If you were looking for a single person to represent the arts and culture scene in Fergus Falls, Rebecca Petersen would be a really fine choice.
Earlier this week Petersen, the director of “A Center for the Arts” gave me a whirlwind tour of the cultural offerings of the eclectic small college town. We visited the art department at MN State Community and Technical College, checked out the relatively new Kaddatz gallery, visited the Lakes Region Art Council, and stopped in at “The Spot,” the local wine bar that hosts spoken word, live music, and open mic nights. And then there’s her own Center for the Arts, located in an old vaudeville house turned movie theater, that hosts everything from Gamelan music to an International Guitar Summit to theater. Not bad for a town of 13,000 people.
Walking through the streets, Petersen waved and greeted by name practically everyone we saw. Petersen writes articles in the paper about upcoming cultural events, and even appears on the local TV channel. This week, she and her husband are making a daily drive to Fargo/Moorhead in the evenings for rehearsals of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony; Petersen plays the violin, her husband plays the cello.
Rebecca Petersen stands beside the movie equipment in the office space of “A Center for the Arts” in Fergus Falls.
Petersen sounds a bit like a one-woman visitors bureau as she speaks with pride of her town’s cultural scene:
The arts are an integral part of life here – as evidenced by the college setting, the roadside poetry, the art galleries, the dance schools, the music instruction, the performing arts venues. Getting more directly involved in the arts in a town like Fergus Falls is easier…you have time and space and money to afford it all. Fergus Falls is VERY affordable. Tickets are more affordable. Parking is more affordable. Food and
restaurants are more affordable.
Petersen is part of a team of cultural leaders who are organizing a “rural arts summit” in Fergus Falls next June. Petersen says she’s hoping to attract people from rural areas all over the country to talk share ideas about building rural arts, culture and heritage:
There will be opportunities to do art and to hear art and to see art and to talk about art and to network and to also travel around the region to see all of the great art happening in Fergus Falls, NY Mills, Elbow Lake, Battle Lake, Barret, Detroit Lakes, and the countryside and landscape artists all over the place out here.
Petersen says the summit arises out of the fact that there are particular challenges that face cultural organizations based in rural areas. For instance, scheduling is key when half of your audience can be taken away by a wedding, funeral or sports tournament.
It’s also difficult to identify target audiences and markets, especially
when some feel that they will only find quality arts experiences if they travel to a larger metropolitan area. Then there’s also the challenge of several generations in rural areas where arts and culture did not play a major role in social, community and educational programming.
Petersen says too often people take for granted their cultural and artistic connections, whether it’s their church choir or community band or local museum. But she says these are all worthy cultural experiences, whether they happen in a bustling metro area or on a back country road.