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Grinnell Arts Council appoints new director

By ROXANNE DASS

judy
Judy Arendt

The Grinnell Area Arts Council (GAAC) and Grinnell Convention and Visitors Bureau recently announced that Judy Arendt of Grinnell was the new GAAC director and Convention and Visitors Bureau coordinator.

Members of the GAAC board and Chamber of Commerce had to choose from a large number of applicants, but felt Arendt would be perfect for the job because of her background and support of the arts.

“We were blessed with having a very large applicant pool, which included some great folks. We are thrilled with the selection of Judy,” said Tom Lacina, president of GAAC. “Judy has a strong background of supporting arts in the Grinnell school system and contributes a natural enthusiasm and love of community with skills that will work well for the arts council and convention and visitors bureau.”

Arendt said she has been involved with the arts since she was young and feels the arts, in any form, are an important part of life.

“Art touches every aspect of our lives, whether you are a participant or a supporter,” she said.

Arendt, her husband Craig, and two children, Kelsey and David, moved to Grinnell from Gibson in August 2003. Arendt and her husband were both involved with school activities at Tri County.

“We helped with arts and athletics, we were involved in athletics boosters, fine arts alliance,” she said. “We volunteered a lot of our time at the schools.”

When the family moved to Grinnell, nothing changed. Arendt got involved with athletic and band boosters and continued to support cultural arts in the Grinnell community.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Arendt said the timing of the job opening for arts director and tourism coordinator was perfect for both her and the offices.

“It’s a really exciting time for the arts council because of all the activity that is going on,” she said. “And it was great timing for me because both my kids are now in college and I have time to devote to the position.”

Arendt said she was encouraged by several community members to apply for the position. She decided to give it a shot.

“It really interested me because I will be able to promote arts in and around the Grinnell area. We will provide education and a vehicle for the arts,” she said.

“What’s really wonderful is the mission of GAAC is the same mission I practice with my family and my life; to develop and create an appreciation for the arts.”

While Grinnell is already a melting pot of the arts and culture, Arendt said Grinnellians still expect something more.

“I feel there is an atmosphere of anticipation that something is going to happen,” said Arendt. “GAAC recently celebrated its 30 year anniversary. The work of those throughout those years will finally come to fruition. They will see the result of their hard work.”

One of the most exciting results area residents can look forward to is the GAAC’s move to the Stewart Building in downtown Grinnell. The move will bring a central location in the middle of the cultural and entertainment district of town, said Arendt.

“Now that we will have a centrally located building, we can expand our programs and opportunities and create a community of arts and artists,” she said.

Arendt said her main focus, though, is the promotion and marketing of the Voertman event series. The series will bring theater, musical and artistic events to the community.

“Our hope is to get people downtown so they can experience the cultural happenings and also bring an economic impact,” said Arendt.

There will be five events scheduled for the Voertman series. The first will be held on Nov. 13. The GAAC will feature the group Double D Wranglers, a world-class yodeling group. In addition to performing in Grinnell, Arendt said they are trying to set up an assembly for school children and performances at satellite locations.

Other events include a holiday concert with the East Iowa Brass Band; the play “Playboy of the Western World,” directed by Grinnell Theater Professor Sandy Moffett; a spring concert with the Central Iowa Wind Ensemble featuring area high school students; and the off-Broadway showing of the musical “Junee B. Jones,” based on the popular children’s book series.

Area residents don’t have to wait until November to enjoy arts and theater. Arendt said there will be a showing of the play “Almost Main,” directed by local Mike Hunter. The play will take place in Central Park on Aug. 27 and 28 and at the United Church of Christ on Sept. 5 and 6. The play will feature local talent and students.

“We want everyone to come out and bring a picnic lunch and enjoy what the city has to offer,” she said. “We want these to be more than just an event, we want to wrap other things around it so everyone can enjoy what’s going on.”

Arendt hopes to gain more membership as the GAAC continues to expand and offer more activities for the communities. “My goal is to get 500 new memberships,” she said. “And, we have a lot of freebies for each level of membership as a token of our appreciation.”

VISITORS AND CONVENTION BUREAU

For Arendt’s first month, she said she will focus heavily on the arts council, but as she settles into the position, she will slowly add on the responsibilities of the Visitors and Convention Bureau coordinator. Arendt said the positions go hand-in-hand and will help make a smooth transition.

“Ideally, this is a natural marriage to combine the arts and tourism. There is a natural draw to the arts community when people plan a trip or vacation,” she said. “I love how open and welcoming Grinnell was when we moved here and I want to expand that kind of openness to not only residents, but visitors to our town.”

Angela Herrington, executive director for the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce, agrees.

“I’ve been a strong advocate for the arts all my life and am so pleased to blend the arts into tourism through this joint position,” she said. “It seems like such a natural and Judy appears to be up to the challenge of dual responsibilities.” With all the expansion and new programs, Arendt said volunteers are needed more than ever.

“We want to bring a richer, cultural experience to anyone who participated,” she said. “We can’t do that without our volunteers, who I appreciate so much. But all my friends from the booster clubs and other organizations will be getting calls from me for help.”

Arendt said she believes in an open door policy, so any one who is interested in the arts or tourism is welcome to visit her at her office in the Sullivan Bank. “I encourage anyone to call or visit anytime with suggestions or with questions,” she said. “Because, it’s not just one person or a board of 10 or 12 people that make successful programs or towns, it’s the community.”

For more information, contact Judy Arendt at judy@grinnellarts.org or by telephone at 641-236-6555 or 641-990-3948.

UPDATED August 4, 2009 1:12 PM

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