Gaiman to make another Legacy-funded appearance

(by MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar)

Minnesota Legacy money in June will again go toward paying for an appearance by bestselling author Neil Gaiman, but at a fraction of what it cost to have him speak at the Stillwater Public Library last year.

Gaiman will be the main guest as a part of Minnesota Public Radio’s “Wits” series on June 24 at the Fitzgerald Theater. The series features local and nationally known writers, comedians and musicians.

MPR spokesman Bill Gray said the organization offered to pay Gaiman an honorarium of $1,500 for the appearance. Gaiman accepted and had MPR make the check out to Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, Gray said.

On average, 60 percent of the cost to produce “Wits” is covered by Legacy funds, with 40 percent coming from ticket sales, he said.

The Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment approved in 2008 sends a portion of state sales tax money to arts and cultural organizations. Minnesota Public Radio received $2.6 million in Legacy funds for the current, two-year state budget cycle. It would receive $2 million in the next two years under the current proposal at the Legislature.

Gaiman’s honorarium is similar to what other guests are being offered, Gray said. Gaiman was also paid a $500 honorarium for a shorter appearance in a “Wits” show last year, he said.

Republican lawmakers last week criticized Gaiman’s $45,000 speaking fee to appear at the Stillwater Public Library, complaining that it was a waste of taxpayer money. Gaiman explained in his blog that he felt the fee was justified and that he donated his portion of the fee to charity.

The Metropolitan Library Service Agency apologized for using poor judgment in using Legacy money to pay the fee, and Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, proposed cutting the agency’s next Legacy grant.

Although MPR is paying Gaiman an honorarium, Gaiman said in his blog that his “Wits” appearance is part of a Harper Collins tour for the 10th anniversary reissue of his book “American Gods.”

Gaiman said in an e-mail to MPR News that because the show at the Fitzgerald coincides with the tour for the “American Gods” reissue, his publisher will be paying for him to be in the Twin Cities that day.