Statewide Stories: Region 5 Five Wings Arts Council

Region 5: Five Wings Arts Council

by Kathy Mouacheupao, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council

Ever wonder what it’s like to be at the center of something? Well, I met with Mark Turner, Executive Director of the Five Wings Arts Council, which serves the five counties right in the center of Minnesota to learn about what it’s like.

We started with the regional lore behind the name. Unlike “Metro” or other Regional Arts Councils that were named after their geography or region name, the original advisory council of artists and locals got together and decided their Art Council needed a name that embodied their purpose. Through a creative process, they decided on the Five Wings Arts Council with “Five” representing the five counties they serve – Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. And “Wings” having a dual meaning – one representing the migratory waterfowl pathway that touches each county and the other symbolizing the flight, strength and beauty of the arts. And, like the waterfowl that follow the ancient pathways to destinations that allow them to thrive, the dedicated funding of the Arts Council would uplift the arts and culture and take them where they need to go.

The Five Wings region is about 5,600 square miles, and is made up of mostly small towns with less than 1000 people. Their largest city is Brainerd with 14,000 people. Additionally, Cass County is home of the Leech Lake Reservation, which covers about one fifth of the region.

Arts Based Community Development

To serve the region, the Five Wings Arts Council offers seven (7) grant programs ranging from $1,000-7,500 for individuals, organizations and schools. One of the coolest, and most unique programs, is their Arts Based Community Development (ABCD) Grant program.

The ABCD Grant program emphasizes the arts impact in community development projects, “over capital ‘A’ art work”, explained Turner. They work with cities, hospitals, libraries and other non-arts organizations to work with artists to address community issues.

One example is the “Safe Walk to Dino Park”, a public safety collaboration between the Lakewood Health System, the City of Staples Public Works and artists Heidi Jeub and Peg Churchwell, to create a safe crosswalk for pedestrians in Staples, MN. This was a year-long process of community engagement, working with City staff on infrastructure (concrete and pedestrian signs) and artmaking at the crosswalk on Prairie Avenue NE. The ABCD grant program encourages and supports the integration of artists and artmaking in processes that historically does not include the creative benefits that artists can bring to a project.

You can learn more about the Five Wings Arts Council and everything they’re doing in the heartland of rural Minnesota at:



Images:  Artists painting a community inspired and designed crosswalk supported by an Arts Based Community Development grant in Stapes, MN.  The high visibility crosswalk is a community response to a need for safe passage for residents of the local Senior Living Facility to access the adjacent public park.

Photos by: Five Wings Staff (Mark Turner)

Statewide Stories is a dedicated space for stories about the Forum of Regional Arts Councils of Minnesota, spotlighting the work of Regional Arts Councils throughout the state and sharing lessons about our equity journey.

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