New arts group looks to fill underserved ‘hole’ in Richfield’s arts community

 

A new group is forming in Richfield to serve as a resource for what some see as an underserved population of artists.

Edina has its arts center. So does  Bloomington. And Minneapolis is flush with outlets for artists.

But “when it comes to Richfield, there’s a hole,” said Claire Gahler, one of about a half-dozen Richfield residents who have come together over the past six weeks to form Crosstown Creativity, which also aims to serve southeast Minneapolis, Edina and east Bloomington.

Charter members forming the group’s core primarily come from another organization promoting arts in the community, the Richfield Arts Commission. Some members of that body have gravitated to Crosstown Creativity as another outlet, especially ones reaching their term limits on the commission.

One of those is Judy Goebbel, whose term limit comes up in February. “We’re just a name and some people that want to do things,” she said of the nascent group, still in its preliminary developmental stages.

“We haven’t really written down our mission statement and the nitty gritty of it all,” said Claire Gahler, another of the group’s charter members and also an arts commission member.

Just don’t call her an artist, at least not yet, she said. “I call myself the non-artist of the group,” Gahler said, adding that she hopes to see her self as a legitimate artist one day. “I haven’t quite found that outlet yet.”

But that’s fine, because Crosstown Creativity was formed, she said, with a vision of all-ages accessibility, as the group will reach out to the dabblers and technical craftspeople alike. “We’re trying to break away from the mindset that people have where you have to be an artist to do art,” Gahler said.

One of Crosstown Creativity’s goals is to run a bona-fide space accessible to non-bona-fide artists, a venue that Goebbel says Richfield is currently lacking. The city uses some indoor space at Veterans Park for some art workshop activities, but “it’s basically a room with some fold-up furniture and probably less art supplies than the average elementary classroom,” Goebbel said, adding the city doesn’t have the funding for more space and supplies.

For now, the new group is using space free of charge from Cornerstone Group, near Lyndale Avenue and West 64th Street and across the street from Lyndale Gardens, a property  Cornerstone is redeveloping. The temporary space is not expansive, consisting of three rooms that range in size from about 12 feet by 8 feet, to 12 feet by 24 feet.

But it’s a start. “It’s not ideal, but it’s space we can lock up and call our own,” Goebbel said.

The space could help open up art to those otherwise without the resources to pursue their vision. “I know there are a lot of people out there in town that maybe they want to do something and maybe they can’t do it at home,” said Gahler, who has become more active as an artist since retiring from a career in business, now specializing in fiber arts like basket weaving.

The importance of a strong arts community is at the heart of a thoughtful community, according to Willie Falwell, another member of Crosstown Creativity but more well-known as the longtime art teacher at Richfield High School, in his 41st year teaching.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge, thinking of the thing that never was, pushing the boundaries,” Falwell said.

The new group’s members hope to fulfill this ideal in a way that the city’s arts commission cannot. The commission is limited in fundraising because it cannot become a 501(c)3 nonprofit group, a designation Crosstown Creativity hopes to eventually claim to help with fundraising, Goebbel said.

According to the group’s vision, Crosstown Creativity would take over the 10-year-old commission’s hands-on efforts, like conducting various workshops, initiatives that are not actually part of the commission’s charter, Goebbel said.

“We’re hoping the commission can take on more of a liaison and advisory role,” while Crosstown Creativity acts as the implementer of ideas, Gahler said.

Despite limited resources, the Arts Commission has managed some initiatives of which Goebbel is proud, especially workshops for children that coincided with the farmers market at Veterans Park.

“I learned a lot. I met some really great people. We had some fun events and I would say we made some accomplishments,” she said.

“Maybe our biggest accomplishment is we started this organization.”

Crosstown Creativity has scheduled an open house for Wednesday, Jan. 9, 7-9 p.m. at its temporary headquarters, 6340 Lyndale Ave.

The group also hopes to offer open studio time in the space by January, with a more robust calendar of activity arriving in early spring next year. Crosstown Creativity is taking donations including art materials, tables, chairs and stools.

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