Grant writers bring arts dollars to areaLegacy Grant boosts SMAHC grant dollars, local arts projects
By: Jane Turpin Moore, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — In a time of cutbacks, belt-tightening, worrisome worldwide economic news and a generally grim outlook nationally, one local bright spot shines through the gloom.
Arts and humanities enthusiasts in Nobles County received $67,883 in grant money from the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council (SMAHC), in part due to the increased funds made available by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (more commonly known as the Legacy Grant program).
“We had an excellent year,” said Ellen Copperud, the present Nobles County representative on SMAHC’s current 14-member board. “We’ve consistently received SMAHC grant money over time, but this was a particularly good year for Nobles County.
“Credit for that goes to the people who took the initiative to write the grants, which isn’t easy, and they were obviously well-written, competitive grants when you consider that just over half of the grant applications submitted to SMAHC were awarded funds.”
Greta Murray, executive director of SMAHC, which is based in Marshall and has served 18 area counties for the past 36 years with the goal of encouraging the growth and development of the arts and humanities in southwest Minnesota, concurs.
“There were some wonderful projects in Nobles County, both from individuals and organizations, and that’s why they were funded,” affirmed Murray, noting that SMAHC received $910,960 in overall requests during its 2010 fiscal year (ended June 30) and awarded $477,528 in grants.
“We’ve been busy,” understated Murray, “but what an exciting time. There are interesting projects going on, new kinds of activities in places where things hadn’t happened before, just really exciting things happening all over, which was what the Legacy Grant was intended to do.
“I knew there would be a lot of requests with the new money available, but that was a phenomenal increase,” added Murray. For comparison’s sake, in the previous fiscal year, SMAHC fielded $230,108 in requests and awarded a total of $174,733.
The Nobles County board of commissioners annually makes a contribution to support SMAHC, but found itself scaling back that sum from $1,250 in 2009 to $1,000 in 2010.
“That’s a pretty good return for the county,” pointed out Murray, “but we were thrilled to get the $1,000, knowing that times are tough for local governments.”
Copperud echoes that sentiment.
“The Nobles County board has consistently allocated money for SMAHC, which is greatly appreciated, and the county has received so much in return for that participation,” asserted Copperud.
“We’re a community and county that enjoys our festivals and cultural events, and the number of grants written by individuals and organizations here reflects that—and we’ve been well rewarded for the effort.”
Among the beneficiaries of SMAHC grants are several Friends of the Auditorium initiatives, including an Eisenhower Dance Company residency, the new Worthington Area Community Orchestra, which is set to begin rehearsals on Sept. 9, the International Festival, the Nobles County Library’s summer reading program and a community mosaic mural developed during the June Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival.
“We also funded a grant to artist Bobbie Alsgaard-Lien, who will be doing paintings of parks in five different counties — including one in Nobles County — and she plans to donate a painting to each of the counties involved,” shared Murray.
“When the counties display the finished paintings in a courthouse or other public building, that’s a chance for people to see art who might not otherwise encounter it, and I really like that idea.”
Murray had intended to personally lead an informational workshop in Worthington in early February, but a snowstorm prevented her from making the drive down from Marshall.
Still, with the cooperation and assistance of District 518, Copperud was able to have the workshop as planned in the Worthington High School media center, and it was on that cold February night that several of the now-funded projects began to blossom.
“Greta (Murray) made herself available by phone, and there was a lot of interest that night,” confirmed Copperud. “We didn’t let the weather stop us, and, looking back, if we’d had to wait longer for a Nobles County meeting to take place, that probably would have changed things quite a bit in terms of the grants submitted and funded.”
Copperud applauds Murray’s ongoing accessibility and willingness to talk with individuals, either in person or over the phone, about grant eligibility and the application process, which can seem intimidating to people at times.
“Her flexibility and accessibility is indicative of SMAHC’s basic intent — to make the grant money available to local communities and to assist people with that process,” endorsed Copperud.
Indeed, Murray’s staff will host an informational workshop, “Public Art 101,” Oct. 6 at the Historic Dayton House in Worthington. On that same date and location, Murray will also lead a public art grant-writing workshop and an individual artist workshop.
Copperud urges interested people and businesses to consider becoming SMAHC members as a means of supporting an organization that is doing its part to enrich the cultural life of Nobles County residents.
“Memberships are tax deductible for those who itemize,” assured Copperud. “SMAHC relies not only on government dollars but also on the income from those memberships.”
And for those who have more time than money, SMAHC is always on the lookout for people willing to volunteer to serve as grant panelists — those who review the annual grant requests and decide which ones will be funded.
Summarized Copperud, “We were encouraged by the regional arts council to pursue that Legacy Grant money, and it paid off for us this year, with the ultimate outcome being more events, more music and more public art.”
For more information about the Oct. 6 workshop in Worthington or about SMAHC and its grants, programs, board membership, services and general memberships, go to www.smahc.org or call 1-800-622-5284.