SMAC Impact Stories

Supporting the Arts ... Enriching Lives

Art Project Grant: Canby Area Arts Council

Formerly known as Art in the Park, the Canby Area Arts Council’s “Connect and Create” program provided opportunities in the spring and summer of 2023 for the public to take part in painting and pottery classes, paper making and public performances.  Overall, the response was very positive, noted Art Council’s Sarah Bednarek. “The impact it has on a community is profound in my opinion. In today’s world where things can be so divided and gloomy, bringing people together on common ground is so important.” 

The arts council was formed back in 2012 by like-minded community members. “The intention was to bring the arts to the community,” said Joyce Meyer, past chair of the council, adding that “arts access in a community is an important part of good quality of life.” 

The Intro to the Pottery Wheel classes featured a teaching artist working individually with participants whose age varied from 4 years old to adults and seniors. The class registrations filled quickly so the council decided to add an electric pottery wheel to the originally planned kick wheel. With two wheels it allowed the sessions to double resulting in 14 participants rather than the original plan of 7. 

Observing Ms. Bednarek working one on one with these aspiring artists made it clear how passionate she is about sharing this artform.  “I really enjoy getting clay in people’s hands!”  Young and old responded enthusiastically as pots and bowls came into existence being pulled and formed by finger pressure and simple tools. 

The success of these programs is made possible by many individuals including artists, board members, community volunteers and grant funding from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council. “The art materials are unbiased and adaptable and thanks to SMAC & CAAC, they are also accessible,” Bednarek noted.  Without the funding and support, most of these programs would not be available in rural communities. 

Community interest was great. While observing one of the classes being held in the covered park shelter, several people stopped by and asked how they might be able to join in.  Sarah Bednarek’s husband Steve mentioned that many community members come out to support the public performances and help organize or clean up- “It’s really encouraging to see community participation.” One woman brought her three children to participate in the pottery class. All four took turns at the pottery wheels, both the manual kick wheel and the electric wheel. Seeing the smiles on young faces and hearing their enthusiastic stories of how and why they created the pieces is evidence of the power of creativity. 

“I hear so many times during our classes that we need more of this!  It’s consistently been on our SMAC grant surveys too,” said Ms. Bednarek.  “The feedback from the community is clear…we need MORE art!” 

The Canby Area Arts Council expanded their art offerings and experiences. Theater Camp, Paper Making, and Pottery Wheel workshops had never been offered before by CAAC, and compared to previous years, classes filled up to capacity in 2023.  Plein Air Painting by John Knife Sterner was also a favorite workshop along with Advanced Functional Pottery with Angie Guptill.  The geographical reach of CAAC programs and events is around 10 miles or less which shows how the local community is engaged. 

“In the grant-sponsored classes that I’ve attended or taught, I hear stories from folks about how they haven’t done this in years, or since they were in school, and some are excited to try for the first time!”  Sarah Bednarek mentioned. “Teaching the hand-building and intro to pottery classes has given me a sense of purpose in our community.”   

Overcoming serious injuries after a bad car accident her and her husband endured, Bednarek shared “I have become more passionate about community art while living in Canby than I ever have before.  I find the art community here very supportive and strong and I’m proud to add my experience to it and help it thrive.” 

“The SMAC grant has allowed me to be a part of something bigger.  Bigger than my own personal journey with my art.  It has given my art, my skills, my experiences a purpose for the greater good.  Connecting with community members on common ground has been art in and of itself.” 


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