Lanesboro Arts

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“Small Town, Big Changes”

A documentary film created by 14 year old Lanesboro student Mai G. in 2016 through the support of the Smithsonian Institute's Museum on Main Street Program.

This moving story explores why people settled in Lanesboro originally in the 19th century, contrasted with a deeply personal and local perspective on what it takes to sustain a small town in the Twenty-First Century. An intimate portrait of community, economics, Main Street and the future of rural America emerges through the lens of the filmmaker, her peers, local business owners, and the town’s decision makers.

For her documentary, Mai asked community members why they decided to come to and stay in Lanesboro. “I really had to go back and forth a lot,” she said. “I was going to do it on businesses. I kind of did that, but it became more about people because I think people are interesting in general.” Early on Mai’s film asks, “Will Lanesboro be willing to change?” and later on local Glen Nyenhuis states that it already has: “It’s gonna keep changing. And that’s good.”

Part of Mai’s documentary addresses a phenomenon called the “brain drain” where rural communities lose young adults after high school. Mai’s research indicates that people often move to small communities around or after age 30 to start families, in what has been dubbed a rural “brain gain.” Personally, Mai said that after completing the documentary she would consider moving back to Lanesboro after college. “Before, I would say absolutely not. Now that I know more and know more of the history and the people, I would be a lot more open to it.”

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