Several local projects have been made possible by funding through Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council
By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Throughout the years, the Dassel area has reaped the rewards from funding through the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council (SMAHC).
Beginning in January, Susan Marco of Dassel hopes to continue that long tradition as she joins the board of directors representing Meeker County. Barb Kay, also of Dassel, has served the past three years on the board on behalf of the county.
Representing 18 counties in southwestern Minnesota, SMAHC is a non-profit organization that is committed to encouraging the growth and development of the arts and humanities as a source of funds and technical services for individuals and organizations.
Most recently, SMAHC provided $3,011 in grant money to the Dassel Area Historical Society for the fence mural project at the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum, which was unveiled in August, according to Carolyn Holje, director.
The grant money provided funding for five local artists to paint a fence panel (opposite side of the fence as the ballpark) with a mural that represented the Dassel area.
It was also just announced that Dassel-Cokato Community Education was recently awarded $2,400 from SMAHC for the Dassel-Cokato Community Theatre’s upcoming winter production of “Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music,” according to Colleen Compton, programs coordinator.
Because the winter production takes place in Dassel at the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum, organizations like DC Community Education and the Dassel Area Historical Society are eligible to apply. Cokato and Wright County are under the Central Minnesota Arts Board, Compton explained.
“We are fortunate we can access those funds . . . to offset costs of community theatre,” Compton said.
Other opportunities provided through SMAHC have included grant writing workshops and ideas and support to artists in the area, Compton explained.
As a Dassel-Cokato High School communication teacher and a recipient of a SMAHC writing grant, Marco is looking forward to providing such opportunities to, not only students, but artists throughout Meeker County.
“I believe so strongly in the arts, and that many rural communities have a lot to offer to the world of art, but oftentimes [such areas] are overlooked,” Marco said.
“[SMAHC] is our way of standing out,” she said, adding that this is a vehicle in which to recognize local artists.
To be on the volunteer board, members must be nominated. Marco was nominated by her former high school English teacher, Ellen Copperud, who is currently serving on the board for Nobles County. It’s a three-year term.
The board has representatives from each of the 18 counties and meets five times a year in Marshall to determine what projects will receive grant funding, and to work on policy, planning activities, discussing new ideas, and reviewing past projects.
Marco first became aware of grant opportunities through SMAHC in 2008, when she applied and received a writer’s grant that ultimately helped her become a published writer.
The grant money helped her pay for a week-long tuition to attend a University of Iowa writing workshop. This is considered the best writers’ workshop in the country, Marco said.
There, she had the opportunity to work with Mark Jude Poirier, author and screenwriter, who wrote “Smart People,” a 2008 movie featuring Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Marco published a memoir and a poem as a result of what she learned at the workshop.
Marco, who has worked for the DC school district for 17 years and is also a speech coach, sees a wide variety of artists throughout the school and community.
“People think that art is this high-reaching thing, when oftentimes, it’s the little things we find joy in,” Marco said, telling of how she sees beautiful artwork just by walking through the 4-H buildings at the county fairs.
“We have so many artists who need encouragement and appreciation,” she said.
Created in 1974, SMAHC is one of 11 regional arts councils in the state that receive legislative allocation for the arts. Other funding sources include the 2009 Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment, the McKnight Foundation, donations, and fundraising efforts.
For more information about SMAHC call 800-622-5284 or visit www.smahc.org.