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Todd Boss: Visionary in the (New) Visual Arts

A few weeks ago I got an email from a composer friend here in Minneapolis. She wanted to introduce me to some folks she knows that had expressed an interest in what we do at Ion. I invited them to a local show we were doing and asked them to come up to the stage after the performance.

As I packed up equipment and the stage was being struck we began a conversation that veered off in directions I never expected. The early conversation was so intriguing that we moved our chat from the concert hall to a local tavern and talked late into the evening.

The two guys I met that night were Todd Boss, a Minneapolis-based poet and founding executive director of the non-profit Motionpoems and composer Jake Runestad, who has an equally impressive bio.


Todd is a poet with a wall full of awards and accolades. In  2008 he met animator Angela Kassube after a poetry reading at a St Paul coffee shop. Angela set one of Todd’s poems to animation and the idea for Motionpoems was born: to make poetry accessible to a media-savvy generation by animating the work of some of the best poets.  Lets let Todd and Angela tell that story in their own words:

But the story does not end there. After founding the non-profit Motionpoems, Todd met Jake Runestad, a very busy young composer whose star was rising, especially in the choral music world. Todd’s experience as a librettist and Jake’s work as a choral composer gave them opportunities to work together and slowly a new idea was born.

Today Todd and Jake are working through Motionpoems to bring poets, composers and film makers together to create new choral works based on poetry and brought to life in a very modern way through animation. They are keenly interested in producing these new works (yes, plural) in live concert settings, but have struggled with the technology to make that happen.

And so it came to pass that my friend introduced us through email and Jake and Todd attended one of our recent shows. The three of us sat at that pub table until late in the evening talking about the promise and the power of an evolving art form; one which really isn’t new, but is undergoing an exciting transformation in real time.

Some call it visual music, others call it art film, still others consider it immersive interactive stage design. Its all three, really: the powerful synthesis of language, music, the digital arts, and stagecraft. I’m not sure what Todd would call it, but I was impressed with his vision and understanding of how these art forms can work together.

Certainly there are many others doing important work in this field (Michale Patterson, Candace Reckinger and Theodore Ushev come to mind), but I am struck by the novelty of Todd and Motionpoems coming at it from a literary standpoint – and I am thrilled that they are right here in Minneapolis. And I look forward to many more conversations with Todd and Jake over a microbrew.

“My Love for you is So Embarassingly” Poem by Todd Boss,  animation by Deb Kirkeeide



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