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ArtReach reaches out to community

ArtReach program coordinator Emily Nelson dangles Annie Westphall's completed optical art project.

After a decade of being a creative outlet for local artists, ArtReach - as the name suggests -- continues to reach out to the Red Wing through a variety of art programs for all ages.

Program coordinator Emily Nelson, who's also the development and special events coordinator at the Hope Coalition, took over ArtReach this February. Nelson and the board of directors this year made collaborations with other Red Wing organizations, such as Haven of Hope and the YMCA, a priority.

"I have witnessed firsthand the healing power and personal fulfillment that art can bring to those living in crisis, how one piece of art can touch the souls of many," she said.

Taking the ArtReach position primarily to reignite her love of art, she said the job's focus quickly shifted to much more.

ArtReach established a women's support group five or six years ago with Haven of Hope, giving a relaxed and creative environment for women residing in the shelter and continues to promote that.

"I am proud to be part of such a wonderful organization committed to investing in the social good of our community," she said.

ArtReach held classes at the YMCA this summer, and Nelson said she hopes to do more joint projects.

She also added free art days one or two Saturdays a month this summer for children. From 10 a.m. to noon, children through grade 5 could paint and receive a little art education, such as learning about color theory, while completing a project. Those included a mobile made from a paperplate and a tissue paper-covered vase.

Nelson intends to continue the free art days throughout the year.

One option for local artists this summer was open studio at ArtReach. Red Wing residents 14 and older could come to the studio and try a variety of different art supplies and techniques. Staff and volunteers gave tips and assistance, and some of the high school's advanced placement art studio students mentored people.

ArtReach Board of Directors hope to start branching out to Red Wing's older citizens through senior programming this upcoming year. This includes holding a Tea with Grandma and Me class, where Deer Crest residents and their grandchildren can make a tea set together and then have a tea party. ArtReach hopes to create a class for grandpas, too, with building and painting birdhouses, Nelson said.

ArtReach has also been involved with the Remedy since fall of 2010. The program offers art classes to at-risk middle school students twice a month taught by nine professional artists from the area. The program was provided by a grant through the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council.

For more information, visit the website or call 651-388-4488.