On the surface it seems unlikely that two storytellers, a wood carver and a zombie crawl enthusiast would have much in common, but they do have a special bond: Each has applied for and received a Lakes Region Arts Council grant to hone their artistic works.

Paulette Friday, of Alexandria, received a Legacy Grant for her work she titled, In Pursuit of a Dream, Stories and Songs of 19th Century Immigration.

Jan Smith from Clitherall focuses her storytelling abilities on Scandinavian stories and pioneer women.

Richard Vandever is a Fergus Falls woodcarver teaching his craft through public workshops. Of the two Legacy Grants he’s received, his latest had him mentoring four individuals – three in their 20s and one 18-year-old – in the carving of a “River Band” where each mentee carved their own band member.

Then there’s Dominic Facio, of Fergus Falls. He will use his grant to teach others about makeup techniques and theatrical movement used in zombie “crawls.”

Maxine Adams is executive director of the Lakes Region Arts Council headquartered in Fergus Falls. She calls her job a “really cool gig” as she works with a variety of artists and arts organizations in a nine-county region. And she’s celebrating with LRAC’s board and artists as LRAC notes its 40th anniversary. Photo by Carol Stender

Those artist’s stories make Maxine Adams smile. Adams is the executive director of the 40-year-old organization headquartered in Fergus Falls.

She described her position as her dream job. Adams had been working at Fergus Falls’ city hall as director of the Parents Anonymous and Displaced Homemaker Program. Her office was next to Sonja Peterson, an early LRAC director.

Adams, an artist herself in photography, textiles and writing, was intrigued by Peterson’s work with the arts.

“I said to her that if she ever retired, to tell me because I thought she had the perfect job,” Adams said.

Although she didn’t immediately succeed Peterson who retired after 18 years in the position, Adams has been serving as director for the last 15 years.

“I love the job and I love working with the board and the artists,” she said.

The board is made up of two members from each of the nine counties served by LRAC – Becker, Clay, Grant, Douglas, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin. It’s one of 11 regional arts councils in Minnesota and was started in 1977 as an arm of the Rural Development Commission.

Discussions are often lively when the group meets, she said. But they are adventurous and enthused to hear what artists and arts organizations want to offer in the region.

Board members don’t receive a salary, but are involved due to their passion for the arts in the region.

LRAC works with a vast group of artists ranging from teens to retired folk practicing art forms including painting, pottery, literature, writing, theater, music, dance and more.

The region is rural and doesn’t have a lot of corporate or foundational presence and sources of support for the arts making LRAC’s work important to the region. Besides individual artists, LRAC has supported a quilt show for a group with 501(3)(C) status, offered a workshop for theatre directors and planned a variety show in partnership with Prairie Public TV.

Through LRAC, Springboard for the Arts, also based in Fergus Falls, got its start. The organization is a resource for artists to link to galleries and communities.

She calls the council an “undiscovered gem” that works with a variety and number of artists in the region. The programs and services it offers are made possible through an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature, Legacy Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and from the McKnight Foundation.

LRAC has broken ground. Not only has it introduced artists, LRAC was also the first to offer an online application.

Executive Director Maxine Adams with Stan Goldade, LRAC board chair.
Contributed photo

LRAC grants around $300,000 per year, with individual grants around $1,200 per grant.

Through LRAC, people in the region have enjoyed opera, dance and theater, she said. Thanks to a Legacy Grant, one potter took his craft to the veterans home and to assisted living centers so individuals could experience the craft.

“We have got you covered for the arts,” she said.

Individuals interested in receiving a grant need to be 18 to apply. There are mentor programs available for grades 9 to 11 where youth can be mentored by established artists.

A number of the grants awarded also go to retired individuals.

“A lot of people have worked and lived in the Twin Cities and retire to the lakes area, she said. “They want to try their hand at a project they’ve always been interested in and to do something creative.”

She encourages the artistic discussions.

“We are here to talk about our services and what we have to offer,” she said. “We are here to talk to people about their ideas. Don’t be afraid to call us. We are a good place to start.”

She credits the board for its vision for the arts.

“We have had some really courageous projects as a result of having a board that has been willing to take on some interesting projects,” she said.

She is joining the council and LRAC recipients in celebrating the organization at a 40th anniversary bash. Adams is working on the celebration’s details for the July 25 event in Moorhead.

It is a fun part of her job

“It’s a pretty cool gig,” she said.