Tag Archives: University of Minnesota-Morris

Some Summary Thoughts on the Summit…..

The Rural Arts and Culture Summit meeting last week on the bucolic campus of the University of Minnesota-Morris, rates a 100% positive score!  The RAC gathering was genuinely and consistently informative, inspiring and certifiably Way Above Average!

The biennial Summit drew 400+ representatives of arts organizations and community groups, visual artists, writers, educators, elected officials and just a few of us who simply care deeply about arts and culture in our communities and our lives.

Though most attendees were Minnesota-based the speakers came from communities around the country, each selected because of her or his unique perspective on the arts and culture.  My post-Summit reflections on the plenary sessions, the small group presentations, the exhibits and the casual conversations, are through the lens of stories and a profound of sense of place, threads woven throughout the Summit.   The threads represent the myriad ways in which the arts both create and tell the story of the community, of a unique place and its people.  In new ways I understand the arts, broadly defined to include visual arts, music, theater, literature and more, as unique streams of light, creating and reinforcing a sense of community in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Sponsors of RAC at the Center for Small Towns at the University Minnesota-Morris (http://www.morris.umn.edu/cst/) and Springboard for the Arts (https://springboardforthearts.org)

Happily, Springboard for the Arts has magically posted videos of the plenary sessions on their Creative Exchange: (http://springboardexchange.org/rural-arts-culture-summit-videos/) .  Check them out – you’ll understand intuitively the reason that conversations among attendees over lunch and during campus strolls were spirited, free-wheeling and bursting with creative energy.  In my mind’s eye I see the sparks from Morris igniting place-oriented art and cultural activities in small towns and neighborhoods throughout the region.

Creativity is a magical force.  When people of good will gather not to preach or posture but to learn and share, the flow of ideas is palpable.  When the environment is idyllic, those ideas flourish, morphing and adapting in unique and wondrous ways, ever at the ready to enliven a community whether that community is a small town, a neighborhood or an arts organization.

And that’s how change happens!

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For glimpses of ideas in motion at the RAC Summit click here:

* http://ias.umn.edu/2017/06/06/rural/

* https://twitter.com/hashtag/racsummit?src=hash

* http://www.ruralartsandculturesummit.com/press/

Rural writing and culture celebrated at Morris and Marshall festivals

If you have a yen to rub elbows with local or national writers this October you would be well advised to head to Greater Minnesota, specifically to the Morris and Marshall areas. October will draw scores of writers – and their faithful reader fans – to both communities – to the fifth annual Prairie Gate Literary Festival October 23-24 at the U of M Morris (https://www.morris.umn.edu/prairiegate/) and the following week, October 28-31, to the tenth annual Marshall Festival at Southwest Minnesota State University (https://www.smsu.edu/marshallfestival/)

The Prairie Gate Literary Festival features a mix of readings and workshops on Friday evening and Saturday. Guest artists include Emma Bull, Ebba Segerberg, Eric Smith, John Hildebrand and Vandana Khanna. Bios of all of the invited writers are on the University of Minnesota-Morris website.

Featured performers at the Marshall Festival include Susan Power and Gordon Henry, Philip Dacey and David Alan Evans, Barton and Ross Sutter. The roster of writers who plan to participate in the Marshall Festival is too long to post, but all can be found on the website (http://www.southwestalumni.com/show_module_fw2.aspx?sid=820&gid=1&ecid=1347&control_id=644&nologo=1&cvprint=1&page_id=252&crid=0&scontid=-1&viewas=user).  Of special note is the fact that Saturday is designated Children’s Day featuring a morning session on “Writing Poetry” with Florence Chard Dacey and folk music and dancing with Ross Sutter.

Much more about both festivals can be found on the festivals’ websites.

As you enjoy the autumn drive through the highways and byways, consider the beauty of the countryside and of the ways in which writers and artists enrich the arts and culture of all Minnesotans’ lives.


Literary arts flourish in “Greater Minnesota”

Having just participated in the Rural Arts and Culture Summit at the beautiful U of M-Morris, I am overwhelmed with what I have learned about what’s happening and the people who are celebrating the arts in small towns and communities throughout Minnesota and the nation. Representatives of seventeen states shared their experiences and wisdom – any hint of whining eclipsed by emphasis on collaboration and the power of the arts. Much more on this in forthcoming blog posts – when I get it all sorted out in my head.

In the meantime a couple of additions to a recent post on literary events happening in our midst: (Original post – https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/on-the-road-with-minnesotas-writers-and-readers/

  • Bemidji, which sports the tagline “first City on the Mississippi, First City of Arts”, is planning three days for Studio Cruise ’15, October 16-18. The event features tours of open artists’ studios where artists will demonstrate techniques and share their creative processes. This creativity midst the fall scenery of Minnesota’s Northwoods. Contact VisitBemidji.com or call 877 250 5959.
  • The following week, October 23-24, is the Fifth Annual Prairie Gate Literary Festival at the University of Minnesota-Morris. The event features writers including John Hildebrand (creative nonfiction), Eric Smith (YA fiction/non-fiction and literary agent), Emma Bull (sci-fi and fantasy), Vandana Khanna (poet) and Ebba Segerberg (translator). More atMorris.umn.edu/prairiegate.

My hope is that this list will grow as reticent Minnesotans get up and do what needs to be done to promote the incredible wealth of literary efforts that reflect, shape and enrich the arts and culture profile of the state.

As events rise to the surface they will appear here – meanwhile I will be thinking about how to make the case that writers, illustrators, indie presses and bookstores are essential, if shy, players on the arts and culture scene.




MPIRG at 40

MPIRG – Minnesota Public Interest Research Group MPIRG Board Chair Kathy Dekrey testifies against lifting the nuclear power moratorium in the house environment committee.


When Kathy Dekray, current Board Chair of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), and a senior at Augsburg College recently testified before the Legislature she argued against the removal of the nuclear moratorium in Minnesota.   She was the most recent in an endless list of MPIRG representatives who have expressed the position of MPIRG student members on scores of issues facing the state.

More than 150 members, former members and supporters of MPIRG gathered on Friday, January 21, to celebrate four decades of advocacy and involvement through this “grassroots, non-artisan, nonprofit, student-directed organization”.  The occasion gives Executive Director Josh Winters pause to reflect on the origins and future of MPIRG.

What Winters sees is change.  The Minnesota public interest research group, along with Oregon, were the first two campus-based public interest research groups.  Though the beginnings are often associated with Ralph Nader, Winters is quick to credit others, including Don Ross, who took a good idea and made it happen.  “A good idea is a good idea, but it takes people to do it,” Winters observes.

An intriguing question Winters raises is just how did a small cadre of students, volunteers and others create a statewide – actually national – network in a pre-social media environment.  The answer, he affirms, must be based in a deep commitment to grassroots organizing coupled with a shared vision to give voice to everyone.  That commitment is expressed in the mission of MPIRG to “empower and train students and engage the community to take collective action in the public interest throughout the state of Minnesota.”

Today some 70,000 Minnesota college students are members of MPIRG;  the ranks are augmented by hundreds of community volunteers, including many MPIRG alumni.

MPIRG operates on nine campuses throughout the state:  Augsburg College, Carleton College, St. Catherine University, Hamline University, Macalester College, U of M-Duluth, U of M-Morris, U of M-Twin Cities, and William Mitchell College of Law. The individual campus-based websites reflect a wide range of individual campus activities.

Campuses offer a mix of membership options, most in the refusable/refundable range, thus avoiding past conflict re. mandatory membership that at times have pitted campus conservative groups against MPIRG which they perceived as too far left of center – or organization that reject mandatory memberships out of hand.

The current statewide identified issues on which MPIRG members and volunteers are working include green transportation, health care for all, and affordable higher education. The roster of scores of issues tackled over the years range from solar tax credit to car lemon laws to a 2006 production of “The Vagina Monologues.”

An ongoing priority for MPIRG members is voter registration and involvement.  Clearly, students are focused on, but not limited to, youth engagement in the political process.

In Fall 2010 MPIRG was one of several organizations involved with what Star Tribune journalist Eric Roper referred to as “a minor battle of generations” brewing in Minnesota politics.  College students gathered at the State Capitol to express their concerns. Speaking as an MPIRG representative Carleton College student Ben Hellerstein raised the question “With only half as many people turning out to the polls, is everyone’s voice really being heard?”

Roper reflects on a number of factors students perceive to leave college students left out of the political arena.  The moved-up primary, for example, meant students were at work or out of the country.  Another issue cited by students is the fact that candidates’ tendency to court over-60 voters may ignore attention to students.

Winters overflows with ideas as he looks to the future – how to harness today’s social media without losing the essential “hands on” essence of the organization.   He speaks enthusiastically about community/campus based initiatives, e.g.  a research-based approach to mandatory business recycling in Minneapolis.

Another priority for tomorrow’s MPIRG is research, particularly in-depth and long-term research. At present, for example, MPIRG is initiating an extensive survey of photo ID on voting.  Another ongoing longitudinal survey focuses on a statewide survey of sexual violence and assault on campus; the report of that study is due out next fall

The recent 40th anniversary recognition offered an opportunity for today’s students and advocates to reflect on the legacy of MPIRG.  Students could learn about the roots of the organization, its accomplishments, changes and intent.  For alumni the event was an occasion to see how their legacy is being carried forward by ambitious and committed students equipped with new tools and putting them to the task of sharing a the vision of “common sense good policies.”