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Arts Off the Beaten Path

Editorial | January 18th, 2024

By Sabrina Hornung

sabrina@hpr1.com

Our Opinion: Reinvigorate that sense of wonder

This month’s focus at High Plains Reader is the State of the Arts. From a regional standpoint, we’re small but mighty – and there are so many organizations that go above and beyond that deserve a shoutout and are certainly worth a day trip. A quick google search can determine dates, times, and reservations, if needed.

The Ellendale Opera House and Ellendale Area Arts Council is located just an hour south of Jamestown. Not only do they hold gallery and theatre space in the Opera House, they host musical events in the local park and even offer various art classes for children and adults. They even provide programming to the local elder care facility. Built in 1909, it was the largest venue between Minneapolis and Seattle in its day, and it is one of the few of its kind still standing. The initial purpose of the Ellendale Opera House was to serve as a cultural and social hub for the area, and it continues to do so – not too shabby for a community of a little over 1,000.

The Lisbon Opera House has seen new life as well, and is known to host two productions a year with “The No Name Players,” a group that started out as a community theatre group. Of course, there are other events that go on throughout the year. Proceeds from these productions go toward the continued renovation of the space.

The Dakota Prairie Regional Center for the Arts (DPRCA) in New Rockford is known for their theatre productions, which are housed in a fully renovated space that was once a church– hence the name, The Old Church Theatre. This year they will be producing five shows. As you reserve your tickets, note that you can opt to make a night of it and make dinner reservations prior to the show.

Speaking of small but mighty, the Nelson County Arts Council (NCAC) hosts one of the largest (if not the largest) juried art show in the state – collectors and enthusiasts, take note. Nelson County has a little over 2,000 residents and the home base of the NCAC is nestled in the small town of Pekin, a community of close to 100 that draws in close to 1,000 people during the Pekin Days Art Show, which is one weekend out of the year. Not only can you peruse and purchase art from artists from all walks of life and points in their careers – including student work – NCAC is also unique because it also includes Stump Lake Fine Arts Youth Camp, a summer camp that serves kids in grades 3-12. The NCAC also hosts a winter art auction that aids in securing funds for campers.

Art across the prairie

On a statewide level, The North Dakota Council on the Arts (NDCA) has launched a premier statewide public art program called “Arts Across the Prairie: Placemaking in Rural North Dakota.” According to the NDCA, the intent is to create eight large-scale public rural art pieces (one for each region of the state) that celebrate the landscape, heritage and regional history of the areas – and include the voices and input of purveyors of art and culture in those regions in the selection process.

The project is a collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Transportation (which is a nationwide first) and North Dakota Tourism/Commerce. The NDCA recently announced that Region 6 proposal requests are open to individuals who are experienced in the realms of public art and community engagement. Region 6 is south and west of Barnes County, among the flyways and byways of pothole slough country.

According to the USDA, populations 60,000 and under are considered rural. In North Dakota, that means we have three cities with a population that is considered urban – which is eye opening. Not only do the arts encourage tourism, they make us think outside the box. Art allows us to look at things through a different lens and makes us feel a little more human – and that’s worth its weight in honey. 

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