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The Anderson Center: A Minnesota Treasure

Posted on Thu, Mar 7 2013 9:00 am by Emma Reynolds & Robert Hedin

Historic Water Tower, image courtesy of the Anderson Center

The historic Anderson Center in Red Wing is a reminder of the rich environment available to artists in the Greater Minnesota area. More than just a renowned artists’ community, it supports local organizations as well as provides educational opportunities and entertainment for its community. Here, director Robert Hedin explains what make the Anderson Center so remarkable.

As your website notes, the Anderson Center at Tower View is one of 350 artist communities worldwide.  Can you tell us a little about what makes the Anderson Center unique among these?

With its distinctive Georgian Revival buildings and cylindrical red brick water tower, the Anderson Center’s Tower View estate in Red Wing has been a familiar Minnesota landmark for almost a century.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Tower View, along with 350 acres of farm and forest land, comprises a legacy to the region from Dr. and Mrs. Alexander P. Anderson and their heirs.  Dr. Anderson gained worldwide renown for developing the American breakfast cereals known as “Quaker Puffed Rice” and “Quaker Puffed Wheat”. 

On-site facilities include a glassblowing studio, blacksmith shop, printmaking studio, heavy metal foundry for sculpture, and two outdoor kilns for ceramics.  The Center rents studio space in its facilities to twenty year-round artists—sculptors, writers, painters, glassblowers, potters, and printmakers—all of whom have received state, regional, and national attention for their work.

The Center also provides space to several organizations whose related missions add to the synergy among disciplines at the landmark estate:  Tower View Alternative High School, Red Wing Environmental Learning Center, Sheldon Theatre Performance School, Universal Music School, and Red Dragonfly Press and Foundry.

Recently cited by The National Geographic Traveler Magazine as “a major artistic destination point along the Upper Mississippi,” the Center is also home to one of the finest art collections in rural Minnesota. It includes a wide selection of signed and limited editions of original woodcuts, linocuts, stone lithographs, copperplate etchings, and screen prints by major figures of the 20th century, including Picasso, Chagall, Dali, Warhol, Johns, and others.

The Center’s 15 acre sculpture garden includes works by such nationally and internationally acclaimed sculptors as Siah Armajani, Charles Biederman, and Zoran Mojsilov.  Complete with walking trails, picnic areas, mesic prairie areas, and stunning vistas of the Cannon River valley, this spacious open-air gallery serves as an artistic and educational resource, a natural habitat where visitors can glimpse a sampling of the region’s original native ecosystem.

In addition to a variety of programs and events, the Anderson Center also supports individuals through its Residency Program for literary, visual, performance and other artists.  With such an array of involvement, what would you say is the Center’s unifying vision or mission?

As a fully accredited member of the Alliance of Artists Communities and RES ARTIS: International Association of Residential Arts Centres, it is the mission of the Anderson Center to uphold the unique wealth of the arts in the region; to develop, foster, and promote the creation of works of art and scholarship of all kinds; and to provide leadership and services that help insure a strong and healthy arts community and a greater recognition of the value of arts in our society.

The largest residential artist facility in the Upper Midwest, the Center provides retreats of two to four weeks duration from May through October each year to enable artists, writers, and scholars of exceptional promise and demonstrated accomplishment to create, advance, or to complete works-in-progress.  Since the Center opened in 1995, more than 700 artists, writers, and scholars representing some 45 different disciplines have come to the Center from 40 states and 35 foreign countries.  The Center also engages in artist exchange programs with other artist communities in Europe and China and has longstanding scholarship programs with the University of Notre Dame, Pacific Lutheran University, and the University of Minnesota.

In addition to working on a clearly defined project, resident-fellows are invited to make a substantive contribution to the community in the form of a talk, class, or performance of their work.  Each year Center residents visit more than fifteen schools, senior centers, civic organizations, and correctional facilities in Red Wing and its surrounding rural communities.  The total number of people, from primary school children to senior citizens, who benefit each year from resident presentations is approximately 2,500.    

Ultimately, the Anderson Center’s primary goal is to provide artists, writers, and others with dedicated time and space to pursue their work, an environment conducive for experimentation, innovation, and collaboration. The emphasis of process over product enables risk-taking, allows for new directions, and is deeply respectful of both the creative individual and his or her work.  One of the Center’s past residents, a composer from Wisconsin, said that during her month-long residency at the Center she witnessed what she called “the birth of a creative family” among her and her artistic colleagues.

Year-round artist studio, image courtesy of the Anderson Center
Your institution has developed a strong community presence with its Outreach Program.  How is such an initiative important, and what benefits have you seen from it?

Like other arts institutions, the Anderson Center is committed to the principle that the arts play an integral and vital role in the composition of a community, that they have the ability to enhance a community’s quality of life by introducing new ways of thinking and perceiving the world.

Each year the Center hosts a variety of artistic, educational, and cultural activities, including art celebrations, book fairs, readings, exhibitions, music and dance performances, lectures, classes, retreats, and other community-minded events.  The Center annually showcases the work of more than 250 artists, writers, and musicians, with over 6,000 people from the five-state area attending Center events.

The Center also presents the annual “A. P. Anderson Award” to recognize significant contributions to the cultural and artistic life of Minnesota.  Past recipients include poet Robert Bly, artistic director of the Guthrie Theater Joe Dowling, dance choreographer Lise Houlton, and memoirist Patricia Hampl.  The 2013 award will be presented to novelist and poet Louise Erdrich. 

The Anderson Center publishes the Great River Review, the oldest continuously published literary journal in Minnesota.  How did the Anderson Center become involved with it, and can you tell us more about this special publication?

Great River Review was established in 1977 by Winona writer Emilio DeGrazia and was taken over in 1997 by the Anderson Center.  Published biannually, the journal is edited by poets Robert Hedin and Michael Waters, and is dedicated to the publication of the best in fiction, poetry, short drama, and translation.

Works published in Great River Review have appeared in Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, Best American Travel Essays, Best American Sports Stories, among others, and the journal itself was awarded a 2002 Minnesota Book Award.

In reading submissions, the editors look for good, sound, engaging writing that breaks through the numbing, stultifying voice of our mass culture—work, in other words, filled with the playful joys of discovery, of the imagination, the immemorial spirit of the creative journey itself.

Like other literary journals of its kind, Great River Review has a small but dedicated readership, people from all over the country who appreciate fine writing in all its varied forms and, above all, who understand the value of small journals in the literary history and culture of the United States.

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Robert Hedin is the author, translator, and editor of nearly two dozen books of poetry and prose, most recently The Dream We Carry: Selected and Last Poems of Olav H. Hauge (co-translated with Robert Bly) and Poems Prose Poems.  He is co-founder and current director of the Anderson Center.

Emma Reynolds is currently a marketing intern at The Loft Literary Center. After receiving her M.A. in humanities, her interest first shifted to writing fiction when she started taking online courses in creative writing and continued when she happily discovered the Loft's classes at Open Book.