One year ago, I was at the Presidio Institute’s Cross Sector Leadership Boot Camp in San Francisco, and I left there on fire with possibility.

One year later, I’m still on fire, and recent experiences have only fueled it further:

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May is Mental Health month. We hosted a closing reception at APT, our arts incubator, to celebrate the art of three visual artists and a poet who all are very open about their mental health journeys. An art therapist also spoke.

The bravery and honesty of these artists was raw and emotional, and in that room, I watched people who have hidden their mental health issues begin to flower just the tiniest bit because they felt safe and accepted.

I received this message the next morning from an audience member:

“I had an attitude from the start. Didn’t want to go inside on a night like tonight. Yet Emily [the poet] is my friend, and I’d never heard her read her poetry, so I went. And what I thought was a courtesy by me wasn’t. She moved me; made me weep in public. But still, when she was done, I was done, so I slinked toward the exit, toward summer. But it took 30 seconds, and during that time [another artist] started to speak, and I was sucked back in. And suddenly summer didn’t matter anymore, and I just wanted to hear his story. And my night was complete.”

Access; we need to create so much more access to the arts for every kind of person in every kind of situation in the community.

We hosted The State of the Arts last week. Nearly 175 sector leaders from business, government, education and the arts attended. The North Dakota statewide Poetry Out Loud winner, a top nine national finalist, from Fargo North High School by way of South Sudan recited her poetry to a rapt audience.

We awarded more than $120,000 to organizations making art, Flint Group’s Jodi Duncan talked about the value of the arts for business and we celebrated the year in the arts and looked ahead to our goals.

We intend to be bolder in our work, to provide broader access to the arts for everyone and to continue challenging the larger community to get involved.

I spent a day with 21 Concordia professors visiting a number of art facilities, parks where creative placemaking is happening, some individual artists and more.

The goal? To help the various disciplines think about how they can engage their students and their research better in the arts. There were math, computer science, political science and other professors for whom this is not a clear path, but they spent the day learning about the arts in the community and gaining an understanding of why they matter and how they can incorporate them into their work.

So I’m feeling empowered again to keep dreaming big, to keep being audacious.

The arts matter in the Metro, and I bear daily witness to that fact. Won’t you come along for this crazy, artistic, culture-building, life-changing ride? We absolutely have room for you, and we definitely need you. But here’s the best part: you need us, too.

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