Art is constantly redefining itself. Today in Granite Falls, art is a community sharing and expanding creatively for their future. In the past weeks the Granite Area Arts Council (GAAC) has continued to nourish the flourishing arts interest in the Granite Community. In February, the Arts Council hosted their second yearly YME Student Art Reception and Show.

GAAC is fervently supportive in providing access to art for local students. The Council awards scholarships to students who need financial assistance for summer art camps as well as providing community arts access via classes and events. In this year’s Art Exhibit, the school students were from the 1st semester art class of Yellow Medicine East, grades 9-12. The students could select a work of their choice and were tasked with making a label and artist statement to pair with the work.

"Since the show was up for six weeks, I thought it was important for the students to share what their work was about. Having the work in a gallery verses just a letter grade really makes the students put forth a strong effort" said GAAC representative and art teacher Tamara Isfeld. "Several of the photography works displayed also placed in competitions held in Marshall and Willmar" said Isfeld.

This was a first time arts and gallery experience for many of the students. For student and displaying artist, Jayce Hernandez, this was a start in the right direction, "I want to be an artist" he said. A hand drawn Buffalo skull bore Jayce's name on display at the exhibit, "it reminds me of my grandfather and our culture," said the artist.

Creative spirit is always flowing in Granite it seems as last week GAAC also unveiled a Mobile art display in Yellow Medicine East. The art mobile project was made possible through a SMAC grant. The Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, SMAC, serves 18 counties awarding grants to schools organizations and individual artists. The artist completing the project, Christopher Lutter-Gardella, is a COMPAS artist from Minneapolis. COMPAS is a non-profit arts organization creating arts based opportunities for artists to work alongside students, teachers, senior citizens, hospital patients, teens, and community members.

There was a core group of students who worked with the artist Lutter-Gardella and YME Art teacher, Tamara Isfeld, to create the mobile. The welding class even aided with some of the fabrication. The piece is now on display.

These community based arts offerings come on the tail of a new partnership approved by the city of Granite Falls, supporting a future Artist in Residency program in the town. These happenings, paired with upcoming art classes on March 10 and March 23, provided by the Granite Area Arts Council, the momentum of arts interest in Granite Falls is strong and clear. GAAC provides a large portion of the area art offerings. In operation for 11 years, the council, "started with just a few like minded people who wanted to see the arts alive and well in the community," said Isfeld.

At the start of the nonprofit, classes and events were held in various GF community hotspots: churches, school, library and homes and restaurants, prior to the acquisition of the K.K. Berge Gallery. "Our focal point with the arts is to bring people together using art," said Isfeld, "The KK Berge building became our home several years ago and has been bringing people together ever since."

The building was slated for demolition along with several other buildings, but, through a group called GFRR, Granite Falls Riverfront Revitalization, it was saved. The space is currently shared with the Granite Falls Chamber and boasts a gallery with one of a kind handcrafted art pieces from local artists. A new artist is hosted in the gallery space every six weeks. Classes, small music ensembles, and regular board meetings are all hosted at the gallery. The space can also be rented by the public.

"There is a board but anyone can be a member, teach a class or volunteer to serve in some way" said Isfeld, "When we decided on the name Granite Area Arts Council, it was important to include anyone from outside of Granite Falls. Since we don't live in the metro area where there are many art opportunities we look to find new ways to bring the arts to us locally." Follow the Granite Area Arts Council facebook page for info on upcoming Granite Area arts events and classes.