While grinding out something new like MankatoLIFE, it’s a huge encouragement to occasionally, very occasionally, run into a kindred spirit with the potential to have an impact on the project at hand.
Meeting Mike Lagerquist was one of those occasions.
On the heels of this introductory story, MankatoLIFE will be publishing the first installment of a new regular column. We’re describing that column like so, “ARTchitecture is a regular feature by Mike Lagerquist. Mike highlights Mankato Area public artwork that has become part of the landscape as well as spotlighting architecturally significant local buildings — both existing and no longer standing.”
People [of Mankato] don’t wait for someone else to start something. They go out and create it! It also applies to the many things you can get involved with. It’s all possible here!
“I’ve spent a lot of Saturday afternoons at the Blue Earth County Historical Society and I’ve collected a lot of information that’s just sitting on my computer hard drive,” he said about the motivation for the column. “I want to be able to share that with people, so they know that building they walk past every day, what it used to be. That type of thing adds context to your life because we’re all just passing through.”
If you’ve been around the Mankato area for any length of time, you’ve most likely had an encounter with Lagerquist, a life-long resident of the region. For many years his byline appeared in area newspapers. He was the Director of Public Relations for MSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance for almost 16 years. His current paying gig is with VINE Faith in Action.
The chances are high, though, that you’ve run into him in one of his many volunteer activities. “Volunteering gives me great satisfaction,” he said. “I work with the Mankato Kiwanis Club — where I’m currently vice president — on Thunder of Drums, Kiwanis Holiday Lights, and in many other ways. I love to help take down and install the CityArt Sculpture pieces. I have volunteered for the last several years at MSU commencement ceremonies. It’s a great way to contribute to your community.”
It’s fitting that Lagerquist would find his way to contributing to MankatoLIFE. Though he never got to his thesis, he completed the coursework for an MFA in Creative writing. Additionally, he was an active contributor to one of two previous regional arts and culture publications, Applauze. Both Applauze and the other publication, Static, influenced the founding of this publication.
“I have always been a writer,” Lagerquist said. “After summer days spent at Minnesota Vikings training camps, I often sat down at my mother’s old Royal typewriter to recreate player information to share with friends. In high school, I chose working on the newspaper over taking the final architectural drafting class, thus setting the course for the next couple of decades of my life. In junior high school I wrote poems about each of my teachers. I don’t remember not writing. When I’ve strayed from it, I always get pulled back.”
Arts & Culture Hat
Lagerquist has been integral to the larger cultural community in many ways. Much of his work at the newspapers was art related. “I am a supporter of the arts in every form,” he said. “I’ve walked the boards and sat on the board for the Merely Players Community Theatre; was on the board for Twin Rivers Council for the Arts; and served on multiple task forces for everything from the Post Office redevelopment to the Mankato Civic Center.”
With many Merely Players, Highland Summer Theatre, and other productions under his belt, he’s no stranger to standing in front of an audience. “I don’t learn lines as well as I used to — and even that wasn’t very well, but I love to do interactive improvisation. I have no fear of emceeing events in front of friends and strangers,” he said.
Lagerquist isn’t shy about encouraging others to get involved, “Want to learn what something is really all about? Get out there and do it,” he said.
Lagerquist is clear on how he feels about the Greater Mankato Area, “It comes down to one simple phrase, Mankato is Home,” he said. “I feel connected to the place because of the things that I’ve done through my time here and I feel comfortable, I love to go out and run into people that I know. I love to have the opportunity to take my passions whatever they may be and utilize them to help what’s happening in Mankato and make it a better place.”
“Mankato is a generous community,” he continued. “That goes not only in the traditional sense — people coming forward to make good things happen through donations of time, talent and money — but also with the wealth of talent being shared on so many different levels. This has become so much more apparent in the last decade and a half. People don’t wait for someone else to start something. They go out and create it! It also applies to the many things you can get involved with. It’s all possible here!”
Finally, Lagerquist summed up his role in the community, “I can see the potential and I know the history of it and I want to put those things together and create a brighter future.”