A year ago today, MRAC closed our physical office and started serving our community entirely online. The past year has been challenging and chaotic, to say the least. We wanted to introduce a newsletter series called MRAC Evolve, which aims to share what we’re learning and how we’re adapting. In this first newsletter, we offer staff reflections on the past year, and our Executive Director shares context for our state arts funding system.
Scott Artley, Program Director
While I communicated with applicants and grantees all the time before, it was mostly through email and an occasional phone call or in-person meeting. I actually didn’t have a lot of face-to-face time with applicants. Now that we offer applicant services through video chats, I’m loving that I’ve greatly expanded opportunities to engage face-to-(virtual) face. I feel more connected to applicants, and able to build even better relationships. Plus I get to meet everyone’s pets, and occasionally show off my exceptionally gorgeous orange tabby KittyPants too.
Masami Kawazato, Program Director
I think our work has always been screen-heavy because of the grant interface but it’s basically all screens all the time now. I go walking outside several times a week during the day, I appreciate the break away from a screen. Sometimes it reminds me of when we’d walk to the co-op/Naughty Greek/Workhorse together during the work-at-MRAC days.
I feel that I see and hear more about people’s full lives now, there’s less silo-ing about “art stuff” vs “personal stuff” vs “caregiving roles”
Becky Franklin, Director of Administration
When we had the choice between paying rent for an office and expensive printer or using that money to provide more financial support to arts and culture groups, it was an easy decision to make. Even though there are some stresses to working from home: navigating boundaries between work and home life; adjusting our surroundings to make work comfortable and sustainable; and for me, working full-time while managing distance learning for my child, working in this new remote way has made us more adaptable and laser-focused on relieving the obstacles to arts funding, which arts and culture makers need more than ever.
Kathy Mouacheupao, Executive Director
The pandemic has really emphasized the importance of partnerships and collaboration. Because we had to navigate our own changes while responding to change among our constituents, we knew we didn’t have the capacity or resources to do it all on our own. Immediately, we increased communications with current partners like the Forum of Regional Arts Councils of MN, Springboard for the Arts, and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts to share information, pool resources, and find ways to collectively support the arts community. Additionally, it was a great opportunity to build new relationships across sectors with Ramsey County, the Minnesota Council on Foundations, the Minnesota Artist Coalition and, One Voice, LLC to imagine and create new paths towards recovery. During some of the darker days, I was really encouraged by the commitment and coming together of all these partners to do things that seemed impossible before.
Khin Oo, Panel Manager
I really appreciate the increased flexibility of online panels. Instead of discussing applications for 6+ hours at the MRAC office, now panelists can read and evaluate at their own pace. We’ve received feedback that the new process is often more accessible for caregivers, people with disabilities, and people who typically can’t leave work on a weekday. I’m so grateful for all the returning and new panelists who are willing to work with us as we continue to adapt!
Jovan Speller Rebollar, Program Director
Patience. Flexibility. Casual and easeful conversation. Listening to and through the trauma. These are the lessons I have learned during this pandemic while working with the MRAC community. Everyone has a story, and when art is informed by those stories, it can be a transformative and unifying endeavor.
Forum of Regional Arts Councils
What is the Forum of Regional Arts Councils of Minnesota (Forum)? WHO is the Forum?
Reflections from Kathy Mouacheupao, Executive Director
When I started my job with MRAC, I knew very little about the Forum of Regional Arts Councils of Minnesota (the Forum). All I knew was that it is made up of all the Executive Directors from every regional arts council in the state, and that it was in my job description to work with them.
I’ve learned that the Forum of Regional Arts Councils of Minnesota is a consortium of the eleven Regional Arts Councils that serve all Minnesota counties. It is made up of all eleven (11) Executive Directors of Regional Arts Councils in the state, and has been an important space for us to come together for learning, sharing, and strategizing as a statewide system. We are able to show up representing our individual regions, but importantly, leave with a unified voice on decisions that affect the entire state. We don’t always agree, or instinctively approach matters in the same way, so the Forum has been incredibly important for working through differences and making the appropriate compromises on what would have the greatest statewide impact.
I remember my first Forum meeting. I was somewhat relieved to learn that the Forum was working as a statewide organization on a learning agenda around equity. The Forum members just took their Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), and welcomed me in to hear their group results. This was not the most relaxed way to meet people, but set a tone for the work ahead.
Since then, we have continued to deepen our analysis of equity and develop new practices in our own regions. Over the next year, I will be introducing each regional arts council and stories from across the entire state in this section of our magazine.
Forum Vision Statement:
Through the leadership of the Forum of Regional Arts Councils in partnership with the Minnesota State Arts Board, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, The McKnight Foundation and others:
- All Minnesota residents will have access to the arts;
- The arts will be integrated into the fabric of our communities; and
- Art will become an essential part of community building.