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North Valley Arts Council and Public Arts Commission look into merger

A meeting of Grand Forks arts leaders started out Thursday night with two groups in the room--the Public Arts Commission and the Northern Valley Arts Council--but by the end of the evening, it looked more and more like they were set to become one...

A meeting of Grand Forks arts leaders started out Thursday night with two groups in the room-the Public Arts Commission and the Northern Valley Arts Council-but by the end of the evening, it looked more and more like they were set to become one, with NoVAC members voting to explore merging with the PAC.

The meeting, held at Icon Architectural Group's headquarters, was billed as a special meeting of the North Valley Arts Council's Board of Directors but welcomed plenty of leadership from the Public Arts Commission as well as city staff. Both groups have recently led parallel but separate lives in the arts community, with NoVAC notably helping distribute city funding to local arts and coordinate events and PAC working primarily to shape the future of public art in the city.

The two organizations sat down to figure out how to work together within the framework of the city's arts and culture master plan, a document released in December that lays out how the community can come together to promote and maintain public art and local culture. There's a long list of goals in the plan, and leaders went down the list, one by one, deciding if PAC, NoVAC or some other local group was best suited to handle the responsibility.

By the end of the meeting, the conversation began to drift toward what the future of both groups might be and eventually coalesced around one question: What if the groups merged?

"I would like to see us meet as a board together like these," said Kristi Mishler, a founding member of PAC. "Let's merge it and use everything we have."

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NoVAC's Board of Directors took a vote with a unanimous result, resolving to put together a small group of leaders that, alongside a corresponding group from PAC, can report back to both groups with a plan on what the details of a merger could look like.

"I hoped it would (happen)," Mike Kuntz, president of PAC's board of directors, said after the meeting, noting he thinks the leadership of PAC-not all of which was present Thursday-will be receptive to a merger. "It needs to happen to be healthy and be successful."

The potential merger answers multiple questions for the future of the arts and culture plan, which names one umbrella organization to handle a wide range of arts coordination duties-not two separate groups. Bryan Hoime, president of NoVAC's Board of Directors, said he timing of the potential merger would, if done before the end of city budgeting, give Grand Forks leaders a clear place to continue directing arts funding that goes to NoVAC. By the same token, Kuntz said that his group is ready to move full speed ahead on placing public art in the city, with scores of artists in the group's rolodex and five places for new public art in mind.

"My hope is that ... we'll be able to put the talent in place that the initiatives that are outlined in the master plan come to fruition in the future-identifying the short term need, and also encompassing the long term. Those are things that I think are very important. That's always what NoVAC's goal has been."

Mishler said she's ready to move ahead.

"We need to move," she said. "We need to move. It's time."

Related Topics: ART
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