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We're all invested in keeping the arts alive and well

Area residents looked on as a Sculpture Walk project became the focus of national attention. The public controversy seemed to raise just the right mix of artistic issues: intent, interpretation, freedom of expression and humor (plastic, 4-foot-tall beavers are just funny).

It's heartening knowing citizens took notice and attended the City Council meeting to discuss these topics. It's also the perfect opportunity to ask what remains to be done for the arts in this community. No matter what side of the dispute we endorse as individuals, we're all invested in keeping the arts alive and well. Since art plays a key role in the vibrancy of any region, it compels us to extend our commitment beyond the recent debate.

Bemidji is home to several visual arts organizations -- most have few, if any, paid employees. These organizations are very much in need of additional volunteers and financial backing. Resources are limited. For example, the Bemidji Community Art Center, sponsor of Art in the Park and other events, features a gift shop and provides exhibits that are free and open to the public year around. It costs the organization $300 a day to maintain these services.(A daunting challenge for a small non-profit.)

Some community members have already pitched in to help. The Bemidji Pioneer provides media coverage for art events and several businesses in town sponsor partnerships, supply exhibit space and open their doors for artist receptions. In that spirit, we hope that if you have enjoyed First Friday Art Walks or been moved by the plight of "Gaea," you, too, will become involved in one or more of the art organizations and will attend their events.

Clearly, it is the efforts day to day that make a lasting difference in Bemidji's artistic vitality. Please consider giving your time or a monetary donation to help maintain the kind of dynamic climate that will keep the arts flourishing. Such a contribution will not make the national news, but will have a profound effect on life in our community.

Lorie Yourd


Bemidji Community Art Center Board