The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

15 January 2005

Welcome to New Bohemia

From the High Plains Reader in Fargo, an ambitious, yet small-scale, plan:

New Bohemia, North Dakota, could be any one of dozens and dozens of small, rural towns or villages.

It could be in the Badlands or in the Pembina Hills. It could be near the Missouri, the Sheyenne, the Pembina, Goose or Red River. It could be in open prairie lands, or in rich farmlands.

New Bohemia, first, though, must exist as a possibility in our minds. We must have the ability to see opportunity where others see hopelessness. We must have the desire to see potentialities. We must trust visionaries.

New Bohemia could be a flourishing, bustling little town filled with artists, craftsmen, musicians and the likes. There could be painters, ceramicists, composers, cinematographers, photographers, writers, singers, carpenters, and anything else within the creative realm.

New Bohemia, North Dakota, could market products through the world via the world wide web.

Distance is no factor. Heart and community would be everything.

HPR editor John Strand wrote that in the fall of 2003. Since then, the idea has both withered and grown: the idea of turning one small, dying North Dakota town into a literal New Bohemia is all but dead, but the notion of a statewide North Dakota artists' network seems to have caught fire.

Julie Neidlinger, an actual North Dakota artist, has some thoughts on the possibilities:

[A]rts in North Dakota is possible, but it's a little different once you leave Fargo and Grand Forks.

For this New Bohemia to work, the goal must be one that does not force a group of grandma quilters in Cando, for example, to conform to some of what is coming out of the more urban areas. And if there is to be a movement beyond deer art, paintings on saw blades, four-line stanza covered wagon poems, and fiddling music, it must be gradual. An education element is necessary.

They seemed to stress more of a statewide collaboration, a way of connecting all artists for a stronger voice, a way to synchronize events, arts, galleries, etc. to create a state-wide functioning arts program that drew tourists in. I like the concept.

As do I, though I think it's probably easier to do this sort of thing one town at a time: small artists' communities, in places like Columbus, Indiana or Floyd, Virginia, or Oklahoma City's Paseo District, have become destinations in their own right, able to attract visitors, and more importantly, buyers. Still, virtual communities can thrive on the Net, and even the smallest towns can participate: Jud, ND, south of Jamestown off US 281, population around seventy-six, has become a village of murals, and a vintage-1905 grocery will soon become the town's Centennial Museum.

New Bohemia can work. The hardest part will be getting the word out.

Posted at 12:16 PM to Almost Yogurt