Letter to the editor: Local libraries allow arts to flourishFor most rural towns in Minnesota, the community library is the cultural center of the region.
For most rural towns in Minnesota, the community library is the cultural center of the region. Money allocated by the Minnesota Legacy Fund (the 2008, 3/8-percent increase in the state sales tax) has allowed the Arrowhead Regional Library System to provide cultural and arts experiences to a wide range of adults and young people that previously were living too far away to have access.
The State Legislature is re-assessing the Legacy Funding for the Arrowhead libraries, they are in the process of gathering public input on the effectiveness of the Legacy Funding of arts and cultural programs the last two years.
I have had the wonderful opportunity to see firsthand how this funding has effected people living in rural areas and small towns.
Last summer I was hired by the Arrowhead Regional Library System to teach a series of one-day photography workshops. The first workshops I taught were for teens. I taught 13 workshops in July, about three per week. These workshops were held in the community libraries throughout the rural and small towns of the Arrowhead region. The workshops were very well attended with most libraries filling the limited number of seats available.
After the success of the teen workshops, the library system asked me to conduct another series of workshops for adults. The adult workshops were in many of the same libraries where I taught the teens last summer.
As I talk with the librarians, and parents of the teens I taught this summer, I learn about the impact the photography workshops had on them. The librarians and parents tell me stories about the continued interest these young people have in photography. They show me photographs they have made after the summer workshop and tell me what a large influence the workshop was for developing their artistic senses.
One librarian shared with me the story of a 12-year-old girl we let into the workshop even though she was a year too young. I remembered her because she was very excited to be allowed to be part of the workshop and followed me around all day asking if I needed anything, ready to assist me with whatever I needed.
The librarian told me that her family was of limited means but they scraped together enough money this winter to buy her a very nice camera for her 13th birthday because photography was such a large part of her life.
Unlike the metro region of Minnesota, where arts centers and cultural museums and organizations seem to thrive on every other street corner, rural Minnesota has very few arts opportunities. For many teens living in rural areas, the local public library is the only arts and cultural outlet available because the local schools have had drastic budget cuts in the arts curriculum.
Please join me in contacting your representatives to let them know that the Minnesota Legacy Funding for the Regional Library System is critical for providing arts and cultural experiences in rural and small town Minnesota.
From John Gregor, Two Harbors