Minneapolis, Minnesota

At first blush, artists and audiences in the Twin Cities might overlook or dismiss an online survey about space needs of artists of all disciplines in the St. Croix River Valley along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. While talk is cheap and so are surveys, the results of both do get used to determine how and where communities invest their infrastructure dollars. Thus, metro residents should take a few minutes to complete the survey by Oct. 1.

The valley communities of Stillwater and Lake Elmo, Minnesota, and Hudson, Wisconsin, are at the center of a growing population and an increasingly vigorous, sub-regional arts scene. As artistic activity has increased, so too has interest in the physical amenities in which artists and audiences gather to experience, work, and perform.

Nine organizations in the area have joined together to sponsor the online survey that is being circulated by mnartists.org. These organizations include the Art Reach Alliance, Lake Elmo Regional Art Center, The Phipps Center for the Arts, Stillwater Area Public Schools Community Education, Trinity Lutheran Church, Theatre Associates of Stillwater, Performing Arts Study Committee, Valley Chamber Chorale, and St. Croix Valley Community Foundation. Survey results will be shared early in 2010. [Disclosure: I attended one meeting of this group last year on behalf of the organization conducting the survey.]

During the current economic recession, individuals and organizations should be using their time to position and prepare for the recovery and their futures. Twin Cities artists and audiences who perceive that they have an interest in the East Metro’s cultural life should take the survey to help shape that area’s potential impact on their lives and careers.

The passage last November of the Legacy Amendment guarantees that Minnesota’s statewide public investment in arts and culture will increase significantly for 25 years. The impact of those funds will be leveraged when they meet the aspirations and plans of communities throughout the state, like those in the St. Croix Valley.

Aspirations and plans are everywhere.

Early this year, the new Burnsville Performing Arts Center opened for business just south of the Minnesota River from Minneapolis and Bloomington. If it finds its programming voice in the next two years, the Burnsville PAC will have a significant impact on community and professional music, theater, and dance. The Center has the potential to become a regional powerhouse in a manner akin to that of the four halls of the Carlsen Center on the campus of the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.

The Burnsville experience may hold interest and influence for the folks in Rochester, Minnesota, the state’s third largest city, who have been trying to thread the needle for a new performance hall for years. The embryonic emergence of a University of Minnesota campus in Rochester has added fuel to their hopes and thinking.

The St. Croix Valley may or may not build new performance facilities that anchor the East Metro, but – like communities elsewhere – its cultural leaders are determined that the area will serve artists and audiences in ways better than it does now.

Help them to make that happen and take the survey.

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