I think I must work with my head down most of the time. I intently focus on the tasks that have to be done on any given day. Granted many of the things I do are part of a multi-year projects, but mostly my attention goes to the immediate things in my work world. I am probably like many of you in this respect.
Although it may feel like an interruption, it’s helpful for something or someone to cause us to pause and look up once in a while. These pauses help me to lift my head and look at a larger picture of my work, to gain perspective, to better appreciate the connection between the history, present and future of the work in which I am involved.
Recently I received an interesting phone call from Shayndi Raice, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Even though it meant putting aside working on LRAC’s audit for half an hour, I was ready to take a break and who says “no” to an interview with the WSJ, right?
Shayndi Raice had read the recent Minneapolis Star Tribune article on Fergus Falls and the part that Springboard for the Arts plays in making this a lively arts community. You can read the article at this link: http://www.startribune.com/fergus-falls-strives-to-become-national-model-with-its-thriving-rural-arts-scene/442552033/
Shayndi’s curiosity was piqued that there might be a larger story worth pursuing.
“How Does a Rural Community Embrace the Arts as Part of Who They Are?”
The questions she asked me required that I look back to 1982, when I first moved to Fergus Falls. She wanted to know if the town was thought of as an arts community then……my answer was, “No, I don’t think so.”
There were a few dedicated folks who were interested in the arts, enough so that the old movie theatre was renovated to become A Center for the Arts, the then Fergus Falls Community College had a great art and music departments. Charlie Beck and Geneva Eschweiler taught there for many years and left quite a legacy. That early group of people saw that the old Kaddatz Hotel became the Kaddatz Gallery and partnering with ArtSpace, that the building housed two floors of artist lofts. The LRAC offices have always been in Fergus Falls. We had a summer Arts Festival in town for many years. There was momentum, but it was very slow and the community, in my opinion did not think of itself as an arts community during the 80’s and 90’s.
As I talked with Shayndi, we began to talk more about what made the difference. I talked to her about 2008 and 2009 when the Arts and Cultural Heritage Legacy amendment passed, dedicating a small portion of the MN sales tax to support clean water, clean air, parks & trails AND Arts and Culture.
In my humble opinion, the Legacy Amendment not only provided much needed funding to grow the Arts in Minnesota, it was also a statement by the citizens of Minnesota that the arts were important to our way of life. People who could care less about artsy fartsy stuff, were now hearing about the arts being economic drivers, arts as part of community development and the Legacy Fund supporting events in their home towns.
I saw the number of people who thought art was a good thing in Fergus Falls, go from those few dedicated folks of the 1980-90s, grow to a solid majority of folks today in 2017.
There have been so many players that have put bricks in the arts community foundation, not only of Fergus Falls, but of the region. To name a few: the MN State Arts Board, Lake Region Arts Council, the McKnight Foundation, West Central Initiative Fund, MN Citizens for the Arts, Springboard for the Arts, all the arts organizations and artists of our region.
So all the attention Fergus Falls is getting now, has a long, long history. Our future looks great because a few people worked very hard for a long time, more people and resources became part of the story, people’s minds began to think differently.
Today it seems like we have reached, maybe even passed, a tipping point that the Arts are part of what Fergus Falls is about. Outsiders see us as an arts community and we think of ourselves as an arts community.
Because LRAC supports and encourages the arts in 9 counties, when I stop and “look up”, I see the same events happening in other communities in the Region.
When the interview with Shayndi Raice ended and I had time to digest my answers, I was in awe of all the people, events and sometimes luck, which brought the Arts to where they are today in Fergus Falls and our region.
Remarkable. My humble thanks to all the players in this, our story, and to Shayndi Raice for asking me to lift my head and answer some questions.
- Maxine Adams, LRAC Executive Director