Opening night party for the Our Town: Faces & Places project in 2006.
One of the most memorable projects I ever worked on was during my tenure as Managing Director for St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts. The project was called “Our Town: Faces & Places” and its purpose was to connect people – across age, gender, cultural & racial backgrounds – through photography. The nine-week teaching project culminated in a packed opening night party at Excelsior & Grand, attended by a diverse gathering of the amateur photographers’ family members and friends, along with the mayor and other city leaders. It was, from a community building perspective, a success.
Many communities, including ours, recognize the value the arts bring to community life. Our annual budget includes $40,000 for Friends of the Arts (FOTA) to promote the arts and offer activities for residents. This summer, FOTA hosted a “Unity Sing” that attracted an intergenerational crowd of more than 200 residents to sing together on a beautiful July evening at Wolfe Park. With only modest support from the city, FOTA has been building social capital in St. Louis Park for more than 20 years. I think it’s been a worthwhile investment.
The arts are also a powerful economic engine. A recent study by Minnesota Citizens for the Arts showed the economic impact of the arts in Minnesota is about $2 billion annually. The study also zeroed in on St. Louis Park and found $1.5 million in economic impact in our community alone, including $164,000 in government revenues, each year.
I believe the arts can transform lives, economies, and communities. A recent article in the Star Tribune told the story of how Fergus Falls, MN experienced just such a transformation, bringing state and federal grant money, along with a renewed sense of optimism and energy, to a changing town.
As your Ward 1 City Council member, I’ll work with other city leaders to identify ways we can increase the social and economic impact of the arts in our own community, for the benefit of all. Partnering with FOTA and other arts organizations, and with a fiscally responsible mindset, I’d like us to explore: