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Eagan's Art and Theater Organizations Voice Need for Arts Center

City residents are engaged in several art-related projects, but local organizers say they lack performance and classroom space.

 

Eagan is home to a flourishing art community. In fact, many local arts organizations are expanding so rapidly that they’re outgrowing Eagan’s performance venues and classroom spaces.

“It is critical that we have arts available in the community,” said Wanda Borman, director of the .

In 2011, approximately 6,800 people attended the festival, more than twice the roughly 3,200 people that attended eight years ago, according to Borman.

The art festival isn’t the only arts organization on the rise. Programming participation at the Parks and Recreation Department’s has increased by more than 30 percent in the past five years, said Julie Andersen, Art House recreation supervisor.

Total attendance at has more than quadrupled in recent years, growing from 4,200 people in 2007 to 17,000 people in 2011, according to information provided by Craig Harris, president of the Caponi Art Park board of directors.

Eagan is also home to two new theater organizations: Amy Kamarainen founded the in 2010 and Kay Brown started the last year.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Juli Seydell Johnson, director of Eagan’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Online and Outdoors, City Invests in the Arts

The city is currently in the midst of several projects involving the local art community.

The Eagan Art House and the Eagan Art Festival recently determined that residents are interested in seeing more art in the community, Andersen said.

This conclusion was reached through the Creative Intersections Grant, an $8,000 information-gathering grant provided by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.

The partnering organizations received the grant two years ago. The information-gathering results will lead to an increase in public art.

The Eagan Art House hopes to complete a piece of public art by early 2013.

Art is becoming more visible online, as well.

The recently partnered with the Eagan Art House and the Eagan Art Festival to create an arts webpage on the Eagan Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

The intent of the webpage is to bring local arts organizations together at a central web location. Any arts organization can post information about its programming and events.

“As we connect more and more, the web of community arts organizations will continue to get stronger,” Borman said.

The city is also in the midst of negotiating the possible of local art space Caponi Art Park. 

The park consists of 60 acres of parkland, sculptures and sculpted land.

Currently, the city owns 30 acres of parkland. The Caponi Art Park and Learning Center, the nonprofit that organizes park programming, also owns 30 acres of the park.

The cost for the city to purchase the remaining 30 acres is $1.4 million, which would be provided by a combination of funding from various grants, Dakota County, the city of Eagan and the Caponi Art Park board of directors.

If the city receives the potential grant funding, the land must be purchased by December 2013.

This change in ownership would secure the park well into the future and prevent any potential development on the parkland. The ownership shift would also provide the park and learning center with the capacity to expand its programs, because the organization would no longer be burdened by debt.

“This will preserve it and protect it so that many generations can enjoy it,” said Seydell Johnson.

Actors Without Stages

While the city is working to acquire parkland, many local arts organizers are wondering how to acquire classrooms and performance spaces.

“It’s really hard for the art community to be visible if there’s no place to be visible at,” said Brown, of the Eagan Theater Company.

Brown spoke at length about the community’s need for a physical structure to house local arts programming, stating that the Art House has outgrown its facility and the Eagan Theater Company has no performance space.

Brown’s sentiments were echoed by Harris and Kamarainen, as well as Denny Swanson, founder of the .

“I wish we could do more,” said Swanson, who cited the Rochester Civic Theatre and the Burnsville Performing Arts Center as examples of the type of facility he felt could benefit Eagan. “I would like to see a civic theater in Eagan that would stage productions year round.”

“Something that Eagan really needs”

Kamarainen already has a location in mind for a local performing arts center — , where she currently rents space for the Young Actors Theater Company.

Kamarainen said she is interested in potentially purchasing the property at some point in the future.

“I don’t see anybody else stepping up,” Kamarainen said. “I truly believe this would make an awesome event center for Eagan and it’s something that Eagan really needs.”

The property is currently owned by and serves as the church’s second location. The building includes a thrust stage theater with a maximum capacity of 450 people, a black box theater with a maximum capacity of 75 people, five classrooms, eight offices and a full kitchen, according to Kamarainen.

The structure and accompanying land has been for sale for more than two years, according to Roger Lane, associate lead pastor at Cedar Valley Church.

The 15,700 square-foot building and 3.75 acres of land are currently priced at $1.4 million on Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq’s website. An adjacent 2.75 acres of land are also for sale for $1 million. The total price for the structure and accompanying 6.5 acres is $2.4 million, although Lane said Cedar Valley would consider all offers made on the property.

“I think there’s some potential for that space being used in the community,” said Andersen, of the Eagan Art House.

City Communications Director Tom Garrison was hesitant to speak about the possibility of a community arts center, although he did state that the city is aware of interest in a performance space. No private proposals for such a venue are currently before the council.

“From a public policy standpoint, it’s really premature to comment,” Garrison said.

Lane said that Cedar Valley would not object to the structure being repurposed as an arts center, although several churches have expressed interest in the property.

“We’re just waiting for the right opportunity to partner with an organization that can bring the greatest benefit to the Eagan community, whether it be a fine arts center or a church,” Lane said.

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