NEW YORK MILLS -- Lina Belar is coordinating her first Great American Think-Off essay contest this year as the executive director of the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center.
A native of suburban New York City, Belar assumed the center's reigns on a provisional basis several months ago, when her predecessor, Carol Brightman, resigned.
Brightman, a northern Michigan resident, had succeeded Jolie Sasseville, who was killed in an automobile accident, but left after just a few months at the center's helm.
Belar accepted the job on a provisional basis because she wanted to make sure the role did not conflict with her duties as volunteer director and curator of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County in Perham.
"I wanted to make sure I could do both jobs," she said an interview. "It's working out fine so far."
Belar accepted the center's offer to become its full-time, permanent executive director late last fall, she said.
The center, in downtown New York Mills, sponsors numerous arts-related activities throughout the year, including the annual Think-Off essay contest, which has attracted nationwide attention for the town of about 950 residents.
"One of the things we can do as a cultural organization is make the arts accessible to everyday people," Belar said. "That's what makes our organization worthwhile."
Belar studied the trumpet, as well as music composition, at Douglass College in New Jersey and Columbia University in New York City before migrating to rural Minnesota in 1974.
She called her migration to a 40-acre tract of farmland as her "post-hippie experience" but "I fell in the love with the place and decided to stay."
Belar has since sold the land and "moved into town," she said, where she has owned an antique store in Perham and a landscape company in Alexandria. She assumed her role at the Perham history museum in 1996.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.