Photos: Shoppers view art created by local artists during the first annual Arts for the Holidays event on December 11, 2021, at the Fargo Civic Center. Images: Dan Koeck

By Dayna Del Val
TAP President and CEO

If you were one of the hundreds of people who enjoyed the first annual Arts for the Holidays event on Saturday, December 11, at the Civic Center, thank you for joining us!

It was wonderful to see so many people filling the space, engaging with the nearly 50 artists and arts organizations, and most importantly, supporting local art!

I certainly did my fair share of supporting. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), nearly every single thing I bought was a gift for myself, but we’ll just chalk it up to Christmas coming early to my house this year—at least for me!

Watch: Video montage of Arts for the Holidays 2021

Art for everyone

For nearly as long as I’ve been with The Arts Partnership, I’ve been part of conversations with various artists talking with longing about a juried fine art event that really felt like artists were selected and not just allowed in. Thanks to juror Naomi Schliesman, a regional artist and arts consultant, the 40 Arts for the Holidays booths were filled with an impressive variety of high-quality artists who had art available across every discipline and price point.

Listening and learning

As I walked around, I was amazed at the number of deep conversations I saw artists having with people. I was equally impressed by shoppers who came to check this new event out and who stayed to learn more about a painting, glazing, printing or carving style.

I also watched nonprofits leaders at their booths as they shared their upcoming programming with shoppers genuinely amazed that these organizations exist in our community.

New event, new faces

 Perhaps most importantly, I saw people I have never seen before. You might imagine—and you would be right—that I pretty well know the “usual suspects” in the arts community. Work as long as I have in the arts in this town, and you start to see the same circle (it’s a fabulous circle—join us if you are interested!) at openings, plays, concerts, galas and more. But this was a largely-new-to-me crowd. It was thrilling!

Future art enthusiasts

Of course, I did know many in the crowd of shoppers, vendors and at the booths. I ran into a friend whose four-year-old was so proud to show me her new foiled tree piece, which just so happened to be the first art she ever purchased with her own money.

Show me a child excited about holding or making a piece of art, and I’ll show you a future adult who participates in and supports the arts.

Behind-the-scenes successes abound

So that’s my take on the public side of this event. Short answer: it was a HUGE win—for the community and for the arts sector.

But there’s another side to this event, and I want to address that one, too.

Fargo City Commissioner John Strand reached out to local artist and Fargo Arts and Culture Commissioner Jon Offutt last spring to talk about hosting an arts event at the Fargo Civic Center. Arts for the Holidays was Jon’s answer to that challenge. Jon gathered artists Lisa Burns, President of the Red River Watercolor Society, and Shelli Fenske from Gallery 4 and the Fargo-Moorhead Visual Artists, and together with The Arts Partnership, the planning was under way.

In all, the event wouldn’t have been nearly the success it was without these collaborators and sponsors:

  • Red River Watercolor Society
  • North Dakota Council on the Arts
  • Fargo-Moorhead Visual Artists
  • City of Fargo Arts and Culture Committee
  • WDAY TV
Feeling grateful for support — and funding 

A collaboration like this is not terribly unusual, but what is unusual is that we actually had money to put this event on and to make sure that the community knew about it.

We received funding from:

  • The Fargo Arts and Culture Commission to cover the cost of rental and staffing at the Civic
  • The American Rescue Plan grant dollars from the North Dakota Council on the Arts

For that, we are forever grateful because it meant is that we were able to pay for things less common at an event like this, such as advertising, good food and drinks for the artists, a videographer and photographer to document the day, cash prizes for the top three booths, and so much more.

Those of us who put on arts events know that anxiety of putting in all the front-end work and not knowing if people are going to come or not. Everyone involved in planning for this day let out a big sigh of relief as we saw people streaming in right as the doors opened at 10 a.m. And that streaming stayed consistent to the end of the day. What a relief!

Thank you for showing up and supporting local art

If you came out and visited with, learned more about and shopped from the artists and organizations, thank you! If you missed it, be on the lookout for next year’s second annual Arts for the Holidays.

We’ll be back and you won’t want to miss it!

December 16, 2021

First annual Arts for the Holidays event a success for artists and community

Photos: Shoppers view art created by local artists during the first annual Arts for the Holidays event on December 11, […]