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Region 2 Arts Council looks back on stewardship

When the Minnesota State Legislature looked at the need to support the arts throughout the state, the Regional Arts Council System was created and became law in 1976.

The idea of regional arts boards, which spread public arts dollars throughout the state was unique and the regions were carved out of a map of Minnesota into 11 different areas. Region 2 Arts Council was the last regional entity to be established into an incorporated organization in 1980. In terms of population density, Region 2 is the smallest in the state and is one of the poorest in terms of per capita income. Funding from other sources like the McKnight Foundation were also accepted into the grant opportunities.

A Mission Statement was written and approved by the initial group of representatives as follows: "The Region 2 Arts Council strengthens the presence of the arts by supporting opportunities for arts creation, promotion, education and funding for the people of Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Lake of the Woods and Mahnomen Counties."

At a recent biennial meeting two representatives from each county, Executive Director Terri Widman and Program Coordinator Laura Dehler-Seter assessed how well they perform as stewards of the money designated to support the arts.

Before the biennial meeting, each representative was sent an assessment to complete regarding how well they felt the organizational guidelines, planning, grant programs, board governance and financial management were being handled. There was also time given to how many of the goals set by the board at the previous biennial meeting in 2009 were met.

Objectives like how well Region 2 acts as an information source for regional artists and arts organizations and if they encourage publicity, promotion and marketing for the arts in the region. Further, did Region 2 increase its support to underserved communities and populations in the service area? Did Region 2 continue to assess the needs of the people and organizations served on an ongoing basis? Did the Region provide responsible administration and accountability for council activities? And, finally did the Region increase access to the arts by supporting Minnesota Artists and arts organizations?

Board members felt many of the goals and objectives were met or accomplished with the additional funds appropriated by the passage of the legacy amendment to the Minnesota Constitution in 2008.

"The impact of the arts and cultural heritage legacy funds has been very exciting and significant in our region," said Widman. "Region 2 has discovered, through the legacy grant requests, that there are a multitude of needs for arts education and arts activities in our region that we were not able to fund in the past. Thanks to the legacy funds we now have the ability to assist local communities on several levels."

The new Artist Mentor Grants are an example of the expansion of funding possibilities for Region 2. They were given for the first time last spring to five high school students who have seriously pursued their interest in the arts to study with a professional artist in their field. "Arts" is an all encompassing term to include the visual, musical and theatrical pursuits.

This spring for the first time, two McKnight Career Development Fellowships will be awarded to established artists who show a commitment to their careers. Each 18-month fellowship in the amount of $6,000 will provide opportunities for development that will add depth to any artistic career.

The Arts Legacy Designation Grant gives the opportunity for local city, county and township governments to apply for funding to support the arts as they build healthy communities. This grant will support requests for up to $10,000 for various public projects.

The Arts Project Grant, which is given fall and spring, is open to any non-profit organization, school (including community education offices)and units of government for a variety of art projects including costs related to performances or exhibitions, engagement of guest artists, and artists-in-residence. Organizations may apply for grants of up to $3,000.

Arts and Cultural Heritage Grants are open to artists in any arts discipline, any non-profit organization (including community education offices), and units of government. These grants support three key areas: arts activities and arts access, arts education and cultural heritage. Individual artists can apply for grants up to $3,000 and organizations can apply for grants up to $6,000. These funds are distributed twice a year.

Individual Artist Grant is open to all artists in all art disciplines. These grants offer funding for costs associated with the exhibition, performance or production of a creative work, purchase of materials or equipment necessary for a creative work, educational opportunities, mentorships, and proposals for career enhancing projects or opportunities. Artists can apply for grants up to $1,000.

Finally, the Anishinaabe Arts Initiative Grant has been increased to $1,000 and is open to individual American Indian artists in all arts disciplines for funding associated with the exhibition, performance or production of a creative work, purchase of materials or equipment necessary for a creative work, educational opportunities, mentorships and proposals for career enhancing projects or opportunities.

Region 2 staff and board members are also involved with listening sessions in the different regions, free grant writing workshops and go to observe and rate the events or projects which were given grants. There are on-going requests from artists or arts organizations to present No Risk Workshops to the public at no financial risk to the presenter.

The board meets to discuss the grant requests at grant rounds which follow the regular board meeting held ten times a year. Each representative is sent a set of copies of the applications to be reviewed and awarded at the meeting at least 10 days before each grant round. They are asked to review each grant and make note of their impressions and questions regarding each grant application and not discuss their observations with any other board member before the grant round.

Each grant is examined and commented upon during the discussion of the request as well as a video or audio work sample. The grant request is then voted upon by each member in a secret ballot which is passed to the executive director who will calculate the numerical standing of the application. After all of the applications are reviewed, the scores of each individual grant application are entered on a board beginning with the highest score and fund request and continued until the funds are depleted.

The following credit line must be included in all press releases and advertising: "This event is made possible, in part, by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2008," for those grants that have received state arts board funding.

Each board member may serve two terms of office for a total of four years and run for board membership again after a two-year absence. Notices of board vacancies are published in local media and anyone who is an arts supporter, artist or author can apply.

All board members volunteer many hours of their time toward the goal of promoting arts activities which include creation, promotion and education for the whole of Region 2. Just this past year, Bemidji has seen the appearance of Billy Collins, former poet laureate of the United States and the opportunity to attend a Haiku workshop with Marsh Muirhead. ARC United was awarded a grant to have established artists mentor adults with disabilities in creating a mural and collage art to be on public display throughout the state. LakeWood Care Center was given a grant to hire an artist-in-residence to provide center residents an opportunity to create art. The Northern Light Opera Company in Park Rapids was given a grant to produce public performances of "The Music Man" the end of July, and local playwright Roy C. Booth was given a grant to produce a set of three collaborative one-act plays. And five high school students were given to opportunity to delve more deeply into the art form they chose to pursue.

The office of the Region 2 Arts Council is located at 426 Beltrami Ave. The phone number is 751-5447 or 800-275-5447 or e-mail