WORTHINGTON — A new public art area is on the way in downtown Worthington, thanks to a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council.

The Main Street Worthington Gathering Space Grant, awarded in the amount of $25,000, will result in a whole new look for a 40-feet- wide by 14-feet-deep space at the end of 10th Street, adjacent to the Farmers Market location. Currently a vacant, city-owned gravel lot, the space would offer market attendees and the general public a place with a decidedly artistic flavor to congregate.

Gail Holinka and Bobbie Alsgaard-Lien, both lead artists for Worthington’s Artmobile, are spearheading the gathering space project.

One feature of the area will be three to five cement benches (depending on space) that will include a variety of mosaic-type designs. There will be a pair of planters as well, and another key component will be a community mural that’s being coordinated with the Worthington Garden Club.

“The garden club had asked over a year ago if we could do some kind of mural project,” Holinka said. “We’ve been thinking about a theme of growing our community, and how we can nurture it through the arts. Everybody came to Worthington for a better life, and perhaps the mural could be representative of the many different cultures in our community.”

Holinka and Alsgaard-Lien are welcoming any input from Worthington residents regarding the public art. People may visit with them at any Artmobile workshop taking place this summer, and they may also submit ideas to the Worthington Arts Commission Facebook page.

City of Worthington staff have requested submissions from the art council for their review — hopefully by the end of this summer — with the Worthington City Council subsequently giving a final approval on one.

“We’re really hoping for a lot of input to make these submissions,” Holinka said “Public art is not my design idea or someone else’s design idea. It should be anyone and everyone who wants to participate and have a voice.”

Expanding public art has been a longtime passion of both Holinka and Alsgaard-Lien (who was Holinka’s art teacher once upon a time).

“She took off when I introduced her to the concept of public art,” Alsgaard-Lien recalled of Holinka. “She knows about the importance of how you maneuver within a community, how you have to have input from the community Otherwise, your projects will fail.

“Gail took off like greased lightning, and the community is so lucky to have her.”

“Being here my whole life and never really seeing public art around ... I kind of said ‘why not?’” Holinka added.

Holinka and Algaard-Lien both expressed their thanks to the city for its support thus far. Work is set to begin later this summer on both improving the gathering space site as well as the adjacent 10th Street Plaza location. It’s hoped that all the work will be completed for use by summer 2021.

“The grant we got was to be for this year, but with the coronavirus and everything that needed to be changed, we’ve been given an extension,” Holinka said. “We hope to stay on schedule as much as we can, but we’re not having a lot of events like the Regatta and International Festival … and those are when we have a lot of high numbers of people that could have come out and participated with the creation of the murals.”

The gathering space is being made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the SW Minnesota Arts Council, Minnesota Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. A total of $20,000 of the grant is coming from the Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council, with an additional $5,000 contributed by local community organizations.

In lieu of the aforementioned big community events not taking place, Holinka and Alsgaard-Lien plan to have the Artmobile out at numerous locales this summer. Among the spots slated to be visited are District 518 summer food program spots such as Pirtle’s Mark, Millard Walker Park and others; a visit to Pioneer VIllage is also scheduled for July 5. Up-to-date information can be found by following the Artmobile Facebook page,

“Kids will make and take, so there is no transferring of or handling the same materials,” Holinka said. “They will even get to take home their supplies, which we hope they can bring for return visits

“If all goes well, we will continue to offer fun and meaningful activities and still do work to help build on our community public space for the end of (10th Street).”

In addition to getting feedback on the public art project, visitors to the Artmobile this summer will design a cover for their personal, homemade sketchbook. Due to COVID-19, the Artmobile will only be able to take eight kids per teacher, and two per six-foot table.Two or three teachers are planned per session, and youths will have to take turns. Participants will be asked to wear masks; Artmobile workers will as well.

Despite the ongoing pandemic necessitating a few changes, another busy and fun summer at the Artmobile is still expected.

“This Artombile was a vision of mine 45 years ago,“ Alsgaard-Lien said. “The city, along with many others, have been so supportive.”

Added Holinka: “Here we are in our third season, and we’re still going strong.”