Del Val: Artists are true change agents — but everyone can support the changes we're making

Dayna Del Val
Dayna Del Val, President & CEO of The Arts Partnership. The Forum

“I’d rather lead the change than react to it,” noted David Brown, CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce in his address to a crowd of business and community leaders at our first 2019 Arts Partnership Business Breakfast Series last week . That’s how I feel, too.

I see the arts, and The Arts Partnership, specifically, as change agents. Truthfully, the arts have always been at the fore of the next wave.

It might be moving into a rundown neighborhood and investing time, energy and resources to work with the local community to create something so amazing that, eventually, others take note, move in and drive the original neighbors and the artists out with rising prices.

Or the composer, the painter, the choreographer, the writer and others who look at the current accepted style of their art form and break the rules to create something never before seen or heard. Impressionist painters Mary Cassatt and Claude Monet, avant-garde writers Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, and contemporary classical composers Meredith Monk and John Adams are revered names today — and they were all change agents. They took perfectly fine, in fact sometimes transcendent, art forms and said, “No. I want more. I’ll make more.”

And they did. And artists continue to say, “No. I want more. I’ll make more.”


I often hear artists say, “I’ll make the work whether I get funding or not.” Until recently, my reaction was, “Don’t say that out loud or no one will ever support you!”

And I still think that’s true—why pay someone for something if you don’t have to? (Answer: Because it’s the right thing to do. But I digress.)

But now that I am defining the arts in our community as change agents, I have a better appreciation for that mindset. So I’m here, saying to you, the readers and the metro, “We want more. We’ll make more.”

I’ve done everything I can think of to help the metro’s residents see the value of the arts in our community and why supporting them is so vital to our collective success. I’ve tried every hook; I’ve used every emotional angle.

We’ve studied the economics of the arts and presented their immense dollar value. I’ve gone away to visit other communities and came home and talked about them. I’ve started bringing those leaders here to talk as peers to our leaders.

We’ve communicated about the traditional makers and the rule-breakers; we’ve given out grants to support general operations and brand new programs. And local arts organizations and artists are making incredible art, pushing boundaries, preserving history and changing the landscape every day, in every corner of this community.

So, yes, we are change agents. And we would prefer to disrupt the community with your support, your presence and your enthusiasm.

But you know what? We’re going to make it whether you support it or not, because that’s what change agents do.


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

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