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One of the most vital forces celebrating the creative spirit in South Dakota is the network of community arts councils that spans our state. From Leola to Sioux Falls, and from Highmore to Rapid City, community arts councils initiate cultural activities, sponsor hometown performances and are often instrumental in bringing professional artists to town through the Artists In Schools & Communities program of the South Dakota Arts Council.

All of the community arts councils in our state — over 30 of them at last count — have one thing in common: they all rely on the passion, commitment and participation of community volunteers. While serving on the local arts council board is a visible form of volunteerism, there are so many other ways local residents can get in on the fun and the accomplishment of enhancing the arts in each hometown. From taking tickets to posting news about upcoming events to sponsoring an artist, neighbors and businesses in each community have a role to play in strengthening local culture.

Arts South Dakota is working hard to encourage community arts councils and to help them build capacity. Community Development Director Andrew Reinartz travels the state, meeting with local arts leaders and helping to assess their needs. During the next couple of months, we’ll be conducting a survey of these groups, partly to get a more nuanced picture of our community arts councils and also to listen to what they have to say about South Dakota’s cultural scene.

One thing we know we’ll hear loud and clear — dedicated volunteers who care about local arts opportunities are the ones who are making it happen in communities of all sizes, in every corner of the state. The enthusiasm you’ll experience talking to the officers of the newest community arts council in Leola is shared by leaders of the Rapid City Arts Council, who celebrated their 50th anniversary last November. We congratulate everyone who lends a hand to a local arts council — You are the heart of the arts in South Dakota.

Whether you are a community arts council volunteer, an artist or want to learn more about the arts in South Dakota, visit www.ArtsSouthDakota.org.

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Jim Speirs is executive director of Arts South Dakota.

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