I remember walking in to The Arts Partnership’s office the morning of July 1, 2010, and sitting down in a chair I had been sitting across from for the previous two weeks while my predecessor Martha Keeler-Olsen tried to teach me how to run this organization. I sat in that chair, and I wondered, “What in the world am I supposed to do first?”
But like most things, I just started by doing something. I set up an email account. I arranged my drawers. I looked through some folders Martha had left for me. I spent most of that first day feeling like I was “playing” office. And in truth, I didn’t know much more that day than I had known when I was little, answering my plastic pink telephone and taking scribble notes on my dad’s old teacher’s planners.
In many ways, this job was made for me. I’ve always been an artist. I performed in The Sound of Music with a community theatre group in Wahpeton, ND, when I was six. And really, I have never looked back. I played Marian Paroo in The Music Man at Trollwood Performing Arts School after my senior year of high school. My first degree is in theatre from MSUM, and I was fortunate to play some fabulous roles during my time there.
I made my first commercial for Subway in 2002. In 2004, I became a Screen Actor’s Guild union actor because of some commercials I shot in Minneapolis. I launched the North Dakota Legendary tourism campaign in 2007.
In 2005, I started doing professional writing at what was then Publication Services of America. In 2019, I began seriously creating very personal writing, too, at my own website daynadelval.com.
So I knew how to be an artist. What I didn’t know anything about – what I’d never even thought of – was how to be an arts administrator and arts advocate and activist.
And that’s what I have become in my 10 years at The Arts Partnership. And, actually, that’s what I’m proudest of, too.
This work hasn’t been without its highs and lows, without its cheers and tears. I’ve worked harder at this job than at almost anything else I have ever done in my life. In so many ways, it feels like I have been clawing my way up a slippery mountain, often falling backwards, tumbling down hundreds of feet, only to start the long, arduous climb up again…over and over and over.
But, I’ve had incredible mentors, Board members, staff and Partner artists and arts leaders to lean on, to learn from and to share the agony and the ecstasy of the work of ensuring that the arts in our community aren’t just surviving but thriving.
I could go on and on about these years, what I’ve learned and where we’ve come from, but that doesn’t sound very appealing…even to me! Instead, please enjoy these 10 snapshots of this decade of growth–for The Arts Partnership and for me:
All in all, I can look back on these years with absolute gratitude. The Arts Partnership has given me an incredible platform from which to preach the value, across every facet of our lives, of the arts. I am so thankful to those six board members who were the hiring committee for seeing past what I didn’t know and taking a big risk on me. This job has far, far exceeded anything I ever could have imagined for myself. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years; in some ways, it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. I wonder where TAP (and I) will be in 10 more years. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see. But while we’re waiting, I know we’ll also be busy doing the important work to #SupportLocalArt.
Also, fresh off the presses, I was interviewed recently on the Ladyboss podcast, and it just came out today. You can hear all about my interview for TAP, my current thoughts on why the arts matter and a bunch of other things that you just might be surprised by. Hope you’ll take a listen. Thanks to Laura Caroon for having me on.
Main photo caption: Right before going off to the first interview for the job of Executive Director of The Arts Partnership. 2010