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Park Rapids Arts and Culture gathers input for arts road map

The Park Rapids Arts and Culture Commission hosted two community meetings last week, gathering input about how the arts can help create a more vital and prosperous city.

Ryan Zemek, economic development director at the Headwaters Regional Development Commission (HRDC), moderated the informal brainstorming sessions.

The goal is to have an "arts road map" incorporated into the city's comprehensive plan, which currently has no arts component.

"One of the things we noticed in discussions with City Planner Ryan Mathisrud and the commission is that within the city's existing document, there's nothing that really grounds arts activities," Zemek explained to Thursday's 16 participants.

The Park Rapids Arts and Culture Commission is a part of the Park Rapids City Council, added Councilmember Rod Nordberg. "The council responds to initiatives from its advisory commissions, so this input is important for the council."

The commission received $9,000 from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation for the strategic planning process. The Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council (PRLAAC) has committed $1,000 toward the project. HRDC is willing to contribute another $2,500.

The planning process isn't meant to dictate to individual artists or organizations exact events, noted Zemek, rather, "this is about what policies and programs that the city can implement to nurture and support arts activities. What can reinforce good things already in place?"

The strategic arts plan will chart a course for the community's creative future, similar to one developed by the city of Grand Rapids. It gives city administration direction when, for example, someone asks to paint a mural downtown. It also helps the city plan for future investments, such as, if a concrete apron is needed to house a farmers market, Zemek said.

Zemek introduced the concept of "creative placemaking," a practice of having arts and culture alongside sectors of government and community planning, like housing and transportation.

"Creative placemaking goes beyond 'decorating' spaces to involving artists, makers and creative thinkers in important decisions regarding community planning and problem-solving," according to Zemek.

ArtPlace America has developed 10 principles of creative placemaking. (See sidebar).

Zemek asked participants to brainstorm policies, programs and activities that would support creative placemaking in Park Rapids. Some of the ideas mentioned Thursday were interactive storyboards in public spaces, more bilingual signage, a film festival, powwow, murals, live poetry.

Suggestions from both community sessions will be gathered, along with online survey results, and reviewed by the Park Rapids Arts and Culture Advisory Commission. They will then draft an arts plan that includes goals and milestones, identifies existing arts assets, review current plans and develop an action plan and implementation schedule.

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