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Festival shines light on public art

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news Worthington, 56187
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Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- While the windsurfers sought out Saturday's light breeze and the musicians tuned up their instruments, another group of people promoted artistic endeavors in the Worthington community.

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This year's Arts on the Shore not only included opportunities for youths to get creative, but also focused on public art and what it means to the community. Murals that were created at the 2010 Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival were dedicated at their permanent home, located on a small piece of public land at Eighth Street and Third Avenue, just off Sailboard Beach.

Finding a home for the murals -- one of a windsurfer and the other a giant turtle -- was a difficult undertaking and has resulted in the creation of a public arts commission. Gail Holinka, art teacher at Worthington High School and adviser for the AOK (Arts-Optimist-Kiwanis) Club at the school, worked with Worthington City Administrator Craig Clark and city councilmen Mike Woll and Mike Kuhle to find a permanent installation site for the murals, which were pieced together from individual squares painted by both children and adults. A similar, but smaller mural was created this year.

"It takes the arts to rejuvenate the soul," said Woll at the short mural dedication ceremony Saturday afternoon. "It's great to rejuvenate souls with a piece like this."

The weekend also included a brief presentation on public art, a collaborative effort of professional artists Nick and Nicole Fischer of Aberdeen, S.D., who oversaw the creation of all the regatta murals, Holinka, and Jeanette Jenson, middle school band and music teacher representing Worthington's Comprehensive Arts Planning Program (CAPP).

The Fischers talked about the value of community art, about how it adds artistic value to the community, gives insight to local values, helps to establish cultural identity, shows pride in the community and fosters community involvement.

"It also exposes people to art who don't normally seek it out," said Nick Fischer.

Holinka detailed some of the projects the AOK Club has undertaken in the community, including the Regatta art tent and writing grants to bring artists like the Fischers into the community. Last year's mural controversy started a conversation with Forecast Public Art, a nonprofit arts organization based in the Twin Cities that "connects the energies and talents of artists with the needs and opportunities of communities to create meaningful public art."

"We received a grant through them to educate people about the importance of public art," said Holinka.

Using the public arts commission in Hutchinson as a model, policy for the public arts commission is currently in the second draft stage, and when finalized will be taken before the Worthington City Council for adoption. Members of the commission are Clark, Woll, Holinka, Scott Rosenberg, Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh, Bobbie Alsgaard-Lien, Tricia Mikle and a youth representative from WHS.

The CAPP program is also working to promote awareness of the arts in the community and its schools, noted Jenson. Through a grant received in 2009, CAPP has developed a five-year plan, including projects such as enhancing the dance programs in the schools.

However, the grant money has to be spent by June 30, so Worthington CAPP has to become self-supporting. She encouraged anyone interested in becoming a CAPP member or wanting to contribute to the effort to contact herself or Holinka or check out the CAPP website that is currently under construction.

"I really believe strong arts equals strong schools," Jenson emphasized.

"The signs promoting Worthington when you come into town use the slogan, 'You'll come to love us,'" concluded Holinka. "I say, better yet, with more art, you'll love us from the start."

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
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