Statewide Stories: Region 2 Arts Council
by Kathy Mouacheupao, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council
In this issue of Statewide Stories, I will be spotlighting the Region 2 Arts Council! I had the pleasure of talking with executive director, Laura Seter, and learned more about what it means for the “Region 2 Arts Council to strengthen the presence of the arts by supporting opportunities for arts creation, promotion, and education for the people of Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Lake of the Woods, and Mahnomen counties” as stated in their mission statement.
Almost immediately, we got onto the topic of how balancing demographic and geographic equity is likely the most challenging part of our jobs as Regional Arts Councils Directors. When I asked Laura to describe the region, she made the important point not to focus just on the cities with the highest population, but rather that “[our] role is to make sure it’s not just about [the city center], because it denies a whole lot of peoples’ existences who live rurally; it denies the Indigenous people who live on the three surrounding reservations, and the push to have cool things happening here and have access in places that aren’t as centrally located is an important goal.
In fact, Region 2 also includes Angle Inlet, which is the northernmost census-designated place in the United States and requires driving through Canada to reach. Additionally, the Region 2 Arts Council extends beyond its traditional five county region for its Anishinaabe Arts Initiative grant programs, in order to ensure that any native artists residing on one of the three reservations (Leech Lake, White Earth, Red Lake) and within any off-reservation town or city in our five-county region is eligible to apply.
The Anishinaabe Arts Initiative (AAI) grant programs are governed by a Council made up of Indigenous artists and arts appreciators who are either enrolled tribal members or descendants residing in one of the nine counties of the designated Anishinaabe Arts Initiative area. This has been an important part of the Region 2 Arts Council for over 20 years when a group of concerned Indigenous community leaders and artists approached the Arts council because they didn’t feel or see themselves being represented. Since then, the AAI Council has taken on the responsibility of evaluating each of the grants received, and making decisions on other ways of supporting Indigenous artists beyond grants – including the Annual Anishinaabe Arts Initiative Exhibition.
The AAI Council has been an important part of Region 2’s learning about cultural differences in meeting, making decisions, and ultimately grantmaking. They have shown that decisions can be made and conclusions can be met outside of the structure of Robert’s Rules, and that personal stories are an important part of the process.
To learn more about the Anishinaabe Arts Initiative programs and Council, visit these links
Statewide Stories is a dedicated space for stories about the Forum of Regional Arts Councils of Minnesota, spotlighting the work of Regional Arts Councils throughout the state and sharing lessons about our equity journey.