Reaching out

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pushcart Players stage manager Rob Evanick walks with Neveln students as the members show the kids how to act with various emotions. The Pushcart Players visit is just one way the Paramount Theatre gets out in the public. - Eric Johnson/

Anyone who wants to be a musician, actor or other type of artist will tell you it takes a lot of time and a little bit of mentoring to perfect an art.

While residents will have to practice on their own, there are many opportunities for people to learn from professional artists who are traveling to Austin. More and more artists and acts performing at venues like the Paramount Theatre, Austin Public Library and the Frank W. Bridges Theatre are making time to bond with the community, helping local residents achieve their own goals.

Members of the Pushcart Players tell Neveln students about their work history. - Eric Johnson/

“It definitely is a concerted effort and we’d like to do more,” said Scott Anderson, Paramount’s operations manager. “It’s something I really like doing personally and the (Paramount) board really does like too.”

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Several recent acts at the Paramount have held community classes or visited schools, all to help other people enjoy the passions these professional artists have. Residents have had their choice to learn about singing from musical theater star Frank D’Ambrosio in the fall, to learning about dance from the James Sewell Dance Company in February, to students learning about acting from the Pushcart Players two weeks.

“It’s what the Pushcart Players are all about,” said Tricia Burr, one of the actresses in the Pushcart Players, a nationally recognized youth theater troupe which performs family-oriented shows and hosts workshops like the ones they put on for elementary students on March 4.

There will be more opportunities for people to learn from professional musicians, writers and artists, thanks to funding from the Southeast Libraries Cooperating group, which Austin Public Library is part of, and the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council. The library has partnered with the Mower County Historical Society to feature New Harmonies, a nationwide Smithsonian Institute touring exhibit highlighting national music movements and local music contributions.

Since New Harmonies emphasizes how local and national music history comes together, Austin’s library is using New Harmonies funding to bring a variety of musical acts to Austin, bringing opportunities for artists to interact with residents and provide more opportunities for local people to learn what it means to perform professionally.

“We aren’t usually able to do something like this,” said Ann Hokanson, Austin Public Library director.

Artists like Todd Green, a talented instrumentalist who will perform several concerts in Austin this week, poet Ken McCullough’s reading at the Brick House Coffee House in April, and the Rose Ensemble, a folk music group which concentrates on folk history, will be made possible because of the exhibit as well.

“Without that kind of special funding, rural Minnesota just doesn’t compare,” Hokanson said.

Though it may not last long, now’s the best time to experience and discuss art from the source.

“We love this kind of stuff,” Anderson said. “Having artists come to town and not only do a wonderful show but also have them come and sit down and … conect with the communtiy.”