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The Prairie Renaissance Cultural Alliance has had a gallery on Atlantic Avenue since October 2002. The space, which PRCA President Sarah McDermott says is more than just an art gallery, offers local artists a place to sell their work and the community a space to host events or learn more about local cultural heritage.

Beyond the gallery

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MORRIS - The Prairie Renaissance Cultural Alliance has called 630 Atlantic Avenue home since October 2002, yet there are still people in the community who still don't recognize the organization's name or mission.

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"There are still a lot of people in the community that don't know what we are, what we do, or anything about us," said PRCA President Sara McDermott. "It is kind of curious that we've been here for nine years and there are still people that don't know."

The gallery in downtown Morris - a mix of art gallery, community gathering space and display for our local cultural heritage - offers a space for artists to share and sell their work and community members to explore what the local art scene has to offer.

"When you walk in here it doesn't feel like an 'art gallery' in the cookie-cutter formula," said McDermott. "It's so much more than the names it's been given."

"The space is just one of the one of the projects that has come as a result of people's passion for arts and culture," said McDermott.

The PRCA was founded in 2002 from two groups: the Arts Council of Stevens County and the Cultural Plan Leadership Team formed as a result of a Blandin Community Investment Project Grant for the city of Morris.

According to the PRCA's history, "These two groups represented artists, musicians, dancers, writers, historians and aficionados of the area's cultural richness. They saw the need for an organization to lead the community, to, as one local writer said, 'Bring culture home.'"

"In this area, I don't know if you realize how many artists we actually have," said McDermott. "You just don't realize the passion that people have for the arts locally until you get them in a group and they start coming up with ideas."

To help promote local artists, the PRCA regularly features exhibits of their work. The current exhibit is "Circular Revelations" by Hancock artist Phyllis Joos.

There will be a reception for Joos on Sunday, Nov. 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. that will be held in conjunction with a reading from the recently-published regional literary journal, the Lake Region Review.

"The whole economy is a little bit down, and I think artwork suffers," said Margaret Payne, PRCA office assistant. "We do try to keep our costs low so we can remain a resource for artists. They need a place to sell their work or perform."

The PRCA is also more than just displaying and selling art - the organization also hopes to capture the region's cultural heritage and promote the arts through outreach to local schools and students.

The PRCA hosts Prairie Camp, a two week arts camp where participants can explore all different types of art - from sculpture to dance to writing - by learning from local artists.

The organization is also helping to host Art Afternoons, an after school arts program for elementary school students that is a collaboration between the PRCA, Community Education and the Kiwanis.

"Because the the local school doesn't have an elementary art teacher, this is a great opportunity to give these kids this outlet and have them involved with the arts in an area ... where people are very actively involved with art," said McDermott.

The next two Art Afternoons sessions are tentatively set to be drawing and painting.

An ongoing challenge for the PRCA is to evolve and reach out to the community beyond their space on Atlantic Avenue.

"That's our biggest hurdle," said Payne. "If you say 'Prairie Renaissance Cultural Alliance' to anyone in town they go, 'What?' And if you say 'PRCA' they go, 'What?' ... The people who know, know it, but there are 5,000 other people that we would like to reach."

"We're always open to new ideas," added McDermott. "If someone has something that they want to promote that's art and cultural heritage related, we want to know about it."

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Kim Ukura is the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune. 

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