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National grant to support Granite Falls artist-in-residency project

Tom Cherveny Tribune file photo/ Ashley Hanson is working with the City of Granite Falls, and the Granite Falls Chamber of Commerce and Arts Council to launch an artist-in-residency program in the community. 1 / 2
Submitted/ Ashley Hanson launched the Department of Public Transformation to promote the role of arts in rural communities. 2 / 2

GRANITE FALLS — A $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts moves the city of Granite Falls closer to its goal of being one of the first small towns to host an artist-in-residency.

The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced $4.1 million in awards through its Arts Endowment's Our Town program, including the grant for Granite Falls.

Ashley Hanson of Public Transformation pitched the idea of an artist-in-residency to city council members a year ago. Council members endorsed the idea. The city, the Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Granite Falls Arts Council are working together to make it possible.

Hanson said they are now in the early stages of fundraising for the project with a possible goal of $600,000. The National Endowment for the Arts grant helps validate the effort, said Hanson.

"This really launches us. (It) puts us in the right direction," she said.

"We're absolutely delighted to receive this grant from the National Endowment for the Arts," said Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski in a news release announcing the grant. "This will enable us to create an active artist-in-residence program that will engage community folks in an innovative, creative and meaningful way."

The goal is to embed different artists in the community, each for a six to eight months. The artists will produce projects with community members aimed at increasing civic participation.

An apartment on the upper floor of a downtown building known as the YES! House will be remodeled to accommodate the artists. It will give them a front row view of the community's downtown and Minnesota River setting, noted Hanson.

Hanson was involved with an artist-in-residency program in Minneapolis. St. Paul has sponsored an artist-in-residency program for more than 10 years.

Hanson said she is not aware of any community under 10,000 in population with an artist-in-residency program. Her goal is to see artists work in small, rural communities. She believes the arts can promote community engagement and help revitalize rural communities.

The Department of Public Transformation was launched by Hanson and is headquartered at The YES! House in Granite Falls. It is an artist-led organization that collaborates with local leaders in small towns to develop creative strategies for increased community connection, representative leadership, civic pride, and equitable participation.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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