Do you remember the story of “Stone Soup?” As a child, I had a version where animals played all the characters, so a mouse walks in to a village and asks a variety of other animals for food. Each animal has an excuse for not sharing.
Finally, the mouse says he has a stone he could put in to season a pot of soup. Does anyone have any carrots? Onions? Potatoes? One by one, each animal brings one element to the soup, and suddenly, the whole village has contributed and is sharing in this communal pot.
Basically, the moral of the story is the idea of operating from a position of abundance versus scarcity. Each person has something to contribute to the larger mix, and no one person or entity is responsible for the overall success. The collective creates more abundance than a single individual ever could.
The arts in our community are moving closer and closer to this mindset at a wonderfully fast pace.
I’ll be honest, when I began at The Arts Partnership nearly four years ago, it felt like the arts were operating from a position of scarcity. There was often distrust among the organizations, money felt extremely limited, funders were held close to everyone’s vest, and the sense of competition ran high.
That is not the case today.
Today, it feels like the arts community is operating from a fantastic position of collective abundance.
Don’t get me wrong – every non-profit could use more funding and additional resources to do more and even better work – but there’s been a shift in mindset.
Arts leaders are willingly gathering for big-think, strategic arts conversations. Businesses are looking at and investing in ways that artists and arts organizations can work more closely with their employees inside their buildings and offices. Educational arts systems are working outside their campus borders to engage the larger community, on and off campus. Arts leaders and organizations are sharing their knowledge, resources, facilities and more.
This artistic community has begun to see that intentionally and deliberately working together really does raise the profile and success of everyone.
The larger community seems to be understanding that the arts are not simply “askers.” The arts are “givers.”
The arts give our community a sense of place. The Fargo Theatre marquee, the facades of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, Plains Art Museum and The Rourke, the rooftop of the HoDo and other artistic icons are showcased time and time again in local and national media. They are a significant part of who we are and how the world sees us.
The arts give our community enriching artistic opportunities for our children, our retirees, our students and more. If you want to do theatre, or sing in a choir, or take a painting class or participate in dance classes, believe me, you can.
The arts give our community an economic boost. Take away the revenue generated by traditional arts organizations, arts facilities, graphic designers, arts teachers, arts businesses, sound and video engineers, copy and content writers and editors, fashion designers, floral arrangers, chefs, landscape and traditional architects and more, and we would quickly see how much money these industries create and spend.
That doesn’t even consider the money spent in hotels, restaurants, bars, gas stations and shopping centers from visitors who come here for an arts experience, opening, concert or performance.
The arts bring the world to our doorstep. Whether it’s the world premiere of a new opera based on the writing of Edgar Alan Poe or listening to an internationally recognized violinist playing with our local symphony or hosting the American premiere of a German pop-artist phenom or internationally celebrated jazz musicians coming to Studio 222, it’s the arts that give our community a giant slice of the larger world.
The arts cultivate and celebrate our hometown successes. This community is home to Grammy winners, internationally recognized artists of all kinds, Bush fellows, artists-turned-elected officials.
This community has launched Hollywood actors and production people, Broadway stars, lighting designers and stage managers, artistic directors of major dance companies, celebrated authors, Fulbright scholars in the arts and so much more.
All of this is what makes our community such an amazing pot of stone soup. The ingredients are just perfect, and the communal experience of creating the soup together has made it even richer. We are truly living in a community of artistic abundance, and the soup just keeps getting better.
This column is part of a content partnership with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and originally appeared in the Monday, April 28, 2014, issue of the paper.