrative partner, was having their own financial troubles, which wouldn't allow them to sustain their level of giving to the Cowles," said Joseph Bingham, co-director of the Cowles Center. "We've been working in the background to kind of figure out what that meant financially and figure out either a Plan B or whether that meant potential fundraising or another partner in the picture."

According to Bingham, two weeks ago, Cowles staff found that Artspace's financial picture couldn't sustain the performing arts center.

"Their main business and nonprofit housing development has changed so much," he said. "It's not that they're pulling the plug needlessly, it's that their business model has changed."

Bingham added that anonymous donors have contributed so that the Cowles can stay afloat through March, and provide financial payouts to artists whose shows have been canceled.

"We'll find a new place to land for our spring season," said James Sewell, artistic director of James Sewell Ballet that is among the companies whose shows have been canceled. "We're not quite sure where that's going to be yet, but we're working on that today."

Other companies whose productions have been canceled include BRKFST Dance Company and Ragamala Dance Company.

"The nonprofit sector has changed, so our funding has shifted," said Tio Aiken, vice president of communications for Artspace Projects Inc., a nonprofit arts development corporation under which the Cowles operated. "I think that towards the end of the year, we all expected that there was an operational agreement in play … and it did not come to fruition."

According to Aiken, Artspace had been supplementing the Cowles' budget by about $500,000 per year. Beginning last year, they were in talks with two different potential partners that would take over the operational management of the center.

The Cowles building was originally the Shubert Theater, which was built in 1910 and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1995. It was moved from Block E to its Hennepin location in February 1999.

After a decade-long construction, the $42 million Cowles Center opened in September 2011 and the Goodale Theater was named after Bob and Kathy Goodale, one of the center's three "founding families." Besides performances, the venue also offered educational programming, including an innovative e-learning initiative.

Performances that will continue as planned for the next two months include Zorongo Flamenco on Feb. 10 and 11, Crash Dance Productions on March 2 and 3, and Merges in March with Mathew Janczeski's Arena Dance & Taja Will on March 23 and 24. A rental performance, "The Sound of Gospel," will take place on Feb. 17 and 18.