Posts Tagged: Adam Wiltgen

Community Builder: Adam Wiltgen

Community Builder: Adam Wiltgen: Program Director, Lanesboro Arts

By Sara Friedl-Putnam • Originally published in the Fall 2017 Inspire(d)

There’s some serious pep in Adam Wiltgen’s step as he leads an impromptu tour of the arts campus in Lanesboro, a small, but vibrant, community in Southeast Minnesota.

A quick stop at Gateway Park (decorated with colorful string “surprise sculptures” made by local kids) is followed by a pop-in tour of the historic St. Mane Theatre and, finally, the Lanesboro Arts Gallery, which showcases the work of talented local artists.

Adam, program director of Lanesboro Arts, a multidisciplinary arts organization engaged in community development, is clearly proud of the prominent role that art plays in Lanesboro, and is thrilled to talk about the community’s local arts program and his role in shaping it.

“I always wanted to work in public and community-based art and make an impact on the culture of a town, to use the arts as a way to bring people together and build community,” says Adam during a brief stop at his neatly organized office above the gallery. “And as a Southeast Minnesota native, Lanesboro has always been on my radar.”

It just took a while for him to find his way back to the area. After earning a bachelor’s degree in music business and entrepreneurship at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in 2008, Adam held a variety of arts-related positions. Stints as station manager at 89.1 KPVL out of Postville and Decorah, Iowa, and store manager of the Winona Mister Groovys store were followed by a few other positions, including box office manager and then assistant managing director at his alma mater’s Performance Center. In June 2015 – on the day of the organization’s popular Art in the Park festival, no less – Adam joined the staff of Lanesboro Arts.

“What excites and energizes me about my job is the community engagement,” he says. “Each day I have many opportunities to work with business owners and other community members to improve our community. Collaboration is essential in a small town, and honestly that’s where the real fun lies as well.”

The Smithsonian’s acclaimed Water/Ways traveling exhibit, displayed in Lanesboro last winter, exemplifies the collaborative effort that has put (and kept) Lanesboro on the map regionally and nationally. The town was one of only six across Minnesota picked for the exhibit, and, with a population of 750, it was by far the smallest. “When you work on something so long, it’s almost magical to see it actually happen,” says Adam, who, as project lead, collaborated with numerous nonprofits to bring the exhibit to town. “That project was very impactful for Lanesboro – in addition to bringing the town lots of attention, it created a platform to have a sustained dialog on water issues.

In 2016 Adam was awarded a fellowship from the McKnight Foundation to travel to Austria for the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators. There he met dozens of other young arts leaders, all of whom shared their successes and challenges in using art and culture to move communities forward. He came away from the weeklong event both energized and optimistic about Lanesboro’s collaborative, asset-based approach to community building.

“From our ongoing artist residency program to the new community mural on the back of the St. Mane Theatre, the arts contribute greatly to the vitality of this place,” says Adam. “I feel really good about the future of this organization and this town, and that’s a great feeling to have.”

Read the Fall 2017 Inspire(d) Online!

Here’s what’s happening in the Fall 2017 Inspire(d) – our 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY ISSUE!!!

10 Years of Inspire(d)! 10 Community Builders from Across the Driftless, Sum of Your Biz: Empty Nest Winery, Infographic: 10 Truths We’ve Learned, Chicago Train Trip, Unicorn Presents! Fun Fall Events, Cool New Driftless Places, & More!
Read the whole thing online here!

A note from Aryn:

Roxie and I were reading the Disney book, Pocahontas, recently. It’s not one I love (I’m not sure when it even made it to our shelves)…but it did spark a good conversation. We were discussing what happened to Native Americans when settlers came to this “brave, new world,” and how they’re treated still today. We talked about how people from different parts of the world might look a little different from each other – different sizes, shapes, and definitely colors – but we’re all the same on the inside. And Roxie – who just turned five – says, “Mom, wouldn’t it be SO COOL if there were pink and purple people?!” I smiled, “Why, yes, Roxie. It would be so cool. And isn’t it so cool that the people and colors we do have are all different from each other anyway? It makes the world so much more beautiful, I think.” “Yeah, totally, Mom,” she says.

More colors, more variety, more beauty – we humans all come together to make this amazing, diverse work of art.  And we’re all connected through a community called humanness.

This is our 10-year anniversary of Inspire(d) Magazine. We dubbed it an “experiment in positive news” when we first started out, so I decided to think on what that experiment has taught us. I compiled a list of truths that have risen to the top of my list – check out the infographic on page 25 – but the clearest lesson of all is that community is the most important thing we can build in this life. Big or small, these communities and connections are what we’ll remember at the end of our lives.

So this milestone Inspire(d) is all about community-builders. Our region is filled with them, but we narrowed it down to 10 amazing groups or people: Liz Rog and Brad Crawford, John Condon, Lissa Carlson, Patrick ‘Red’ Longmire, Mike Ashbacher, Roxanne Schnitzler and Jessica Rediske, Shannon Dallenbach Durbin, Lora Friest, Adam Wiltgen, and Greg Wennes.

Wow, am I excited for you to read these stories this fall. I was inspired by every single one of them. They start on page 29.

These are some crazy times we’re living in, but there are some crazy exciting things happening too. There are great events and activities to check out all over this fall (pg. 56) and lots of local friends taking the leap to launch new ventures (pg. 14). We are so excited! Veteran business-owners Dave and Pam Kruger of Empty Nest Winery have some good tips for new business-owners in this issue’s Sum of Your Business. They are a husband-and-wife duo that this husband-and-wife duo truly admire!

And we couldn’t have a magazine birthday without unicorn presents, amIright?!? Check out the paper project on page 28, and the full tutorial right here on iloveinspired.com (coming soon!).

Finally, we got out for a little Family Reseach Adventure: We took Amtrak from La Crosse to Chicago! Hop aboard and check out our itinerary to get some ideas for your next train trip!

I am so grateful to you all for reading this magazine for the past 10 years. (C’mon, stop crying, Aryn!) The fact that I’m 36 years old and have been running a business for 10 years makes me feel proud as hell, and surer than ever that we really CAN do this. We can change the world. It’s so easy to feel completely helpless about things when we read the daily news. “What can I possibly do?!?” we ask ourselves. Talk to your neighbors. Make friends. Build community. Start to understand each other a little more every day. This is what you can do.

People often ask me if I will ever run out of ideas for Inspire(d) and my answer is always, “Definitely not!” It’s because of you– you continue to inspire me, and you inspire the people around you. Keep it up, you guys. It’s working.

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

Read the whole thing online here!