Art in The Park

Our Town: Art & Nature kicks off this month with free art programming for the whole family all summer.
In artist Pam Luer's St. Louis Park studio, these well-used paint brushes are the tools of her trade.

“You can ignore callings in your life, but when they keep coming back—that’s when you have to start listening,” says Pam Luer, artist and St. Louis Park resident. She’s tried other careers, but always knew “artist” would stay front and center on her ever-growing resume.

Luer, who has spent years in the art licensing business and partnered with stores such as Target and JCPenney, is adding to her repertoire this year with her role in Friends of the Arts (FotA), a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and enhancing the arts in St. Louis Park. FotA connects people and organizations around the arts and coordinates community arts programs. One such example kicks off this month—the fourth version of Our Town: Art & Nature, a six-month program dedicated to art in the community.

“We are building community through the arts,” says Tammy Hauser, a former consultant for FotA and CEO of Blue Sky Thinking, a boutique agency that helps nonprofits refine and reinvent themselves. “We don’t have an art center here in St. Louis Park, so the art has to take place out in the community. Our philosophy is less about skill-building and more about enjoyment and participation.”

Luer agrees. “Art is a way to pause and see the beauty and thoughtfulness around us and nod to what’s essential in life.”

That part about pausing is especially important for this year’s theme—and maybe the hardest to do. Nature will be the canvas for this year’s Our Town. Free sketching workshops for adults will take place at Westwood Nature Center, and local parks will be the backdrop for free drop-in art classes for kids. They can find leaves and paint them, making prints. They’ll engage in simple projects while exploring texture and color.

“Art is essential to how children grow and problem-solve. It’s the connection to imagination,” says Luer. “You don’t have to go far. Your own backyard can be your classroom.”

Pam Luer

Both Hauser and Luer stress the beauty of a humble sketchbook and the informality of it. “You don’t always have to be focused on the end product,” Luer explains. “Sometimes focusing on the end can intimidate you from even starting.”

Hauser hopes to display sketchbooks from Our Town: Art & Nature workshops at the Shops at West End this fall during the program’s culmination event, another nod to the process rather than the end product.

Hauser and Luer also hope to organize an artist salon as yet another component of the community event. This would be an opportunity for artists to gather and exchange ideas while supporting and acknowledging each other a couple of nights throughout the summer.

Our Town is a bi-annual program; some funding has been provided courtesy of a $5,000 grant from the St. Louis Park Community Foundation, but, according to Hauser, the committee is continuing to seek additional financial support from other sources. One year is spent planning the program while the following year is spent carrying it out. Also on the agenda is a juried art fair, open art exhibit and a partnership with the St. Louis Park Library.

Hauser hopes that throughout these six months, artists across St. Louis Park will come out of the woodwork and rally together for the cause. “The City Council has embraced art as a key component in community life,” Hauser says. “From the sculptures to the sensible designs, every decision made regarding art in the community has been a thoughtful one.”

Luer, too, is excited for the possibility to grow the arts community in St. Louis Park. “I feel so supported in the Twin Cities. It’s a great place to be an artist.”

Meet the New Director

Jaime Meyer became the first formal executive director of St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts on February 1. She is a playwright who has had 25 plays in production nationally. Meyer is proud to call herself a “teaching artist” who has been heavily involved in arts programs in Minnesota and around the country.

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More information about the events and activities of Our Town: Art & Nature can be found on the St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts website at slpfota.org.