About three weeks ago I received an envelope in the mail from an old friend in the Twin Cities.  Inside was a sweet little publication called Dakotafire, and with it a note that said: “… your interest in promoting the arts, local enterprise and a revival of rural communities is shared by those responsible for this publication… the article about Minnesota will remind you that in addition to the value of the work you are doing in Minnesota, you have a broader influence in encouraging others to celebrate and promote their own artistic and cultural heritage.”  The magazine was a special edition of Dakotafire, filled with almost 20 articles focusing on the arts and their importance to the quality of life across the James River Valley of South Dakota, and boldly asked in a front cover headline: "Can art save small towns?"   

This theme has been a mantra I have repeated ever since moving to rural Minnesota over twenty years ago.  In recent years, some folks in economic development circles have started to realize that thriving arts venues work hand-in-hand with making stronger communities, and help to attract thriving businesses.  The fact is, artists and arts organizations make up an “industry” that contributes significantly to the economic engine.  Artists can be tax payers, parents with children that attend the local school, and make good customers for local businesses.

Yes, even in small town rural America we value our culture.   But it’s much more than just the dollars and “sense” of it all.   Perhaps what the arts contribute most is that important intangible – “quality of life” – that helps us enjoy the experience of living, wherever we are planted.

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In our newest television show, we celebrate human creativity in a visit with Patrick Ring - a very creative fellow from rural Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota.   Like many artistic individuals, Patrick is hard to label because his creativity crosses several disciplinary lines and his “product” won’t be found in traditional art venues, such as gallery settings.   Using timbers, brick, stone, cement, native and cultivated perennials, water, rock and soil Patrick creates incredible garden environments in which to walk, meditate and work at his other art form: stained glass.  We discovered Patrick on the Autumn Winds Studio Tour, and are happy to share our discovery with you.   I hope you enjoy this glimpse into his artistic world.

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To answer the riddle posed in my last blog entry, all of those things converge at the Olof Swensson Farm Museum, operated by the Chippewa County Historical Society.   That is a destination I highly recommend to tourists, history buffs and families who want to instill an appreciation of our history upon younger members of the household.  The Horse Power Event that is held there every September is especially fun to attend!

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