'The sky's the limit' for a community when the arts are involved, group says

FARGO - Art makes better humans, and businesses.T-shirts for sale at The Arts Partnership's second annual State of the Arts Thursday, June 8, were screen printed with such slogans, but the goal of the event is more than getting a mob of artsy fol...
The Arts Partnership board members Ellen Shafer, right, and photographer Ann Arbor Miller, center, hand out TAP's annual report and bylaws as they welcome other members and artists to the second annual State of the Arts event Thursday, June 8 at The Stage at Island Park. Kim Hyatt/ The Forum

FARGO - Art makes better humans, and businesses.

T-shirts for sale at The Arts Partnership's second annual State of the Arts Thursday, June 8, were screen printed with such slogans, but the goal of the event is more than getting a mob of artsy folks in Fargo to wear matching black shirts that say "Support local art."

Instead, it's about living out that notion and getting more businesses on board.

"We know that when the arts are vibrant it creates ripple effects. That's when breweries, restaurants and independent shops both work in tandem with the arts," said Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership. "The arts are very strong here, but they need to be more supported. They need to be better understood as an asset to some of the problems affecting this community, specifically attracting and retraining employees."

On Thursday, Del Val highlighted the successes of the arts this past year and also looked ahead to organizational and community-wide goals for the upcoming fiscal year. The event - loosely modeled after State of the Cities and other annual addresses - brings together TAP's 130 members and arts organizations in Fargo-Moorhead to award grants and promote the arts.

Earlier that day Theatre B announced it would be moving to Moorhead, which Del Val said is really exciting and just one example of how the arts community is continuing to evolve and grow.

Following the first annual State of the Arts last year, Del Val said Kilbourne Group contacted TAP to set a meeting and, long story short, the result was APT, the downtown creative incubator.

"We never would've dreamed of that," she said. "The sky's the limit when you sit down with artists at the table."

Local businesses mutually benefit from partnering with the arts, says Jim Clark, an art consultant from Kentucky and director of the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation. Clark was hired by TAP two years ago to review funding and marketing to build on TAP's strategic plan.

The Kilbourne APT partnership was "an incredible, very visible form of support," Clark said, but he thinks TAP needs more people promoting the arts beside Del Val. "She can't do it alone."

Clark also recommended that TAP make its grant making process more transparent with public sessions and build more ties into higher education by "formalizing internships and opportunities to build on the fine arts interests in the colleges and finding where they can have mutual benefits."

"My impression is this is a very robust arts community," Clark said. "It is healthy and there is broad-based support. Support from the mayors is quite remarkable."

Among the crowd in the front row at The Stage at Island Park were mayors Del Rae Williams of Moorhead and West Fargo's Rich Mattern along with Fargo city commissioner John Strand, who mingled with local artists like glassblower Jon Offutt and TAP members prior to the ceremony.

TAP was allocated more funding from the City of Fargo because Del Val said along with the city's arts and culture commission, "We made the argument that when you invest more in the arts you get a larger return back." She said it's known that local artists spend money locally, "So it recycles that money in great ways."

A total of $97,000 in grants were awarded to 29 arts organizations Thursday - a $13,000 increase from the first annual State of the Arts. Individual artists receive grants in the fall.

The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony received the largest grant ever awarded by TAP: $10,000 in addition to a $3,000 grant from Sanford Health Arts Partnership. Last year the symphony got $7,500 and Del Val said she was pleased they nearly doubled that.

Future goals of TAP are getting a performing arts center in the community, Del Val said, as well as a "deeper investment" from the business sector.