While most of the work I do focuses on social services and health, I have a soft spot for the arts.  I truly believe that participation in the arts has the potential to energize people, promote physical and mental health and ultimately improve communities.  I couldn’t say it better than this:

“The arts are the highest form of human expression. They describe beauty, speak to our soul, engage and enrage. They celebrate our community’s diversity and etch our shared experience. The arts inspire.”  (Knight Foundation website).

So it was cool to read three articles in today’s StarTrib about ways in which the arts are attracting attention and financial resources in our area.

The biggest bucks are coming from the Knight Foundation which has chosen St. Paul to receive $8 million in arts funding.  Of that, $3.5 million will go to support five established arts organizations (St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, TU Dance, Penumbra Theater, Ordway Theater and Springboard for the Arts).  The remaining $4.5 million will support grassroots efforts through a challenge grant approach.  The challenge grant initiative which will launch April 7 requires a very simple initial application.  The foundation will provide grants (with no pre-set maximum contribution from the foundation!) for innovative arts projects in or benefiting St. Paul.

The second article that grabbed my attention announced that the Joyce Foundation provided grants to two playwrights of color to develop new plays which will premier in the Twin Cities.  The Joyce Foundation senior program officer is quoted, “The Twin Cities are just rocking it. . . I don’t think people have a real appreciation of the rich diversity of artists in Minneapolis and St. Paul.”  Take that, New York City!

Finally, an article about the Art Shanty Project, which involves the design and building of themed shanties on White Bear Lake; the shanties take their inspiration from the iconic ice fishing houses which dot frozen Minnesota lakes.  The project is described as “part sculpture park, part artist residency and part social experiment.”  The themes span a wide variety of topics and activities including the “commodification of timelessnes”, creating clay animals, climate change, spoken word and the sport of curling .  Here’s a description of the Town Hall Shanty, on the theme of civics and “community-building”:

“Hear ye, Hear ye, people of ArtShantyTown are invited to, well, name the town! Visitors to the Town Hall Shanty will be invited to participate in governing ArtShantyTown through opportunities ranging from creating a code of law to designing a flag and seal. Outside of the Town Hall Shanty is a village green for public discourse and celebrations.”

The shanties will be open Feb 1-23 on weekends.  It has to warm up by then!