About Us

In 1997, a group of citizens responded to an incentive from a COM-PAS and Blandin Foundation partnership to build stronger support and appreciation for creative arts in the Willmar area. Along with financial support from the Minnesota Rural Arts Initiative (RAI), the City of Willmar, Willmar Public Schools, a development grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council (SMAC), and membership fees, the Willmar Area Arts Council officially came into existence in the fall of 1997 and became a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity in 1998.

Since its inception, the Willmar Area Arts Council has been a visible advocate for the arts in West Central Minnesota. Besides providing the rotating exhibits in the Willmar Education and Arts Center, administering the Arts in the Schools project for the Willmar Public Schools and hosting themed, invitational exhibits in the Barn Theatre’s mezzanine gallery that run in conjunction with the current production, it is the force behind popular events such as Studio Hop.

Studio Hop provides the public the opportunity to visit area artists in their studios. The 2020 event had to be cancelled because of the pandemic and as of right now, we’re not certain about the 2021 Hop.  We’re hopeful we can start hosting the event again soon.




Our Mission

The Mission of the Willmar Area Arts Council is to promote and support the arts in West Central Minnesota. Our goals are to:

  • Provide a structure to facilitate arts initiatives in West Central Minnesota.
  • Facilitate funding opportunities and community financial support for arts organizations and groups.
  • Conduct annual membership recruitment and fund raising efforts.
  • Communicate arts activities via mailings and electronic media.
  • Maintain a registry of area artists and arts organizations.
  • Fulfill our collaborative agreement with the Willmar Public Schools to administer the Arts in the Schools program and coordinate exhibits in the Willmar Education and Arts Center gallery.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors meets monthly at 4:00 on the second Tuesday except for July in the Arts Council office. Please contact the Arts Council office if you would like to attend a Board Meeting or have an item you’d like put on the agenda.

Executive Director: Janet L Olney

Directors 2021
Doris Cogelow
Karin Gilbertson – Acting President
Mark Haen
Ginger Hallbeck
Jacki Orson
Mary Pieh
Doug Wilkowske – Treasurer
Bea Ourada, Ex-officio