These past few weeks and months have been an important time of personal reflection for me.
If you read this column, you know that I have been talking about what we learned from the three-month Business Breakfast series we wrapped up in May. We brought in leaders from around the Midwest to talk to our area business, arts and civic leaders.
David Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha (Neb.) Chamber of Commerce, Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport (Iowa) Partnership in the Quad Cities, and Jeff Nicholson, founder and CEO of PlazaCorp and his wife, artist Barb Nicholson from Kalamazoo, Mich., were all impressed with the activities and investment in the arts already happening in our community.
They each encouraged us to assess what we were doing and to keep going, to be bolder in how we use the arts as a catalyst for change and economic growth, to get out ahead of the other competing communities in the Midwest that are doing more with their arts as an asset to attraction and retention of employees and to make the arts a differentiator to our community.
With each visit, as I took these outsiders around the metro and introduced them to the people and places working in and with the arts, I began to see our community through their eyes, and my appreciation for our cities grew exponentially.
It’s easy to stop noticing what’s working and to focus solely on what isn’t, and in the nonprofit sector, it’s almost mandatory to ignore the wins and focus instead on the challenges. Time is always too short, so celebrating can feel indulgent in the face of the hurdles left to jump.
But I spoke recently at the Ladyboss summit about a more personal subject than I have ever spoken about from my role as president and CEO of The Arts Partnership. My talk was celebratory and funny and invited that audience to join me on my journey, bumps and all, and I realized in a very visceral way the power of joyful celebration, even in regard to challenges.
So I took that feeling to heart when I was preparing for our annual event, The State of the Arts. I realized that I have likely come across as a scolding schoolmarm at past events (and dare I say in this column?) to invested people who are arts makers and supporters.
This year, I was in full celebration mode, and it was so fun! Rather than bemoan all that still isn’t working, I lifted up all that is. Instead of attempting to guilt the audience into doing more, I sincerely thanked them for all that they have already done.
Are there challenges yet to face where the arts are concerned? Absolutely. But do those challenges negate the successes of the past year or the joy of celebrating the organizations, businesses and people who are doing outstanding work in and with the arts? Absolutely not.
My new goal is to do way more celebrating in all my communication. The arts are a joyful, powerful, important segment of our community, and I am determined to be part of the positive rising tide that lifts all the boats.
This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and originally appeared in print on Monday, June 24, 2019.