SMAC grants enable regional arts efforts

WORTHINGTON -- Money can't buy you love, but it can help Mary Poppins fly, colorfully clothe an ethnic dance group and enable an evening at the symphony.

Tonanatzin Tlalli Guadalupe dancers perform Sunday at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Worthington. (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Money can’t buy you love, but it can help Mary Poppins fly, colorfully clothe an ethnic dance group and enable an evening at the symphony.

The Marshall-based Southwest Minnesota Arts Council (SMAC) recently announced its latest round of Art Project grants, totaling $53,027 in its 18-county service area.

Over $18,600 of that amount was given to artistic endeavors in Nobles, Cottonwood and Rock counties, with area arts aficionados being the ultimate beneficiaries.


“While we couldn’t fund all the requests we received, we were very happy with the ones we were able to cover and that’s satisfying,” said Greta Murray, SMAC’s executive director.

“It’s a big region, but there are a lot of events I really want to get to in the coming months; it’s pretty exciting.”

SMAC’s Art Project program offers up to $5,000 in matching funds to stimulate and encourage the creation, performance and appreciation of the arts, Murray noted.

“Dec. 15 is the next deadline for projects that would start Feb. 15 or later,” Murray said.


Among organizations receiving funds this month were the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra (WASO), Tonanatzin Tlalli Guadalupe, the Prairie Arts Continuum and the Blue Mound Area Theater.

WASO -- $5,000 matching grant

WASO, a 55-member symphony orchestra that’s beginning its seventh season, is using the money to assist with expenses associated with a concert on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

With a theme of “For the Young and Young at Heart,” the concert will feature music including Camille Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of the Animals,” Frederick Delius’ “Sleigh Ride” and a medley from the popular Disney movie “Frozen,” among other selections.


“Our WASO leadership team met in early June with WASO conductor Christopher Stanichar to begin planning,” said Melanie Loy, one of WASO’s leadership team founding members.

“We’ve found success in kicking off the holiday season with a concert in the week prior to Thanksgiving, and we will continue to have a Christmas carol sing-along as the program’s finale,” she added.

WASO owes its origins to SMAC support.

“WASO started in September 2010 with funds from the new Minnesota ‘Legacy’ fund,” explained Loy. “We used those dollars to get started and purchase necessary equipment, like chairs and music stands, and to hire a conductor.

“Now, we use an Art Project grant like the current one to purchase or rent music for the concert, pay the rental fee for Memorial Auditorium or pay for soloists or guest musicians,” she continued.

“It goes a long way toward helping us cover our expenses, and we also appreciate the support we receive from individuals and businesses; all of that allows us to move forward.”

Murray is delighted that there are now three community symphony orchestras in southwest Minnesota (Worthington, Marshall and Willmar), all of which have benefited from SMAC grants over time.

“WASO is good, and they’ve been able to attract a solid group of musicians and have well-attended concerts,” credited Murray.

Tonanatzin Tlalli Guadalupe -- $4,880 grant

This “Culture Share” group has employed its SMAC board-initiated grant to purchase traditional Aztec and Mayan costumes that aid in educating audiences about their traditions and history through interpretive dance and music.

For the past three years, 14 Worthington-based dancers have performed at multiple events and occasions, said group spokesperson Bernardo Alvarez.

“We dance two to three times a month, depending on demand,” said Alvarez.

Most recently, Tonanatzin Tlalli Guadalupe lit up the King Turkey Day parade route. They danced at Mount Rushmore and at a pow wow in Des Moines, Iowa, this past summer; an Oct. 30 performance for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona is also on their schedule.

“We’re very happy to have this support,” said Alvarez of the SMAC grant. “Initially, we had support from JBS and some local Hispanic businesses, but we couldn’t have gotten these costumes without the grant money.

“The costumes are expensive -- about $400 to $500 apiece -- but we wanted the higher quality ones because they are more durable and look better.”

Sometimes, the dancers of Tonanatzin Tlalli Guadalupe join forces with another dance ensemble from Minneapolis. Tonanatzin Tlalli Guadalupe also appears occasionally at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Worthington.

“The dancers were hired to perform at an artists’ retreat last spring,” shared Murray, “and they are quite impressive.”

Prairie Arts Continuum -- $5,000 matching grant A March 23-26, 2017, performance of the musical “Mary Poppins” is in the sights of Windom’s Prairie Arts Continuum (PAC), and the SMAC grant is helping it become a reality.

“Our ‘Mary Poppins’ budget is the highest we’ve had,” said board president Shelly Lange, “because we’re renting equipment for both Mary Poppins and Burt to ‘fly’ in the show, and we couldn’t afford it without that extra assistance.”

PAC, formed in 2001 to reignite community theater in the Windom area, typically alternates musicals with dinner theater productions.

“Last year we did ‘Daddy’s Girl’ as a dinner theater performance,” she said, adding that all of the PAC shows take place at Windom’s BARC building.

A lengthy timetable is required for producing musicals, Lange noted.

“We started discussing shows in June 2015, and then we surveyed people to see what they’d like,” said Lange. “Then we narrowed it down to five shows by December 2015 before discussing the pros and cons of various musicals.”

One challenge PAC commonly faces is finding suitable musicals for involving the abundance of 30- to 50-year-old women who are interested in participating.

“There just aren’t that many shows you can do with a lot of women,” laughed Lange, “and we try to incorporate as many kids as we can, too.

“But we won’t turn anyone away; we really try to find parts for everyone who shows up.”

Auditions for “Mary Poppins” will take place in early January. An eight-week rehearsal schedule will lead to the late-March production, which Esther Klassen will direct.

Lange and other members of the nine-member PAC board are counting on “Mary Poppins” being a popular draw.

“We’re hoping at least 1,800 people will attend the performances,” she said.

Blue Mound Area Theater -- $3,755 matching grant

Paul LaRoche, a Native American musician and storyteller who grew up in Worthington and is nationally acclaimed for his successful Native American band Brulé, will appear in Luverne on Oct. 15. His presentation is made possible in part by the SMAC matching funds.

“We’re excited that Paul is able to come back and perform in the local area,” said Murray.

“He certainly has a following around here, and we’re hoping people will follow him to Luverne.”

Murray said that in addition to LaRoche’s evening show, he will share storytelling and music earlier in the day, as well.

For more information about SMAC, its grant programs and grant writing workshops, call 800-622-5284 or visit

Tonanatzin Tlalli Guadalupe dancers perform Sunday at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Worthington. (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

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