Friday, March 20, 2015

Introductory Meeting for Duluth Creative Community Builders Lays Groundwork for Year of New Visioning

This week three consultants from Minneapolis met with the Duluth leaders to begin the process of developing new initiatives for our city on the lake. Tom Borrup from Creative Community Builders and two members of Forecast Public Art, Carrie Christianson and Bob Lunning, had been invited by the Duluth Public Arts Commission (DPAC) to begin work that would move forward the development of a more intentional arts and culture master plan.

The mission of Forecast Public Art is to strengthen and advance the field of public art -- locally to internationally -- by expanding participation, supporting artists, informing audiences and assisting communities. The organization was formed in 1978.

On Tuesday I attended a lunch gathering of people who had been invited by Peter Spooner of DPAC. The group included Bob D'Aramond of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, Anne Dugan of the Duluth Art Institute and Free Range Film Festival, Penny Clarke of Lizzards, freelance set designer Ann Gumpper, artist/writer Ann Klefstad, and Ken Bloom of the Tweed. Spooner himself is an independent educator, artist and writer.

What brought us together is this conscious effort to move the markers forward another step. Duluth leaders approved the formation of a public arts commission, and there have been real efforts in the past to identify the needs and opportunities here, but there have been limitations as well. The DPAC has been a volunteer organization and as such has limited authority and energy.

After introductions, a brainstorming session commenced in which we threw out ideas with regards to what we have here that is already good, and then what can be improved. There's much good happening in our community, and we have good foundations to build on.

Near the outset Ann Klefstad pointed out that we have in certain ways been down this path before and that many of us are a bit guarded about getting their hopes up with regards to what can be accomplished through another such effort. The charette of a few years back and certain efforts of the Twin Ports Arts Align did much to bolster optimism while appearing to have fallen short on some of their ambitious aims. Ann's comments helped set the table by putting out there a notion many of us were no doubt thinking.

Everyone present no doubt agreed, however, that it is good for continued consideration to be taken toward a conscious effort to plan the future strategically rather than just let the city march haphazardly.

The reason for such efforts is because of the belief that public access to art improves the everyday life of all people. Communities are sometimes broken into silos that fail to see what the power of collaboration can do when businesses and artists and cities work together. One reason Duluth is successful in many respects is the beauty of the lake and the beauty of its architecture. There has been a conscious effort to ensure that the new integrates with the old. The public fountains and other embellishments are also a gift of thoughtful decision-makers.

What will come of this 2015 effort is impossible to forecast, much like our weather, but I believe there is much to be hopeful about. It's always good when there is a serious dialogue taking place. Thank you to Peter Spooner, Mayor Ness and whoever else is involved in this effort to make a difference.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Celebrate it. 

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