What Arts Rapid City learned at NAMP-Camp

Posted by Sara Olivier, Nov 14, 2014 0 comments

Sara Olivier Sara Olivier


We’re sitting in a local diner in Atlanta, trying to summarize what we gleaned from the National Arts Marketing Conference in a short blog post. Like it’s possible. Actually, we can’t seem to get away from #nampc this year in Atlanta. Seriously. We cannot leave. During Sha Hwang’s brilliant keynote, in which he rhapsodized about the brave pilots who were the first to “fly west with the night,” United airlines texted that our westbound, evening flight home was canceled. Oh the irony.

Our twitter feed is full of Rapid City, South Dakotans documenting the ensuing polar vortex. The public library’s handyman, Wade, is plowing the streets around the building. Eager librarians invite you to come in and warm up (this is the truth…no slant. Wade is a real person, and librarians in South Dakota tweet AND have 3D printers. Deal with it).

rclibraryfeedrclibraryfeedPeople are riding mountain bikes to work in their Carhartts and blaze orange hats (look it up people, they sell the hats at urban outfitters now because it’s so uncool, it’s hip). Blizzards don’t stop us from getting it done. A smiling art gallery staff hold bright red shovels high overhead in victory…as the snow continues to fall thickly on the sidewalk.

We love all of these people. So much. They are creative, smart, and (you might find this surprising, don’t worry, for some reason South Dakotans will find it surprising too) they are cutting edge. That’s right, the folksy folk from the Midwest are cutting edge. And we’re not just talking about high fashion Carhartts. We live in rural America where people feel behind because we’re told we are. People refer to our home pejoratively as “flyover country.” Like the things that happen here aren’t worth paying attention to. So people have a major inferiority complex. Not to say they don’t anywhere else, this is just a widespread issue we face. And we really shouldn’t feel so bush-league. We have brilliant artists. They are taking risks, exploring ideas, unafraid of controversy, and pursuing their passions just as much as anyone else, anywhere else. We have an online website complete with social media strategies to promote and support arts and culture in Rapid City.

We know, we know, you’re probably thinking…you’re supposed to be talking about NAMPC, not yourselves. Sorry, we can’t help it. We’re marketers, after all. We promise we’re getting there.

After listening to arts marketers from all over (mostly urban areas on the coasts) talk about their challenges this past weekend…we started feeling pretty great!

Awkward pause.

C’mon, we may be boastful, but we aren’t that mean. What we’re trying to say is, we have the same problems (er, we mean opportunities) as everyone else. Light bulb!

We are all trying to keep up with technology. That’s tough. We are all trying to engage dwindling audiences. That’s rough. And we all struggle with diversity issues and racial and socioeconomic tensions. That just really sucks.

But isn’t it great to know that we aren’t alone? We can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. Which means, our mistakes can be part of other people’s success stories. So, in a way, mistakes are essential for everyone’s progress.

So, thank you, for making mistakes and sharing them with us.

Therein lies the simple glory of NAMPC. Of all the wonderful, ground-breaking, goosebump-triggering lessons learned, this may have been the most unexpected. We are all facing the same issues (generally speaking) and we need to solve them.

Which leads us to:

Aside from the revelation that, we’re all in this together and have more in common with the cast of High School Musical than we thought, here are a few more of our favorite takeaways. Some are ground-breaking, and some are nice-to-hear confirmations that we are on the right track.

  • Creative misuse is okay.
  • The audience has an audience.
  • Weirdness is encouraged.
  • Maps are important.
  • Diversity isn’t extra work, it’s an essential way of being.
  • Focus on commonalities (hey…that sounds like a good idea for a blog post).
  • Let things grow organically.
  • Don’t be a hater.
  • It’s okay to celebrate success, i.e. brag (channel Whitman and sing yourself).
  • No more “I’m sorry” programs.
  • Good intentions are not enough.
  • Fun does not equal frivolous.
  • Collaboration is not innovative.
  • Be authentic.
  • Be human.


  • Get OUT!.....out of your cubicle, out of your building.

Sometimes, progress might feel like shoveling snow as it continues to fall. Don’t be dismayed. Instead, hold your shovel high, celebrate small victories, and continue to carve a path in the face of the cold statistical data falling around you. Because, after all, as Sha Hwang taught us, culture isn’t code, it’s a messy massive weather system.

ATL! Sara Olivier, Anna Huntington, and Jessica Miller from Arts Rapid City with Graham Dunstan, Americans for the Arts and Rick Berg from Tesko Consulting at NAMPC 2014


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