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Plains Art Museum hosts breakfast to brainstorm art, business ideas in F-M

Participants offered their ideas Tuesday, March 14, 2017, during the first Art & Business Breakfast at the Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave. N., Fargo. Ryan Johnson / The Forum

FARGO—Business leaders know that ROI stands for return on investment, but Sandy Thompson said there's another way to think about the term.

Instead of only focusing on dollars and cents, the Plains Art Museum development director said it's important to look at the return on imagination, initiative, innovation, ingenuity, inspiration, insight and invention as the local business and art communities search for better ways to cooperate.

"These are all qualities that not just the arts community possesses, but the business community possesses, so how do we get them together?" he asked.

There was no answer Tuesday, March 14, during the museum's first Art & Business Breakfast, but the dozens of arts, culture and business leaders who attended offered ideas that could shape things to come in Fargo-Moorhead.

Statistics show an undeniable return on investment, said Andrew Maus, director and CEO of the Plains Art Museum. Across the nation, the arts had a $140 billion economic impact last year and supported 4.8 million jobs. That impact was pegged at $1.2 billion and 33,300 jobs in Minnesota in 2015 and $170 million in North Dakota in 2005.

Studies have also found cultural tourists spend $24.89 daily when visiting, he said, and for every dollar spent on the arts, $8 to $9 is further spent in local economies.

There are many ways businesses and artists have partnered in other cities, including ArtPrize, an annual event that draws about 400,000 people to look at art in 200 venues across downtown Grand Rapids, Mich.

"This is what happens when a mid-sized city says in unison, 'We are an art town,' " Maus said.

Maus and Thompson also pointed to other examples across America, including the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, N.Y., and the Studs, Struts and Stilettos fashion show highlighting outfits made with building materials that takes place in Rochester, Minn.

But what a possible partnership could look like in Fargo-Moorhead remains to be seen, Thompson said. It might be a citywide project involving scores of venues, he said, or it could be a new workforce development program or an arts-based magnet school supported by area corporations.

At the end of the event, Thompson and Maus asked attendees to note their ideas for possible partnerships or next topics of discussion that will be used to come up with ideas for the second breakfast set for July 11.

The museum will have art and business breakfasts at least a few times a year. Thompson said the goal is to keep the conversation going as the community comes up with ideas.

"This is a relationship," he said. "It's a relationship between the arts—visual arts, performing arts, dance, music—and the businesses in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo."

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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