I firmly believe that we don’t do enough storytelling about why the arts matter to us personally. I’m not just talking about artists telling their stories; I’m talking about others in the “real world” telling why the arts have mattered to them in their lives.
I’m talking about you.
The Arts Partnership’s current board chairperson, Karin Rudd, is an executive vice president at Gate City Bank, but she was a professional ballerina earlier in her life. She has an interesting challenge for the board and staff: What is your arts story, and why has it mattered?
In the spirit of asking you to engage in this, I’ll tell you some of my arts story:
The spring of my freshman year, we moved from Wahpeton, N.D., to Moorhead, and my mom brought me to see “Oklahoma” at Moorhead High School. I vividly recall the sick feeling I had in my stomach, realizing that I was going to be a student there in the fall and knowing that I was moving into a much bigger pond. A pond I assumed I would surely drown in.
I watched the performance, transfixed. Every moment, every actor, every scene and costume and song of that production is etched in my brain.
I couldn’t have known it at the time, but many of those performers would go on to become lifelong friends. I wouldn’t have believed it at the time, but I would go on to perform on that stage and many others in this community. I couldn’t have anticipated that I would become an artist in this community, but I did and I am.
Michael Walling and Trollwood Performing Arts School: I am a professional artist today because of my experience with that amazing program, particularly a Singing Onstage class with a new teacher from New York City, Michael Walling. His belief in me and his enduring friendship have been some of the most important aspects of my whole life.
The Straw Hat Players and Minnesota State University Moorhead: My first truly professional acting job was the two summers I spent with the SHP in college. I learned that I could work harder than I knew I had the capacity to, that I could build one heck of a flat, memorize lines, learn music, sew costumes and set lights, seemingly all at the same time.
Lori Horvik and the North Dakota State University theater department: Lori cast me in a play while I was in graduate school at NDSU. She set high expectations. She told me, in a moment that I thought was brilliant acting, that if I cried, the audience didn’t need to. I was stealing from them, and that wasn’t fair. Lori taught me to be generous and let the audience experience the moment.
David Wintersteen and Theatre B: One time, very casually, David said during a rehearsal, “Dayna, you’ve got boatloads of talent.” No one had ever said that to me, at least not like that. It was said as if it were a fact—a statement of truth. It changed the way I saw myself and was a confidence boost that changed me, both on stage and off.
These stories matter to me personally. They both confirm my artistic life and have leant themselves to who I am beyond the stage.
In many ways, they actually just prove that I learned how to communicate, how to listen, how to lead and follow, how to navigate failure and how to take risks. Aren’t those the skills we want every 21st century worker to have? Aren’t those the skills that we all need?
So what’s your story? Where did the arts step in and make a difference? What music teacher gave you a solo? What art teacher put a star sticker on the back of your painting? What dance class pushed you to the edge and saw you rise to the challenge? What audition did you totally fail, but survive and learn from? What performance moved you to tears and changed the way you see the world?
Those stories matter. My challenge to you is to tell those stories. Write them down or record them and send them to The Arts Partnership. Let’s gather the stories and begin to tell the world why the arts matter—one person and one story at a time.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and originally appeared in the Monday, July 25, 2016, issue of the paper.