If musicians play outdoors during ArtReach St. Croix’s Front Porch Series this year, they will have to unplug—literally.
The Stillwater City Council on Tuesday approved a special use permit allowing outdoor events at ArtReach Alliance, but with a particularly unique twist: outdoor music cannot be amplified.
ArtReach St. Croix requested the outdoor permit to host live music in the yard during the nonprofit’s Front Porch Series, Children’s Art Fair and a couple other small events.
But three neighbors who live near ArtReach told the council they took issue with amplified music during last year’s events.
There are already loud parties on the patio of the Stillwater Public Library, and at the American Legion, every weekend from May through October, Stillwater resident Jane Paskvan said during Tuesday night’s public hearing.
“When I moved here eight years ago, I thought I was moving into a neighborhood with a library, and a nursing home and a bed and breakfast,” she said. “We were way away from downtown, and since then it’s just been venue after venue making more noise and more noise. I just can’t imagine anyone wants to be in a neighborhood where there is two or three loud parties a week all summer long. I don’t believe a small venue needs to have amplified music in their yard.”
“Seems like we’re always dealing with this issue,” Mayor Ken Harycki said. “Stillwater is really a different city when it comes to noise … it’s like a big funnel.”
Harycki then suggested allowing outdoor events at ArtReach with a restriction on amplification.
“Can you live with that?” Council Member Doug Menikheim asked Rutledge. “Would that be a hardship?”
“If not allowing amplification is a consideration, the music will certainly change,” Rutledge said. “I think it would cut music out of our programming all together.”
If amplification is necessary, Council Members Mike Polehna and Tom Weidner suggested ArtReach could work with the city to relocate the music to the amphitheater downtown.
“The spirit of it is to attract people to the art gallery,” Rutledge said. “It’s during our members show, so our Thursday Front Porch Series is really about inviting people in for an open house.”
The Front Porch Series is from 6-8 p.m. on Thursdays from July 17-Aug. 14.
All of the proposed events, Rutledge said, will be less than three-hours long and meet the regulations of the city’s noise ordinance, which states there can be no outside music after 10 p.m.
Last year, ArtReach hosted poets who used microphones to read their work, a folk singer accompanied a keyboardist, a Hudson High School trio performed, a mandolin player performed, and on another night, a jazz localist and trumpet player performed together.
“Amplification is only used when it’s about being able to hear the instrument, or being able to protect the instrument, meaning not every singer can belt out to be heard, so the key word is that it’s amplified by design,” Rutledge said. “We’re not building these events or booking things to make it a concert venue. We’re adding multi-disciplinary arts to our programming.”
Despite the request, and city staff’s recommendation to approve the permit, the City Council on a 4-0 vote—Council Member Ted Kozlowski absent—approved ArtReach St. Croix’s outdoor events, without amplification.
“It’s a tight space,” Weidner said before making the motion, “and I can understand the concerns about amplification. I hope you can make it work.”
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