Back to the Jan-Feb 2020 issue

How Has Your City Used a Regional Arts Council Grant?

GIS Planning Specialist
North Branch (Population 10,608)
The City of North Branch partnered with North Branch Area Community Education to enhance and expand its “Concerts in the Park” series in 2018. The goals were to provide bigger name musical performances and to show a movie after each concert. In addition, the city wanted to show the locally filmed movie “The House of Tomorrow.”

Applying for the grant

We learned of the East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC) Arts and Culture Heritage Fund Legacy Grant through a new staff member who had previously served on the ECRAC board. We thought this might be a good way to get the funds needed for this project.

The application for the grant is very detailed and thorough and requires a significant amount of preparation, collaboration, and thought. The administration of the grant requires communicating with ECRAC, keeping good records, and paying attention to detail.

Fortunately, the staff members at ECRAC make it an easy process as they are very responsive and willing to assist with any questions that may arise.

Growing as we go

The project was a great fit for the community as it allowed us to show The House of Tomorrow, which did not make it into many movie theaters and likely would not have been seen by several community members who participated in the movie. That was one of the first things we did in 2018 after receiving the grant.

In 2019, we added the bigger name musical performances and shifted the movies to later in the summer. We also added more attractions to the concerts, such as food trucks, bouncy houses, and yard games.

Increased enthusiasm for arts

The grant has had a substantial impact on the community. It has generated more interest in the arts and resulted in the development of a local Arts Board. The number of community members that have been exposed to the arts at the Concerts in the Park series has doubled since receiving the funding.

The Arts Board has launched several additional initiatives, including continued expansion of the Concerts in the Park series and, most recently, working on a mural project.

Arts Council Chair
Elbow Lake (Population 1,167)
The idea for a Summer Art Camp in Elbow Lake originated with local artist Erika Frikken. She had already been offering an after-school art club for elementary students but noticed that some children who wanted to participate were unable to pay the $25 fee.

This generated discussion about arts accessibility and the importance of offering an alternative to summer sports. With this in mind, the Elbow Lake Arts Advisory Council applied for and received a $10,000 Legacy Local Government Grant from the Lake Region Arts Council.

Launching the art camp

With the grant money, we offered a high-quality, diverse, hands-on arts experience at no cost to attendees. There were nine classes, with an afternoon session for ages 8 to 15 and an evening session for ages 16 and up (including adults).

In total, 278 people attended the Summer Art Camp — a great turnout! Attendees came from Elbow Lake and the sur-rounding areas.

A good problem

Although we were thrilled with the high number of registrants, that was actually one of our biggest challenges. We had estimated 20 students per class but had from 27 to 47 students registered at any one time, with actual attendance ranging from 15 to 35. Our three amazing instructors volunteered extra time because they needed to attend all classes to handle the large number of students. Since there is obviously interest in these types of classes, we plan to create a sustainable, ongoing arts program. A portion of the grant money was used to purchase reusable art supplies.

Teamwork was key

This program was a success because of the teamwork of our fantastic instructors: English teacher Amee Wittbrodt, second-grade teacher Melissa Anderson, and artist Erika Frikken. They pulled together data, lesson plans, and estimates for supplies and equipment for the grant proposal.

It often takes several months to create a Legacy Local Government Grant proposal of this size and depth, but we managed to do it in a little over a month. Through the dedication of all involved in this project, we brought needed money into to our local community, enriched lives, and broadened the horizons of hundreds of attendees.