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Eileen Walsh, executive director the West Dakota Arts Council, stands on Main Avenue in downtown Bismarck beside one of the council's past community arts projects which placed local artists' work on traffic signal boxes. 

The arts have played a larger role in the Bismarck-Mandan community as the area has grown. It hasn’t always been easy, with funding often tight.

So it was interesting to see a recent study that showed the Bismarck arts community has had a $43.5 million economic impact. The Dakota West Arts Council took part in the Americans for the Arts’ Arts & Economic Prosperity study. Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot and Jamestown also participated in the study and in those cities the study showed the arts have a $109.2 million economic impact, employing 4,006 and contributing $10 million in state and local taxes. Nationwide, the arts brought in $166.3 billion.

The arts encompass a lot of areas — art galleries, dance, film, plays, music, woodcarvers and more. They reflect the creative spirit of a community and how we express ourselves. There are a growing number of public displays of art in Bismarck-Mandan. In Bismarck, murals have been created in alleys, turning drab areas into colorful showcases of local talent. Poetry boxes are being planned along Bismarck park walking paths.

Throughout the school year students provide us with concerts, plays and art exhibits. Many people look forward to Bismarck State College’s annual art and photo display.

DWAC also found from the study that event audiences totaled 783,606 people, who spent $19.1 million total, excluding the cost of admission. The spending included clothing purchases and dinners related to the events.

We often don’t realize what a big part the arts play in our lives. In the summer, if we attend Sleepy Hollow or travel to the Medora Musical we are enjoying the arts. Likewise the bandshell concerts in Mandan, Art in the Park during the Fourth of July celebration and the symphony along with fireworks at the Capitol.

Throughout the year there are events too numerous to mention. We are fortunate to have so much to choose from for entertainment.

A vibrant arts culture draws people to our community. When deciding where to work and live, the arts are one of the factors that people consider.

As noted earlier, funding for many of the programs can be tight. So it benefits everyone when we patronize the different offerings. While North Dakota is noted for its outdoors offerings and lifestyles, the arts continue to carve out a big place in our society.