“I planned to use art to save this small town, but it became clear after my first trip to Wheaton that art was not necessarily what they needed.”
—Sam Bruno, class of 2013
At the University of Minnesota, Morris, students get a chance to experience a wide array of collaborative opportunities. Sam Bruno is the perfect example. She is a studio art major, the campus Quidditch league commissioner, and a presenter at conferences dedicated to broadband Internet research. And, in collaboration with professors, local citizens, and the University of Minnesota, Morris Center for Small Towns, this student from a small town used her artistic abilities to help another rural community address problems threatening its very existence.
The town’s problems, Sam noted in her final report, Main Street Makeover: The Wheaton Model, were typical:
- Wheaton was languishing due to lost business and a lack of appeal to outsiders;
- Youth were fleeing the rural community, aging its population;
- The formerly prosperous main streets resembled a ghost town, haunted by the empty storefronts of once-thriving businesses.
After extensive research, discussion with local citizens, and collaboration with her professors, Sam realized a mere facelift would not be sufficient. Her solution? Staged advertising! Use the glorious storefront windows along the main street to promote:
- Still-thriving businesses located on secondary streets;
- Vital local businesses without a stone-and-mortar location;
- Wheaton's inviting town pride, warmth, and history.