'Letting Go' earns People's Choice Award

The sculpture “Letting Go,” by Judd Nelson, Wayzata, was voted the People’s Choice Award winner in the 2015-16 Hutchinson Sculpture Stroll. Amenities such as the Sculpture Stroll and recently approved pillar project add to the city’s aesthetic, but also bring in tourism dollars.

If there are two things Hutchinson is well-known for, it’s parks and arts. In many cases, the two may be experienced at the same time with wonderful offerings such as the Sculpture Stroll — which showcases permanent and rotating exhibits throughout the city — Music in the Park, RiverSong and much more.

As is often touted, there is “Much in Hutch,” and a great deal of the city’s copious amenities to residents and visitors revolves around the arts scene. So much, in fact, that a report published last year from the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts showed 15 of our community’s arts organizations offer activities that annually draw about 62,000 people. That participation in these activities, converted into dollars, results in an economic impact of $1.2 million. And those 15 arts and cultural organizations spend another $1 million, which adds up to a total impact of $2.2 million in Hutchinson.

The report also summarizes spending by McLeod County’s 97 full-time and 308 part-time artists and “creative workers.” The amount surpasses $1.6 million on such things as art supplies and studio rental.

Of the 15 counties studied by the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, McLeod measured eighth in population but ranked second in creative worker density, with 39 creative jobs for every 1,000 jobs overall. More than $200,000 in local and state government revenue is collected from the work of these creative workers. In other words, they contribute significantly to the local tax base.

Building up the tax base is important for all of us who want our taxes to stay under control. The arts are doing their part. The findings suggest the city of Hutchinson’s annual $15,000 investment in Public Arts Commission and $15,000 in the Hutchinson Center for the Arts is money well spent.

Last week, City Council continued its support for the arts by approving funds for a new project in 2020 that will include four pillars at various intersections near downtown. Each pillar will have a sculpture of sorts on top, and the council has wisely said it will look for local artists, possibly students, to provide the artwork. Each pillar will also represent a community virtue — service, humanity, stewardship and education — and include a plaque with information about the city’s past.

The city approved funding about half of the project’s estimated $75,000 total cost, while the rest would be paid for through grants and the Public Arts Commission budget.

We think this project is a terrific idea that will make a great addition to Hutchinson’s already flourishing art scene.

While we’d be unlikely to convince critics that these pillars are a benefit to the city both aesthetically and economically, the aforementioned report makes clear the impact of arts in Hutchinson. When people come to town for a concert, to visit the art center or just spend a day in the parks, they might fill up their gas tank, do some grocery shopping and eat dinner in town. Some arts attendees come from out of town and end up spending the night here and shopping at our stores during their stay.

That’s money spent here, paying local wages and taxes.

And while it’s true these four pillars alone may not attract hordes of visitors, it is the overall offerings of Hutchinson’s parks and arts that do bring people to town, and the pillars will be a tasteful inclusion.

Our city’s founders, the Singing Hutchinson Brothers — widely considered the most popular performing artists of their time — would be proud of the community’s support for the arts.

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