Like most things in 2020, it's been a time of challenges as well as opportunities for the Hutchinson Center for the Arts. In a change from past years, there won't be an annual meeting. In lieu of one, the board issued a printed annual report, which detailed the center's activities during 2020.
"I hope the arts have helped sustain you during these difficult times," wrote Lisa Bergh, executive director. "Movies, music, reading, dance and the visual arts allow us to stay connected to our own personal humanity, as well as to all of humanity around us."
The best news is that the art center ended the year in the black with a net income of $19,630.70. Total income was $110,719.41, with total expenses of $91,088.71. According to Bergh, the surplus is due in part from the downtown banner sponsorship. The expenses for the project will be posted in 2021.
"The banner project is an important program as it supports the Ambassadors and the art center," she said. "From the sponsors to community design entries, it is a great tool for welcoming visitors to the community, as well as serving as a place of hometown pride."
In case you're wondering, the bulk of the art center's income is derived from grants, city funding and donations. The art center was also able to take advantage of CARES funding through the Hutchinson EDA and a PPP loan forgiveness agreement from Citizens Bank, which helped reduce the financial loss when the annual Night of the Arts fundraiser was canceled.
The COVID-19 pandemic closed the art center's doors as it was set to open its popular Youth Art Exhibit. It's been said when life serves you lemons, make lemonade. Bergh pivoted by redesigning the annual exhibition as a drive-by window display and left the lights on for 24/7 viewing.
While the center's visual arts exhibition series continued, the artist receptions were canceled. However, the gallery talks went from in-person to virtual. About 70 people were able to meet and connect with artists in three different Zoom events. In an interesting twist, the participants weren't all local. One attendee logged on from Australia.
Another pivot occurred when the art center's Art Kids Drop-In Days and its summer studio programs were canceled. Rather than just drop this segment of programming, Bergh created free weekly art kits. Nearly 1,000 art kits were distributed from April through December. Partnerships with the McLeod Emergency Food Shelf and McLeod Alliance provided additional pickup sites and increased accessibility to the program.
In addition to serving as the hub for local arts, the Hutchinson Center for the Arts shares its resources with partner organizations, which include: Crow River Area Youth Orchestra, Crow River Youth Choir, Crow River Singers, Historic Hutchinson, Hutchinson Parks, Recreation and Community Education, Hutchinson Photography Club, Hutchinson Theatre Company, Litchfield Area Male Chorus, Minnesota Pottery Festival, No Lines Improv Troupe and RiverSong Music Festival.
NEW YEAR, NEW IDEAS
The art center has built a regional reputation for its visual arts exhibition program. This month it features its fourth annual "We Are What We Make: Community Showcase." The show, which is on display through Feb. 26, features the work of artists age 16 or older who live in the 18-county region served by the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council.
"There are about 70 pieces with a very wide range of creative expression," Bergh said, "including poems, sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, nail art, woodworking, ceramics and textile arts."
The exhibit can be viewed 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and noon to 4 p.m. Friday. New in 2021 is First Saturdays. The art center will be open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. the first Saturday of every month. Admission is free. Free art kits are also back.
If you're looking for a truly unique, one-of-a-kind gift, consider visiting the art center's new and improved gift shop. It features the work of local artists. The good news is that the shop has been renamed to Gifts and Goods earlier this month and its offerings have been expanded to include Hutchinson Pride products such as a Hutchinson Brothers World Tour 1845 T-shirt, which is sure become a collector item.
Miss RiverSong Music Festival? The art center's partner organization is hosting something new — the First Friday Concert Series. This is an opportunity to experience a virtual monthly concert by festival artists.
"It has been a great way for us to stay connected with the artists and the RiverSong fans," said Josh Campbell, chair of the RiverSong talent committee.
The first event in January featured Michael Shynes, and the February concert featured the soulful and bluesy tunes of Annie Mack. Next up is Gabriel Douglas of 4ontheFloor in March. For more information, visit riversongfestival.org or RiverSong's Facebook page.