The Grinnell Area Arts Council (GAAC) was one of six applicants in Iowa recently chosen to participate in ArtsLab, a program of Arts Midwest which works regionally across the Midwest to provide support for smaller and mid-sized community arts organizations through training and research and helps to build a network among them.
This is the first time organizations from Iowa were chosen to participate. The GAAC is a part of a group consisting of nineteem arts councils from North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.
The first part of this program was a two and a half day conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where daily mentor sessions and talks focused on how to best maximize the development of arts councils. The material was built around the theme of resilience and adaptability. Christian Lutz, Executive Director of the GAAC described it as cramming a semester’s worth of learning into just a few days. The conference also looked at strategizing, fundraising and telling the story of an organization.
“It really focused on a lot of group work, not only with the organizations that were represented … but also kind of across organizations so we could really learn what folks were doing in other states,” Lutz said.
This kind of networking and cooperative work is the aim of ArtsLab. Without an existing support network for arts councils in Iowa, this program allows the GAAC to connect and learn from others.
The next stage is a series of webinars that will expand upon what the GAAC learned at the conference.
“We can circle back around and try to incorporate the material from this program into our strategic planning as we look forward to where we want the organization to go,” Lutz said.
The program will end with another conference in October. With the information from research conducted by Arts Midwest supplemented by the peer knowledge exchange, Lutz sees this as being a huge opportunity for the GAAC and predicts that the networking opportunities will benefit councils across the state.
“There’s really not a solid network for us in the state, there’s not an organization where we can go to conferences, it’s just kind of lacking right now,” Lutz said. “I think it really will allow us to build the capacity of the organization and will help us chart a future direction of what the next step is.”