End of the Range Artists Association

The Range Artists Association was part of the organization sorting art for the St. Louis County Fair. The RAA will disband this year. PHOTO: Range Artists Association Facebook page

The Range Artists Association was the organization that sorted and juried art for the St. Louis County Fair. The RAA will disband this year. PHOTO: Range Artists Association Facebook page

An Iron Range organization that has planned the art exhibit at the annual St. Louis County Fair and run camps and art education programs for decades is no more. The Range Artists Association voted to disband its 501(C)3 nonprofit organization last spring and is now in the process of vacating its Howard Street studio in Hibbing, Minnesota.

From the Hibbing Daily Tribune story by Tony Potter:

After seeing the dwindling interest for the camp and regular classes, board members also noticed the nonprofit only had enough funds to upkeep the building through September.

“With no cash coming in, it appeared to be the end,” [RAA President Jamie] McDougall said, adding that prompted an open house being held in May. “It was open to all members and just three people came. People said ‘this is sad’ and ‘what’s going on?’ We told them we had no volunteers and people won’t sign up for classes. But no one stepped up and no one volunteered.”

The harsh reality is no one is interested in the art center anymore, McDougall opined.

“As time goes on, like other places, there was dwindling membership and board members and the officers didn’t want to continue organizing events and setting up classes,” she said. “We’re burned out, and there are other things we want to do.”

As I wrote last spring, before word of this had gone public, this has been a rough year for the arts in Hibbing — with the closure of Zimmy’s, the transition of Dylan Days and now the closure of the Range Artists Association. We already lost the HCC Theater program years ago now, and one can’t escape the presence of struggle for aging or underfunded arts groups in this once-vibrant Iron Range arts town. Oh, there are many good things happening, too, but it will probably stay rough for a while until the younger generation of Iron Rangers figures out how to engage with its own community. That’s hard to do when an older generation can’t help but notice that things are getting worse, not better, and resist change.

Tough stuff. Hard to watch. Hard to live. But the arts will go on.

Actually, this will all make for some good art. Circle of Life.



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