by Jim Boyle
After three moves in two years, members of the Elk River Area Arts Alliance feel they’ve arrived.
The Elk River Arts Alliance opened its doors Wednesday at Granite Shores in the turret located at the entrance to downtown Elk River. To help kick things off there’s an exhibit from the American Swedish Institute.
“This is the next step for us in an evolution, and we intend to be here for a while,” said Dave Raymond, the chairman of the Elk River Area Arts Alliance Board of Directors.
The Arts Alliance board has expressed excitement for having better visibility, a stronger connection to the community and a better vantage point for strengthening the ties with the greater arts community through partnerships and collaboration, according to John Stander, the executive director of the organization.
“The board is absolutely pleased,” Stander said, noting the premier location, amount of gallery space, access the community room of Granite Shore and greater flexibility a new dance floor, patio space and Reading Frenzy Corner.
The Alliance will be able to add to its list of classes and programming. The classroom is smaller than the Alliance’s previous classroom, but it’s big enough to handle everything the center has hosted so far. Plus the layout of the new Arts Alliance is much more conducive to all it’s trying to accomplish, Stander said.
Raymond said the Alliance expects to make inroads in its efforts to develop a consortium of literary, drama, vocal music, instrumental music and dance groups.
So far it has reached out to organizations in the communities of Elk River, Zimmerman, Nowthen, Big Lake, Monticello, Dayton, Anoka, Albertville and Rogers.
The plan is also to be more involved in the community, not only through ArtSoup but also its arts crawls and other downtown events.
“It’s a very exciting time,” Stander said.
Elk River Arts Alliance at a glance:
Recognizing that the arts are essential to the quality of life and health of our community, we promote an environment which offers quality arts education, arts experiences, artist support, collaborations with other arts and cultural organizations, and appropriate facilities for instruction, exhibition and performance.
Present programs and services
Art classes: More than 100 art classes are offered annually in fine, performing and literary arts.
Art exhibits: Ten art exhibits are offered annually in the Arts Alliance gallery, one of which is for students from 14 local schools. The Alliance also maintains a gift shop of locally produced art.
Arts in Harmony, a national, juried show with more than $10,000 in awards, is held annually at the Government Center. Other exhibitions are held at the Government Center throughout the year.
Performance series: The Arts Alliance has sponsored up to six performances annually, including workshops and opportunities to meet performers with regional and national reputations. The Alliance also presents performances on stage during the downtown ‘ArtSoup’ Festival in June.
ArtSoup Festival (June) and ArtCrawl (October): The vision of these downtown events is to provide a venue and support for artists of all disciplines and to support the downtown businesses. These events increase the community’s awareness of the arts by providing other regional arts organizations opportunities to demonstrate and market their programs and services. The ArtCrawl in October is a collaboration with local businesses where artists set up their booths within the businesses.
Collaboration with regional art organizations: The Arts Alliance provides support for 11 other arts organizations, within a 10-mile radius of Elk River, by listing their events in its newsletter and Web page, through ticket sales, by providing performance opportunities and by collaborating with them on various projects.
A partnership with local artists: Local artists play a major role in the Alliance’s governance and program development. They make up the majority of members on all of our committees, including the board of directors. The programs listed above directly benefit artists through increased regional recognition, inservice classes for artists or through remuneration for their works of art, performances and teaching of classes. Last year the Alliance paid its artists more than $52,000 and also provided events for artists to sell their work directly to the public.
Events on the patio
The outdoor patio will allow the Alliance to expand its class schedule and gallery services. It will be able to add raku firing to our ceramics classes, outdoor painting and drawing classes, and children’s activities and classes. The patio will also augment the gallery exhibits with a place for artists to display their outdoor sculptures. Artists who work with large outdoor pieces have few ways.
New programs on the dance floor
The new gallery has a 24-foot-by-36-foot dance floor already installed, and this also will allow the Arts Alliance to add events it could not have held in the present location. The Arts Alliance expects that some of its partnering arts organizations, such as the Land of Lakes Choirboys, the Northern Ballet Company, Elk River Community Theater, and Command Performance Choir will take advantage of this space.
Use of the Commons Room for special events
Granite Shores has a large “commons room” for events. It is equipped with a serving counter, kitchen appliances and a deck overlooking the Mississippi River.