The Collaborative Energy in Granite Falls

The community of Granite Falls (pop. 2,897) is on the banks of the Minnesota River. The town was settled on traditional Dakota land. It now neighbors the Upper Sioux Community. It long has been home to a largely agricultural community and has deep ties to the cooperative movement, which has helped sustain a strong local business economy. We asked Luwaina Al-Otaibi, chief operating officer of the Bluenose Gopher Public House Cooperative in downtown Granite Falls, to pick up on our Ecolution theme of the past several weeks to talk about how the cooperative nature infuses her town with energy and creativity.

My mother is originally from Granite Falls and my dad is from Saudi Arabia. I grew up in the Middle East for the most part but always came back to Minnesota during the summer at a lake cabin. My parents bought a house in Granite Falls in 2000, where I would visit as a university student. I moved to Granite after school about seven years ago with no intention of living here for this long. 

After I became involved with Bluenose Gopher Public House, I really immersed myself into the community. There is an amazing group of people that I have come to know who are about creativity and trying new things. Our city is very supportive of the arts — murals being painted on flood walls, live outdoor music. If I have an idea that I am excited about, I can find a group of amazing individuals to support it and make it happen.

Every year Granite Falls usually holds the celebration for the opening night of the Meander Art Crawl. There are so many women-owned businesses here that showed up to plan our evening on October 1 that will highlight the Minnesota River with lights and dance. Developing a city dog park is also a women-led initiative.

I am a founding member of Bluenose Gopher Public House Cooperative, which began with the intention of providing a community-run space where creativity, ideas and art would be supported, alongside Minnesota-made craft beer, wine, and food. I was very involved in getting the building ready to open, installing flooring, painting. The co-op today includes 320 members. Each owner has equal voting rights.

I have found that women within the community uplift and support one another for the most part. There seems to be a great group of visionaries that I have had the pleasure of getting to know who are willing to put in the hard work and make amazing things happen. We all seem to build off of each other’s energy when creating or sharing ideas. It makes me think anything is possible here. 

Women-led ventures include the Granite Area Arts Council, The Yes! house, City Artist-in-Residence Program, Ashley Hanson’s Department of Public Transformation, Makers on the Minnesota events.

Bluenose is sponsoring a first annual Bluenose Gopher 50 gravel road bike race on July 24, with music in our beer garden in the evening. The Makers Market will be held every first Thursday of the month this summer. There will be vendors, art, and live music downtown from  4-7 pm. The community is planning a big event on September 18 with our city artist-in-residence. Opening Night for the annual Meander Art Crawl will be on October 1. Bluenose Gopher Public House hosts summer concerts throughout the summer. Visitors will find community-created murals near downtown along the Minnesota River, and painted downtown crosswalks.

Betsy Pardick painting crosswalk murals in downtown Granite Falls
The all female cast walking theatre production of “Over The Barrel”
Mary Gillespie and Sarina Otaibi working on the inside of the Bluenose building when it was under construction