Public art has value

Published 8:52 am Friday, August 1, 2008

A good way to find ideas for bolstering your community is to travel to other towns.

This “Wild Hare” holding a cymbal and standing on skillet is from Bemidji. He stands in front of a coffee shop immediately across from the Beltrami County Law Enforcement Center. Those are sheriff’s patrol cars in the background. The city had public art at nearly every corner downtown, in addition to murals on the sides of many buildings.

Albert Lea can capture this same sort of charm. Public art attracts people to shop, encouraging whimsy, fun and impulse, and can send a message to small-time entrepreneurs that they are welcome.Art says the city values taking chances and an improved quality of life.

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Someone has to lead the charge for Albert Lea. Is it the city’s job? Is it the downtown association’s job? Is it the artists’ job? No, it is everyone’s. Ultimately, it will be someone who cares very much about Albert Lea and everyone needs to assist in that person’s dream.

Call and find how other cities fund public art, see if there are grants, seek original solutions, work together, ask for cooperation and partnerships.

Albert Lea has the New Denmark Park mermaid and the Fountain Lake fountains. It has a postcard setting. It needs more than that. It needs more public art. We have charm — even if some longtime residents don’t see it — and public art can bring that charm out.