Archived Story

Message is art works

Published 11:55am Tuesday, August 31, 2010 Updated 11:55am Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On Wednesday, Aug. 25, Rocco Landesman (the current Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts) was in Minnesota to address arts advocates and legislators.
I was headed that direction but the “check engine” light came on in my car and there it sat in the shop.
I was already cutting it close and had to be back in Fergus Thursday morning by 8 a.m. for a meeting with the school district.
So, I missed the event. However, the message came across loud and clear that day — Art Works.
Landesman continued to explain the slogan that has become his mantra.  “The slogan ART WORKS has multiple meanings;  1)the plays, paintings, sculptures, dances and symphonies that artists produce; 2)  the encounters with the arts that in spire and also 3) the role in the economy that artists play — as in real jobs.”
“The arts have a role in coming out of the recession,” he said, “and while the arts are in trouble , like every other segment of the economy, we can show that the arts are important in building neighborhoods and building communities.”
Representative Betty McCollum who sponsored the appearance added to this by commenting that, “the arts and culture industry contributes $830 million to the state’s economy.”        Her comments also stressed that “we need to keep making smart investments in jobs and economic development and working for strong, safe, vibrant communities.”
Arts in Education came up of course and I couldn’t agree more strongly that having the arts in our curriculum from grades k-12 is essential.
I would go as far as saying that birth through a lifetime is essential and that lifelong learning in the arts makes for healthier and more vibrant communities in general.
When folks attend concerts in the park or take a drawing class or listen to music or play music they continue to evolve and build healthy vibrant communities as well as personal well being.
Landesman  also stressed that ”it’s hard to make the argument for the arts because the fractured media has stopped covering many aspects. “Only four newspapers in the country now have full-time art critics. There used to be dozens,” he said.
Here in Fergus Falls A Center for the Arts has started offering classes in arts criticism and writing critical reviews.
We are proud of the fact that the Fergus Falls Daily Journal has actively participated.
We think there are opportunities here for more individuals to participate in arts review and critical review.
We are planning another Fall session and a Spring session with Roy Close who had a long history with the Minneapolis and St. Paul papers.
Landisman goes on to say that we also need “training in the arts  —  which thrive on innovation, imagination and creativity —  because this is crucial to the country’s economic survival in a worldwide economy and because it is those traits that will help businesses grow and thrive and compete worldwide.”
In Fergus Falls we are lucky because we have already been experiencing some growth in these areas.      While the economy has hurt all of us here as well, the impact sometimes does not feel as severe because the ups and downs are not as extreme.
As we learned during the Forward Fergus Falls surveys, two words kept appearing to describe Fergus Falls — beautiful and conservative.
That actually gives us a lot to work with.  We can capitalize on the natural beauty of the area while solidifying our economic status.
The arts are just one way of doing this. However, the idea of the arts teaching us to be creative and resourceful is also a worthy premise that we should continue to explore.
We are fortunate that we have these opportunities in our schools and in our community.
Here at A Center for the Arts we are talking about expanding on those opportunities with more “Arts 101” opportunities, more collaborations with the schools and the community college as well as community education and life-long learning through the arts. Stay tuned for more on that subject.

Rebecca Petersen is the director of A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls.

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