The St. Croix Valley is well known for its natural beauty and abundance of outdoor recreation options, but it’s the area’s burgeoning art scene that attracts thousands of visitors this month for Take Me to the River, an annual celebration of art that encompasses studio tours, concerts and art fairs along both sides of the river.
“The St. Croix divides the states, but we all believe it unites these communities as part of the Valley,” says Heather Rutledge, executive director of ArtReach St. Croix in Stillwater. “We’re all about building partnerships and cross-promoting to amplify what’s happening in the Valley.”
This “festival of festivals” began in 2010 when an ArtReach St. Croix board member noticed that six different art fairs were being held over two weekends; he realized that rather than competing for visitors, these events could band together to give visitors an added incentive to make the trip to the area.
“The more that’s going on, the more people you have going to more of the events,” Rutledge says. “You’re not dividing the pie, you’re making it bigger.”
Take Me to the River features 12 anchor events that range from large established fairs with as many as 100 artists working in a variety of mediums—like Art on the Kinni in River Falls, Wis., on September 10—to intimate open-studio sales showcasing the work of a handful of artists—like the Peter Jadoonath Backyard Pottery Sale in Shafer, Minn., the weekend of September 17–18.
Each event exists independently, but they come together to promote each other and the Valley.
“Putting on an art fair is a lot of hard work, so we have the opportunity to learn from each other and rely on each other,” Rutledge says. “It becomes truly cooperative when you have someone standing in Hudson encouraging people to go to Afton, knowing that someone there is telling them to go to Hudson.”
September 10–25. All ages. Most events are free, tickets for Prairie Burn Music Festival $25–$30. Times and locations vary, see website for full details.