HASTINGS - What role does the arts play in the Hastings community?

The Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council contributed $1,500 for a study with Creative Minnesota that would answer the question.

The results of the study were presented to the Hastings City Council Feb. 20.

With 16 Hastings organizations participating in the local study, Creative Minnesota looked at what impact the arts and culture community has on the Hastings economy.

"It was the first time ever attempt to quantify the size and impact of the cultural community in Hastings," said Sheila Smith, executive director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts.

Creative MN is a collaborative project with the goal of creating solid, hard data about the arts sector. Smith said the organization came to be after realizing there wasn't hard data about the arts sector that could be used for policy making, education and advocacy.

According to Creative MN data, Minnesota is the epicenter of arts and culture in the midwest.

"On a statewide basis, we've found the arts have an economic impact of $2 billion," Smith said.

There are about 104,000 artists and creative workers living in Minnesota. In Dakota and Washington counties, there are about 11,400 creative works.

Smith said the most common response from artists about what they need to succeed was a space to work.

"You are ahead of the curve having just completed an Artspace project in your community," Smith said. "You are meeting the number one need of artists in Minnesota."

Dick Graham, president of HPAAC, said the organization is developing strategic and long range plans for the arts.

"We are also exploring with the City, the possibility of a partnership to develop more of a comprehensive plan for the future of arts and culture in our community," Graham said.

Smith said it was positive to hear the council talk about including arts in the comprehensive plan. One of the most successful places for the arts in Minnesota is Cook County, which Smith said is due to so many people working together. She said the city, organizations, the chamber and many other moving parts work together.

For Hastings, Smith said she can see how many groups and people care about the arts in the community and through the study everyone was brought to consciousness. Now that everyone knows who each other are, they can work together to provide more arts services in Hastings. She said she hopes to see the momentum continue to move forward.

Kristy Barse, president of the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, said it was nice to see numbers and data attached to the impact of arts and culture in a community. The study by Creative MN focused on the nonprofit sector. Barse said she would have liked to see a more complete study that would have included places like the Hastings Arts Center and area restaurants with live music, yet she thinks Hastings is making major strides in the area of arts and culture in the community.

HPAAC has clearly taken the lead on the initiative, Barse said, and she is excited for them to continue to move forward.

"It will be interesting to see what collaborative community efforts can come from this study," Barse said.