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Helper discusses arts festival, city meeting schedule

Sun Advocate reporter

The annual Helper Arts Festival will see new additions this year.

Festival director Melanie Steele reported to the Helper City Council last Thursday that committee members are looking at a variety of options to add to the event.

Changes for the festival in 2006 year include adding an element of music. In previous years, much of the emphasis was placed on painting, sculpting and other display art forms.

Festival planners want to add an element of performance art to the event, pointed out Steele at the Feb. 16 council meeting.

One way planners hope to increase community involvement is through a Helper Idol contest.

Similar to the popular reality television show "American Idol," the event will allow participants to perform before a panel of judges.

Other changes in the works include expanding gallery strolls during the festival.

As the festival has grown through the years, artists have looked for more ways to display work.

Festival organizers believe that enough display art is available to expand what has been displayed in storefront windows to small gallery strolls.

Marilou Kundmueller told the mayor and city council members that artists may not be able to sell all of their paintings at the festival. But many of the artists participating in the event wish to display more of their work.

Organizers explained that they wanted to find buildings on Main Street that could be used for the gallery strolls.

Steele explained that beyond the value of exhibiting works for sale, the gallery strolls will offer a cultural experience not available in Carbon County.

Kundmueller said, that although individuals may not be able to purchase a piece of art, community members should have the experience of viewing the types of art on display.

Kundmueller and Steel also presented councilmembers with the formation of the Helper Arts Council.

The arts council is still in the beginning stages of planning, but seeks to promote the art community in Helper, according to the festival representatives.

The arts council would be a non-profit organization that would serve throughout the year.

In addition to the annual festival, the council would support billboards for the city, encourage an influx of artists into the community, and support the Rio Theater.

Other goals for the festival include supporting workshops and internships, local scholarships, gallery strolls and promoting emerging artists as part of the event.

The goal in forming the council was to build on what has already been done, pointed out Steele.

"I think we need to treat the arts festival as if it's the business of selling Helper," said the festival director.

Steele explained that, in planning for the upcoming 2006 event, ideas have been generated to help transfer some of the energy of the festival into economic benefit in the community.

One of the ideas was to allow and encourage realtors to promote properties in the area. Individuals and groups at the festival could then see what is available in the area.

People who are looking to move to the area or expand businesses would know what Helper has to offer.

Steele also addressed some financial concerns relating to the arts festival with the council.

The festival director explained that she recently applied for a grant.

In the review process, the donor expressed a need to verify that finances of the festival are properly audited.

While the festival has been considered a function of Helper, the finances of the festival are not shown in the city's budget, nor have they been audited by an accountant to verify the status of the records.

Mayor Mike Dalpiaz told Steele that the city would be willing to correct that situation.

The mayor said that, if the committee would present financial statements from previous years to the city, the records could be audited by Helper's contracted auditor.

Steele also related that the arts festival has already received donations from corporate sponsors and restaurant taxes.

In addition, she reported that work was underway to apply for a federal grant to help fund the 2007 events.

"People are excited to jump on board and get their name attached to the event," said Steele.

In unrelated matters, the city council adopted an ordinance to meet the first and third Thursday of the month.

Dalpiaz explained that the city is doing more and decisions need to be made by the council sooner than what is possible in a monthly schedule.

The mayor said that, in the event the need for two meetings no longer exists, the city will revert to the monthly council meeting schedule.

The decision to return to conducting one council meeting per month would require another ordinance.

Until that time, the Helper City Council will meet twice a month.

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