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Lake George fire chief joins Region 2 Arts Council board

Ben Soderberg will be one of 10 board members reviewing arts grants in the five-county area during the next two to four years.

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Ben Soderberg (Courtesy of Ben Soderberg, submitted April 26, 2021)

Ben Soderberg of Lake George is the newest Hubbard County delegate to the Region 2 Arts Council (R2AC) board of directors.

The current fire chief of the Lake George Fire Department joins Katie Larson as Hubbard County members of the 10-member board.

The council also serves Mahnomen, Lake of the Woods, Beltrami and Clearwater counties. Artists and organizations in the five counties are eligible to apply for grant funding through the R2AC. The board reviews the applications and makes grant awards.

Soderberg said he decided to apply for a seat on the board after LuAnn Hurd-Lof approached his fiancee, Larson, to consider being on the board.

After Larson joined the board, he said, “I kind of used her as my canary in the coal mine, whether or not it was something that I’d be interested in, something that we could do together.”

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Because there was still a Hubbard County seat open, Soderberg applied – a process that he described like applying for a job, including a resume, an interview process and a decision by the board.

“I have a tendency to volunteer and get involved in different things,” said Soderberg, who has been a member of the Lake George Fire Department for more than 15 years. He also served for 14 years on the Shell Prairie Agriculture Association, which owns the Hubbard County Fairgrounds, and was involved in 4-H while growing up in the Lake George area.

Both as a youth and as an adult, he enjoyed creating projects, competing, and seeing other people do so. “I’ve always been drawn to enjoy that as much as possible,” he said.

“I thought this looked interesting,” he said. “Art’s something that reflects your community. I always thought it improved where you live.”

He added that the self-expression of local artists “kind of gives you a feel for who you are – everything from sculptures to plays to musicals to operas. It surrounds you.”

Soderberg said he liked the idea of getting behind the scenes and encouraging artists to bring their visions to fruition, so the community can see it. “I thought it was a good way to get a backstage pass,” he said. “To see what people are going to do and how they want to air their talent, and encourage them and allow them to bring it to light.”

He enthused about the economic and social impacts of the arts in the local community.

“We have an incredibly diverse culture up here,” said Soderberg. “We are surrounded by the different tribes, different reservations, people from all walks of life. We have BSU, these local colleges. We have this ripe array and variety of people and cultures, and the Region 2 Arts Council is putting out almost half a million dollars in grants annually.

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“It’s an opportunity to really be able to help people bring that out and show it, and encourage it.”

A seat on the R2AC board is a two- to four-year commitment, he said, and can be extended.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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