Evelyn Matthies paints a picture of unity in the lakes area.
And Matthies, a retired Central Lakes College art instructor, believes people interested in promoting arts and culture in the area can help bring communities together.
That's her view as president of the new Crossing Arts Alliance that has been formed to provide an umbrella organization for the arts in the area.
She has been there before. She was one of the first members of the Brainerd Arts Alliance. BAA, they called it, before it vanished sheepishly a few years ago.
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Now you could say she heads CAA, as in crows. The group, however, tried to avoid that comparison. They want to make noise, but the official name is The Crossing Arts Alliance, or TCAA.
"It's too bad," Matthies said of the passing of BAA in an interview this week. "At that point it was overload. It was the same group of people doing all the work, which is true at a lot of organizations.
"We felt very badly because we know the arts and cultural advancement is vital in any community."
In her mind, networking will help with the unity. For now, the alliance will work on networking, programming, advocacy and coordination. In time she hopes there will be planning for a facility.
The Crossing Arts Alliance mission is to advocate for increased public awareness and support of culture and the arts in the lakes area.
Its goals are:
-- To spearhead new facility planning and to encourage enhanced use of existing spaces for the arts.
-- To nurture, validate and support vital arts programs through gallery exhibitions, studio activities and performances.
-- To support accessible opportunities for lifelong learning and participation in the arts.
-- To encourage comprehensive arts education from pre-school through post-secondary.
-- To provide leadership, to encourage networking and to serve as an information clearinghouse for arts organizations and events.
It's clear Matthies and many of those spearheading the alliance seek an auditorium. Matthies sees it as more than just an auditorium. She looks for a place that would showcase the performing arts along with galleries for the visual arts and studios for artists.
A feasibility study for the facility could be started in the next year. But it might be three years before any fund raising is launched as the community works on funding the Gold Medal Arena, the YMCA expansion and other civic projects.
Matthies, who taught 29 years at CLC and two years before that at Brainerd High School, knows the college can be counted on for continuing to provide a stage for the performing arts. But she believes Brainerd needs "something it can call its own."
So now the alliance is looking for members and community support.
While Matthies is the TCAA president, the vice president is Jody Crowe, Chris Ruttger is secretary and Deborah Jacobs is treasurer.
Other members of the board and committee chairs are Pat Altrichter, Ingrid Anderson, Jeff Behr, Bob Bianchi, Cindy Clough, John Erickson, Mary Farmer, Elsie Husom, Harold Kraus, Gary Muehlhausen, Sandy Nielsen, James E. Wallin, Ruthanne Weaver and Barbara Wells.
The alliance is an outgrowth of the Blandin Foundation Community Investment Partnership meetings. A 27-member steering committee started meeting in January to develop a cultural arts plan.
The choice of the name Crossing is linked to Brainerd's earliest days when a railroad bridge was built across the Mississippi River. But Brainerd became the city's chosen name when the railroad president chose the maiden name of his wife.
Matthies may be reached at home at 829-4126, at work at 829-5953, by fax at 828-7909 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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