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Holmes Theatre gets Legacy grant for aesthetic improvements

This mobile in the lobby of The Historic Holmes Theatre will be getting some structural improvements to make it more stable, as part of a $16,000 Legacy Fund grant from the Lakes Region Arts Council. Brian Basham/Record

Since it first opened its doors a little over a decade ago, Detroit Lakes’ Historic Holmes Theatre has truly become a regional hub for entertainment in the lakes area, with an infinite variety of performers from all parts of the globe bringing thousands of visitors through its doors each season.

But now that the theater’s reputation as a performing arts center has been well established, the theater’s staff is embarking on a project that will hopefully maximize its potential for showcasing visual arts as well.

Thanks to a $16,786 Legacy Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund grant from the Lakes Region Arts Council, as well as a second, anonymous donation from a private benefactor, several areas of the theater will be renovated to include enhanced visual arts displays and other aesthetic improvements.

According to the DLCCC’s arts outreach and event coordinator, Becky Mitchell, the goal is to expand on the theater’s potential as a venue for promoting all aspects of the arts.

“We would like to branch out more with our visual arts component — to become a place where visual artists can come display their work, teach art classes and so forth,” she said.

One of the key elements of the project will be to make one of the more visually unique aspects of the theater into a permanent part of its structure.

About five years ago, hundreds of students from schools within a 30-mile radius of the theater joined forces to create a public art display in support of Motion, the theater’s main annual fundraising event.

The display was a giant mobile containing dozens and dozens of small, individual pieces of art created by the students. On the back of each art piece, the creator would write a short description of why they liked art.

“It was not meant to be a permanent display,” Mitchell said.

 But the mobile proved to be so popular with theater patrons that the staff decided to leave it there.

“It made such an impact on visitors to the venue,” she added. “It gets by far the most attention and comments by our patrons of any piece of art here.”

Over the years, however, the fragile components of the mobile have become increasingly bent and twisted, making it ever more difficult to maintain by the volunteers who each year, switch out the individual pieces of art that comprise the mobile display.

Part of the grant will be used, Mitchell said, to construct a more permanent framework for the mobile, made of copper tubing.

“It will be mounted on a winch that can be easily raised and lowered,” she added, noting that the structure would also include small, Christmas tree-type lights to enhance its visual impact.

The staircases on both sides of the theater will also be improved, with mosaic designs added to the riser of each stair step that will incorporate the theater’s motto, “Step inside and see the world.”

“It will be our arts outreach project for next year,” Mitchell said, noting that the theater is currently looking for school and youth groups, nursing homes and other organizations interested in helping to create the mosaics.

One of the areas of the theater that has become most noticeably worn through nonstop public use, Mitchell said, is the carpeting on the second floor. Currently, the theater staff is planning to create a mosaic floor design that would incorporate copper pennies.

“We are looking for people who would be willing to donate their pennies, and for some creative ways for different community groups to get involved,” she added.

Also in the theater’s upper level, Mitchell said they are planning to create and display a unique metal and glass art piece that will incorporate a donor recognition component, honoring those individual donors and groups that contributed specifically to this project.

Another component of the grant project will be to create art gallery-style display areas for area artists to showcase their work, in both the theater’s main office and lower level conference room.

The final piece of the project, Mitchell said, will be to create a visual display for patrons leaving the theater, where there will be vinyl lettering spelling out the word “goodbye” in the native languages of all the artists who have performed at the theater since its inception — African, Chinese, Balinese, Israeli, etc.

“This Legacy grant will allow us to take our dream of creating more visual art spaces in our building and give it a little more of a ‘wow’ factor,” Mitchell said.

“We’re excited to begin the planning process,” said Amy Stoller Stearns, the theater’s executive director. “It’s the 10th year for the theater, and it will be nice to move forward and incorporate some artistic changes that will make it more aesthetically interesting.”

More Legacy grants

Other area arts organizations that received Legacy Fund grants during the Lake Region Arts Council’s Feb. 26 grant review session included the following:

  • The Historical & Cultural Society of Clay County, Moorhead: $7,630 to host its first ever German Culture Day event;
  • The Nordic Culture Club, Moorhead: $6,000 to sponsor two new performing groups at the 36th Annual Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival;
  • Minnesota State University/College for Kids, Moorhead: $7,550 to fund full scholarships for 45 students to attend College for Kids and to purchase supplies for new art courses; 
  • A Center for the Arts, Fergus Falls: $21,820 to  expand its 2014 season with artist residencies and public workshops for seven scheduled performances; 
  • Fergus Falls Public Schools: $9,990 to sponsor a three day artist residency by The Copper Street Brass Quintet;
  • Theatre L’Homme Dieu, Alexandria: $9,990 for technical upgrades to the theater, including lighting cables and projection equipment;
  • Central Square, Glenwood: $3,500 to sponsor “Northern Gail” for a Scottish “ceilidh” event, featuring a community celebration with music, dance and a meal.

Since January 2010, LRAC has funded 98 applications across its nine-county area, for a total of $815,432.

Minnesota’s Legacy Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund is made possible with money from an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature, from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008. 

Proceeds from the Legacy fund may be spent on arts access and arts education and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.

The fund is intended to create a strong arts legacy in Minnesota and will exist for a period of 25 years.

LRAC serves the counties of Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin. The next LRAC Legacy grant application deadline is May 7. For further information, visit, or call LRAC toll free at 1-800-262-2787.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454