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End of Year Report - 2018

Strategy in Motion

Two men playing wind instruments
Recently Manhu, an Arts Midwest World Fest ensemble from the Sani region of the Stone Forest in China’s Yunnan Province, visited the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota to meet with native artist Keith Bear and members of the Mandan Tribe. Photo by Shigeyo Henriquez.

By Adam Perry, Vice President for Strategy and Programs

At Arts Midwest, we are proud of what we have accomplished in the past 33 years—distributing $23 million dollars in grants and presenting programming in 688 Midwestern communities—and we are excited about our constantly growing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. This focus has led us to deeply interrogate our own values and internal processes as well as our approaches to funding, programming, and supporting arts and culture organizations across the field. We are re-imagining how we structure our teams, commit to projects, and best serve the diverse and changing communities of the Midwest.

A group of dancers
Minneapolis-based SHAPESHIFT, a hip-hop storytelling dance company, performs during the 2018 Arts Midwest Conference Spotlight Showcase. Photo by Joshua Feist.

The 2018-2020 Arts Midwest Strategic Plan reflects our deep passion for engaging diverse communities and partners through world-class programming.

We are proud of our commitment to invest in new partnerships and amplify more voices—whether it be through professional development opportunities such as those at the Arts Midwest Conference, through strengthening the capacity and resilience of community arts organizations through programs like ArtsLab and Creating Connection, or through engaging our region’s state arts agency and foundational partners in conversations that push boundaries and imagine new horizons.

“My job is to ensure we do everything we can to fuel the vibrant creative culture of the Midwest through shared arts experiences that connect us to each other, to our communities, and to the world.”
—Adam Perry, Vice President for Strategy & Programs

Looking forward is important, but moving forward is the true measure of success. We hope you will take a moment to learn how one of our flagship programs, ArtsLab, is helping organizations across the Midwest use the arts to move towards more vibrant, economically secure, and livable communities.

Cultivating cultural capacity in smaller Midwest communities

Large blocks of ice on a frozen lake
The community of Detroit Lakes was one of 12 towns that participated in the 2017-2018 Minnesota ArtsLab cohort. In 2018, Detroit Lakes put their historic community ice harvesting know-how to work by coming together to create their own artist-designed Ice Palace. Photo by Lee Kensigner.

By Erin Brueggemann, ArtsLab Program Director

My mother grew up in a farming community in rural western Wisconsin. Neighbors milked each other’s cows and raised money to help each other with a pickle jar at the check-out counter. 4-H was the largest cultural organization in town.

While much of rural life remains the same today, small towns all across the Midwest are strengthening their communities using forward-looking and economically regenerative tools. They are organizing their own high-speed internet, building creative ecosystems that support entrepreneurship, and inviting tourists in with innovative creative placemaking initiatives. Adult children are moving home for the first time in decades, and diverse populations of new Americans are injecting urgently-needed support for the agricultural and economic needs of the region.

Cultural organizations have a crucial role to play by building bridges across generational, political, and cultural divides while offering opportunities to imagine new solutions for new generations. ArtsLab works with organizations throughout the Midwest to help position them to effect this change in their communities.

In 2018, ArtsLab:

  • Partnered with the Iowa Arts Council to help 25 Iowa organizations develop three-year plans for fundraising, financial management, strategic planning, and community partnerships.
  • Helped a cohort of 12 Minnesota towns create roadmaps for using the arts to strengthen their communities. Each team researched the local economic impact of the arts, examined the history of their region, and crafted a shared vision for the future.
  • Convened a retreat for ArtsLab alumni to reconnect with peers and explore topics like storytelling, deep listening, building support for creativity in rural communities, and creating inclusive and equitable programs.

As we enter 2019, ArtsLab is evolving its peer learning program to help arts organizations in small towns address their community’s needs in meaningful ways. We’re excited to bring new perspectives to the table in order to deliver programming that is equitable, relevant, fresh, and desperately-needed. I invite you to join us as we ensure that Midwestern creativity continues to thrive for years to come.

A night time fireworks display above an ice castle
Residents of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota celebrate their completed Ice Palace in February 2018. Photo by Rose Dunn.

ArtsLab Activity: Building Community

ArtsLab provides participants with tangible tools and activities to support their community work. Do you work with the public or for an arts and culture organization? Try out the ArtsLab exercise below, designed to help you identify opportunities for understanding and growing your own community.

Take a look around…
What images, feelings, and values does your community show off? Does your community focus on the past, present, or future?

Imagine that you’re a newcomer…
What signs do you see that express what it means to be a part of your community? What does a new person have to do to become a member of your community?

Check your calendar of events…
Which events build a sense of community? Are there things you do simply because you’ve always done them? What types of activities could you do to draw in new people?

This activity is adapted from an ArtsLab workshop with Greg Wright of CREATE Portage County.