Where do we go from here?
That was the question I was asking myself a whole lot near the beginning of 2016. For one thing, I had just stepped into the role of director of the South Dakota Arts Council in February, so naturally I was thinking about the road ahead for the organization under my leadership. In addition, SDAC had just started to celebrate its 50th anniversary, so there was a lot of history in the rearview mirror to consider.
In an effort to begin developing a road map for progress, I decided to get into the driver’s seat – literally – and start visiting artists, arts administrators, local organizations, and residents where they live. Along with Jim Speirs, director of the new nonprofit statewide arts advocacy network Arts South Dakota, we kicked off an arts road trip that stretched from summer into fall and is essentially ongoing.
To date, we’ve visited Custer, Rapid City, and Spearfish to the west and Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, Sisseton, Vermillion, and Yankton to the east. Our goal is simple: to visit with those who make art happen and learn what we can do to help.
We’ve had stimulating conversations with artists, educators, administrators, board members, members of the tourism industry and tourists, government officials, and patrons of the arts, to name just some. We’ve heard stories of success, challenges, partnerships, creating, history, planning, staffing, and performing, among other topics. We’ve laughed with many and taken note of the concerns of others.
So what have we learned?
Well, we’ve learned that creativity is alive and well in South Dakota, whether it’s fueling artistic creation or finding new solutions to old problems. We’ve learned there are amazing people and organizations out there promoting creative expression and arts opportunities for the residents of this state. We’ve learned there are people in every community who are willing to work hard to support the arts in South Dakota. We’ve learned we are excited to hit the road again in 2017 to continue this road trip and meet more of these people, community by community.
More than anything, I can say I’ve learned that the road ahead for the arts in South Dakota should be built upon an ongoing conversation among all these people and groups. Whether we turn left, right, or cruise straight ahead, one thing is for sure: We will keep this conversation and arts road trip rolling.
— SDAC Director Patrick Baker