When the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center was founded nearly 30 years ago by John Davis, it represented a vibrant new direction for the arts in rural Minnesota–there were no other such Cultural Centers in rural Minnesota. The Center truly was a unique experiment to bring artists and communities together.
Today nearly every community in rural Minnesota has awoken to the value and the need to have an arts center in its midst. There is an engaging new vigor as communities throughout the rural Midwest re-purpose buildings that have been left vacant as populations have decreased or changed. New populations of immigrants from Mexico and Somalia are creating new expressions of art and culture in the region. And citizens of small towns are more aware of the community value and economic utility of centers for the arts such as our own.
We believe that this landscape for the arts in rural Minnesota presents an opportunity for centers for the arts beyond simply competing among ourselves. Today there is a special need for a coordination of resources in terms of arts programming as well as a coordination of information available to the public so that everyone can make decisions about how to participate in the arts in her or his community. Collaboration and sharing resources is the key to success.
Even more, we need to engage with a much broader base of the community than we have in the past, expanding our understanding of the arts to include the arts of a healthy community: improved nutrition, wellness classes, a focus on locally grown foods, connecting and engaging regularly with our neighbors, and developing skills in the “practical” arts such as woodworking, weaving, pottery, and other folk arts.
The Center’s strategic outlook is to connect to a broader community base for the arts. We do this through our programs carried out in our gallery building on Main Avenue in New York Mills and beyond. Internally, our strategic goals focus on programming that celebrates the local and provides a window to the world; cultivating connections; and developing/improving our infrastructure and team (staff, board, volunteers) with a goal of organizational stability and sustainability. Externally, we work to provide opportunities for connections, learning, and meaningful experiences, bringing people together to celebrate the unique culture that exists in our rural region, and enhance the lives of the all those living and visiting our rural place.