While driving into Winona from any direction, you can't help but be in awe when experiencing the theatre of seasons with blazing color in the fall, the stark grey and white beauty found in the winter, the promise of spring when the trees burst into innumerable shades of green, and the summer where everyone seems to find their way to the river, or at least to its banks.
This is why I love living in Winona. I moved here 16 years ago after spending an exciting decade in New York City. What amazed me then, and what continues to amaze me now is the inordinately high number of quality cultural organizations and events which is a pleasant surprise for a town of this size.
Over the past century art has been integral to the process of shaping Winona's character. Winona has been the proud home of the Winona Opera House, Philharmonic Hall, and the Colonial Theatre among other cultural institutions. Some of the world's greatest actors and actresses graced our stages, and presidents used this place to deliver important speeches.
We are fortunate to have three institutions of higher learning with all of the resources they offer. For over 20 years, the Page Series at Saint Mary's University has been presenting over 10 dance, music and theatre events each year of national and international repute. Winona State's Lyceum Series is also dedicated to presenting events that provide cultural enrichment and education to the community. The series presents nationally renowned speakers, choreographers and iconic figures from several different cultures.
I cannot think of any similar city that offers its citizens the abundance of cultural offerings which add immensely to the quality of life we enjoy. If you are looking for something to do, what other city offers the following performing arts (this list is not meant to be exhaustive): Minnesota Beethoven Festival, Blue Heron Consort, Gilmore Creek Summer Theatre, Great River Shakespeare Festival, Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts, Theatre du Mississippi, Winona Brass Band, Winona Community Band, Winona Oratorio Chorus, Winona Symphony; and visual arts: Minnesota Marine Art Museum, The Polish Museum, Watkins Museum, Winona Arts Center and the Winona County Historical Society. Additionally, for over a century, the Winona Public Library (the building itself is an architectural masterpiece and cultural landmark) has been a vital player in the cultural life of this community.
Arts and culture are important to the people of Winona. Our children learn this from an early age and are offered many arts and cultural opportunities throughout their grade and high school years: music concerts, dance concerts, plays, marching bands to name a few activities. All of this adds up to a quality of life rarely experienced in communities located outside of major metropolitan areas.
All of this is located in one of the most beautiful environments in the world "” defined by bluffs, valleys, farmland, waterways and lakes. We are truly blessed.
Larry Gorrell is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.