By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN For more than a year, the Winsted arts task force team has been laying the groundwork necessary to establish an arts council.
With a kick off family event called “Art in the Park” at Mill Reserve Park in Winsted, Friday, June 5 from 5 to 8 p.m., the task force is ready to take its plans for a standing independent arts council for Winsted and the surrounding area to the community.
Along with providing an evening of family entertainment, the arts task force team is hoping to attract individuals interested in signing up to be part of an established arts council.
“We are hoping to find out who wants to be involved with the arts council from early on,” arts task force team member Mary Neff said. “We don’t want a small group deciding what this (arts council) is going to be. After getting input, from others in the community we will form an official arts council.”
The “Art in the Park” event is being presented as a “snapshot” of what the task force is trying to accomplish, according to arts task force team member Greg Gehrman.
“We want to encourage people to bring something along to the event. Bring an instrument, or use this opportunity to find a corner and gather,” Gehrman said. “Set up a card table and show people what you do.”
“Art in the Park” will have free entertainment for the entire family including magician Matt Dunn and Prairiegrass, a bluegrass band, that will perform at the amphitheater.
There will be a sign-up sheet available throughout the evening for anyone interested in being a part of the new council.
“After the event, we plan to get together with everyone who has expressed an interest and then immediately get registered as a nonprofit,” Gehrman said.
A web site has already been purchased, winstedartscouncil.org, and will soon be up and running.
The arts council will not fall under the umbrella of the city or the area chamber. It would be an independent, nonprofit, according to Neff.
“I would think that as artists reach around to their friends and other social circles, its reach will be regional,” Gehrman said.
There are many ways for community members to serve as part of the arts council.
“Anything it takes to run an organization,” Neff said. “There will be an official board of directors who would give direction and keep everything on task meeting deadlines; and people in charge of standing committees like fundraising, event planning, and legal,” Neff said.
“We all have so much in us that can enhance our surroundings,” Neff said. “We want to create an opportunity for people to express themselves.”
At one time, Neff had hopes of becoming an artist, herself, when she was in high school, but the need to earn a living made her put aside her painting to get a business degree.
“It is funny because I don’t have a desire to paint anymore, I just want to be helping others to develop their own creative skills,” Neff said.
Gehrman had a love for ceramic and pottery. His intention had been to one day, land in the north woods and throw pots.
But Gehrman was also practical and found he was able to use his creative talents making a living in construction.
He has found a use for design in remodeling and renovating.
Gehrman wants to be part of the arts council because it gives him the opportunity to give back to the community and help other people to find their “spark.”
“I think one of the pitfalls of the term art is, so often, it gets labeled by what you can do with a pen or a brush,” Gehrman said. “That makes people afraid to express or to think of themselves as an artist or artistic. But art is working in the garden, or shaping land, or singing, or reciting poetry,” Gehrman said.
Art center option
Once the arts council is formed, a facility will be needed for entertainment, to display different artists’ art forms for a few months at a time, a facility for workshops for pottery or painting, and for craft projects for the children during the summer.
“We want to use an existing facility,” Neff said. “We don’t want to build something that is competing with what is already here.”
One possibility for the art center is the old Winsted creamery building on the corner of Second Street and McLeod Avenue, which has been offered to the arts council by its owners Gehrman, and arts task force team member, Katy Born.
“Greg is willing to make this facility available and he has got visions and plans that are ever-changing,” Neff said.
It is currently being renovated by Gehrman and Born and will be opened to the public as a garden center sometime this month.
“I am working there on a nightly basis and by next week, we will be planting the gardens there,” Gehrman said.
The creamery has three old buildings, two of which can be developed.
“One is just made to be a resource center where you could keep books and resources and old maps,” Neff said.
“It has great potential and definitely enough room for everything we talked about. But I am not the council. I am just one voice,” Neff said.
Leadership training set up the task force
During the Blandin Foundation “Community Leadership Program” in October 2007, 24 Winsted community members brainstormed during a week-long training session.
As part of the leadership program, four groups were formed to advance the lifestyle in Winsted.
“We would come up with these areas that could enhance the quality of living in Winsted, and there were certain things that kept popping up to the top,” Neff said. “Having a physical arts presence was one of them.”
The original arts task force team is Nancy Fasching, Julie Guggemos, Charlotte Laxen, Mary Neff, Cynthia Stifter, and Michael Thonvold.
“From early on, we added Greg Gehrman and Katy Born because they have lots of great ideas, interest, and resources,” Neff said.