Retaining talent through art

Entrepreneurship, as I've come to learn it, involves solving a problem.  And depending upon what model you're going for, making a profit, or at least making a sustainable enterprise. Since I grew up in the Grand Forks area, and moved back to this area, there is a nagging problem:  How do we keep young people here?

Conduit Theatre, to some degree, has been my contribution to the community:  More entertainment.  A different kind of entertainment.  Every production, event, or stunt I have done underneath the Conduit umbrella, I have heard a common response:  I've never experienced anything like this.

However, people are not busting down my doors for tickets when I've had shows (though my solo show had a pretty packed audience in September).  Part of this, is the struggles of marketing, exposure, and these problems are not new to my artistic endeavor.  When arts administrators gather together, it is an all too common lament.

And then, when I talk with other community members, most of them do not know what Grand Forks already has.  There is a great disconnect.  How many citizens know about the art galleries that exist?  How many people can list five or more local artists, writers, actors, etc?  How many people care to?

Which leads me back to the initial question:  How do we retain youth in the city?

I lived in Los Angeles for a few years.  It was a city that is magical in some respects, and problematic in others.  But young people flock to the city because there is an energy there.  Just like New York City, which has its own unique energy.  It's an energy where the arts exist front and center:  Whether it's Hollywood or Broadway, the market is there.  If your career isn't in the arts, chances are those cities are still the peak there as well.

I venture forth the goal that Grand Forks has to separate itself from Fargo, or the oil-boom of Western cities.  We have to ask ourselves what we do well, and amp it up.  We already have our hockey arena.  And we have Conduit Theatre (the only clown production company in North Dakota to my knowledge.  In fact, in LA I would hold a sign while busking proclaiming myself "The most famous clown from North Dakota" (which may not even be true, but I'm owning it).  We have some amazing artists and activists as well.  The more I learn about Adam Kemp's contributions to this city, the more I realize that there is not much downtown that he has helped improve upon post-flood.

I could make you a list, easily.  There is much to be celebrated in this town, but we do not.  Again, I go back to conversations with those who simply do not know what this town has to offer.  We have young graphic designers ready to do awesome work.  Do we have jobs for them here?  We have artists ready to make this town gorgeous.  Are we ready to pay them for their work?  Instead of importing art, can we support local art in all its manifestations?  Perhaps, with better marketing across the board, Grand Forks can carve a name for itself as a city that is about to burst wide open.

If you're at all a part of that process, I fetch a fair price for my ideas on how to do that.