If you’re curious what the top three creative jobs are in Hutchinson, I can tell you: photography, music and writing. It’s one of the many facts that were revealed during the Hutchinson Center for the Arts annual meeting on Thursday.

Lisa Bergh, executive director of the art center, kicked off the after-work session with a salute to the center’s structure.

“It’s an impressive model of collaboration,” she said.

Currently, the art center has 13 partner organizations: 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, McLeod County Fair, Minnesota Pottery Festival, No Lines Improv Troupe, RiverSong Music Festival and Wheel & Cog Children’s Museum.

Together, they provide a rich tapestry of arts-related events that provide community members and visitors an opportunity to participate and audiences to appreciate local talent.

Thanks to the Creative Minnesota’s report released last year, hard numbers are available for the first time that detail the economic impact of arts attendee spending: $1.2 million. Hutchinson’s arts and cultural organizations’ spending contributed another $1 million for a combined $2.2 million in impact each year.

What’s equally impressive is these organizations draw almost 62,000 attendees annually. They come for a variety of events ranging from RiverSong Music Festival and the Minnesota Pottery Festival to Hutchinson Theatre Company productions, Crow River Singers’ concerts and Hutchinson Center for the Arts exhibitions.

“Regional artists attract regional interest,” Bergh said.

Among the art center’s goals are to provide arts programming for all ages.

Arts education for children continues to be a growth area. Bergh cited its After School Art Club, which features fall, spring and summer classes where students learn about topics such as technology, storytelling and collaboration.

“Approximately 100 kids participate annually,” she said. “Ten percent receive tuition support.” Travel vouchers are also available for students who need transportation.

Art Kids Drop-In Day is for children age 3 to 5 and their caregivers. This monthly program, which is funded by the Southwest Minnesota Initiative Foundation, builds social and communication skills through creative play. It attracts anywhere from 7 to 40 participants. The next event is “String, Tape, Glue” from 10:30 to noon Wednesday, March 20. Admission is free.

Adults can flex their creativity with quarterly art classes. Past events have included mandala painting, basket weaving, botanical drawing and barn quilt painting. Next up is paper marbling from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25.

Another arts opportunity, which reaches out to older citizens, is Creative Palette, a collaboration with Woodstone Senior Living in Hutchinson. It’s funded by a grant from the I.J. Burich Foundation.

It’s a quarterly arts program that brings hands-on art activities to residents at Woodstone. So far, they have participated in painting, collage and music. The hope is to expand the program.

“They were reluctant to start,” Bergh said. “They were self-conscious, but once they got going, they were into it.”

Community outreach continues to be an art center goal. Bergh highlighted interactive art experiences at the Arts and Crafts Festival and Manufacturing Day. The goal is to do four events a year, but with a staff of two — Bergh and Tom Peterson, program assistant — that can be a challenge.

The visual arts exhibits draw local people as well as folks from outside the area. It also provides opportunities for collaboration, which occurred this past December when Bergh combined artist Jason Ramey’s large-scale wooden sculptures with the work of woodturner Don Rasmussen of Hutchinson.

Bergh said Rasmussen had the same idea as Ramey, but articulated it very differently. Aligning local makers in the context of an art center exhibit was a new way of thinking for her.

“Art is about sharing ideas,” she said in an earlier Leader interview. “These two men who are generations apart are working with wood in really different ways.”

New this year was the introduction of the Wirt Award. The first recipient and namesake was Tom Wirt. It was given in recognition of Wirt’s commitment to Hutchinson and the arts. Going forward, a nomination process will be used to select the next recipient. The award will continue to be presented at the annual arts gala.

Money matters

Income for 2018 was $116,790, with expenses at $124,765. Funding comes from a variety of sources including: individuals, businesses, foundations, the city of Hutchinson, memberships, sponsorships, events, grants and earned income.

Fundraisers are important, too. The small-cast musical “Always ... Patsy Cline” was a collaboration with the Hutchinson Theatre Company. Together with the annual arts gala they raised a total of $36,136. This year’s art gala on Feb. 2 raised $18,000.

Goals for 2019 include increasing income and reducing occupancy costs. Plans also call for expanding community partnerships.

The evening ended on a high note of appreciation with Greg Jodzio, board vice president, recognizing outgoing board members Jerry Lindbergh and Corey Stearns.

“Thank you for your service and serving the arts,” Bergh said.

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