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Cottonwood County 4-H partners alumni and local youth to explore creative arts

Each spring the Minnesota 4-H Foundation distributes grants to 4-H clubs who want to make a difference in their community. We will be featuring one grantee every month this year to celebrate all the wonderful ways Minnesota 4-H'ers are living out the 4-H Pledge. Our March featured grantee wanted to increase arts participation in Cottonwood County, Minnesota. We hope you enjoy their story.
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A group of 4-H’ers from Cottonwood County noticed that youth arts involvement was down, so they decided to take action. In order to encourage youth to explore their artistic talents, these youth, in partnership with their local 4-H federation organized a series of art workshops called Arts on the Prairie. Their hope was that as more youth were exposed to arts activities through these workshops, there would be an increased number of arts-related county fair exhibits the following summer. They also sought to enhance material taught in the classrooms of local schools.

The 4-H’ers collaborated with their local 4-H program coordinator, Crystal Reith, to develop project ideas for each workshop, as well as identify potential instructors. Arts on the Prairie workshops featured five different mediums taught by local artists, including painting, sewing, ceramics, stained glass, and photography. Aside from allowing youth to be creative, this workshop series also connected current 4-H’ers to alumni, as some of the artists were former Cottonwood County 4-H members. The leading 4-H’ers were able to spearhead advertising efforts for the project, learning the importance of communication and marketing skills.

Juliana Pederson, the project youth leader, said that she especially enjoyed watching as principles taught in school—such as creativity, courage, and team work—culminated in “real world” experience for the youth involved. She and Crystal both agreed that one of the most rewarding pieces of the project was watching as the participants tried and enjoyed something new.

Arts on the Prairie saw both current 4-H’ers participate, as well as many youth who had never before engaged with the 4-H program. Most of the art projects completed were even entered into the county fair, achieving one of the Cottonwood County 4-H Federation’s goals from the project, to saturate the fair’s art exhibits with new participant entries.

The Cottonwood County 4-HFederation will be hosting a similar arts project again in the future. The instructors offered to return, and the participants responded very positively to continuing the series. Even parents of the 4-H’ers were interested in participating in classes for themselves, which have since been planned for, so it is clear that the workshop was a success in encouraging creativity.

“4-H is an excellent place to learn, grow, and meet others,” said Crystal. “It allows youth the ability to do things they may not normally get to do.”

Creative arts is one of the many interest areas that youth get the opportunity to explore with support from Helping Hands Grants from the Minnesota 4-H Foundation. To learn more about the grant program, visit

By Madeleine Miller
Minnesota 4-H Foundation
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