By Jim Speirs, Executive Director, Arts South Dakota

As a musician, I’m aware of the unique way that music draws people together. As we play, musicians look out on audiences that are diverse—all ages, races, genders—and yet all moving to the beat of the same tune.

The arts do that—bring us together around a single expression of creative inspiration. We don’t all like exactly the same music—yet we all share a common connection to rhythm, harmony and the emotion inherent in all styles of music. Every painting may not reach out to us, touch something emotional within us and make us see the world differently—but we’re willing to consider the possibility. That’s the way the arts work in the modern world. Creativity bridges the gaps between us and helps us understand how much we have in common.

Here in South Dakota, we celebrate the rich diversity of our cultural traditions. The colors of the sky, the drumbeat of the rolling thunder, the variety of dialects and accents that blend in our language—these things make us South Dakotans and make us appreciate our heritage and our togetherness. Those connecting points are equally celebrated in our art, from the sound of a red cedar flute echoing across the hills to a painting of the big bluestem prairie.

Sometimes it takes an effort, a purposeful reaching out from people to people, and art is there to do that, too. A musician intentionally studies the unique rhythms of other cultures as a way to express new ideas in his own musical traditions. Actors immerse themselves in the words and mannerisms of their subject. A painter puts her vision out there for the whole world to see and share and get lost in. 

I believe that’s what will always pull us together. Being inclusive in programming and support is vital, as we encourage the artists who can articulate our thoughts, express our emotions and explore our vast common ground. No matter how divided our society can sometimes look, the arts are there, like a familiar tune, to get us back singing together. We all need to see the world a little more like an artist, especially today.

Arts South Dakota shares new online weekly arts events and opportunities on social media, and the only calendar in South Dakota devoted solely to the arts on our website,