This weekend I recently had opportunity to travel to Elk River, Minnesota in order to investigate the work of artists in that part of the state. It's been building itself up over the years, most notably with the Arts Alliance gallery on Main Street.
They have over 600 members and now a space on Main Street in their historic downtown. They're hoping to mobilize their community for a Regional Arts Center across the street and just finished their impressive Arts in Harmony National Juried Show at the Sherburne County Government Center. I think they have a lot of potential, although the artists I spoke with there suggested more support and exposure of their work would be helpful. They offer classes, exhibit space and do consignments and training for semi-professional and professional artists. They've been at it since 1989 and were very friendly when I went to visit.
Elk River also boasts a nice independent bookstore, Where the Books Are that could definitely use more customers but it's densely packed with helpful owners. The current economic climate and e-publishing trends place this as a somewhat endangered site, in my opinion.
It's hard enough for small book sellers to compete with big chains but if Elk River loses this shop, which has been a part of the community for almost 10 years now, I think it would be a pity.
Their historic downtown has several relatively recent murals and sculpture around different parts of the city, in addition to some quaint and eclectic antique and vintage shops.
Elk River is also home to a number of Southeast Asian refugees and Asian Americans who are active and emerging in the arts and culture, and I hope we'll see more of their work soon.