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Arts board, city council terminate lease for Carnegie Cultural Center space

Lead Summary
Lori Sorenson

After 20 years of occupying space in the Carnegie Cultural Center, the local arts board will terminate its lease at the end of the year.
Luverne City Council members took action to terminate the lease as of Dec. 31 at their Oct. 27 meeting when they discussed briefly that the building has more space than the organization needs.
For example, when artists first started utilizing the building, it was one of their only avenues for displaying their work. Now, many artists have developed their own studios, either commercially or in their homes.
Further, the new History Center in the former Ford building and the new Blue Mound Area Theatre Board office by the Palace provide space and services previously met in the Carnegie.
In addition, staffing arrangements have changed and there have been dwindling numbers of public visitors utilizing the Carnegie.
Chamber Director Jane Wildung Lanphere said she made the motion at the August board meeting of the Council for the Arts and Humanities in Rock County to terminate the Carnegie lease.
In a follow-up letter to all CAHRC board members, she spelled out reasons for leaving the Carnegie.
“The major focus of our CAHRC meetings have been spent on details related to the physical structure and operation of the building,” she wrote.
“I personally believe that we need to spend more time and resources working together to support the work of ‘all’ member organizations.”
CAHRC is made up of seven organizations whose shared mission is to “encourage, initiate, foster and coordinate art, humanities and other cultural activities in Rock County by utilizing community members, organizations and monetary resources.”
Member organizations are  Rock County Fine Arts Association, Blue Mound Area Theatre, Rock County Historical Society, Blue Mound Woodcarvers, Green Earth Players, Luverne Street Music and the Luverne Area Chamber and Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Board also includes the representative from Rock County who serves on the Southern Minnesota Arts Council (SMAC) and citizen representatives.
Lanphere said it was difficult for her make the motion to terminate the lease, and she said the motion passed on a 5-4 vote with four members abstaining.
While many artists still disagree with the decision, Lanphere said it will open new doors for art and culture in Rock County.
For example, Luverne Street Music is considering the Carnegie as an option for future expansion.
After only 2 1/2 years, the venture — which connects music instructors with students — has 100 music students plus a waiting list.
Instructors and students have been meeting in churches and temporary spaces around town, but their numbers are growing and they need a permanent space.
The city of Luverne owns the Carnegie and will continue to maintain the building and grounds until another cultural use can be found for it.
The city provides lawn mowing and snow removal, and recently replaced the columns for $20,000 and tuck pointed some exterior masonry for nearly $10,000.
CAHRC paid $900 per year for the lease.
The city will accommodate artists with their move, and the Historical Society has agreed to store display cases and other items temporarily, if need be.

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