The last few weekends in the Grand Forks community have each been filled with art. ArtFest followed by the next weekend of the monthly Art and Wine walk. What a great opportunity for artists in the community, right?
I have been back to Grand Forks for six months now. I can say that the energy of downtown Grand Forks has changed immensely from when I left for Los Angeles in 2012. There is a movement of youth people, whether it be the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals, or changing of the guard in leadership positions on the City Council (though, I'm certainly not knocking the previous council members who served our city), and the Downtown Development Association spearheading a vibrant downtown. The creation of the Empire Theatre Company, and the ways the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre at the Firehall Theatre has expanded is pretty incredible. Did you know we have a belly dancing troupe called the Lovely Dozen? Wow.
Some people can tell you, that since I have been back, I have been hustling to reacquaint myself with the city. Making new friendships, rekindling old friendships, and many coffees at locations like the Urban, Dakota Harvest, and anywhere else someone might like to chat.
So, with all these other organizations and activities going on (I haven't even mentioned the symphony, the children's choirs, the master chorale, or the Big Forkin' Festival coming this fall, or the many painters and photographers in this town), does Grand Forks really need a third theatre company to add to the mix? Does it need one more thing to try and get to?
The answer for me is yes.
This past weekend I performed as a living statue outside of Living Sage. Thanks very much to Dalton Lily and Lisa Johnson for hiring me to do so. The reactions of people attendee the Art and Wine Walk were varied. Some were, "That's creepy", and some people's laughter and screams at discovering I was a real person were entertaining to say the least.
A block down the street a man played the mandolin. I saw at ArtFest several musicians sprinkled throughout playing blue grass tunes. Performers filled stages. For a few hours Grand Forks had a buzzing artistic community. And yet there could be more.
There can be more performers of all sorts on the street.
I continue to tell this story, about living in Portland. On a rainy night while staying with a friend, I heard a saxophone player outside, playing such lovely jazz outside. Mixed with the rain, it was a magical evening. Imagine that in Grand Forks. I also sat in coffee shops during open mic nights that had everything from soft, beautiful folk music to raucous acoustic jams that got the whole coffee shop screaming and hollering. You left that coffee shop feeling alive, like you participated in something. I participated in theatre productions that involved getting secret invites to warehouses to see theatre that moved you that was presented in ways you never have seen before, and when it worked, it was something you talked about for months.
Inspiration generates more inspiration.
How does Grand Forks build this type of atmosphere? By getting the support of its patrons. By dropping a few bucks into a tip jar if someone is busking. By buying that artwork that is a bit more expensive then a print at SuperTarget. By hiring performers at your events to add value to it. By thinking outside the box and wondering "How does theatre and business mix?" Asking ourselves, "Is there a way to do this with more creativity?" Maybe we need to ask ourselves if we are redecorating, "Perhaps there is a local artist whose work, though perhaps more expensive, will really add a flavor to this space unlike anything or anywhere else".
There are some businesses doing this. There are some individuals doing this. But the only way the artists make Grand Forks a more vibrant community is by the ultimate bottom line: Paying us for our services.
I am so grateful again for the Living Sage for the opportunity to add some magic to Grand Forks this weekend. I only hope to add more to the city.