An AmeriCorps member is tasked with conducting community-wide outreach to position the Armory Arts and Events Center as a destination venue and to ensure its sustainability.

Through Lead For Minnesota, a division of AmeriCorps, Will Olson will live and serve in Park Rapids over the course of the two-year, paid fellowship.

He officially began Aug. 16 as arts and culture coordinator.

Paul Dove and Cynthia Jones, president and vice president of the Armory’s board of directors, requested the fellowship and secured funding.

“We have a scope of work that we want the Lead For Minnesota fellow to accomplish in two years,” Dove said. “Basically, it is to develop a reality-based structure for the Armory as an arts and event center so that we will have a good foundation on which to build.”

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Dove said Olson will visit other towns in Minnesota with entertainment centers in order to learn their best practices in venue management, educational partnerships and community events.

Olson will also assist with developing the Armory’s strategic plan and programming.

“The other part of his project is to make contact with different groups in the area so that they are aware of what the Armory is about and what are the opportunities that facility can give them. It is a public relations-type of a position,” Dove said.

The Armory was obligated to contribute $25,000 per year toward Olson’s remuneration, Dove explained. A Northwest Minnesota Foundation grant, totalling $20,000, is accompanied by a Minnesota State Arts Board grant of $15,000. “We have guaranteed our funding, and then the other funding comes through AmeriCorps,” he said.

A St. Paul native, Olson studied philosophy, politics and law at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, with a minor in film. He graduated in May 2021, saw the AmeriCorps opportunity and accepted the service position.

Olson said he was enticed by the chance to help a community while also receiving an education award at the end of his service.

“There’s tons of AmeriCorps programs in a bunch of different areas,” he said. “I’d really recommend people who know they’re going to be taking out loans for college to really look into and consider AmeriCorps.”

Through AmeriCorps, Olson receives a living allowance.

“What really attracted me to this program was the fact that I could actually help communities with it,” he said.

Olson said his main goal is figuring out how the Armory can be sustainable, while benefiting the community.

“There are lots of potential economic benefits from the arts as well as social benefits and community building,” he said.

Olson’s interest in the arts includes singing and playing percussion instruments. “Recently, I taught myself ukulele and guitar,” he said.

Olson can be reached at 237-3722 or wolson@parkrapidsarmory.org.