It’s the week of Thanksgiving, so let me start off by saying how grateful I am for the art in the metro. Let me also say how challenging the work of advocating for them can be.
But last week, I got this text from my dad, and it knocked me over:
“Mary and I joined the artist series here in Wahpeton this year. We’ve been to two concerts so far out of four. Three weeks ago we listened to a folk group who sang a lot of familiar tunes from the ’60s. Last night, two men from Ireland. They were very entertaining. Two more concerts in the spring. There was a full house at the cultural center. Have enjoyed supporting the arts. Just wanted you to know.”
You may know that I have been an actor since I was in first grade. What you may not know is that my parents were in that production of “The Sound of Music,” too. My mom played a nun, and my dad played Captain Von Trapp. That’s the only production my dad has been in, in my lifetime, but he has been an arts supporter through me.
He never missed a production or concert I did in high school or college. He and my step mom faithfully attended my son’s youth symphony concerts. He has even attended some arts events with me since I’ve been at The Arts Partnership.
But I have almost never known them to attend arts events, minus a rock concert here and there, that didn’t have a child or grandchild participating in them.
So that’s why this text was so interesting to me.
And it’s got me pondering some things:
If all my writing and talking about supporting the arts is wearing off on my dad and stepmom, who else is it working on? Who else has chosen to purchase a ticket, attend an event or even actively participate in some area of the arts?
My dad said that the 500-seat auditorium was nearly full. That means that all kinds of regular folks made time for the arts, at least on that night. And if they bought tickets to the concert, it’s likely they also went out for dinner beforehand or a drink or dessert afterwards. So what was the economic impact of nearly 500 people coming to hear two men from Ireland in Wahpeton, ND?
Because North Dakota is participating in the Americans for the Arts Economic Impact of the Arts study, by next summer, we will have a clear sense of what the impact of an event like this really is
My prediction, based on past studies, is that it’s likely going to be very, very good. And it’s going to be hard for people who care about economic impact to dismiss the dollars and cents value of the arts in their communities.
Who might have been in that audience whose life was changed from that experience? We know that exposure to the arts can have a profound impact on people.
My mom is a music teacher because a college band came to her rural hometown when she was young. I’ve spent more than 35 years acting career because my parents drove me to an audition when I was a child. My son is comfortable in museums and galleries and at all kinds of performances because he has no memory of not being at these places.
So who might have discovered a spark that night? Who might now join an adult (or church) choir or get involved in another arts group? Who might purchase season tickets next year because of this performance? Who might go on to pursue a career in an arts-related field?
The arts are powerful for so many reasons, and I often get frustrated by how few people seem to take advantage of or find value in them.
But this text was an excellent reminder that the work of advocating for the arts matters and is making a difference, even if it’s just one person at a time.
And I am very thankful for that.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and originally appeared in the Monday, November 21 2016, issue of the paper.