Greater Minnesota Arts Initiative

Since 2011, MCAD has undertaken a Greater Minnesota Arts Initiative to explore the integration of art and design into projects that help build strong and sustainable rural communities. The college has offered undergraduate courses on community design focused on rural areas, displayed student work in outstate galleries, and hosted an invitational show at the college featuring artists from rural Minnesota.

The flagship project of the Greater Minnesota Arts Initiative has been the development and implementation of a summer fellows program. Supported with funding from the Bush Foundation and Smaby Family Foundation, MCAD offers paid fellowships to teams of students and recent alumni that are sent to live and work in rural communities. These fellows collaborate with residents to develop and complete art and design projects that address community-identified needs.

In 2012, the college was able to offer six short-term fellowships lasting two weeks. Teams of three fellows apiece were dispatched to the rural communities of Grand Rapids and Montevideo. While there, the teams completed the following projects:

  • Collaboration with the Granite Falls Chamber of Commerce to offer social media user guides and customized training to local business owners and distribution of Square credit card readers to the business community
  • Design and construction of a fully-functional screenprinting studio for MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids and offering free printmaking classes to local community-minded organizations

MCAD offered an extended summer residency program in 2013 that allowed fellows to spend eight weeks living and working in Grand Rapids. While in the community, the team of student donated their services to develop a new brand for a local homeless shelter and created a pop-up interactive exhibition that allowed community members to share untold stories about the region.

In the Upper Minnesota River Valley, an intensive weekend workshop was held in mid-October 2013. A group of ten MCAD representatives worked with 20 community members to explore creative activation of vacant and underutilized spaces in the region. The group collectively generated dozens of ideas, and voted to use the project funds to create an interactive installation on a storefront in downtown Montevideo. The installation was a free space for comments and drawings, inviting community members to note what they are grateful for and what they can give to their community. Community members also coordinated a skill-sharing workshop in the space in mid-November with support from MCAD. Over 50 people attended the event; participants were able to learn how to create original stencil art, upcycle glass bottles, and were entertained with a bike-powered DJ rig.

The video below gives a recap of the work done on the project in 2013.

2012 Summer Fellows
Dylan Adams ’13
Ted Birt ’12
Meredith Oberg ’13
Brian Wiley ’12 MFA

2013 Summer Fellows
Christina Huang ’14 MFA
Audrey Moxley ’13
Eric Syvertson ’14 MFA

Western Minnesota Design Charrette Team
DeWayne Esson
Yinfan Huang ’14
Kiki Kita ’16
Ellen McDonough ’17
Jennifer Sheely ’15
Claire Strautmanis ’15
Erin Wagner ’16

Grant Administrator and Project Manager
Kate Mohn ’14 MA

Creative Guide and Project Manager
Sarah Wolbert