Detroit Lakes gets creative: City OKs new commission to bring arts, culture into the forefront

The Detroit Lakes City Council finalized an ordinance establishing a new, nine-person Arts and Culture Commission on Tuesday, Jan. 11, and the city is now actively recruiting members.

Spearheading public art projects like last year's "150 Sails Up in DL" will be one of the duties of Detroit Lakes' newly-created Arts and Culture Commission, which is currently looking for members to fill the nine seats established in the city ordinance that created it. (Tribune File Photo)

Do you want to see more murals and other public art around town? Are you passionate about establishing more local arts and music opportunities for all ages? Then now's the time to apply for membership on the newly-created Detroit Lakes Arts and Culture Commission.

The idea for establishing a local arts commission came from Historic Holmes Theatre Executive Director Amy Stoller Stearns, who had participated in a grant-funded program called Art Lab a couple of years ago.

"One of the key elements that came out of that program was to establish some sort of local arts commission," Stearns said, adding that this goal, like many others over the past couple of years, was slowed by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

She said the idea behind the creation of this commission was to facilitate the inclusion of arts and cultural programming into future city development projects.


Main Street mural.jpg
The creation of more public murals like this one on the north side of Main Street Restaurant in downtown Detroit Lakes will be one of the responsibilities of the newly created Arts and Culture Commission. (Nathan Bowe / Tribune)

Who will be involved

The commission, which was officially established by Detroit Lakes City Council action on Tuesday, Jan. 11, will consist of nine members appointed by Mayor Matt Brenk and approved by the council.

"The mayor can appoint three people from outside city limits, and six from within city limits," said City Administrator Kelcey Klemm. Beyond that restriction, "it's open to anybody who wants to serve," he added.

The intent, however, is for the overall membership to "reflect the diversity of the community, and individuals involved in the arts community," as laid out in the new city ordinance establishing the commission.

Once Upon A Time.jpg
The "Once Upon a Time" sculpture commissioned by the Detroit Lakes Public Library and created by local sculptor and artist Hans Gilsdorf is another example of the type of public art projects that might be undertaken by the city's new Arts and Culture Commission. (Tribune file photo)

How long will they serve?

For the first year of its existence, three arts commission members will be appointed to three-year terms, three to two-year terms, and three to one-year terms. After that, all new appointments will be for three year terms, to begin on Jan. 1 of the first year and end Dec. 31 of the third year.

As laid out in the city ordinance, when a seat on the commission is vacated before that person's term is up, the mayor will appoint someone to fill the seat for the duration of that person's term. Members who serve three successive terms will be ineligible to be reappointed for three years, with one exception: City council members who are appointed to represent the council on the commission may continue to hold that seat for as long as they continue to serve on the council.


Purposes and responsibilities

As laid out in the ordinance, the purpose of the commission will be "to assist Detroit Lakes in becoming a community in which arts and cultural activities...

  • Are recognized as vital components of community life that are worthy of investment and support from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors;
  • Are valued and promoted for their economic benefits and development potential;
  • Represent the diverse cultural traditions of our region;
  • Promote the development of a wider array of opportunities for collaboration between community artists and arts organizations;
  • Enhance the public perception of Detroit Lakes' identity and quality of life as to distinguish Detroit Lakes as one of the best communities to live, work, and visit."

Though there are not any projects yet on the horizon for the new commission, Klemm said, "there are all sorts of ideas being kicked around."
Some examples of those ideas, Klemm said, are to include some sort of public art in the renovation of the Washington Park grandstand and baseball field, and to decorate the city's utility boxes with artwork.

"It’s really just a vehicle to promote arts and culture projects, whether it's physical installations or new programs," he added, noting that the scope of the commission's responsibilities will be "pretty broad."

Those responsibilities, as laid out in the ordinance, will include the following:

  • To develop, update, and recommend to the council a mission, agenda, and strategic plan for arts and culture in Detroit Lakes;
  • To provide leadership for the implementation and completion of tasks and plans authorized by the City Council;
  • To leverage individual, corporate, foundation, nonprofit, and city funding for arts and cultural activities;
  • To facilitate collaboration and joint planning among public and private agencies in connection with arts and culture events and activities;
  • To provide support in the planning, acquisition and/or development of land and facilities by the city, as needed to support arts and cultural activities and organizations;
  • Upon request of the City Council, to develop and advocate design standards for city facilities, infrastructure, public areas, and/or private development, which represent a coherent image of Detroit Lakes as a place of unique aesthetic, architectural, and cultural identity;
  • To plan and advocate funding for the installation of public art in Detroit Lakes that enhances the city's appearance and artistic appeal;
  • To foster inclusive and cross-cultural activities to help build community.

Stearns noted that one of the early duties of the commission would likely be to look at the results of a recently completed community arts assessment and determine how to best implement and prioritize the suggestions made by the participants.
"We have the results of the community assessment we did and can use that as a kind of foundation," she said, adding that the survey had provided "some good, solid input, and we're looking for more."


Anyone interested in applying for membership on the Arts and Culture Commission, or wanting more information about it, should contact City Clerk Glori French at , or call 218-847-5658.

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