Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Art of the Future

Several days ago we noted that a potential frac sand truck traffic increase through Taylors Falls has been averted, at least for now. Before that, My Minnesota had been raising the question of what a sustainable Iron Range would look and work like. We also believe that it's far from enough for communities to stop what they don't want. Sustainable development, as we see it, involves creation as well as negation. We also believe such development is based on the premise that to be sustainable, development on a finite planet must be based on creating better, not simply more. Arts are one of the indicators of a better life and a better place to live. The St. Croix River Valley has an active arts community. It also has the benefit of a fairly recent study (copyright 2007) on The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences in the St. Croix Valley Region.(Unfortunately, the bridge on the cover looks like the Stone Arch in Minneapolis more than any of the St. Croix bridges I've noticed.)

Here's a bottom line from that study:
The nonprofits arts and culture are a $16.45 million dollar industry in the St. Croix Valley Region—one that supports 384 full time equivalent jobs and $1.58 million in local and state government revenue. Nonprofit arts and culture organizations, which spend $6.84 million annually, leverage a remarkable $9.61 million in spending by arts and culture audiences—spending that pumps vital revenue into local restaurants, hotels, retail stores, parking garages, and other businesses in the St. Croix Valley Region.
St Croix Falls, Taylors Falls
St Croix Falls, Taylors Falls                © harrington

There are locations in the U.S. where local artists have worked with local manufacturers in public-private partnerships that help create new lines of production and grow the local economy. I wonder if North Branch is aware of those kind of efforts and if such a partnership might be created to provide a better and higher use for their industrial park property than a transshipment facility for sand. None of this is likely to come about over night. But, thinking about these opportunities puts me in mind of what the late Paul Gruchow, one of my favorite Minnesota writers, wrote about what we teach rural children.
... In schools, rural children are taught as a matter of course "that opportunity of every kind lies elsewhere" and the failure and decline of rural culture is the fault of parents and grandparents. What we impose upon rural children, then, is "a kind of homelessness." Speaking from his own experience, Gruchow articulates the hidden and not so hidden message of rural education: "If you’re any good you go somewhere else". And we know the cutting edge of that displacement as rural people continue their half century of migration toward so called bigger and better places.
My Minnesota believes that all Minnesota children deserve a more positive message than the one Gruchow writes about. Don't you? Wouldn't the St. Croix Valley be a great place to create an alternative, more optimistic, perspective?