From Hastings to Shakopee, cities are at varying stages of pondering or installing facilities for the arts.
Jennifer Kranz had her head in the clouds.
Kranz was painting fluffy white clouds in a light-blue sky, her mural spilling down the walls of a small room in downtown Prescott, Wis. She was donating her time to spruce up the Orange Dragon Art Gallery, the first home of the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council.
"People may walk through and not even see the clouds," said Kranz, who paints interior murals for a living. "But they will feel better. It will be a place to be comfortable no matter what's going on outside the walls."
Arts initiatives south of the river range from the well-established Lakeville Arts Center with its city-paid staff to the Hastings Prescott gallery, which opens June 30, to Shakopee's vision for converting an empty fire station on the edge of downtown to new uses, including the arts.
The Rosemount Area Arts Council could get gallery space in exchange for staffing a welcome and tourist counter at the city-owned Steeple Center. And Savage expects to put a plan before its City Council next month.
"I have been a supporter of the arts because I think it's important to all-around development," said Savage Mayor Janet Williams. "There's a balance between sports and the arts, I think. I'm not really sure how the rest of the council will feel, but I'm interested in being part of the discussions to see where we're going."
Dragon over the door
The Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council was organized as a nonprofit last fall after being discussed for a few years, said Mecca Manz, its visual arts director. The 95-member group is volunteer-run and funded.
The Arts Council held a fundraiser at a Hastings church in April and raised about $28,500, Manz said. Prescott art lover Ken Roen offered a large street-level space for very little rent for the Orange Dragon, she said.
The Orange Dragon's first exhibit has a "Bad Boys" theme, alluding to the many motorcycle riders who stop at the St. Croix River town during the warmer months.
Visitors will get an eyeful even before they enter the gallery, about a block from the No Name bar frequented by bikers. Perched on an awning-type roof above the door will be a large metal dragon being welded together by Hastings sculptor Dale Lewis.
Prescott Mayor Mark Huber said the new gallery will support the town's biggest business: tourism. He hopes it will draw more families to balance the influx of bikers on summer weekends.
A place to relax
Towns with art centers are a haven for people who need a place to relax, Huber said. The council also helps connect people in the two cities and creates a stronger team to attract tourists to the area, he said.
"Art is not about me," Huber said. "It is an expression of feelings and thoughts and concepts" that fulfill the artist and offer a therapeutic escape for the viewer.
Manz, a retired health care marketing executive, said she dove into art as a child, but most of her life lacked a group of artists with whom to share her creativity.
"Bouncing ideas off" other artists, she said, "helps and motivates and inspires me."
Staff writer David Peterson contributed to this story. Jim Adams • 952-746-3283