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Art in the Park coming to Turtle Fest

The Perham Center for the Arts is about to be the center of a new Art in the Park event during Turtle Fest.

Taking place over the weekend of June 22-24, Art in the Park will feature local artisans displaying and selling their work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Food and live entertainment will also be on site as part of the Lions Club's 40-year anniversary celebrations.

In addition, Promenade Ballroom will be giving dance demonstrations on site on Friday evening and Saturday morning, and Park 'n Ride will be available all day to escort people to and from the other Turtle Fest events going on in town.

All this will take place at the future Perham Center for the Arts, also known as the former St. Stanislaus Church. Leaders of the arts center partnered with the Lions this year to offer Art in the Park, a new addition to the 34-year tradition of Turtle Fest.

"The Lions love the green space at the church," said arts center board member Fran Johnson of why that location was chosen. "It will be a great space for vendors."

Organizers are hoping to attract 50-70 high-quality artisans from around the region. Art in the Park marks the art center's first official involvement in a public event - even though it hasn't even opened its doors yet.

If all goes as planned, Johnson said, the Center for the Arts will be open by late fall or early spring - but the five-person board has a lot of work to do before then. 

Johnson said transfer of the title to the property should be completed within the next few weeks. After that, the board can begin a capital campaign and start making updates to the building, including handicap accessibility, improvements to the bathrooms and the addition of a sprinkler system. 

The group has already purchased some used theatre seats and will be refurbishing and installing them. They also plan to do some stage, sound and lighting updates, and may hang theatre curtains. They've already applied for 502c3 nonprofit status.

The group has been making plans for the center since January 2011, in an effort to preserve the St. Stanislaus building after the church closed. Johnson, who was on the parish council of the church when word of the closing got out, got together with other parishioners and brainstormed different uses for the building, which they felt was well worth preserving. 

One thing Perham didn't have - but would benefit from - was an arts center, Johnson said, so they took that idea and ran with it.

"God never shuts one door without opening another, and I really feel that this is what has happened here," she said.

When the Center for the Arts opens, even with all the planned changes, the building will look very much as it did before. The board didn't want to make any structural changes to the 1922-built property, Johnson said.

In addition to the main theatre area upstairs, the Center for the Arts will house a gallery and classrooms for art classes in the basement.

The board's hope is to host local and regional artists, as well as family-friendly events. They'd like to work closely with local theatre groups (their intention is to start an adult theatre troupe, if the interest is there) and bring in professional outside acts.

"Our goal is to preserve the property and its heritage for the community," said Johnson. "We will be bringing in family-oriented cultural entertainment, including plays, concerts, comedy acts, art and heritage festivals and educational speakers."

So far, the community response to the effort has been nothing but positive, Johnson said: "People are just so excited. It's absolutely wonderful."

The board is looking for volunteers who are interested in art, music or theatre to be involved on planning committees and/or to help out at events by ushering, selling tickets and other duties. Volunteers are also needed to help with fundraising efforts, finding acts, promoting the arts center and more. If interested, call 218-639-2351 or email

For more information on Turtle Fest, visit