Local high school students and their families at their Juried High School Exhibition at Lanesboro Arts Center
Right now we are at the sweet spot in our project where planning is winding down and we’re gearing up for the whirlwind of construction, artmaking, renovation, and events. We’re holding community meetings and workshops throughout the spring to develop content for the public art, which fits into a larger master plan including wayfinding systems, information kiosks, pedestrian walkways, public outdoor gathering spaces, and gardens.
Construction began in early February 2014 on the St. Mane Theatre, and the gallery building renovation will begin in the next 6 weeks. Finally, our public art and wayfinding plans are near complete; after a community meeting on February 17, 2014, our design team will move forward with feedback and begin plans for implementation.
1. Beste Byen Grocery and Gallery just opened in downtown Lanesboro. This small business has transitioned from a non-profit endeavor by Lanesboro Local into a private business and many community members are thrilled to have a basic grocery store back in town. (See more below!)
2. Lanesboro Arts Center’s recent Juried High School Exhibition, which features work of 70+ local students in our professional gallery setting, was held in January 2014. New this year was an artist critique of each student’s work, which connected the students with a professional artist and provided them with constructive feedback on their work. This new feature of the exhibition was derived from a Wallace Foundation webinar entitled “Something to Say: Success Principles for Afterschool Arts Programs from Urban Youth and Other Experts.”
3. After networking with national organizations this past year and seeing the innovative work of ArtPlace America projects, LAC has made a commitment to embracing more opportunities to seek innovation and become an adaptable organization. Last month, LAC staff met for a daylong staff retreat to re-examine programs, brainstorm new ideas, and make goals for the future. It was a wonderfully productive day, and we’re excited to implement our new ideas.
After Lanesboro’s grocery store closed years ago, locals have been trying to develop new models for a small town (754 people to be exact) food store. In many small towns around the nation, the downtown main street stores—the pharmacy, the hardware store, the grocery store—simply cannot sustain themselves. Rural areas are constantly losing residents or becoming “bedroom communities” for jobs in nearby cities; both of these trends negatively affect the vibrancy of the town and the community spirit that comes with a bustling downtown.
The Lanesboro Arts Campus project really aims to empower the local population and make Lanesboro an attractive place for people to live. As one community stakeholder put it at a recent meeting, we need to make sure “Lanesboro is a place where we want to stay on the weekends” instead of a place where we solely eat, sleep, and fill up with gas before leaving town for work and play.
As I type this, the new Beste Byen Grocery and Gallery in downtown Lanesboro is tidying up the produce and straightening the cheeses before it opens its doors to the public. A local nonprofit (Lanesboro Local) facilitated a small grocery store in the space before, and they have just made the transition into a small business. This type of momentum—businesses opening one-by-one, communities rallying to support their entrepreneurs, etc.—is the ultimate impetus for creative placemaking projects like the Lanesboro Arts Campus.