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Arts Campus Initiative takes root in Lanesboro

By Angie Rodenburg

Fri, Jan 24th, 2014
Posted in Lanesboro Progress Edition

After 10 years in the making, the Lanesboro Arts Campus Project progresses to expand art, as well as boost the local economy and tourism. Photo submitted

Lanesboro’s trails, access to the Root River, and small town charm has made it a popular tourist destination throughout the years. Named one of the “100 Best Small Art Towns in America” and one of the “Top Twelve Small-Town Art Places in the Nation”, these accolades are due in large part to the work of the Lanesboro Arts Center (LAC). Now the Arts Center has created a new initiative that will help Lanesboro stand out among the rest.

The Lanesboro Arts Campus project was designed strategically to immerse Lanesboro residents and visitors in the arts all while making an investment into the economic growth of the town. Sara Baskett, the Arts Center’s Program and Marketing Director elaborated on the project saying, “The project includes buildings that house the arts (Lanesboro Arts Gallery and St. Mane Theatre), pedestrian walkways, and arts in public spaces.”

For instance, they will be adding sculptures and seating areas and possibly even an amphitheater to the green space by the historic walking bridge along the river. “It will serve as an artful wayfinding system throughout downtown -- promoting walkability and expanding upon the existing three signs by artist Karl Unnasch, and the Discover Sculpture Explore Lanesboro medallion walking tour,” added Baskett.

“The Lanesboro Arts Campus is about interweaving the arts into the fabric of a community,” says John Davis. “By integrating arts into city infrastructure and in public spaces, the Arts Campus project provides new opportunities for people to experience art, to inspire and be inspired.”

This elaborate project is not only exciting for art enthusiasts, but also for the community as a whole. “By creating new and vibrant spaces for people, and by revitalizing city infrastructure to make parking and walking more welcoming to community members and visitors, the Lanesboro Arts Campus project will offer a boost to the local tourism economy,” said Baskett. She added, “Research has shown that arts and cultural events boost Minnesota’s economy. Tourists are drawn to Minnesota and Fillmore County for the arts, the Root River State Trail, the wonderful B&Bs, great restaurants, and more. The arts are a big piece of the puzzle that attract folks to spend money in Lanesboro and Fillmore County, either by visiting here or relocating here.”

Another exciting aspect of the project is the fact that it is a completely original idea. Last spring, LAC received a national $25,000 innOVATION award from Ovation’s Inaugural InnOvation Grant Program for the Arts Campus project. Lanesboro will be leading the way with this new project as LAC Executive Director John Davis is planning to demonstrate the Arts Campus project as a national model for integrating art into communities while promoting economic development. LAC has also received a National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” grant in support of the Lanesboro Arts Campus project.

This brilliant idea is being realized by the combined efforts of the Lanesboro Arts Center staff and board, the City of Lanesboro, the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce, artists Ed Bok Lee and Karl Unnasch, landscape architects from Hoisington Koegler Group Inc., and consultants with Forecast Public Art.

“We are fortunate to have so many supportive partners in this community,” says LAC Executive Director John Davis.

The Lanesboro Arts Campus project is funded by foundations, businesses and individuals. According to Baskett, “To date, more than $600,000 has been raised from foundations and $150,000 has been raised from individual/private gifts.” However, fundraising is not complete. People can still participate in funding the project by calling the Lanesboro Arts Center.

Though the project has been 10 years in the making with various phases, the majority of the work on these projects will be completed by October, 2014.

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