Arts groups aim to emulate Lanesboro

By Tom Weber

The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

What happened

• About 30 artists and representatives of regional arts organizations gathered Saturday for a day-long conference at the Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview.

• Topics included grant-writing, working with local schools and strategic planning.

• The overall theme of the conference was finding ways to connect artists and their local communities.

PLAINVIEW — The professional actors and directors at the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro help coach local sports teams, deliver Meals on Wheels and serve on civic boards.

"That's how art institutions get and stay connected with their community," Hal Cropp, artistic director of the Commonweal, said Saturday in a presentation on "The Lanesboro Model" to the regional Spring Day gathering of artists and art organizations.

The Commonweal presents 200 performances a year on its stage, and pays its actors and directors a salary. The theater is generally credited with helping spark a tourism and economic revival in Lanesboro. Other arts organizations in the region are anxious to emulate that success.


Bruno Borsari, who delivered the keynote address to the conference, said the arts can have a similar impact in other places by connecting with their communities. "As a scientist, I need to step down from the ivory tower," said Borsari, a biology professor at Winona State University. "The artist has a similar type of challenge if they want to make art accessible to the general public."

Cropp said none of the artists at the Commonweal is allowed to be only an artist. They all handle administrative duties at the theater, and all are encouraged to get involved in some way in the life of Lanesboro. "Our goal is to normalize the artist in the community," he said.

In turn, Cropp told the 30 attendees at the conference, citizens and artists make a connection. Read about in Monday's print edition of the Post-Bulletin.

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