New arts initiative eager for ‘broad public appeal’

Published 9:47 am Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A group of more than a dozen local artists announced last week it has formed a second arts organization in the community.

Called the Freeborn County Arts Initiative, the organization is open to residents in both Albert Lea and rural cities in Freeborn County, as well as residents in neighboring counties, according to a news release.

“We want to start something with broad public appeal that would interest almost everyone,” said Susanne Crane, artist and owner of the historic Bessessen Building on Broadway.

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Crane said there are already visual artists, musicians, authors and even wellness professionals who have expressed interest in joining.

“We are convinced it’s the right idea at the right time,” said Lon Pogones, Bessessen Building manager. “We need more and better art programming in this town.”

Crane had been on the Albert Lea Art Center board before a dispute began in 2007 with the arts organization, which rents space in the Bessessen Building.

Last month, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in Crane’s favor, reversing an about $460,000 judgment against her. After the ruling she said she hoped to move forward with creating new art programming for the community and restoring her building, 224 S. Broadway.

“Arts programming and participation has been stagnating too long,” said Joan Claire Graham, author and publisher. “It’s time to try something new.”

Albert Lea resident Brian Wolfe said he hopes the Freeborn County Arts Initiative is inclusive, positive and cooperative.

Crane said a board for the group has not yet been formed, and they are seeking a 501(c) 3 status.

The press release stated the arts initiative is currently working on a project that incorporates video and comedy. They also hope to develop an annual art fair.

Representatives from the Albert Lea Art Center declined to comment for this story.