Stone Arch Festival of the Arts dissolves: An open letter from music booker Stacy Schwartz

Sad news to hit the local arts world today: The long-running Stone Arch Festival of the Arts, which annually showcased over 200 artists and four free stages of music along St. Anthony Main, will be no more. The festival's founder, longtime local music advocate Ira Heilicher (son of legendary Soma Records head Amos Heilicher) passed away last month, and the festival's remaining staff members have disbanded to pursue other projects.

One of those staff members, Stacy Schwartz (whose byline you may recognize from many of our concert slideshows), spent the last five years at the helm of the musical portion of the Stone Arch Festival and booked dozens of Minnesota musicians on the stages each summer. Today, Schwartz sent out an open letter eulogizing the festival and thanking the musicians who participated; you can read her words below.

For the past five years I've been lucky enough to book music for the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts.  Some of you may know this, but in August 2011, our trusty guide and head honcho Ira Heilicher passed away. He'd not been feeling well - so much so he actually missed the festival this year - and his death was unexpected. As so often happens with sudden passings, sometimes the business side of things gets complicated.  My direct mentor and boss, Sara Collins left Minneapolis Riverfront Arts and Events (Stone Arch's parent non-profit) a week ago. With Ira's passing and Sara's departure, this means that the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts as we know it is no more. It was an amazing 17 years, and the five I was involved in were so wonderful to witness. I watched the music portion of the festival flourish, attracting a more diverse and younger crowd. I got to know dozens more local bands than I ever could have on my own. This past year I booked over 50 local and regional acts to perform and I couldn't have been more proud of what we'd accomplished together in the music community.

I've gone from emailing friends in 2007 and literally whining to get them to play, to receiving over 200 applications in 2011 for the festival's now four stages. I'm so excited by and thrilled with what was achieved in such a short time period. However, I'm heartbroken by the fact that this won't continue. The Stone Arch Festival of the Arts was about community and building something together. I really wanted people to come out and see music they wouldn't normally see, to share the act of hanging out in awesome weather and sing-alongs to the bands on stage. It was all free, outdoors, and in my opinion usually showed off some of Minnesota's best.

I want to publicly thank all of you in the media who've supported me and the music side of the festival over the past five years - especially Andrea Swensson of City Pages, Chris Riemenschneider of the Star Trib, David Campbell of 89.3's The Local Show, Jason Nagel from Cities97, all the Off The Record folks at Radio K, David DeYoung of, Jeff Marshall of, Rich Horton at Rift, Kyle & Paul of, Greg Swan of and so many more I can't list them all here.

I could never in a million years have done all this alone. To Sara Collins, Hannah Heilicher, David Rachac, Rodger Mabie, Steve Madson, Jackie Siewert, Carly Beetsch, Heather Williams, Ann, Megan Halberg, Ryan O'Donnell, Carl Atiya Swanson, Alexa Jones, Pat Dougherty, Laura Sivert, Bekah Swanson, Bill Collins, Bryan Aaker, Rob Stock, I thank you. You have been essential to making sure the bands have transport, the stages get set up right, there's water at each stage, and so many tiny details I'd never have been able to do by myself.

I can't forget to mention all the thousands of you who've come every year to the festival - who dance, who sing, who sit & relax, who eat cheese curds, who drink beer, who support local music. Thank you thank you thank you... please keep going to shows and checking out local bands as much as you can.  It means the world to them and to me.

Most importantly -- below is a list of all the bands that have been gracious enough to play without compensation for the last five years. You may wonder why we weren't able to pay the bands. I wish we could have. I lobbied for them each year, but being a non-profit has some downsides. After paying the Minneapolis Park Board who let us use their amazing parks (especially that killer space out on the water), the sound guys, and the guys who put up our stages for us and kept things as safe as possible - we simply didn't have a lot of money to pass around.  I hope each performer knows how incredibly grateful I am to have them on our stages. I sincerely wish them the best and will continue to lobby for them whenever given the chance.

3 or more years performing with my eternal gratitude
Dan Israel, Bob & Lynn Dixon, Spaghetti Western String Co., Farewell Milwaukee, Brad Senne, Mayda, Scott Wooldridge, Adam Svec, Peter Lochner, Me & My Arrow, Eliza Blue, Andy Juhl, Dustin Thomas, Shawn Gibbons

City of Lakes Chorus, Porch Pickers, Carport, Tortuga!, The Poor Nobodys, Hummingbirds, Ben Siems, Capital Cons, Dragons Power Up!, White Light Riot, The Sex Rays, The Goondas, Rogue Valley, Farewell Milwaukee, Bob & Lynn Dixon, Shawn Gibbons, Andy Juhl, Dustin Thomas, Dan Israel, Neal Swanger, American Revival, Sarah Morris, Thomas Kivi, Wizards Are Real, Walker Fields, Bethany Larson & The Bees Knees, Kubla Khan, David Booth, Scott Wooldridge, Michelle Lynn & the Bad Passengers, The Mad Ripple, Adam Svec, The Brian Just Band, Brianna Lane & the Navigators Club, Painted Saints, The Boys N' the Barrels, Phantom Tails, Blue Sky Blackout, Mayda, Tyler Haag, Peter Lochner, Oriel, Dustin Lee, Kevin Steinman, Niki Becker, The Parlour Suite, The Sunny Era, Andy Ulseth, Matt Latterell, The Cold Open, The Snaps, Me & My Arrow

i like you, The Poor Nobodys, We Are The Willows, Joey Ryan & the Inks, Black Blondie, Zoo Animal, Matthew Inkala & the Hostages, Western Ridge, Globafo, Greg Herriges, Me & My Arrow, Dustin Thomas, Dustin Lee, Bob & Lynn Dixon, Brad Senne, Peter Lochner, Ben Siems, Ryan Knorr, James Buckley Trio, Highway 61, Orange Mighty Trio, Adam Svec, The Brighton, National Bird, Minor Kingdom, Trapper Schoepp & the Shades, Wapsipinicon, A Night in the Box, Zingrays, Mike Michael, Farewell Milwaukee, Andy Elwell, Jennifer Markey & the Tennessee Snowpants, The Belfast Cowboys, Shawn Gibbons, Dan Israel, John Swardson, Fort Wilson Riot, Ben Woolman, Mayda, Ten Centuries, Porch Pickers, Madiba, Jeremiah Nelson, The Painted Saints

Youth Dance Ensemble, Koo Koo Kanga Roo, Adam Svec, Dan Israel, Spaghetti Western String Co., The Cloud Hymn, Hayor Bibimma Dance Company, Crowd Control, The Alrights, Joey Ryan & the Inks, The Pendrakes, The Idle Hands, Roma di Luna, Neal Swanger, Peter Lochner, Bob & Lynn Dixon, Thomas Kivi, Shawn Gibbons, Brad Senne, Eliza Blue, Aria Souder, The Badinovs, The Brian Just Band, Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps, Farewell Milwaukee, The Smarts, Mississippi Mud, Laura Balfour Dance Company, Café Accordion Orchestra, Anna Laube, Cromulent Shakespeare Company, Jistory, Pezzettino, Half Demon Doll, We Became Actors, The Wars of 1812, The Absent Arch, Me & My Arrow,  Scott Wooldridge, Andy Juhl, Chicane Theory, Andy Elwell, Dustin Thomas, Kyle Turck & Patrick Henz, John Swardson, The Suits, Lynhurst, Jenny Dalton, Ryan Paul & the Ardent, Chastity Brown

The Auto Body Experience, Terry Eason, The Absent Arch, The Glad Version, Murzik, The Wars of 1812, Scott Wooldridge, Bob & Lynn Dixon, Andy Juhl, Eliza Blue, Andra Suchy, Capitol Jay, The Debut, Mick Sterling, The Senders, The Lovers Show,  Sam Keenan, Randy Casey, Chastity Brown, Spaghetti Western String Co., Chris Koza, Jeff D. Johnson, Michael Young, Roger Flyer, The Mad Ripple, Gazillion, Alison Rae, Vertigo Joe, Martin Devaney Band, Bella Koshka, Ari Herstand, Gospel Gossip

Aviette, Stook!, Bookreader, Bill Mike Band, Kubla Khan, The Alarmists, Bob & Lynn Dixon, Jonathan Delehanty, Eliza Blue, Brad Senne, Martin Devaney, Mayda, Jeremy Messersmith, Jeff Wenberg, The Abdomen, Catchpenny, Romantica, The Sweet Colleens, The Mood Swings, Bellatrex, Charley Dush, Andra Suchy, Spaghetti Western String Co., Jeff D. Johnson, Justin Roth, High on Stress

Read Stacy's full statement on Cake in 15 here.

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