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SMAHC searching for grant review volunteers

MARSHALL -- The Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council (SMAHC) needs volunteers for all three of its grant review panels, which recommend individuals or groups for arts-related grants.

"They read through all the grant applications, they meet together and they look at work samples, and then they discuss the grants based on the criteria we set for each program," said Greta Murray, Executive Director of SMAHC.

SMAHC is one of 11 regional arts councils and covers 18 counties, including Cottonwood, Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Rock and Pipestone. Representatives from all 18 counties are needed to serve on the grant panels.

The three panels review different types of grant requests. One reviews requests for individual artist development grants and individual artist career grants. A second panel reviews arts and learning grant requests and individual artist study opportunities. The third panel reviews art project grant requests and local arts organizations' development grants.

Each panel has between 5 and 13 people, some of whom serve on more than one panel. Panelists are selected after turning in an application, which is then reviewed by a nomination committee. The committee then interviews the applicants and SMAHC's board appoints applicants. Panelists serve for a one-year term.

Anyone on a panel cannot apply for grants on that panel as an individual artist. People who are members of an organization requesting a grant may leave the room when that grant is under discussion, and cannot vote on the matter. SMAHC is careful about conflicts of interest.

Panelists should have some expertise relating to the panel they wish to join.

It is not necessary to have a degree in the subject, Murray said, but involvement in community arts organizations, music background or the visual arts helps. Sometimes dedicated audience members and arts advocates become panelists. Only artists are on the individual artist panel, however.

"We try to get a variety of people from the different disciplines -- theater, music, literature and visual arts," Murray said. "And also a geographical representation, because we do cover an 18-county area."

Panelists are volunteers. SMAHC reimburses mileage and provides food at meetings, which usually last from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the latest. The individual artist panel meets once a year and the other two panels meet twice a year, all in Marshall at SMAHC's headquarters.

"People say they really enjoy being on a panel. It's a chance to meet other people who are interested in the arts and have knowledge about the arts," Murray said. "And it's really fun to see what's going on, to read the grant applications and see all the activities planned throughout the region."

SMAHC is also searching for a board member from Nobles County, for a term beginning Jan. 1. The board meets six to seven times a year on a Monday night to set policy and make final decisions on grant recommendations.

Visit SMAHC's Web site at for a nomination/application form or call (800) 622-5284.