ONALASKA — With the new Misty’s Dance Unlimited building taking shape across the street, dance studio owner Misty Lown was joined by several dozen others in celebrating one of the things that made the new $3 million facility possible: a $240,000 state grant.
The 21,190-square-foot building, scheduled to open on June 15, will be the third home for Misty’s Dance Unlimited, all three of them in Onalaska. For her third building, Lown wrote a grant application that the city of Onalaska agreed to be part of, seeking funding help from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s Community Development Investment Grant program.
“I want to thank the city of Onalaska for three times going to the rodeo with me and believing this is possible,” Lown said during a press conference Monday morning at her existing studio. “Although we were courted by many states, I am here to say that I am North Side raised, Onalaska invested and Wisconsin proud.”
Unlike some WEDC grants, the CDIG program does not tie funding to creating a certain number of jobs. Rather than job creation, the primary aim is to enhance communities and provide an economic splash that will have ripple effects on other community businesses. With that goal in mind, Misty’s Dance Unlimited was a good fit for the grant.
On top of providing the space to expand MDU enrollment from the current 700 students to 1,000, the new MDU International Performing Arts Campus also will bring a lot of visitors to town for training through Lown’s More Than Just Great Dance. Lown started the company six years ago to help other dance studios run their businesses based on three primary pieces: people, profits and positive programs.
“We firmly believe in a triple bottom line, and we wanted to teach other studio owners how to run businesses in that fashion,” said Lown, who has spent much time on the road to conduct training for the 220 studios affiliated with More Than Just Great Dance, studios that serve about 75,000 students each week.
Lown will still travel for some training sessions, but most will now be done at the new Onalaska campus, with the first one planned just a week after the building opens. “We are bringing those studio owners, managers and teachers here to Onalaska to learn how to run their businesses in a way that would honor the people they work with, the communities they serve and the children in their classrooms,” Lown said.
The visitors coming to the International Performing Arts Campus will be good for the community, said Onalaska City Administrator Eric Rindfleisch. “This project will substantially enhance our redevelopment efforts of our downtown area with the influx of new visitors who may wish to enjoy our new and existing dining, entertainment retail and recreational opportunities,” he said.
The new building, which as of last week is now buttoned up against the elements, will house Misty’s Dance Unlimited, Ballet La Crosse, Everything Dance (a dancewear retail store) and a 1,500-square-foot cafe with a drive-thru window. There also will be space for other performance arts training programs, such as voice lessons or instrumental music classes.
It also will include a reception area, four private offices, a recording studio/private office for training, a conference room, public gathering spaces, a birthday party zone, outdoor seating, a children’s play area and seven instructional rooms — three of which convert to one large group training and performance area, including a stage.
The performance area, which has space for about 300 spectators, has potential as an arts performance space beyond dance, hosting events such as theater productions, music recitals and concerts.
La Crosse County Board Chair Tara Johnson said the project is part of $3 billion in development in the county over the past seven years, but she was just as excited about the community cultural enhancement that will come from Lown’s project.
“What I think we are celebrating most today is that this is a cultural center. I think that we sometimes shortchange the impact that the arts and culture have not just on economic development, not just communities, but our lives,” Johnson said, adding a quotation from Robert Lynch of Americans for the Arts: ““The arts inspire us, soothe us, provoke us and connect us, but they also create jobs and contribute to the economy.”
“What I think we are celebrating most today is that this is a cultural center. I think that we sometimes shortchange the impact that the arts and culture have not just on economic development, not just communities, but our lives.” Tara Johnson, La Crosse County Board chair
The 21,190-square-foot building, scheduled to open on June 15, will be the third home for Misty’s Dance Unlimited, all three of them in Onalaska.