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The arts are a "surprisingly bold risk" that work

Dayna Del Val, President and CEO, The Arts Partnership

I've adopted a new word lately: audacious.

Audacious is defined as "showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks."

Synonyms include: bold, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic and plucky.

In June, I wrote about deciding to think bigger.

And then I read "The Radical Leap Reenergized" by Steve Farber.

Turns out that "leap" is an acronym: L: Love; E: Energy; A: Audacity; P: Proof. If you love what you do, it gives you energy, which allows you to be audacious. The challenge is to prove that your audacity works.

Now I am determined to not just think bigger, but to act and BE bigger. I am renewing my personal commitment to helping the arts in the metro be bold, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic and plucky.

Do you know why?

  • We have measurable proof that the arts are a significant economic player in the community, as proven in the local results of the Arts and Economic Prosperity Study we conducted last year. (We'll be releasing those results soon.)
  • My team and I recently traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, to meet with economic, chamber and arts leaders. It's not too audacious to think that we can become the kind of community Des Moines is — one that wholeheartedly supports and embraces the arts as the economic engine and culture-making, employee- attracting and retaining tool that is assisting them in being the fastest growing city in the Midwest.
  • I simply believe the arts can and should be more than what they currently are in the Metro.

On our way to Des Moines, we stopped to visit Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul, to learn about Irrigate, a program they developed during the cities' light rail construction project.

Irrigate has a simple premise: "Artists are a resource that all places have but are typically left unrecognized and undervalued. Irrigate is a mechanism for cities, neighborhoods and small businesses to re-engage with artists to benefit the whole community" ( ).

Pretty audacious.

We're infusing audacity into all our work, including asking our grant applicants to imagine the furthest ripple if the grant is the rock that drops in the water of their art.

We're meeting with local cross-sector leaders to determine when and how to merge our paths to create a stronger, more unified voice in the community.

I recently wrote to Gov. Doug Burgum and audaciously asked him to help me find a mentor from outside the arts and the region to push my thinking even further. We met last month, and I'm hopeful that someone will come of that.

I'm certainly not the only leader "showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks," so I invite you to reach out if you want to join this journey. The Fargo-Moorhead community is quickly evolving, and many of us are fortunate to be at the forefront of leading that change — let's be audacious and see how far the ripples go.

Dayna Del Val, president and CEO of The Arts Partnership, writes a monthly column for Variety. For more information on the arts, go to