Reflections on Arts Advocacy Day

Reflections on Arts Advocacy Day

Musician, composer, and Executive Director of the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, Dameun Strange reflects on his experience attending this year’s Arts Advocacy Day

Photo by Dameun Strange


When I was young, I had young boy dreams:

I wanted to be a doctor. 

I wanted to be an architect. 

I wanted to be an astronaut. 

I wanted to be a baseball player.

I wanted to be a composer.


Each of these journeys would have come with its challenges and its benefits. Some of the challenges became barriers to me achieving those dreams, and some of the benefits are things I still find quite enticing. For example, baseball players: it seems like at every level, at least these days, baseball players get their own walk-up music. Walk-up music has to be one of the coolest perks; when you are walking up to face a challenge or when you enter the room, there is a theme that plays you in to get you pumped up, to drown out those doubting thoughts. For me, I play my own walk-up music in my head when I am approaching most situations. For many years, it was Bjork’s Venus As A Boy, and lately it’s been Michael Kiwanuka’s Black Man in a White World


On the morning of February 28, 2017, as I walked up to the tall glass doors of the Minnesota History Center, I imagined my walk-up song was Lovely Day by Bill Withers. No, As by Stevie Wonder. Or perhaps a mash-up of the two, because sometimes the walk-up music is defined by the atmosphere, by the experience.


Photo courtesy Noah Keesecker


And Arts Advocacy Day... felt like a homecoming, a family reunion. I entered through a hall of hellos, hugs, and handshakes. Friendly faces smiled wide. For me, Arts Advocacy Day has always come down to that feeling. It is that other “Great Minnesota Get-Together” specifically for the arts. I have to admit it had been a couple of years since I had attended the Arts Advocacy Day, due to my work schedule at The Bush Foundation, but for me, as I walked through the front doors and down that long hallway of the Minnesota History Center, something felt so familiar. 


The explicit goal of the day is to make a connection with our state representatives, to thank them for (hopefully) supporting the arts in their roles as representatives of the people, and to ask them to continue that support. And every year there is a specific ask. This year we asked our legislators to:


Please Protect the 47% of the Arts Legacy Fund & Maintain the General Fund.


Now... this is very important considering what we, as an arts community and as a larger society, face in this unfriendly federal administration. Luckily for Minnesotans, we have dedicated funding for Arts and Culture. The danger would be having the percentage of the allocation that goes to the arts cut. We have historically benefited from bipartisan support for the arts; Arts Advocacy Day is about making sure that support is maintained.


A more implicit goal of the day may be to build community. My team from District 65 (Frogtown/Summit U) walked through the halls of the newly remodeled State Capitol, many of us for the first time. We were a crew of around 20. And around every turn there were folks, other crews wearing Minnesota Citizens for the Arts “Artist Advocate” buttons (I think I have about 10-12 of these floating around my house) and buttons that read:




In fact, this “call” was everywhere. It was on posters for the events and in all of the emails. 


Photo courtesy Minnesota Citizens for the Arts by Scott Streble


More smiles, more hellos, more hugs. 


As I said, Arts Advocacy Day feels very familiar to me because, throughout the year, we do have a community. We, the artists; we, the arts administrators and board members. We meet, we collaborate, we build in small ways all year long. We build between the Twin Cities; we build between rural, urban, and suburban. We build between disciplines. We don’t often get to build on a scale this big. Yet it still feels so familiar. 


There was something that happened this year that I wish felt more familiar, at least at Arts Advocacy Day. It happened as our District 65 crew was visiting our State Senator Sandy Pappas. We sat around the conference table and made our introductions: most of us were artists or arts administrators or somehow directly connected to the arts until two thirds of the way around the table when a woman with straw-straight blond hair announced that she was there, not because she is in any way connected to the arts. “I am not an artist. I don’t work for an arts organization. I am a scientist. I am here because I believe that arts are important; it’s been very important in my life. The arts matter very much to me.” Powerful. I walked up to her after our meeting with Senator Pappas and thanked her for being there. She smiled and replied, “No need to thank me, it’s where I had to be.”


I had to fight the urge to return to the Transportation Building cafeteria to mingle, network, and build. As I said earlier, we don’t often get a chance, especially the small organizations, the individual artists, to gather, to celebrate, to commiserate, to share as a community on this scale and I wanted more of it. But as the executive director of a small arts organization with a staff of only 2, one morning was almost too much to spare. I am quite thankful to Sheila Smith and her staff at Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. They are constantly putting together an outstanding outing and this year was the biggest group ever. I look forward to the next time we can all get together, united for one cause. I look forward to next year’s Arts Advocacy Day. Art for all. All for art. 


Dameun Strange, photo courtesy of NEMAA


To learn more about Arts Advocacy Day and other advocacy efforts by the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, visit

-- Dameun Strange

If you are making art or looking at art in the Twin Cities, use the hashtag to show it off.
Mon May 1st 7PM - 9PM CST
Bethel University - Johnson
3900 Bethel Dr, Minneapolis
Fri May 5th 6PM - 8PM CST
Bockley Gallery
2123 W 21st St, Minneapolis
Fri May 5th 6PM - 8PM CST
Katherine E. Nash Gallery
405 21st Ave S, Minneapolis
Fri May 5th 7PM - 9PM CST
Light Grey Art Lab
118 East 26th St, Minneapolis
Fri May 5th 7PM - 9PM CST
Light Grey Art Lab
118 East 26th St, Minneapolis
May 6th - May 7th
Midtown Farmers Market
2225 E Lake St, Minneapolis
Sat May 6th 5:30PM - 9:30PM CST
Traffic Zone
250 3rd Ave N, Minneapolis
Sat May 6th 6PM - 9PM CST
Vine Arts Center
2637 27th AVE S, Minneapolis
Wed May 10th 6PM - 9PM CST
Le Méridien Chambers
901 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
May 11th - Aug 12th
Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis
Fri May 12th 12AM - 12AM CST
The Show Gallery
346 N. Sibley ST, St. Paul
Fri May 12th 6PM - 8PM CST
Northern Clay Center
2424 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis
Fri May 12th 6PM - 8PM CST
Weinstein Gallery
908 West 46th St, Minneapolis
Fri May 12th 7PM - 9PM CST
Gallery 122 at Hang It
122 8th Street SE, Minneapolis
Fri May 12th 7PM - 9PM CST
David Petersen Gallery
2018 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis
May 11th - Aug 12th
Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis
Sat May 13th 5PM - 8PM CST
615 W Lake St, Minneapolis
Sat May 13th 7PM - 10PM CST
Rosalux Gallery
1400 Van Buren Street NE, Minneapolis
May 19th - May 21st
Kate Iverson Studio
1101 Stinson Blvd, Minneapolis
Sat May 20th 7PM - 10PM CST
Hennes Art Company
160 Glenwood AVE N, Minneapolis
Thu Jun 15th 4PM - 6PM CST
LaSalle Art Gallery
15 S 9th ST, Minneapolis
Apr 1st - May 6th
David Petersen Gallery
2018 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis
Apr 20th - May 12th
Gamut Gallery
717 S 10th St, Minneapolis
Apr 1st - May 13th
Circa Gallery
210 N First St, Minneapolis
Apr 7th - May 13th
Denler Gallery
3003 Snelling Ave N, St. Paul
Apr 25th - May 13th
Regis Center For Art Quarter Gallery
405 21st Ave S, Minneapolis
Apr 14th - May 20th
Soo Visual Arts Center
2909 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis
Apr 13th - May 20th
Form + Content Gallery
210 N 2nd St, Minneapolis
Apr 21st - May 20th
Light Grey Art Lab
118 East 26th St, Minneapolis
Apr 8th - May 20th
Soo Visual Arts Center
2909 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis
Apr 8th - May 20th
Soo Visual Arts Center
2909 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis
Jan 28th - May 21st
Weisman Art Museum
333 E River Pkwy, Minneapolis
Apr 22nd - May 25th
Hair And Nails Gallery
2222 1/2 E 35th ST, Minneapolis
Apr 6th - May 27th
Bethel University - Olson Gallery
3900 Bethel Dr, St. Paul
Mar 10th - May 28th
Minnesota Center For Book Arts
1011 Washington Avenue S, Minneapolis
Apr 22nd - May 28th
Flanders + Associates
818 West Lake St, Minneapolis
Feb 9th - May 31st
Track 29 City Apartments
2841 Bryant AVE S, Minneapolis
Nov 5th - Jun 3rd
Glick Gallery
811 Glenwood Avenue, Minneapolis
Apr 29th - Jun 3rd
Groveland Gallery
25 Groveland Terrace, Minneapolis
Apr 29th - Jun 3rd
Groveland Annex
25 Groveland Tr, Minneapolis
Apr 22nd - Jun 10th
Kolman Pryor Gallery
1500 Jackson St NE #395, Minneapolis
Mar 16th - Jun 25th
Mia's U.S. Bank Gallery
2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis
Feb 25th - Jun 30th
801 Washington Lofts
801 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis
Apr 20th - Jun 30th
Ditch Gallery
400 1st Ave N #535, Minneapolis
Apr 29th - Jul 1st
Midway Contemporary Art
527 Second Avenue SE, Minneapolis