Building community and economy through art
In the Upper Minnesota River Valley, folks have been gathering to talk about what they want to see happen in their area. Several listening sessions have been held to ask, "What can we do together that makes life more sustainable here?"
Art, art, art. It keeps coming up. Celebrate the people and place and generate more life and action down on Main Street, along the river and in the countryside.
These listening sessions use what's called Open Space technology, which in essence means everyday people suggest projects and topics of interest and other participants who want to explore that idea and collaborate, join in. From there, things happen. And these people get it done. Momentum grows.
In Granite Falls, the sixth graders from Bert Raney Elementary School identified that they wanted to build art bike racks and encourage folks to bike around town and down to Prentice Street for some popcorn.
Another art teacher, Tamara Isfeld, suggested they start a Drop-In Art Night at a new community building where folks can stop in, make and see art, play music and hang out in this new space on Main Street.
Next up, a mosaic wall—created by the community—on the exterior of this K.K. Berge building for the people in the park and on the river to enjoy as they walk or paddle by.
Art draws people together. It celebrates local talent and culture, and helps generate business. In Granite Falls, they check out the local art in the new art and vintage store on Prentice Street, in the K.K. Berge building, and in the studios nearby.
Local folks are not the only ones coming to see it. This has been true for nine years in the case of the Meander—a regional art crawl throughout the scenic landscape of the Upper Minnesota River Valley. Every year more people from the Twin Cities and surrounding areas come to roam along fields of haystacks, rows of crops and a meandering river to visit art studios showcasing beautiful art and live music.
This year at the Meander, more than $94,000 was earned for rural artists throughout the region who opened their studios. The area's B&Bs and overnight venues benefitted as well.
Cultural exchanges happen and relationships build. And ideas click, with folks learning and exploring the region and workable ideas to perhaps try out in their own community to help spur things there as well.
Here, leadership comes from the ground up—from the sixth graders at Bert Raney Elementary School, to the artists across five counties celebrating the spirit of western Minnesota.