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Community group exploring potential home for arts

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Bemidji has a variety of arts venues, but no central location for a combination of theater, dance, visual exhibits and music.

But a group of arts supporters and participants hope to change that.

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A town hall meeting will be held from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, March 25, at Bemidji United Methodist Church, 902 Beltrami Ave. N.W., to discuss possibilities and - if there is interest - start the process of developing an arts center.

Attendees will be asked to complete a survey and will also have an opportunity to engage in discussions. The survey is also available online on the fan page "The Arts Center in Bemidji" at facebook.com.

"This is just an information-gathering session," said Cheryl Winnett, who is launching the project.

Winnett said the idea came up after Bemidji State University and Bemidji Community Theater dissolved their collaboration. She said BCT has no central place to store costumes, props and scenery. Artists need studio and office space and Bemidji Community Education could use classrooms, she said.

"The arts scene is huge here, but it doesn't have a home," Winnett said.

She noted the full page, plus occasional overflow jumps in Patt Rall's weekly arts-and-entertainment column in the Bemidji Pioneer as evidence of the burgeoning arts scene.

The Thursday meeting is the first step, Winnett said. She said she will ask if a subgroup would be interested in forming a board of directors. From there, she said, the group could apply for 501c3 nonprofit status and pursue Region 2 Arts Council grants for a professional feasibility study.

Winnett said she visualizes a space downtown, but retrofitting an existing building for a quality theater is difficult. A central arts venue would also allow artists of various disciplines to share assets, she said.

For more information, call Winnett at 759-1937 or 701-269-0691 or by e-mailing theartscenter@hotmail.com.

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