Saturday, January 26, 2013

Twin Ports Arts Align: Crafting a Vision for a Vibrant Community

Somethin's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear...  But it's getting clearer with every passing year. What I'm talking about is the future of the Twin Ports arts scene.

Today was the second annual gathering of the Twin Ports Arts Align, an inclusive affiliation of art administrators, artists and venues whose aim has been to stay connected and to communicate with each other, their mutual goal being to build a stronger arts community in the Twin Ports. According to their Facebook page the group is a result of the Arts Align seminar at the Sheraton/Zeitgeist on February 4, 2012. For the past year the group has been meeting once a month to continue the conversation.

It was an exciting day as nearly 65 people from all aspects of the Northland arts community gathered to move the markers forward and set a vision for the future.The energy was palpable as everyone rolled up their mental sleeves and tackled the challenges set before them. One group was tasked with defining the mission, a second tackled the challenges regarding art education in our schools, a third addressed affordable housing, facilities and venues, a fourth focused on audience growth and the fifth gave its attention to the upcoming May Arts Month which is coming to fruition after months of networking and laying groundwork.

The day began with introductory remarks by William "Bill" Payne, dean of the UMD School of Fine Arts, a central champion of the TPAA vision. Payne outlined the manner in which we would approach the day, stressing the importance of coming away with action items that we will distribute amongst our many participants so that the vision can get the necessary traction to become a reality. He then introduced Ann Markuson, recently retired professor of U of MN, now residing in Cromwell, whose career involved her deeply in the study of regional development by means of the arts. Markuson was involved with State of NJ policy development at Rutgers and California’s Arts and Cultural Ecology initiative. She has studied and written extensively along the lines of Creative Placemaking. Her presentation was jammed with real world case studies and examples of achievements as well as errors to be avoided.

After a short break we broke into our teams (called "crowds") and dug in, breaking briefly for lunch and later for cookies. At the end of the day we shuffled to the Zeitgeist for an informal afterparty to begin the process of cementing relationships with others in the group.

The highlight of the day was learning that the Twin Ports May as Arts Month was going to become a reality after discussions and buy-in by both mayors, Ness and Hagen. The "Name" of our monthlong Twin Ports celebration of the arts is as yet undetermined but here's the outline of what and when.

Twin Ports Arts Month, April 28 thru June 2
Kickoff Event sometime before April 28.
Homegrown Music Fest: Apr 28-May 5      
Visual Arts Week: May 6-12
Dance/Theater/Opera/Literary Arts/Classical Music and Dylan Days: May 13-26
DuSu Film Festival: May 29-June 2

In short, there will something for everyone. And it will only get better from here.

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