As July 1 looms on the horizon, I thought it a fitting time to reflect on my time on the Belmont Cultural Council. The first of July will be the first day in six years that I won't be a member of the all-volunteer Council, and I'm a little sad to leave.
It doesn't seem very long ago that then Selectman Paul Solomon asked me to consider serving on the Cultural Council – at a point when my children were in elementary school, my work schedule chaotic, and my husband just finishing up law school at night and working long hours by day. I was hesitant to take on the time commitment of something new but I am so glad I said yes.
To join one of the volunteer committees in Belmont, get in touch with the Selectmen's Office – explaining which committee you would like to be on and be sure to include a resume. The Selectmen vote on new committee members in the summer, and I got my acceptance letter in June of 2006. As a new committee member, I was required to go to Town Hall and be sworn in. As a new member of a local Massachusetts Cultural Council, I also had to take some on-line training to become familiar with what I would be required to do.
All of the Massachusetts Cultural Councils are allotted a sum of money each year to grant to various arts/science/cultural individuals and groups to benefit the community. Belmont being fairly small, we get a small piece of the pie--and the amount is dependent on the state economy.
The Cultural Council consists of a group of interesting and diverse individuals, and I have been privileged to work alongside an ever changing, ever inspiring collection of people. The work of the Council takes place almost entirely in the fall each year. Application forms are available by the first of September, and must be postmarked by October 15. Usually the Belmont Cultural Council receives about two dozen requests for grants – but can't fund them all – so the Council meets a number of times from October to December to decide on how best to parcel out the grant money then sends out denial and acceptance letters.
It's always fascinating to read the applications, and see how imaginative they can be. Requests for funding have ranged from the murals outside the Studio Cinema, to all kinds of performances at schools and the Beech Street Center, to presentations by Belmont World Film and the Belmont Public Library's One Book One Belmont. All of the chosen grants enrich the town, and I always have felt pride seeing the projects come to fruition. When my first three year stint on the Council came to an end, I enthusiastically reapplied to stay on for another three years.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council allows each committee member to serve two consecutive three year terms, but then take at least a year off thereafter – assuring a fluid and vibrant committee. During my second term, I became Chair of the Council – which required a bit more planning, attention to detail, and communication – but each year I also threw an informal party to welcome new members--great fun! The Council members are always creative – and thanks to one enterprising member, the Belmont Cultural Council now has its own Facebook page! I will miss the lively discussions--and the hard work of choosing the grant recipients each fall – but I will continue to appreciate the art and culture that enrich our town. And I'll keep busy and out of trouble, as I am volunteering for other organizations around town-as well as teaching, performing, writing--and being both a mom-taxi and driver's ed instructor. Thanks to Paul Solomon for getting me involved – and to my Belmont Cultural Council colleagues for a job well done.
If you want to join the Cultural Council, contact the Selectmen's Office; new members are always welcome!