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Minnesota Fringe

A refreshed approach to programming emphasizing a focus on the Festival in 2020

Minnesota Fringe, like other organizations in this state and around the country, has struggled to arrive at a sustainable festival business model that can be repeated yearly in the highly volatile landscape of nonprofit arts. It’s hard to know what will be predictive. What works one year doesn’t always work the next. The way people consume the arts and funding priorities have rapidly changed. That effects patron behavior and organizational agility. We’ve been keeping a close eye on other Fringes in North America to see whether things that work for them can also work for us. Through various procedural experimentation over the past few years - memberships, new programs, new venues, and ticketing structures - Fringe has collected hard data and anecdotal information relevant to success. While some incremental changes have shown real promise, Minnesota Fringe has been operating at a deficit since a business model shift in 2015.

Festival revisions in 2020 will include a shift back to a more sustainable business model, a transition to hosting the festival in a single neighborhood to reduce logistical friction, a return to the mandatory festival button, and a lottery advantage for previous award-winning producers to encourage the development of quality content. Fringe artists will still be drawn by lottery. Fringe is not moving toward curation of the festival, but rather providing recognized artists the opportunity to re-engage with Fringe audiences and create momentum for additional work. Additional year-round programming is on hold while we take measured steps to ensure the organization remains healthy for the future.

The annual Minnesota Fringe Festival provides an artistic platform for local and touring artists to take bold risks, develop new ideas, and hoist themselves to the next rung of their artistic ladder. The 2019 festival welcomed 34,440 ticket holders, collected $302,815 in box office receipts, paid artists $216,865 for 142 shows and 729 performances. Through venue rentals, seasonal staff, and artist payouts, Minnesota Fringe redistributed more than $300,000 to the local economy and Minnesota's creative work force. The flagship program is one of the largest performing arts festivals in the Midwest, paying out more than $2 Million directly to artists over the last decade.

The Minnesota Fringe Festival is a beloved community asset that includes artists, volunteers, and patrons who add to the cultural fabric of our entire region. We are taking deliberate steps in 2020 to ensure that this treasured asset remains a Minnesota tradition. Minnesota Fringe has worked hard to ensure artists are paid for their work, volunteers feel appreciated, and patrons have access to the arts. We are calling on everyone who values this festival to become a donor, and be open to the changes we are making to preserve festival sustainability.


Dawn Bentley
Executive Director




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