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City of Cottage Grove will oversee newly appointed Arts Commission

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news Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Nine Cottage Grove residents will attempt to breathe new life into the city’s quiet arts scene as members of the newly formed, city-run Arts Commission.

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The City Council last week appointed nine residents to the commission who are responsible for advocating for art within the community.

The creation of the Arts Commission has been a nearly four-month process which began in November after several residents came forward citing a lack of opportunities to cultivate the arts scene in Cottage Grove.

Throughout the process, City Council member Derrick Lehrke questioned whether the commission should be handled by the city or led by volunteers. Lehrke reiterated his concerns last week when he voted against the commission’s formation. He said one concern is with the commission being limited to Cottage Grove.

“While I think a group of people working on the arts is a great thing, I think it should be larger than Cottage Grove,” he said.

With the commission overseen by the city, only Cottage Grove residents may be members.

However, the main reason Lehrke said he couldn’t support the commission’s formation is because of his concern that the group might run into trouble complying with the state’s open meeting law.

“The one thing I heard over and over again during discussions is that they want a way to communicate with one another and I would submit that becoming a body governed by the open meeting law, it’s going to make that complicated,” Lehrke said. “They will no longer be able to have group emails sent amongst themselves. It opens them up to fines of hundreds of dollars.”

Council member Dave Thiede, who was hesitant throughout the process, abstained from voting.

Cottage Grove Attorney Kori Land said the city-run commission will be required to adhere to all rules every other city board must follow.

“This commission will be considered a public body,” she said. “They cannot violate the quorum, they must schedule their meetings and the way they are communicating today, this may hamper their ability to do that.”

However, council member Justin Olsen said he was confident the commission members will adhere to the legal stipulations.

“I don’t think there is an issue,” he said. “I think they fall under the same umbrella as any other city commission would fall under. And we can certainly share with them what their roles and responsibilities are. I’m confident they will be able to accept that and comply accordingly.”

Fourteen residents applied for the nine spots on the Arts Commission, all with varying backgrounds.

The nine who were appointed are: Justin Atkinson, Meg Bjorkman, Andrea Cloutier, LeRoy Johannsen, Cassie Klinga, Sarah Kostick, Kathleen Kullman, Bill Larsen and Lew Vogel.

There was also room made for two youth seats.

Commission members will help develop a structure, goals and mission statement to determine the best approach to enhance the arts within the community.

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