Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

408. Turning 40

I remember how stressed I was when I turned 40.  And I imagine I’m not the only one to have felt that way about reaching that particular milestone in life.  It seemed like life was pretty-much over at 40. Yet looking back now, 18 years later, I realize I’ve accomplished more since then than I ever had before.

Turning 40 will always be a milestone in life, a time for reflecting on the past and looking ahead to the future. And that’s true not just for people; the Albion Area Arts Council turns 40 this year, and having been co-director with my wife Lori for the past 14 years, I find myself looking back at all the great artists we’ve had the privilege to bring to the Albion area.  All have been people driven by a need to create beauty, driven by a need to share what it means to be human through various forms of art.

Artists need to create, and they need an audience to share their creativity with.  Though few people realize it, an audience participates in every live performance.  Artists pick up on the mood of their audience immediately – performing for an interested, receptive audience will bring out the best in an artist.

Different people enjoy different styles of music, so Lori and I try to bring a variety of music to Albion.  And we often book artists that have been requested by members of the community. The Arts Council exists to do this, to bring a variety of artists here so people can not only hear things they enjoy, but so they can learn about new things as well.

I’ve been impressed through the years how, regardless of style, there are a lot of people here who attend every event.  These people understand that artistry transcends style, that a heart-felt performance moves people in ways few other things can.  The Albion area is blessed to have an “artistic audience” – whether they’ve thought about it or not, people here have had an active role in every performance the Arts Council has ever presented.

But this artistic audience is shrinking.  Traditionally, every town of any size had an Opera House where traveling orators and musicians performed regularly – people understood successful communities need a vibrant culture nourished by the arts.  But with the advent of the Internet people have gained access to an enormous range of performances.  Today, with anything and everything you could possibly want to see at your fingertips, why go to a concert?

Shrinking audiences aren’t just a problem here – I hear about it from people all over the country.  Just as online shopping is dramatically reshaping the retail landscape, online entertainment is reshaping the cultural landscape.

Some could say that Albion’s arts council has outlived its usefulness and we should just let it go.  But I don’t want that to happen, for as one long-time supporter of the Arts in Albion – the late Hannie Wolf – once wrote to this paper, “A community that loses the arts loses its soul.”

To remain relevant to this community the Arts Council needs to attract new and younger members.  So I’m asking everyone to think about the importance of the arts to their lives and to our community, and to please share those thoughts with Lori and me.  Our job is to bring the arts to you – we’re easy to contact, so please let us know how you feel we can do this in a way that ensures that Albion’s soul is still being nourished by the Arts 40 years from now.

401. Not By Bread Alone

Albion’s business district is undergoing quite a facelift, and aren’t things looking nice?  This is happening because a partnership of local, regional, and state groups has come together to improve our downtown business area.  A long-term plan for downtown revitalization was developed and because there was a solid plan in place, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development awarded our community a $350,000 grant, a grant matched locally by an additional $107,450 from the Albion Economic Development Corporation.  Dozens of businesses have been approved for forgivable loans of up to $12,000, and the results are now becoming visible.

These improvements will help us all feel better about our business district by improving its appearance, its overall “feel”.  Old signs and old awnings make our community look drab, and that can’t help but impact people’s feelings about it.  The Bible tells us that “man does not live by bread alone”, and though bread is the staff of material life, people’s needs extend beyond the material, into the spiritual and into the artistic.

Artfully improving the appearance of our businesses lifts people’s spirits and makes everyone feel better about our town.  And given the challenges rural communities face, we need to feel good about our community in order to face these challenges with creativity and spirit.

The artistic improvement of our downtown businesses is a reminder of the importance of art in our lives.  Since 2005 my wife Lori and I have worked hard to bring the performing arts to our community through our work with the Albion Area Arts Council, a public-benefit nonprofit founded in 1979 to lift our spirits and strengthen our community through art.  Though not as obvious as new signs and awnings, our community needs the performing arts for many of the same reasons.  And just as attractive businesses bring people together by drawing them in, concerts and plays bring people together as well.

The Arts Council is currently in the process of selling memberships for its 39th season.  It operates on a budget of less than a tenth of what the downtown improvements are costing; since it began, though, the Arts Council has provided around $1.5 million worth of arts programing for both adults and children in our community.  And though it uses grants to help accomplish this, much of its funding comes from the individuals and families here who purchase a season membership or give donations ranging from $30 to $500.

Please, the next time you’re downtown take a moment to appreciate all the creativity and work that are going into this new face lift.  The improvements are eye candy in the best sense of that term – they satisfy our need to incorporate art in our lives.  And please also think about attending the new season of Arts Council events that’s getting off to a good start right now.  Man does not live by bread alone, and right now many groups in our community are working hard to meet these less-material but every bit as important need for creativity and art.