A few weeks ago, the town of Lanesboro and the surrounding region experienced torrential rains and severe flooding. The Root River (which runs through Lanesboro) reached dangerous levels, and the historic dam was put to the test as large amounts of water and debris swept through the town. The water has since receded and thankfully no major catastrophes occurred, but many homes, crops, and public spaces are still recovering.
One of Lanesboro’s most well-known and beloved features is the unique historic dam one block from downtown. Surrounding the dam is a public gathering space with picnic tables and landscaped access to the river for fishers, tubers, and canoers. Once this area emerged from the floodwaters, locals found it littered with drift wood, tree branches, and debris.
In this mess, Lanesboro Arts Center seized an opportunity for interesting and meaningful community placemaking through our new public art education program “Surprise Sculpture.” Each week, kids from the region gather to create temporary, public art sculptures using entirely recycled and upcycled materials; then, after we’ve worked collaboratively to build the sculptures, they are placed at an unsuspecting place in the community to surprise and inspire the people who come across them. This week, our sculptors invaded the area near the dam and gathered the branches and debris scattered about to create a giant public art nest filled with soft sculpture eggs. The project has been a hit in the community, with one local resident recently calling to thank our organization for doing the project, stating that the sculptures “bring wonder and discovery to our community.”
As the Lanesboro Arts Campus project finishes its fundraising and planning phase and heads toward implementation, the “Surprise Sculpture” program has engaged a number of new community residents in the power of community-building through the arts. The same principles of inclusion, interaction, and inspiration will carry through as we begin building the Lanesboro Arts Campus this fall.
1. The non-profit Lanesboro Local, whose mission is to connect local growers, producers, and artisans with consumers, recently hosted a grand opening for its new store at the heart of downtown Lanesboro. The new space beautifully showcases local goods and serves as a much-needed general store for the community.
2. A downtown restaurant called Gil B’s just completed a renovation which transformed the exterior of their business into a historically-relevant, charming space. With its striped awning, café tables on the sidewalk, and a walk-up ice cream window, it has already become a popular place for locals and visitors to gather.
3. Lanesboro Arts Center has been selected to participate in the EmcArts Inaugural Innovation Summit for Arts & Culture, where we will share our vision of the Lanesboro Arts Campus with other innovative organizations from throughout the country.
“Creative placemaking” can be a tough concept to grasp for someone who is not directly involved in the arts, city planning, or community building. Though Lanesboro has been implementing thoughtful creative placemaking initiatives throughout our rural town for over a decade, the Lanesboro Arts Campus project will augment our community’s artful ties and make the important work being done to our social and physical infrastructure more visible.
In order to educate and involve residents, as well as show them the positive impact of placemaking, we recently began targeting perhaps the most important population demographic in Lanesboro: children. By engaging area children in our “Surprise Sculpture” program, we are teaching them about the public value of art and weaving the arts into the everyday lives of Lanesboro families. The project is also instilling a sense of community pride, identity, and ownership in the children, which is clearly demonstrated by the spontaneous parade through downtown where the kids proudly carry their sculptures to its surprise destination, and the fact that each child is showing their parents, grandparents, and friends the public artwork they helped to create. We hope that by providing meaningful arts experiences to these children and their families, we are fostering a new generation of artists, business owners, and community members for Lanesboro’s future.