My friend, North Dakota State Sen. Carolyn Nelson, recently had an interesting post on Facebook.

“About 18,000 folks from the region are gathering at the Fargodome waiting for Sir (Paul) McCartney to appear. Consider if each of those 18,000 had sent the money they spent on tickets to some cultural organization in their community,” she mused.

“Twelve of the cheapest tickets would have paid tuition at International Music Camp for a week; three of the expensive tickets would have sent a kid to Junior Composers camp for a week,” Nelson continued. “Any amount would have helped the symphony, Bluestem, The Stage, Plains Art, the library, there are oh so many great venues in this region. Just saying ...”

This all got me thinking: What would that investment look like, and more importantly, why would it matter?

Let’s assume the average ticket was $100. That’s

$1.8 million spent for three hours of entertainment.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I grew up on the Beatles. They are my dad’s generation, and he loved them. Consequently, I love them, too. This is not an anti-McCartney column. This isn’t an anti-high-end concert column, either. Years ago, I actually threatened to leave my partner if he didn’t purchase tickets to see The Police in St. Paul, so I get the allure of seeing these iconic musicians.

But what would nearly $2 million do for the arts in this community?

This year, The Arts Partnership granted $70,000 to 33 organizations to produce or make art through the City Arts Partnership program. A landslide donation of this amount would have allowed us to give 25 times as much.

Consider the Rourke Gallery and Museum in Moorhead or Plains Art Museum, for example. This year, we granted each of them $4,000 through the City Arts Partnership granting program. These were two of our larger grants, since the most we give is $5,500. With the kind of money in our re-granting pool that went into Sir Paul’s concert, we could have handed The Rourke and Plains Art Museum $100,000 each.

Colleen Sheehy, director of the Plains, imagined what they could do with the additional funding:

“What could we do with another $100,000 in support? We’d love it and actually need it! We would love to give scholarships to those in need for our classes in the center. We could support schools in bringing groups to use the museum exhibitions and classes in the Center for Creativity (many districts and schools can’t afford to do that right now). We could offer Buzz Lab as an annual summer camp program for teens in relation to our Pollinator Garden at the museum.”

In the arts, we spend a lot of time talking about providing access; a serious investment in the arts by our community would open doors to access that we can’t imagine right now.

And all of this because the community understands the value of supporting the arts.

One of the most magical moments I have had was when Sting came on stage and started singing “Message in a Bottle.” Every time I hear that song, I am transported back to that glorious night, and I wouldn’t trade the $300 or so we spent on tickets for anything.

But you know what? I am not an artist because I saw The Police. I am an artist because many local people invested in Trollwood Performing Arts School and provided scholarship dollars for Moorhead students, of which I was one.

I am an artist because The Straw Hat Players and the Minnesota State University Moorhead theater department had a fabulous fan base that supported the productions in which I was lucky enough to perform.

My son is an artist because the Fargo Public Schools supported the Creative Art Studio when it was at Clara Barton Elementary School, because the FM Area Youth Symphonies gave him a scholarship to assist in paying for private violin lessons, because he received scholarships to attend the International Peace Gardens’ Music Camp from the FM Area Music Club and so much more.

Everyone deserves the chance to see their favorite artists live, but imagine how incredible the community would be if people invested the same amount in the local arts?

My challenge to you is this: Take the price of your favorite concert or high-end performance, match it and donate it to an arts organization whose work is meaningful to you. You will ensure that more programming can be done, more people have access to the arts, more employees can make a living wage and more art is being created.

You can recall the excitement of seeing a living legend and have the thrill of knowing that you are making an important investment in the present and future of our community.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live