Making Magic Happen

Last December, I participated on a Minnesota State Arts Board (MSAB) panel to review proposals for Visual Artist Initiative grants. Artists who are awarded a grant receive funds to support artistic development, to nurture their creativity and to acknowledge the many contributions they make to our state.

COMPAS artists Taous Khazem, Kimber Olson, Rachel Moritz and Laura MacKenzie. All recently received Artist Initiative grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

COMPAS artists Taous Khazem, Kimber Olson, Rachel Moritz and Laura MacKenzie. All recently received Artist Initiative grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Reviewing proposals can often be time consuming and exhausting. But after the two days, I walked away feeling reinvigorated about my purpose in the arts.

The panel meetings were enjoyable because of the thoughtful, honest and informed discussion by the group. My panel represented a broad range of Minnesota communities, backgrounds and experiences. A number of panelists were past grant recipients, giving them added insight into the expectations of the grant.

The reason this particular panel experience still resonates with me has to do with the dynamic of the participants. Since the elections in November, our creative community has been on edge. We just don’t know what the future of our industry looks like. Yet, we forge on. The seven panelists I served with approached their work with fairness, diplomacy and a depth of knowledge that was impressive.

I’m grateful to have a role that regularly allows me to connect communities with professional artists. I know when that connection occurs, magic happens. People discover interests, talents and an amazing capacity to create, in themselves and others.

The panel reinforced my belief in the importance of COMPAS’ mission - using the arts to inspire community and nurture creativity.

As I looked around the panel table in December, I thought about how fortunate I was to be surrounded by so many talented artists with creative goals who are doing meaningful work all across our State. For example, panelist Ryuta Nakajima is an Associate Professor of painting and drawing at the University of MN, Duluth. Nakajima and his partner own the Lazy Monk where they design and sell hand-made messenger bags using a traditional Japanese embroidery technique call “sashiko.” I feel just as fortunate about the exceptional accomplishments of our COMPAS artists.

We recently found out that four COMPAS roster artists received Artists Initiative grants from the MSAB this round: Taous Khazem, Kimber Olson, Rachel Moritz, and Laura MacKenzie. They will each pursue a creative project, allowing them to further develop their skills and engage audiences. We are always excited when our artists receive awards and accolades. It clearly demonstrates the standard of excellence that our artists' programs provide.

COMPAS is steeped in the vast talent and expertise of the 100+ professional artists and ensembles on our roster. They represent many artistic disciplines, ages and cultures, and are skilled at teaching and sharing their art form with others. COMPAS work is hands-on and experiential. As Arts Innovation Director, my job is to develop meaningful pathways to connect artists with as many children, youth and adults as possible. When I do, I am completely confident in our artists’ ability to make magic happen.

By COMPAS staff member, Betsy Mowry Voss.