Since receiving the news about Lanesboro Arts Center’s ArtPlace America grant, the town of Lanesboro, Minnesota—all 754 of us—has been buzzing with excitement. People talk about it over waffles at the vintage 18-seat diner nestled in the heart of downtown. People talk about it as they file into the old St. Mane Theatre for the monthly community radio show. People talk about it as they gather every Saturday at the farmer’s market, stocking up on fresh asparagus and homemade chocolate truffles. The Lanesboro Arts Campus project, which will use public art, renovated arts venues, and city infrastructure to transform the entire rural town of Lanesboro into an arts campus, has already started a meaningful conversation about the economic and cultural sustainability of our hometown.
The Lanesboro Arts Campus is a project with a lot of moving parts, including an artist residency center, a sculpture park, and a city parking lot to be infused with poetry. Staff is currently focused on reaching our fundraising goal, educating community members on the components that will be put into place, and communicating with partners to plan for the physical transformation of the town.
The Lanesboro Arts Campus project and the town of Lanesboro have experienced a number of exciting progressions in the recent weeks.
1. Executive Director John Davis was invited to share the Lanesboro Arts Campus model in a keynote speech at the Rural Arts and Culture Summit, which took place in Morris, MN, during the week of June 3, 2013. In his speech, Davis outlined the steps that Lanesboro Arts Center has taken to lay the foundation for the Lanesboro Arts Campus, including working with city government to secure the public spaces for the campus and cultivating relationships with all facets of the community.
2. Lanesboro was designated one of the Top 12 Small Town ArtPlaces in America this spring. The media attention from this honor has raised an incredible amount of awareness for the town and the creative placemaking work that is being done here.
3. Since beginning our campaign and being awarded an ArtPlace America grant, several rural communities in the region have reached out to Lanesboro Arts Center to learn about the Lanesboro Arts Campus model. Our ultimate long-term goal is to use Lanesboro’s success to inspire and teach other rural communities how the arts can be used to revitalize their towns, so the relationships we are developing with other small towns has motivated us to think of this project not only as a benefit for Lanesboro, but for every rural community in the nation.
Lanesboro Arts Center’s success in providing arts access to a rural area stems from one simple but significant philosophy: in a small town, the audience is everyone.
When the audience is everyone, programs are designed with our community’s interests, traditions, and livelihoods in mind. If we are showing an independent film on climate change, we’ll bring in a local naturalist to discuss the effects on our region. If we’re hosting a free children’s arts activity, we’ll create a “studio” in the city park during a town festival. If we’re curating a visual art exhibition for our gallery, we will choose pieces and artists that speak to the people of this community. Our current exhibition is a group show called “Rural Americans,” which features the work of local artists and their depictions of rural people. With this exhibition, we can pay homage to the residents of our community and engage a wide array of people in our mission.
This philosophy is at work in our current programming, but it’s also prominent in our placemaking. We are striving to deepen the community’s connection to the arts by reimagining the traditional arts venue and the traditional arts audience. By connecting our traditional arts venues, such as a gallery and theatre, with more nontraditional arts venues, such as a parking lot and pedestrian walking trail, the Lanesboro Arts Campus will make the entire town a venue for creativity and the entire population an audience to be inspired.