By Roz Kohls
Barb Kay of Dassel is hitting the ground running in her new position as the Meeker County representative on the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council.
“I am a representative for the entire county, I will need to do some homework and get out into other towns within Meeker County, and find out what their needs are, too,” Kay said
“Getting information out about grants is a big part of the job, and that will start already this week,” she added.
The council encourages the growth and development of the arts and humanities in 18 counties of southwestern Minnesota. In addition to Meeker County, the council includes Big Stone, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, McLeod, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, Rock, Swift, and Yellow Medicine counties.
The council’s greatest challenges are to broaden awareness of the power of the arts to enrich lives, raise awareness as to how art can contribute to the economic development of the region, and strengthen and develop arts organizations.
The council serves as a source of funds and technical services which enable local organizations, educational institutions and individuals to sponsor, create and promote the arts and humanities in their communities.
Specifically, Kay will make connections with all the other towns outside of Dassel, finding out who the artists are and what art organizations are in those communities, she said.
Kay is moving fast. She already met with the council in Marshall for the first time last Monday, and the council only meets nine times a year, she said.
“I enjoy the people I work with. They are just a lot of fun,” Kay said.
“I have the time to do this now that I am retired, and this is something I enjoy doing. Life at this age is about having fun, choosing what you want to do, and being with motivated, energetic people,” she said.
Kay already is familiar with the arts in the Dassel Cokato area. The school district provides numerous avenues in the arts for its students. The DC area has many historical groups and literature circles and the Performing Arts Center, which supports music, theatre and dance, she said.
Also, both Kay and her husband, Craig, come from musical families, so she has many music connections.
However, she will be responsible for the entire county now. Also, one of the council’s main goals is to reach the youth, Kay said.
The biggest part of her job will be approving grants recommended by a grant committee on the council. Getting information about grants is important, and started already last week.
“The deadlines for grant submissions are very strict,” Kay said.
The grants usually vary between $500 and $4,500. Bob Wilde of Dassel, for example, received a $1,500 SMAHC grant to take pinhole camera photographs of the border communities in the San Diego and Tijuana area in order to build an exhibit, she pointed out.
The Crow River Area Youth Orchestra has received a grant from the council every year since at least 1999.
Kay also was appointed chairperson of the fund raising committee.
The council receives funding from individuals, businesses, organizations, schools, cities, counties, private foundations including the McKnight Foundation, and an allocation from the State of Minnesota.
Kay’s appointment to the council was a whirlwind affair, too. She was interviewed in Willmar for the position in November, and appointed in December.
In the council’s newsletter, “Voices,” Kay is welcomed to the board. She is described as a retired music teacher, involved in the visual arts in the school district and as a judge in the high school’s art show, received a scholarship to study the Byzantium culture, involved in plays, and acted in plays for the local historical society. Kay also has participated in the Dassel Leikerring, a Norwegian folk dance group, for several years, according to the newsletter.