NAC holds monthly meetings from April - December on the third monday of the month at St. Paul's Lutheran Church at 4 p.m.

Mission Statement

The mission of Northwoods Arts Council (NAC) is to provide education, arts enrichment and economic development in North Central Minnesota via visual, performing and literary arts.

Northwoods Arts Council

The Northwoods Arts Council was formed in September, 1993, by a group of seven people who were interested in the idea of saving the school and bringing theatre, art music and educational opportunities to Hackensack and the surrounding area. The founding members of the Northwoods Arts Council were Don and Margaret Brown, Ann DeGray, John Justad, Joanne Morén, Dean Thomas and Lorraine Stromquist.

This group spent their first year as an arts organization investigating the possibility of acquiring and renovating the old Hackensack school building to create an arts center for the community. On June 4, 1993, a meeting was held in the Community Building by John Justad, owner of a stage and lighting design company to consider the possibility of restoring the old Hackensack School as a “Tech School” for theatre crafts. It would be called The Hackensack Center for the Arts and The Minnesota Technical Theatre Institute. The institute would train students at any level of experience: the basic as well as advanced technical elements and their relation to the stage. In addition, the Art Center would attract talent, speakers, lectures, educational series, community music, theatre and film with the use of the performance space. The facility would sponsor a summer program of a show season with a repertory schedule of musical, family and popular dramatic productions. The center would also be home to a Hackensack Museum and could be used for movies, banquets and as a rented reception hall.

When this project turned out not to be feasible, the group considered other options of acquiring a facility and/or property to create an arts center. They finally decided to pursue their goal of Bringing the Arts to Life in the facilities already available in Hackensack.

In the summer of 1996, we used a grant to sponsored an all-Cass County Arts Organization gathering. Although we sent many invitations and advertised widely, there was a very sparse turnout. We gave up. So, “by default” the Northwoods Arts Council was officially designated as the “Umbrella Arts Organization for Cass County.”

The very first project of the Northwoods Arts Council was a Painting Workshop planned by Lorraine Stromquist and her Visual Arts Committee. The workshop was presented by Jerry Korte from St. Cloud at the Senior Center. He demonstrated painting a landscape and then asked participants to paint a landscape. Twenty-four artists attended the workshop. 

The first Performing Arts project began in the winter of 1995 when board members contacted performers from the area and asked them to participate in a Community Variety Show that would be a fundraiser to help bring arts programming to the area. For more about our shows, see the history tab.

In the summer of 1996, we sent out many invitations to try to organize an All-Cass County Arts Organization meeting. Despite widely advertising the meeting and sending invitations, we got a very sparse turnout. We gave up.

Our Generous Supporters

The Northwoods Arts Council has been the grateful recipient of grants as well as financial support from the Hackensack business community. Our first grants were from Five Wings Arts Council in 1993/94 for a feasibility study, organization and to establish legal status as well as to fund our first art workshop and the advertising for our first Variety Show, both held in 1995. The Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation (now the Initiative Foundation) awarded the Arts Council a grant that provided training in community leadership for board members.

The Five Wings Arts Council gave us a grant for $4,800 in 1996 that helped us fund two painting workshops, to mount the first Ballad of Lucette show, and to organize a meeting of Cass County Arts Organizations. We received another grant later in 1996 for further development of programs for the benefit of Cass County.

In 1997, we received a McKnight Foundation grant for $1400 to help us buy some basic stage lighting equipment and $1855 from the Five Wings Arts Program for expenses for our second Lucette show which included a computer music program so Joanne Morén could put the music into her computer and then print it. Also in 1997, the NAC received a Cass County Centennial Grant.

In 1999, we received grants from both the Five Wings Arts Council and the McKnight Foundation. One grant was used for stage rigging and drapes. With the other, we purchases materials to build ten 4’ x 8’ sections of stage. The Lions paid for and built an additional six stage sections. These 16 total stage sections gave us a possible stage size of 16’x32. Lee Morén built the first section and with help from the Lions and others, built the other stage sections plus 3 sets of steps.

In 2000, we received a grant from Five Wings Arts Council to buy sound equipment.

At the August 2000 Fine Arts Festival, grants from Arts Across Minnesota, Five Wings Arts Council and funds from Cass Lake Family Centers helped us sponsor Ripples Across the Northland, a collaborative event with the Cass County/Leech Lake Children’s Initiative.

In 2002, we received grants from the Five Wings Arts Council to prepare scripts and music for the show Whadaya Gonna Do in Vista View and to buy a portable sound system (the system we use in the park at the summer concerts.) Later in that year, we also received a grant to purchase a wireless microphone and a follow spotlight.

In 2004, we received a grant from the Five Wings Arts Council to fund our new fold-up movable stage sections.

In 2006, we received a grant from the Five Wings Arts Council to help us mount the show, Little Shop of Horrors.



In years past, the Northwoods Arts Council awards scholarships to Cass County high school graduating seniors that demonstrate arts and academic excellence. The goal of these scholarships are to assist qualifying students in the pursuit of their academic or arts advancement. 

The 2014 winners of the $1000 scholarship are Sarah Dodd from Hackensack and Alexandra Burch from Remer. Congratulations!

Our Council Today

Chair - Sue Ready  

Vice Chair (Open)

Secretary - Ann Pavlek

Treasurer - Shirley Johnson 

Assistant Treasurer - Russ Torkelson 

Historian - Myra Damm 

Past Chair - Viv Palmer 

Performing Arts - Sue Wignall and Linda Sigtenhorst

Literary Arts - Sue Ready

Visual Arts - Shirley Johnson

Northwoods Art & Book Festival - Sue Ready and Shirley Johnson

Artist Communications Coordinators - Lynn Van Allen and Roger Davidson

Do you have a talent to share?

We are always looking for new members and fresh ideas, join in on the fun of this great Northwoods Arts Association. Call any of the above or email us and we will get a hold of you.

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