What a treat it is to be able to see people’s smiles again!

All of us here at the Paradise Center for the Arts have been enjoying being able to be maskless. I realized in the past year how I rely on people’s expressions when I talk to them. The eyes have it, but nothing beats an impish grin when someone is telling a joke, or a serious expression when they aren’t. Here at the PCA we are welcoming everyone to experience the transformative power of the arts with or without wearing a mask. “Be comfortable and be kind,” has become our motto.

Another step toward normalcy is being able to be at 100% capacity in our auditorium. It’s hard to believe that it has been 440 days since we’ve been able to say that. The excitement around the theater is palpable as we prepare for our first theatrical performance beginning June 11. Frozen Jr. will run the second and third weekends in June 2021 and we cannot wait!

One of the things I have loved the most about my job is being able to share this amazing building with the people who come in and request a tour. I love showing the backstage area, the light booth, the pottery studio and the prop and costume areas that most people never see. I found out this past week that I’m not alone in my pride in our facility when I traveled down to Chatfield Minnesota to visit my new friend, Carla. Carla is the board chair and acting executive director of the Chatfield Center for the Arts. The facility that they have is an old school building that offers them a huge auditorium and lots of classroom spaces. It is so much fun to be able to see the way another organization operates.

I wanted to see Carla’s space because we are both showcasing the artwork of Walter Salas-Humara. Walter has his exhibition here in our Carlander family gallery and more of his artwork in Chatfield. It’s wonderful to be able to have that kind of collaboration with another Minnesota art center.

Most people don’t realize that here in Minnesota we have an organization called Minnesota Presenters Network. MPN is a consortium of presenting organizations in Minnesota ranging from small local community groups to large university and municipal presenters. The goal of the group is to support and enrich the activities of presenting organizations in Minnesota. I became a member of the group right after I was hired as the executive director here at the Paradise and during 2020 I became a member of the board of directors. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to gain knowledge and ideas from people around the state who are all actively involved in bringing the arts to our communities.

No matter which venue you decide to visit this summer, I hope that you know that as we return to normal, the arts in Minnesota are thriving, and we all hope that brings a smile to your faces.

Heidi Nelson is the executive director of the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault. 

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