ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota State Arts Board grudgingly voted last week to restore a criticized central Minnesota arts council's ability to issue grants.
Earlier this year, the state organization voted to strip state money from the Central Minnesota Arts Board following the resignation of several of its board members and complaints that the board hadn't followed state open meeting laws or its own rules on key decisions, such as moving its offices from St. Cloud to Elk River.
Members of the state board said they reversed themselves upon advice from state attorneys. The attorneys were concerned that a replacement board formed by local art enthusiasts wasn't properly incorporated before the beginning of the year.
"I do find it disturbing to be backed into this corner by the attorney general's office," said board member William Miller. "There is clearly a problem out there, a problem which to date I have seen no one from the Central Minnesota Arts Board address."
The Central Minnesota Arts Board, formed in 1977, is one of 11 councils across the state. It will receive about $190,000 to distribute in arts grants to schools, artists and arts organizations in Benton, Sherburne, Stearns and Wright counties over the next two years.
The executive director of the central arts board, Charles Gilliam, said the decision will mean his organization can begin taking and considering grant requests within the next two months.
Catherine Meyers, chairwoman of the central board, said the board already has made changes to address the concerns.
"There's always room for improvement," she said.
Pam Perri Weaver, who was elected chairwoman of the state board during the same meeting, said she hopes to see changes in the her board's own rules about how it handles challenges.
Robert C. Booker, executive director of the state board, defended the earlier decision to strip the funding. He said in a statement it was time to move on.
"While we could continue to press this matter through legal channels, we believe the artists and arts organizations of the region ultimately would be the losers if the designation process were dragged out any longer," Booker said.
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