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Published October 19 2013

Forum editorial: Moorhead as haven for arts

Picture the abandoned Coach’s restaurant and lounge in downtown Moorhead as a creative space for young artists instead of the dilapidated eyesore it has become. Imagine that as just one example of how Moorhead has transformed its underutilized buildings into assets helping it to become a creative haven, an environment solidifying the city’s identity and helping to propel its economy.

That vision recently was sketched by Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership, in a column that appeared in The Forum. Moorhead city, civic and business leaders should embrace that idea and make it a pillar in ongoing efforts to strengthen the city and make it an attractive, welcoming place for families, businesses and professionals. Urban studies theorist Richard Florida, among others, has documented how cities that foster creative, welcoming and diverse environments thrive and become magnets for talented, entrepreneurial strivers.

Of course, defining Moorhead as a city that is a haven for the arts and creative pursuits simply builds upon a solid foundation already in place. Core elements include the art, literature and music programs at Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College, the Trollwood Performing Arts School at Bluestem and the Rourke Gallery. It’s worth remembering that the Plains Art Museum had its start in Moorhead. And the significant arts scene in Fargo, including programs at North Dakota State University, also benefits Moorhead.

Theatre B has announced that it is exploring the possibility of moving from its space in downtown Fargo, which it has outgrown, to Moorhead. That move could help jump-start efforts to enliven downtown Moorhead, which has lost a couple of thriving music venues, Ralph’s and Kirby’s, to an urban renewal program that failed to provide a significant spark. It’s a reminder that remodeling buildings should coincide with enhanced cultural initiatives – “hardware” and “software” working together.

Many cities have spruced up abandoned buildings and struggling downtowns or neighborhoods by creating welcoming environments for artists and arts organizations. One example is a dying neighborhood in Toronto that found new life when an organization called Artscape created affordable studio and living space for artists. That effort became part of a larger movement called “creative place-making.”

Seen that way, abandoned buildings like Coach’s are opportunities waiting to happen. Fargo has seen that happen with the relocation of NDSU’s art and architecture programs and expansions to the Plains Art Museum, among other examples that have provided an important boost to the downtown renaissance. Moorhead should give the arts a prominent place at the table as it draws its future.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.