Mary Gray is a force of nature.
She has single-handedly mobilized an entire community, convincing her home town of Wayzata, Minn., to adopt Bay St. Louis, Miss., as a sister-city.
The mayor of Wayzata asked Gray to provide a brief history to the City Council for their consideration. In her research, Gray learned of the extraordinary arts community in Bay St. Louis and the surrounding towns. The city of Wayzata passed its resolution to adopt Bay St. Louis on Dec. 20 and Gray knew her work had just begun.
She began an emergency relief distribution program in the state of Mississippi and through her efforts connected with The Arts, Hancock County. Along with distributing emergency relief supplies to Bay St. Louis and its surrounding communities, Gray decided to help artists obtain gallery space in the Twin Cities. Once she was assured that Mississippi artists would allow their work to be shipped, Gray contacted her first gallery, the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, in Minnetonka, Minn. The executive director, Roxanne Heaton, immediately agreed to offer gallery space to Mississippi artists who had lost studios and galleries. With this offer, the Art Share program was borne!
The goal of the Art Share program is to provide Gulf Coast artists with outlets in Minnesota to show and sell their work. Gray knows that hundreds of artists lost their homes, studios, life’s work and gallery space. Her dream was to give the artists hope with open gallery space. She knows that many artists, now living in FEMA trailers, may also need a creative outlet away from the devastation and debris. She is also offering temporary housing with Minnesota families so that many artists can find their creative spirit and create new work.
Within one week, Gray had two additional galleries, The Northrup King Building and Frank Stone Gallery, both of northeast Minneapolis. As of January 22, Minnesota Helpers has arranged for two shipments of Mississippi artwork to be transported to the Twin Cities area. Artwork is selling and local galleries are taking no commissions for sales, returning 100 percent of the art sales directly to the artists. The Twin Cities galleries are in the early stages of planning a Mississippi Arts Festival in April or May and are looking for additional artists to participate in the upcoming event.
Thank you, Mary Gray and all Minnesota Helpers!
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