People work on a mural on Riverfront Drive in Mankato (photo credit: Jackson Forderer, Mankato Free Press)
People work on a mural on Riverfront Drive in Mankato (photo credit: Jackson Forderer, Mankato Free Press)

Faribault, Mankato, and Winona were part of a collaborative Artists on Main Street program launched this year. The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, in partnership with Springboard for the Arts, and with support from the Bush Foundation, created a pilot initiative. The program explored how small, artist-led projects could have a positive impact on addressing downtown challenges.

More than 200 area residents turned out on a stormy weekend in July to participate in one of Mankato’s projects: a mural painting project.

In Faribault, ten mirrored signs highlighting 20 virtues — like honesty, patience, kindness, and tolerance — were created to edge a recreational trail. The words were written in Spanish, Somali, and English. The project was developed by Wanda Holmgren, a Faribault elementary school teacher. 

Audrey Kletscher Helbling welcomed the project with these words on MNPrairie.com. “Finally I’m sensing a shift in attitudes toward immigrants in Faribault. There are good people in this community who have been, for years, working to welcome Somalians, Hispanics, and others into this once mostly all-white southern Minnesota city.

A dozen artists and groups created art, music, dance, and other events through October on the streets and sidewalks of downtown Winona. The intent for the $15,000 grant was to create a third space, which was defined by Winona’s Main Street Program coordinator Emily Kurash: “There’s your home, your work, and then that other place you go. Sometimes it’s a church, a pub, a gym. We want people to start thinking of the places downtown as places of gathering.”