Minot has been known as the “Magic City” since it first sprang up, seemingly overnight, in the late 1800s. Over the last decade, an oil boom has brought many new arrivals, generating a severe shortage of affordable housing. This shortage was compounded in June 2011 by a flood of the Souris River, the worst in Minot’s history, which damaged more than 4,000 homes, many beyond repair. The flood left approximately a third of Minot without homes.
Minot now faces the dual challenges of re-establishing its long-term residents while creating appropriate space for the influx of oil-related workers, and it aspires to do both while maintaining Minot’s unique identity and cultural integrity. Artspace Projects has been welcomed as a key partner in this process.
The new 34-unit artist live/work project at the corner of Central Avenue and Main Street in the heart of downtown Minot will also include about 5,400 square feet of commercial space, some of which is expected to be dedicated to a Native American museum and gift shop. The community has rallied behind the project: local businesses and individuals have contributed more than $400,000 to the planning effort. This, coupled with other critical support, including foundations such as ArtPlace, moves projects like these forward.
ArtPlace talked to Artspace Vice President of Properties Heidi Kurtze about some of the vital partnerships that have been behind this project, which broke ground Sept. 25, and is closed and under construction.
ARTPLACE: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?
HEIDI: Two people outside of Artspace were critical to moving the Minot Artspace Lofts project forward. Terri Aldrich – the director of the Minot Area Council of the Arts was the first person to place a call to Artspace more than seven years ago. She knew her community, while small and rural, had a unique commitment to and passion for the arts. Minot has a symphony, an opera, a playhouse, an art school and dozens of small and mid-sized creative businesses committed to the arts. Terri was the visionary for the project since its inception and if it wasn't for her constant support, promotion and persuasion of others – to open their minds, their pocketbooks and their hearts to this project – it would not have happened.
The second was Orlin Backes, former mayor, attorney-at-law and a gentleman's gentleman. Orlin embraced the concept of Artspace Minot from day one. He worked tirelessly at fundraising, worked behind the scenes politically, and put his own name and reputation out to support this effort. He has been a trusted advisor and advocate from Bismarck, N.D. to Washington D.C..
He and Terri feel strongly that Artspace, as an anchor to the downtown Arts District will provide critical grounding for continued investments in the arts and cultural heritage of the region. Their downtown is about to experience a boom, much like the surrounding area has already, and this project will help shape the direction of future development – not fast and cheap, but with sustainable, practical and thoughtful design and development.
The project stalled and lost enthusiasm from the community a few years ago - Orlin and Terri never gave up – on the project or on Artspace – and it was their support, patience, leadership and vision that carried it to a groundbreaking. I said at the groundbreaking that Terri was the Heart and Orlin was the Soul of this project. They Mayor sent me a note at how much that comment meant to him because it was "spot on.”
ARTPLACE: Are there secrets to good partnerships?
HEIDI: Artspace has the skills, tools and resources to develop projects across the country. What makes each one unique and truly reflective of each community's spirit are the “Orlin's and Terri's” – the local passionate leaders that believe in what we do and see a connection for our work and the needs in the community. The secret to these partnerships is to truly listen to these trusted advisors. They've been in these communities much longer than we have, sometimes their whole lives, and it’s important to visit often, to listen, to learn and incorporate their goals and objectives into how the project develops. Bricks and mortar only provide the shell – the personalities and passions of these leaders are what give each project a heart and soul.