Arts and Culture is a large topic and I got a large dose of creativity, ideas and rural pride at last week's Rural Art and Culture Sum-mit in Morris. This conference is held every two years hosted by the Springboard for the Arts , Forum of Regional Arts Councils and Center for Small Towns with sponsors such as the Bush Foundation and the McKnight Foundation. This year's conference was sold out with a waiting list and included an even wider geographic area. It brings together individual artists, arts organizations and small town representatives to discuss how to use the arts to develop the rural economy and create a better life for rural residents. One specific example from an Iowa town that I'd love to see happen here is using an empty downtown building to host an artist residency.

The artist was allowed to use the building free, just paying the utilities. This gave the artist an opportunity to sell his work and offered more visibility and a place for people to stop in and watch him work. Another great panel discussion involved racial diversity in small rural areas, how the arts can overcome some of these problems and increase understanding among diverse groups. All the main sessions are online at http://www.ruralarts andculturesummit.com. Another topic that came up many times is how lucky we are to be in Minnesota where the Legacy amendment provides funding for the arts. Our own Riverside Market and Muse and my trip to the Summit were both funded through the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council using Legacy dollars. Minnesota is the top- funded state in the country for the arts.

I also had a great visit on Friday with Erik Takeshita from the Bush Foundation who I met at the conference. He wanted to visit small towns that are involved with the arts and get ideas for community projects. The Bush Foundation is hosting a Granite Falls session on June 21 at Minn. West. The creative ideas continued back in Granite Falls at the Sod House Theater workshops that happened Thursday through Saturday. It was great to host these professional actors and musicians in preparation for "An Enemy of the People" which will have performances on August 18, 19 and 20. After visiting our town locations again, it was decided the play will have three acts, the first in Rice Park, the second near the Popcorn Stand and the third in the American Legion. You can purchase advance tickets online at http:// www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2968809 and they will be available by July 1 at the Chamber office and Legion. _________