North Dakota Council on the Art project seeks input from rural communities

·3 min read

Jun. 16—The North Dakota Council on the Arts has launched a project designed to highlight art that reflects the shared history, culture and heritage of eight regions of the state.

The project, called "Arts Across the Prairie: Placemaking in Rural North Dakota," is the first of its kind in the state and will focus on rural settings. The project developed from discussions during Main Street Initiative meetings during the fall of 2019, said Kim Konikow, North Dakota Council on the Arts executive director. The conversations encouraged the NDCA to increase its role in economic development in rural North Dakota, she said.

The North Dakota Council on the Arts, is coordinating with the North Dakota Department of Tourism and the North Dakota Department of Transportation on the project, which is a unique partnership, Konikow said. The North Dakota Department of Transportation, for example, will contribute to roads, pull-outs, parking and signage at the selected sites.

The seven-year project has a budget of $4 million, which includes money that will be designated for upkeep and repair of the arts projects.

The NDCA so far has held two informational meetings, one in Region 1, which is in northwest North Dakota, and the other in Region 4, which is made up of Walsh, Pembina, Grand Forks and Nelson counties. Meetings will be held in the other six regions during the next several months.

The goals of the community-driven arts program include promoting tourism, building strong arts communities across the state and stimulating economic activity in rural communities. Meanwhile, the program will heighten the visibility of the creative sector and their talent.

"We have so much good art happening in North Dakota, but we don't talk about it," Konikow said.

The intent of the art is to highlight the shared experiences of the state's residents so they gain better understanding of one another. That begins with forming a diverse group of representatives from the counties with the given region. Then, the representatives of each region will determine what the art will be and where it will be located.

"It might light up, it might have sound, it might move," Konikow said. The NDAC's only stipulation is that the art must be located in a rural setting.

"We love our cities, but we want to make sure that people who don't live in the cities have representation," she said. "I think the cultural heritage of our state is one of the things that makes us so special. I really want to highlight that; that's why it's called 'placemaking,' vs 'public art.'"

"The input from the community who help to form the vision of what the art should be is what distinguishes it from public art, such as a sculpture, which is that is given to the community," Konikow said.

After the informational meetings are held, representatives from each of the eight regions will meet virtually for several months to discuss their ideas. Once the art vision of a region is identified and a location chosen, land permits will be secured and interested artists will be invited to apply to bring the project to life. During the project, training on how to create large-scale community art projects will be provided for North Dakota artists.

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