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Clackamas County Arts Alliance was in town to talk arts, culture and how it can help Molalla

More than 30 people crowded into a former coffee shop on Main Street last Thursday (June 14) to discuss the state of arts and culture in the greater Molalla area. They were there to meet with and learn how the Clackamas County Arts Alliance can help the city and its surrounding areas to support efforts to bring all the various arts and culture together into a thriving arts community in Molalla.

While most of those attending have something to do with the arts -- teachers, a silversmith, photographers, painters, sculptors and even a student from Molalla River Academy -- there were five people from city government, including the city manager and three council members. Finding such a large segment of people wanting to better the arts and culture vibe in Molalla, was a nice surprise said several members of the Clackamas County's Arts Alliance.

At the same time the Arts Alliance speakers were glad to see the size of those attending, they also seemed to like what they were hearing. The Alliance's program appeared to stimulate Molalla's artists and get them started on a road to expanding their work together.

In fact, most of the people attending stuck around after the meeting ended as if they were making connections.

Members from the Arts Council spent a short time explaining what they are and what they do. Its purpose is to provide connections to groups within the large county area.

"We help build communities of arts and culture within Clackamas County," said Lindsay Knapp, a local silversmith who is also on the part of the Arts Alliance.

The group is nearly 25 years old and works with communities looking to tie jazz musicians to historical log cabins, for example. It provides grant resources and holds meetings to develop connections and conversations among local artists.

CAROL ROSEN - Some of the attendees of the recent art and culture open house listen to the presentation.

The meeting was divided into three areas -- what exists, what's needed and how the Arts Alliance can support group efforts. Looking first at what the Molalla area has to offer, the group developed a long list of what is available from art at the various schools to area studios.

The teachers at the meeting voiced the need to take student trips to the studios. The artists also acknowledged the natural areas around the city and their beauty. The library's summer program includes an Aztec Dance troop as well as various music and craft programs.

Also discussed was local artifacts from murals to the pole banners around town and from the Rodeo Walk of Fame to the area's logging history, as well as the Russian Orthodox effects to the Latino influence to the pioneer history and the Grand Ronde Tribes. Several mentioned the need for open studios in Molalla.

Funding and people were the main focus of attendees comments as the group moved onto what Molalla needs to make its arts community thrive.

"Volunteers are every community's problem," said Cheryl Snow, the Arts Alliance executive director. "Within towns, public funding needs a wide variety of people to contribute."

Snow suggested a key to developing an arts community is developing a core of leaders that believe in the value and capacity to connect and communicate while suggesting the artists use what is already available like the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and Kiwanis and the City Council to forward their work. Then they should also find sources within the community for funding. She explained the wineries in Yamhill County fund that areas arts and culture.

Because Molalla's arts council lost funding and died, doesn't mean it has to stay dead, Snow and others said. There could be informal meetings along with pop-ups and a meet-up website.

"Don't wait for someone else to form a group, and don't wait for someone to invite you in. Reach out to your peers," she said.

City Council discusses reforming

Molalla Arts Commission

Oddly enough, the same arts alliance idea came up at the Molalla City Council meeting the night before.

Although Mayor Jimmy Thompson was absent from the June 13 meeting, his idea regarding re-starting an arts council was discussed. The idea is to amend the current ordinance -- the previous group had nine people, seven regular members and two alternates, and it was just too big, explained several council members.

Council members thought what is needed is a small task force or committee. The former commission hasn't functioned for the past five years due to a lack of funding, but the new plan is to make a council member the chair and add another councilor as a task force member. City Manager Dan Huff suggested the new group have four members, two from the council and two residents with maybe a staff member filling it out.

However, others thought the staff already is burdened with enough work without adding to their duties.

"We owe our community nice roads, sewers and water, we don't have the money for art," said Keith Swigart, council member.

What's needed is a small group to research, along with the visioning process, what an arts commission might do, said council member Elizabeth Klein. While the concept was only under discussion, no vote was taken, and members Klein and DeLise Palumbo will do exploratory work and recommend changes to the ordinance.

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