Photo by Paul Flessland
Who: FMWF arts and Business communities
What: Art & Business Breakfast
• Breakfast #1 March 14 l 7:30 – 9 a.m.
• Breakfast #2 July 11 l 7:30 – 9 a.m.
• Breakfast #3 Nov. 14 l 7:30 – 9 a.m.
Where: Plains Art Museum 704 1st Ave N, Fargo
How Much: No Cost
When you talk to a Fargo transplant, you can often barely get a word in before they start in on you about the weather (like you’re somehow responsible for it). Plains Art Museum Director of Development Sandy Thompson is a different breed, though, not only embracing the sub-zero temps but also a community that he says he’s quickly fallen for.
“My wife and I moved to Moorhead seven months ago, and we’ve loved every minute of it” says Thompson, a life-long left coaster who spent 50 years of his life in California. “The people are so incredibly nice and genuine, and there’s no agenda attached to it.”
One of the first big initiatives he’s undertaking at the Plains is to channel that benevolence—along with the FM community’s unique passion for both the arts and business—into a mutually beneficial relationship between the two sectors.
“We put together this project as an introduction to the arts world for the business community,” says Thompson, who brought the idea for the Art & Business Breakfast with him from his previous role at the Rochester Arts Center in Rochester, Minn. “We want (the business community) to look at the arts
world in a very different way—in a way that’s relationship-driven and begins to engender a culture of philanthropy.
“Communities know how to give, but not very many communities know how to be truly philanthropic. We look at ROI quite differently.”
What Is It?
The Art & Business Breakfast will be a thrice-yearly (with the right to add more to the calendar, if there’s enough interest) breakfast meeting open to the public and aimed at members of Fargo-Moorhead’s arts and business communities.
Whether you’re a financial analyst, the founder of a tech startup, or a sculptor, all are welcome to come and enjoy bagels, pastries, juice, and coffee, as well as an engaging presentation and some interactive activities.
“The Art & Business Breakfast is looking for those mutually beneficial relationships between arts and business,” Thompson says. “We’re going to be looking for those touch points and those intersections
where we can support each other.
“Many times, as arts organizations, we look at the business community and say, ‘Would you like to be a member? Here are the levels: $250, $500, $1,000. Here are a couple benefits. Thank you very much.’ It’s totally transactional.
“The Art & Business Breakfast wants to look past that and find those intersections of: What can we learn from each other?
“Sometimes we both have to be given real-life situations where that’s happening. It’s one thing to be cheerleading and say, ‘The business community needs to support the arts. The community would be better.’ That’s great, but we need to say how we can actually do that.”
Why It Can Work
Thompson: “One thing that really attracted me to Fargo is the way the business community is structured here.
“Rochester (Minn.), for example, is very vertical. And with Mayo Clinic bringing in $10.6 billion a year, why not? One-third of the population is related directly to working for Mayo, and if you expand that to families, it’s probably two-thirds of the city at one employer.*
“Here in Fargo, though—much like the terrain—it’s very horizontal. It’s entrepreneurial, it’s risk-taking, and it’s not ‘Woe is me’ when the risk doesn’t work. It’s, ‘Oh, okay, that didn’t work. What did I learn?’
“That makes me really enthusiastic about the business community and the support we’re already getting and that’s potentially out there. We’ve identified more than 370 businesses that we want to let know, at the very least, what we’re doing and try to find out if it’s a fit with what those organizations have as a mission with employees.
“One of the things I’m going to do with this project is engage the left brain, which is often seen as the business brain, and the right brain, which is seen as the creative side, and have each look to the other.
“There are a lot of left-brain results, in terms of looking at statistical analysis of how many people attend and why, which the business community is going to love because it breaks it down into percentages. But it helps the arts community because we need to be marketing, we need to be promoting, we need to create programs that generate these higher-percentage returns on different ways to engage.”