Pine City art lessons bring artists out of the shadows

Pine City, a little more than an hour up I-35 from the Twin Cities, hasn’t been known as an artists community. As of a couple years ago, there was no art gallery in town and there’s no annual pottery tour, for example.

And yet, when a few people in town started to talk a little more than two years ago about establishing a center for the arts, it caught on. Serving less as a showcase for accomplished artists and more as a learning opportunity for residents, the Pine Center for the Arts opened in an empty storefront last summer. Started as a volunteer effort, it received $15,000 from the state Legacy Amendment and “started to kick it in gear,” says Kris Seuntjens, one of the organizers.

Right now, about 25 artists and others are teaching classes and offering lessons in art, music, dance, literature and the theater. About 7,000 people have somehow been touched by the effort, including 15 violin-lesson recipients and other budding musicians who “exercised their courage muscle” Thursday evening by putting on a concert.

One effect has been to bring accomplished artists out of the shadows where no one saw them, Suentjens says. “The artists make a little money (from teaching) but it also lifts them up and they can say, “Oh, this is really valued by people.'”

Suentjens thinks there’s a potential economic development impact in town. That’s a dream in a lot of Minnesota towns, but even if it’s elusive, the organization seems like something that can be duplicated elsewhere and has other value.

“I would love to encourage small towns to do this because, it’s good for the arts, of course, but it creates this wonderful sense of happiness, community and friendship.”

  • Nathan Johnson

    Pine Center for the Arts is such a welcome addition to downtown, and to our community! This community of interested individuals and artists helps define Pine City as a complete community, offering a little something for everyone. Having volunteered at the Center, I’ve witnessed the regional interest in such a gallery and facility to foster the arts locally. I’ve seen people light up because of the cause and be inspired because of the art. Way to go, PCA! The future looks bright in Pine City, in part because of your committed efforts!!

  • I am a real estate Broker in Pine City – and can attest first hand the impact the Art Center will/does have on this community! We have many many guests from other areas looking at our lakes — and when I tell them about our Art Scene (thank you Arts Council AND Center for the Arts) – they are always excited! Economic development happens when a community has the texture that we are developing!

  • Brad Mariska

    Pine City has had an excellent school music program for years – in fact, it is one of the reasons I accepted a job teaching band at the high school here six years ago. Since then, the school music and theatre programs have continued to grow and flourish, but with the establishment of the PIne Center for the Arts less than two years ago, the entire community has flexed its proverbial artistic muscle and the results have been astonishing. I am so proud to see both local and national artists and musicians collaborating and bringing an arts focus to a rural community. Despite the tough economic times, the people of Pine City have been extraordinarily generous and the fruits of their contributions cannot be fully described here. However, the amazing work done by the students in the Pine City Schools and the community members who give and receive classes and special events at Pine Center for the Arts have landed Pine City on the NAMM Foundation’s list of “Best Communities for Music Education in America” for 2010. Only one other community/school in the state received this honor (Osseo) and we are overjoyed to be recognized for the efforts of so many. The arts are not only surviving in Pine City – but thriving!

  • T J Musgrove

    Pine Center for the Arts enhances the public exposure of local artists and encourages fledgling artists to pursue their interests. It’s future is bright as the Arts Center continues to expand programs and develop new ones. Congratulations and thanks to all who have played a role in the success of Pine Center of the Arts!

  • Dave Peters

    Thanks for the comments, all.

    Do people have advice for another town that might want to duplicate Pine City’s success? Does it take one or a handful of really dedicated people? An empty storefront? Or does there have to be some magic, undefinable thing in the air — like Pine City’s reputation in music.

    Is it hard or easy?