For over 10 years, community members have rallied around an abandoned silent movie theater at 825 University Ave. Their plans: to purchase and renovate the space into a community and arts center for Frogtown and Rondo. That project just took a major step forward, as recipient of $2.4 million dollars in support from the Minnesota Legislature’s Capital Investment Bill, passed earlier this month.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled – as we watched the voting online, we were texting back and forth – Is this for real? It is! We did it!” said VTAC Executive Director Tyler Olsen-Highness “We have so many people to thank: Representative Rena Moran, Senator Sandra Pappas, Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan, and Mayor Carter – all of them stepped up to make this happen.”
This coalition of support, along with countless hours of volunteer community advocacy and lobbying over two years, including rallies, tours, and meetings with dozens of legislators laid the foundation for the project’s success. The key to getting it over the finish line with full financial support was a push by the governor’s office to invest in equity-centered projects. This recommendation focused on capital projects from community-based organizations that are led by and serve communities of color and American Indians, as these organizations have not traditionally had access to capital investment from the state.
“The arts bring us joy. They help us to express our values, and they build bridges between cultures. The arts are a fundamental component of a healthy community.” These words from Representative Rena Moran as she spoke for the project on the Minnesota House floor, are at the heart of VTAC’s work: building community power through creativity and connection.
With the $2.4M from the state of Minnesota now a reality, and another $1M already raised for the project, VTAC has $1.4 million dollars left to raise.They’re hoping to raise it as quickly as possible, so renovation of the space can start in late fall of 2021, with the building opening in late 2022. Between now and then, there’s a lot to do for this mostly volunteer-run organization, from fundraising to arts programming to community-driven architectural processes.
“Receiving this support from the state of Minnesota is both humbling and affirming” says board chair Chris Wilbourn, (aka Felix from Heiruspecs).“It reminds us of our responsibility to our community and to empowering the voices of Minnesotans who have historically been less represented. We’re eager to share the beautiful contributions of our community with all of our amazing state for decades to come.”