The Range is brimming with creative people making beautiful things. Art not only enriches the area culturally, but also brings millions of dollars into the economy each year, say those working on a new regional project.

But what about artists who don’t have a studio or website? And, in such a large area, how can a person find certain types of art to view or purchase?

Thanks to broadband technology and an arts and tourism partnership, there will soon be a creative new way to search for artists and public art in the region.

The Cool and Creative Focus Group and the Iron Range Tourism Bureau are teaming up to create an online, mobile-friendly, interactive map of Iron Range artists and resources.

The two entities are currently calling on artists, arts organizations and shops that sell or display local art to submit information to the project. The goal is to populate the map with information such as locations, type of artistic work, and webpage and social media connections.

A similar online map was implemented by The Growler Magazine, in partnership with Explore Minnesota. The “Land of 10,000 Drinks Map” is an interactive tool for visitors and residents to locate breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries in the state.

The Iron Range art map will be unveiled in October at the Rural Arts & Culture Summit in Grand Rapids, and will be accessible on the IRTB’s website.

“It’s easy to be included,” said Mary McReynolds, facilitator of the Cool and Creative Focus Group, which consists of artists, art organization representatives and community leaders throughout the Range. “Just follow the link (provided at the end of this story) and add your information.”

“Whoever submits as an artist will be approved in some form,” said IRTB Director Beth Pierce, adding that the map is also open to artists who don’t have studio locations.

“We can still add contact information to a list on the landing page so more and new customers can tap into the wealth of Iron Range arts,” McReynolds said.

“If you have a studio, art gallery, theater or other place that is open to the public, the information you enter will pop up on the interactive map leading visitors to the Iron Range right to your door.”

The project would not be possible without IRTB’s successful bid to become a Blandin Broadband Community, Pierce said.

The BBC program is designed to advance high-speed Internet connectivity in rural Minnesota communities as a tool to boost economic development and strengthen education, the workforce, health care and quality of life. It is a collaboration of the Blandin Foundation, St. Louis County and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

As a BBC, the tourism bureau has access to technical expertise, planning assistance and financial resources to improve Internet use in its service area that spans from Hibbing to Hoyt Lakes.

The map will be “a nice way to show people a lot of the artists’ work in this region, where to buy work, where to experience other arts, public art and historical art,” Pierce said.

Users will be able to search “in a variety of ways,” she said, to interact with “potters, sculptors, painters, weavers, glass blowers, chainsaw carvers, artisans, woodworkers, furniture builders, art galleries and public art locations.”

The project “will deepen the connection between art and tourism,” Pierce added.

Through funding from the IRRRB, the Cool and Creative Focus Group contacted Creative Minnesota — a statewide, multi-partner project aimed at compiling solid data about the arts sector — to generate a report on the economic impact of arts and culture on the Range.

“We now have data that tells us nonprofit arts and culture organizations alone have a $12.3 million annual impact on the Iron Range,” McReynolds said. The impact of individual artists and creative workers in the IRRRB service area “adds an additional $16.3 million to our area each year.”

The focus group, part of the IRRRB’s Recharge the Range economic development project, has been working to develop a regional network to support arts and arts organizations throughout the Range through a “stronger tie to economic development,” she said.

The group aims to show the value of arts and culture to community well-being, workforce recruitment and retention and to aid with business revitalization.

“The interactive map will be a valuable tool to move our local arts economy into the tourism sector and promote individual artists and area arts organizations and the work they do,” McReynolds added.

“We are excited to be part of it,” Pierce said.

To submit information to the map project, visit: https://mailchi.mp/b33c3a4d9f2f/cool-n-creative-ironrange.

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