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Local View: Help keep Duluth arts alive this holiday season

From the column: "Duluth’s artistic offerings are rich and plentiful, but we cannot take this for granted. While our arts organizations survived the turmoil of the past two years, their fight is not over yet."

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"The Nutcracker" (2017 file / News Tribune)
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Every Christmas, my grandma took my sisters and me to see Minnesota Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” at the DECC. It was a magical evening. We wore frilly dresses. We pranced around the lobby on our toes. We bought tiny nutcrackers and held our breath as the curtains rose and the familiar music erupted from the orchestra pit.

Fast forward 30-some years to 2021, and it is opening night once again. I am sitting in Symphony Hall between my grandma, who is now 94, and my 12-year old son. It is his first time at the ballet. I watch his eyes widen as snow falls gently from the ceiling, as the Sugar Plum Fairy leaps and twirls across the stage, gracefully defying gravity. My grandma squeezes my hand, and I grab hold of this magical holiday memory shared between three generations of my family.

Running an arts organization can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill. Constantly. From implementing meaningful programming to customer service, managing staff, community outreach, building maintenance, and raising money, the to-do list is never-ending and the resources are always stretched. Add a pandemic to the mix, and that boulder becomes a rockslide.

For the past two years, the words “pivot,” “sustain,” and “survive” have reverberated throughout the walls of beloved organizations in the Northland like the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, Duluth Playhouse, Minnesota Ballet, and Duluth Art Institute. These nonprofits have been bringing music, art, dance, theater, and culture to our community for decades.

Duluth’s artistic offerings are rich and plentiful, but we cannot take this for granted. While our arts organizations survived the turmoil of the past two years, their fight is not over yet.

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This holiday season, instead of the traditional matching jammies or Instant Pot, consider supporting your favorite local arts organization by making a donation in a loved one’s name.

And the next time you attend a play, concert, or exhibit here in Duluth, remember the boulder/rockslide, knowing that somewhere backstage in a too-small office is an exhausted executive director trying to figure out how to make snow fall from the ceiling.

Jessica Lind Peterson is the development director at the Depot Foundation. She is also an essayist, playwright, and co-founder of Yellow Tree Theatre in the Twin Cities.

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Jessica Lind Peterson (Photo by Amy Woodford)

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