Artists seek to revitalize Cloquet’s West End

A grant-funded project, put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, is now set to start in April.

Cloquet west end business district.jpg

Cloquet creators and business owners are teaming up to increase foot traffic in the West End this summer through a new grant-funded initiative, “West End Flourish.”

The project will aim to produce a series of small art projects directed toward driving people to west-side businesses. The location has seen little traffic, empty storefronts and struggling businesses throughout the years.

Project directors are hoping West End Flourish will draw new positive attention to the area, while also engaging and promoting local creators.

There is no limit on the type of artwork. Ideas can range from musical performances to painting a mural to planting a garden, according to Emily Fuerste Swanson, executive director of the Oldenburg Arts and Cultural Community.


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Cloquet was selected to participate in the "Artists on Main Street" program that will bring a variety of art projects to the city's West End business district. (Jamie Lund / 2019 file / Pine Journal)

PREVIOUSLY: Grant to bring artists to Cloquet’s West End
“We don’t want to put boundaries around what the creatives are going to come up with,” she said. “It might be a mural, it might be a garden; it might be a promotion; it might be a chalk art on the street.”

Fuerste Swanson feels that the historic district has a lot of potential for new ideas, and she is excited to see what the project brings.

According to a press release, funding for West End Flourish is sourced from a $30,000 "Artists on Main Street" grant received by Cloquet, with $20,000 scheduled for the first year of the project and $10,000 for the second year.

The grant comes from a partnership between Rethos — a nonprofit dedicated to the use of old buildings and sites — and Springboard for the Arts — an economic and community development organization for artists — that seeks to explore ways to revitalize and restore rural Minnesota areas through art.

Cloquet was one of four cities selected for the grant out of a pool of 39 applicants in late 2019. Funds were also awarded to Cook, Two Harbors and Mahnomen.

Cloquet city officials and Fuerste Swanson were in the midst of launching the 2020 initiative when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Forced to pause for one year, collaborative organizers are eager to pick up where they left off, with the first virtual training scheduled for April 29.

The three-hour training will help inform and prepare local creators for West End Flourish by providing information about what makes a successful proposal and how the idea submission process works.


The Artists on Main Street program brought an outdoor performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to Mankato. Cloquet was selected as one of four cities to participate in the program in 2020 with the aim of bringing a variety of art projects to the city's West End. (Photo courtesy of Holly Hansen)

Toward the beginning of June, artists from the Arrowhead region will submit art project proposals to a board consisting of business figures, creators, Fuerste Swanson and Cloquet Community Development Director Holly Hansen.

The board is aiming to select 20-30 ideas for funding later this spring, with projects to take place throughout the summer and into the winter.

“We’ve got a lot of creatives right in this area,” Fuerste Swanson said. “There'll be a whole lot coming.”

The Cloquet Economic Development Authority is also working closely with the project as a part of its 2021 initiative of revitalizing downtown Cloquet. Organizers are hoping to attract more business owners and expand service industries to include establishments such as breweries.

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