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Published June 23 2013

The Arts Partnership seeks to connect artists, community

FARGO - Elizabeth Schwankl’s “aluminart” will be seen all over the Fargo-Moorhead area in the coming months.

The Fargo artist, who owns Fargo’s Artrends Gallery, recently received a commission from the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce to produce her embossed and painted aluminum pieces for 20 of the Chamber’s premiere partner businesses.

Schwankl has The Arts Partnership and executive director Dayna Del Val to thank for helping her to get the commission.

The Arts Partnership, a collective of local artists, art-related businesses and arts nonprofit organizations, alerted Schwankl to the job opportunity and helped put her in touch with the Chamber.

“This all came about because Dayna was out there talking to people and reminding them that art brings joy to people’s lives,” Schwankl says.

Schwankl’s recent commission is just one example of The Arts Partnership’s ongoing efforts to bring together local artists and the Fargo-Moorhead community.

‘Real great growth’

Known as the Lake Agassiz Arts Council until about six years ago, The Arts Partnership used to simply partner with Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo to re-grant arts funding to area arts organizations, says Del Val, who has been executive director since 2010.

Today, it’s much more than that.

In addition to still providing grants, The Arts Partnership, which kicks off a collaboration with The Forum in today’s paper, also provides art-centered programs and promotes employment opportunities for local artists who partner with the organization, such as in Schwankl’s case.

For a small annual fee, artists can join The Arts Partnership and have access to the organization’s events and services.

“That’s been a push since I’ve been a part of it,” Del Val says. “How do we create value for the individual artists who belong to us?”

More and more artists have been joining The Arts Partnership in recent years. In 2010, the organization had about 60 partner artists, but since then that number has increased to 106, according to Del Val.

“We’ve seen a real great growth, which has been a positive for the community,” she says.

Some programs The Arts Partnership has been involved with lately include the Fargo Art Marathon, which took place in this year’s lead up to the Fargo Marathon; hosting a health fair for uninsured and under-insured artists and their families; and organizing a public art project in the sidewalk of Island Park with the city of Fargo, the Fargo Park District and area artists.

All the opportunities, Del Val says, serve to strengthen the value of arts in the eyes of the community.

“We’re trying to help people who may or may not be interested in the arts understand the terrific value that having (the arts) be as strong as they are brings,” Del Val says. “That’s really important to me, and that’s really a big piece of what I see our mission being.”

In addition to programs focusing on art and artists in the Fargo-Moorhead area, The Arts Partnership is also trying to build relationships with rural communities. Staff recently attended a two-day Rural Arts and Culture Summit in Morris, Minn., that highlighted that very issue.

“When you live in Fargo, you can forget that we’re extremely rural,” Del Val says. “It’s important for us to be mindful of where we fit in the big picture of art, and just to be invested in the communities in and around us.”

‘Art is for everyone’

More than simply finding employment through the efforts of The Arts Partnership, Schwankl also tries to take advantage of the organization’s other programs.

Events designed to provide learning opportunities for local artists have been especially beneficial, she says.

“I find myself just constantly being interested in what they’re providing,” she said last week from her studio, where she’s working on her commissioned pieces.

“It gets artists together, it gives us opportunities to learn,” she adds.

But more than simply serving or finding employment for individual artists, Schwankl recognizes that The Arts Partnership also serves the entire community, whether that’s in Fargo or in rural Cass County.

“It helps people realize that art is for everyone and people do get enjoyment out of it,” she says. “It almost takes an organization like (The Arts Partnership) to get that out there and to let people know and remind them that there’s art in the community that’s available for sale, and that it does enhance people’s lives.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535