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Honoring the people who kept arts going in Fargo-Moorhead during COVID

The Arts Partnership recently presented five regional artists and organizations with awards during its annual State of the Arts event.

Gina Powers being filmed at Live @ Livewire in 2020. Photo courtesy of Ryan Nordskog / Livewire / Special to The Forum

FARGO — Sharing the story of arts in 2020-21 without mentioning COVID-19 is like trying to avoid jumping into a lake without getting wet.

Nevertheless, art didn’t stop for the coronavirus, and many of us were able to seek solace and perspective in song or dance, poetry or memoir, painting or photography.

“We heard repeatedly that grandparents who had never seen their grandchildren perform were able to stream a performance. Unusual collaborations and opportunities arose because the barrier of physical space suddenly didn’t matter,” The Arts Partnership President and CEO Dayna Del Val said. “So this year, we awarded individual artists and organizations in the region who helped keep art moving.”

For these reasons (and so many more), The Arts Partnership recently presented five regional artists and organizations with awards at its annual State of the Arts event held virtually on Thursday, June 24.


The Arts Partnership recently presented awards to five regional artists and organizations at its annual State of the Arts event held virtually on Thursday, June 24. Special to The Forum

During the event, The Arts Partnership also highlighted the importance of the arts in our community, showcased the organization’s goals for the upcoming fiscal year and awarded City Arts Partnership grants to area nonprofits.

“Congratulations to this year’s grantees and awardees,” Del Val said. “I think everyone gets an award for enduring one of the most difficult years in memory. A big part of what keeps me energized is witnessing how strong and resilient the arts community has been through all of it.”

Artist and Advocate awardees

Michael Walling, Outstanding Artist

Michael Walling. Special to The Forum

Michael Walling has been a stage director and arts educator at Trollwood Performing Arts School for more than 30 years, and The Arts Partnership celebrates not only his long tenure at the venerable theatre, but also his commitment to promoting arts in the community.

“My artistic work at Trollwood has been love visualized for me,” Walling said. “I love my job. I love the people I work with and I love the organization I work for. And I certainly love the Fargo-Moorhead community I serve.”

Trollwood reopens to in-person shows this summer, beginning with “Cinderella,” which opens July 14 at the Bluestem Amphitheater in Moorhead. It will mark Walling's 30th stage direction for Trollwood. Tickets are available at .


Karin Rudd, Outstanding Arts Advocate

Karin Rudd. Special to The Forum

Karin Rudd, Gate City Bank's senior vice president of EPIC Checking, may have her hands full as a member of the leadership team at one of the region’s largest banks.

Rudd, who serves as the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre board chair, a board member of the Fargo-Moorhead Opera , a former board member of The Arts Partnership twice over and a teacher at Red River Dance , thrives on immersing herself in hard work and the success of others. (She also happens to be a professional ballerina.)

Karin Rudd speaks at the 2019 State of the Arts Event. This year, she was the recipient of The Art Partnership’s Outstanding Arts Advocate in the Metro award. Special to The Forum

Rudd is the recipient of The Arts Partnership’s 2021 Outstanding Arts Advocate award for the many ways she holds up others in the arts community.

“I am humbled to accept this award as one individual of many that work for the success of our arts organizations,” Rudd said. “Art matters. Whether it develops creative thinking skills, develops artists, strengthens communities, or beautifies a city, art matters and is a necessity in life.”


Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Outstanding Nonprofit Arts Organization

For more than 50 years, the F-M Opera has been presenting live local operas and concerts. Of the 22 years General Director David Hamilton has been at the helm, not one of those years looked quite like 2020.

“During this last year, F-M Opera became Fargo-based, not Fargo-limited,” Hamilton said of the organization’s move to showcase events virtually, which opened up its reach to other communities across the nation.

The team from Click Content Studios shoots scenes for the Fargo-Moorhead Opera's short film in 2020 to be joined with pre-recorded audio in the editing process. Performers (from left) Kate Jackman, Joshua Kohl and David Hamilton take their place in front of the camera. Special to The Forum

From online streaming operas to commissioning composers, Hamilton and his team at F-M Opera received the Outstanding Nonprofit Arts Organization award from The Arts Partnership for the creative ways they pivoted during a pivotal year-and-a-half.

“We are very thrilled to receive this award,” Hamilton said. “The award is all of the work our team has done this past year. I’m really grateful to have this recognition that the staff and board of directors helped this opera company pivot and become more than it was before.”

Hamilton said he’s looking forward to “a bit more normalcy” ahead as the company returns to live performances in the not-too-distant future.

“There’s nothing more exciting than a live performance. I really am looking forward to that. The really great thing with live performances is the synergy that happens between the audience and the performance, and you can’t replicate that on a video screen,” he said.

A scene from Fargo-Moorhead Opera's production of "Barber of Seville." Click Content Studios / Special to The Forum

The next in-person performance for F-M Opera is Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” set to run at the end of October at North Dakota State University’s Reineke Fine Arts.

Choice Bank, Outstanding Business Supporter to the Arts in the Metro

For the team at Choice Bank , arts immersion isn’t a choice — it’s a necessity of life. Driven by a collaborative approach to arts advocacy in the region, Choice Bank North Dakota President Jay Lies said he believes supporting the arts is an important way to give back to the community.

“Choice Bank is dedicated to bettering the places we live, and we recognize when a community is rich and accessible to the arts, it is a thriving and vibrant place to live. We are appreciative of The Arts Partnership for collaborating with us to find unique ways to give back to our community through the arts,” Lies said.

Because of initiatives like its #SupportLocalArt debit Mastercards and its involvement in ArtWORKS, Choice Bank received this year’s Outstanding Business Supporter award from The Arts Partnership.

Choice Bank received The Arts Partnership’s Outstanding Business Supporter to the Arts award for its commitment to arts immersion in the community. Photo courtesy of Choice Bank / Special to The Forum

Choice Bank Creative Director and The Arts Partnership Board Vice-Chair Shelley Szudera said she is thankful to have an employer that understands the importance of arts.

“I am so grateful to work for an organization that allows me to give back to the arts through both financial donations as well as service. Choice supports the nonprofits and causes our team members are most passionate about, and for me, that’s The Arts Partnership. I love being involved with TAP because I’m able to impact individual artists and arts organizations in our community,” Szudera said.

Livewire, Outstanding Business Supporter to the Arts in the Metro

The Cropdusters being filmed at Live @ Livewire in March 2020. Photo courtesy of Ryan Nordskog / Livewire / Special to The Forum

The Arts Partnership also awarded Livewire , a live, hybrid and virtual events production company, Outstanding Business Support to the Arts award for the team’s willingness to ensure The Arts Partnership's events were able to go on despite the limitations of COVID-19.

Owner Kent Kolstad said, “After a lot of Arts Partnership events we produce, I often say ‘thanks for including us.’ To be clear, it’s not a sales play. It supports our visual art commitment. Local filmmaking and music events help us become better at what we do.”

Livewire employees themselves are photographers, film buffs and musicians, and Kolstad said art allows audiences to digest experiences in unique ways.

“Our whole team is so grateful to be seen as a business as artists in our own individual ways, too,” Kolstad said.

Gina Powers being filmed at Live @ Livewire in 2020. Photo courtesy of Ryan Nordskog / Livewire / Special to The Forum

More details about State of the Arts 2021, grantees, awardees, funders and supporters are available at .

City Arts Partnership Grant awardees

The City Arts Partnership Grants program invests in the overall health and success of the Metro’s arts-and-culture community. The grants are funded by the cities of Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo and by Sanford Health.

  • Act Up Theatre
  • Edvard Grieg Society of North Dakota
  • Fargo Theatre
  • Fargo-Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies
  • Fargo-Moorhead Choral Artists
  • Fargo-Moorhead Opera
  • Fargo-Moorhead Symphony
  • Fargo-Moorhead Visual Artists
  • Fargo-Moorhead Youth Choir
  • Gooseberry Park Players
  • Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County
  • Kicks Band of Fargo Moorhead
  • Master Chorale of Fargo-Moorhead
  • Moorhead Parks and Recreation
  • Plains Art Museum
  • Prairie Public Broadcasting
  • Red River Theatre Organ Society
  • Red River Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists
  • Rourke Art Gallery + Museum
  • The Human Family
  • Theatre B
  • Trollwood Performing Arts School
  • West Fargo Events

Other awards

The Sanford Arts Partnership Merit Awards are awarded to organizations whose work in the arts and cultural arenas in our community is exemplary. The Plains Art Museum and Theatre B were this year's recipients.

Community Arts Partnership Grants are board-designated grants to organizations that make a contribution to and impact on the community. Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre, Learning Bank and the Spirit Room were this year's recipients.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit

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