The Cottage Grove Arts Commission was created by the City Council last October to create a more vibrant arts scene in the city.

But commission members’ first mission may be to alert people to their presence.

“I don’t think people really know that we exist,” commission chair Lew Vogel said. “‘We’re really defining our goals of what we want to be working on, since we’re a new commission.”

The commission has held monthly public meetings at City Hall since May, Vogel said, but they remain largely under the public’s radar.

At their Aug. 5 meeting, they voted to connect to a Facebook page called "ArtBeat" as a way of introducing themselves to the arts community in south Washington County.

The page was created last year by Shawn Foster-Huot to alert people to local performances and exhibitions. Those who “Like” the page receive automatic updates about shows by Locally Grown Theatre, Yackel Dance Company and Music on the Green, a free concert series that takes place every Wednesday this month at River Oaks Golf Course.

Since ArtBeat  is run by a third party, Vogel and other commission members can post comments, updates and messages without violating an open meeting law that governs city meetings.

“It’s going to give us a little more flexibility as to what we can post out there,” Vogel said. “With the city, we’d be restricted to what comments we could send. It’s something we will be doing in the relatively near future.”

In the long-term, the commission hopes to make Cottage Grove an arts destination as opposed to a place people pursuing art events or activities drive through on their way to someplace else.

One idea that was discussed at the Aug. 5 meeting is to create a film contest and a visual arts exhibition in Cottage Grove. Commission vice chair Justin Atkinson said he will prepare a proposal for the film contest that addresses logistics like location, date, sponsorship and the number of judges.  

“This is something we feel would be really exciting for the community because it’s never been done before,” Atkinson said. “There's so much filmmaking talent, not just in Cottage Grove, but in outside communities, that we wanted to do something that would showcase those talents.”

Atkinson said they also want to meet with state Sen. Richard Cohen, a longtime arts advocate who serves on the boards of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

“Basically, what we wanted to do was come up with some questions for him and get his advice on short-term and long-term goals,” said Atkinson, who works as government producer at the South Washington County Telecommunications Commission.

The nine-member Arts Commission is overseen by the city, which means that only Cottage Grove residents can serve. Commission members include Vogel, Atkinson, Meg Bjorkman, Andrea Cloutier, LeRoy Johannsen, Cassie Klinga, Sarah Kostick, Kathleen Kullman and Bill Larsen. However, Vogel stressed that they want to connect with arts organizations and get feedback from citizens throughout south Washington County.

Their next meeting is Sept. 2 at City Hall, 12800 Ravine Parkway. For more information or to watch videos of previous meetings, visit Click on the ‘Government’ link and then the ‘Boards and Commissions’ link.