Public Announcement

In the Heart of the Beast will reduce operations in 2019

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT), an arts and culture institution impacting generations of South Minneapolis residents and people around the world, plans to significantly reduce its operations in 2019. This decision comes after multiple anticipated income sources for HOBT’s programming year did not materialize. At its current staff and programming levels, HOBT could expect to run out of cash and close permanently as soon as June 2019. Reducing staff and programming will prolong the period of time in which HOBT can develop new strategies to rebuild a more resilient organization.

Most notably, 2019 will be the final year that HOBT will solely produce its annual MayDay celebration, now in its 45th year and scheduled for May 5. While much of the future is uncertain, HOBT will present Puppet Lab performances as planned March 15-16 and March 21-22, will continue to offer residencies in schools, places of worship and other communities, will present Puppet Cabaret an evening of short, experimental puppet acts on February 14th, and will continue to share the Avalon Theater as a rental venue for events and performances.

Executive Director Corrie Zoll, notes,

This has been a difficult process. After a lot of hard work, we determined that we simply cannot continue on our current path. Our neighbors and allies have been the most important part of HOBT’s work over the past 45 years, and we will include you in conversations about what happens next. Whatever the future brings, we want the important work we have built together to continue to be of value to our neighbors.

HOBT’s decision to reduce its operations comes at a challenging time for midsized arts organizations in the Twin Cities. HOBT sees increasing challenges producing mission-driven work in the context of increasing expenses and less stable income, with staff who already give a tremendous amount of themselves at modest pay. HOBT’s challenges are not unique. Peer organizations that have been temporarily or permanently impacted by similar challenges over the past two years include The Soap Factory, VSA Arts, Red Eye Collaborative, Intermedia Arts, NEMAA/Art-A-Whirl, Art Shanty Projects, Patrick’s Cabaret, and Bedlam Theatre.

2019 will be the 45th and final year that HOBT will solely produce its annual MayDay celebration. In recent years, HOBT’s MayDay brings in approximately $150,000 in income, mainly from individual donors. Annual costs for producing MayDay, however, generally land between $180,000 and $200,000. In 2018, MayDay operated at a loss of over $50,000 which was covered by reserve funds. HOBT can no longer afford to take on these risks alone.

HOBT’s 2019 MayDay will also be the last MayDay led by Sandy Spieler, who shepherded HOBT’s MayDay artistic process from its beginning. Sandy came to this decision a year ago in an effort to make space for new artists to lead. In a letter to the HOBT community from Sandy regarding her transition (full text is available at, Sandy writes:

As our beautiful community here in South Minneapolis grows on this sacred Dakota ground with increasing and vital diversity, it is my deepest desire to support the evolution of artistic and administrative leadership of Mayday to grow from the rich soil of our diversity.

In the coming months, HOBT will invite conversations with neighbors, artists, partners, and others to imagine how a restructured HOBT might continue to be a relevant and resilient asset to South Minneapolis. Whatever that future of HOBT & MayDay looks like, MayDay 2019 will be a celebration of all that has been and all that is to come.

And that work will continue to rely on your support. Read on to find details on how you can contribute time, resources, knowledge, and care in this precarious moment.

  • Give Your Financial Support
    • Give any amount here
    • Hire HOBT to bring an arts residency to your school, park, or place of worship.
    • Rent the Avalon for events up to 200 people. Beer and wine service available.
    • Buy tickets to Puppet Lab and Puppet Cabaret events this spring!
  • Give Your Time
    • MayDay relies on 1000 volunteers.  Spend just part of your MayDay (or the days before or after) sharing the scores of tasks that need doing. Sign up here.
  • Give Your Ideas & Input
    • Find more detailed information at, including:
      • A letter from Sandy Spieler reflecting on her last year leading MayDay
      • A deeper explanation of the issues affecting organizations like HOBT
    • Tell us what’s on your mind.  This is big news, and we’d like to hear from you.

About In the Heart of the Beast HOBT is best known for its MayDay Celebration, held every year since 1975 on the first Sunday of May in South Minneapolis. In 2018, attendance for HOBT’s MayDay was estimated at 60,000. HOBT’s MayDay includes a month long community engagement process of public workshops to create art for a parade on Bloomington Avenue, a day-long festival in Powderhorn Park, and a Tree of Life Ceremony, which culminates with a flotilla of canoes carrying the Sun across the Lake to wake the Tree of Life and welcome Spring.

Beyond MayDay, HOBT has a long history of providing high quality afterschool and summer arts programming, artist residencies in schools and faith communities, artist development programs, 20 years of Saturday Matinees for kids, the creation of new full length mainstage work, and programming to engage community around water quality and other environmental and social justice issues. In recent years, theater critics regularly include HOBT productions among lists of best Twin Cities productions including MAKE BELIEVE NEIGHBORHOOD (2018), THE STORY OF CROW BOY (2017), QUEEN (2016) and CARTOOON! (2015).