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Our view: Culture alive and well in Grand Forks

Saturday, an event highlighted two entities in Grand Forks that are distinctly separate in mission but linked by the unique cultural offerings they bring to the city.

The Empire Arts Center Dinner and Dance was held at the Alerus Center. It showcased the best of the two — the Empire's flair for dramatic cultural events and the Alerus Center's ability to host a lavish party that easily can compete with facilities in larger cities.

Actually, Grand Forks is luckier yet, since Ralph Engelstad Arena also throws a heck of a party.

But back to Saturday. The soiree was the culmination of the Empire Arts Center's 20-year anniversary party. The celebration began with a free concert April 21 and followed with a week of free events at the Empire, which was nearly dead following the flood of 1997 but renovated to become a cultural hotspot. Now, the center hosts numerous events throughout the year, including theatrical performances and musicals, art shows, recitals, concerts and speakers.

Saturday's Empire Dinner and Dance was hosted by the Alerus Center, which is undergoing a renaissance of its own. There are 438 events planned at the Alerus Center this year, up from last year's 326. After being $400,000 in the red in 2017, the Alerus Center this year is expected to see revenue of some $5 million with a profit of approximately $236,000.

It's been 10 months since a new management company — Philadelphia-based Spectra — took over at the Alerus Center, and so far, it's difficult to argue with the company's success. This week, the Alerus will host country music star Thomas Rhett; later this year, Metallica will play there.

Meanwhile, at the Ralph, Little Big Town recently performed, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill will play there in July and a new Cirque du Soleil event in September was just announced.

Really, it's amazing all of this happens in a city of 60,000.

The city owns the Alerus Center, while the Empire is a nonprofit run by a board of directors. The two came together perfectly Saturday and reminded us of the quality of our city's culture, strengthened by the ongoing work of the Alerus Center, the Ralph, the Empire, high-quality performances at local schools, and others in the arts community.

Much is happening in Grand Forks, easily discoverable by those who simply wish to participate and covering a wide variety of genres and offerings.

A contemporary chic phrase used by cities and chambers of commerce is "quality of life" — meaning the offerings available to residents of a particular city and region. If a city's infrastructure, housing and jobs are the cake, quality of life is the frosting and is so important as young families decide where they'll put down roots.

Grand Forks has quality of life, and the city's cultural offerings — perfectly portrayed Saturday — are a big reason why.

Disclosure: Herald Publisher Korrie Wenzel is a member of the Empire Arts Center board of directors.

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