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Kim Konikow (far left), Governor Burgum (center), and NDCA Board Chair Dr. Shawn Oban (far right) with 2023 recipients of the ND Governor's Awards for the Arts

Photo: Kim Konikow (far left), Governor Burgum (center), and NDCA Board Chair Dr. Shawn Oban (far right) with 2023 recipients of the ND Governor's Awards for the Arts

As Executive Director of North Dakota Council on the Arts (NDCA) 2018-2024, Kim Konikow led the charge for North Dakota arts and culture for almost six and a half years. During her tenure at NDCA, Konikow successfully advocated to increase the agency’s budget, introduced new accessible programs for underserved communities, and expanded staff capacity to manage those programs.

In Biennial Report FY2017-2019, NDCA’s budget totaled about $3.3 million over the 2-year period. In the FY2023-2025 biennium, NDCA’s budget increased to $4.9 million. The additional funds helped increase program offerings from eight to eleven focusing on underserved populations such as rural communities, indigenous artists, and accessibility issues. In addition, the maximum grant dollar amounts awarded were raised.

More noteably, Konikow started a program called Arts Across the Prairie, a first-of-its-kind, statewide, public art program that will produce eight large-scale public works – one for each geographic region in the state – that reflect the unique history, landscape, and cultural heritage of each region. The idea came to her in the middle of the night. She said, “I was wondering, what would bring people together? And it felt like one way to do this was to create art, which is not something that state arts agencies usually do. We don't usually make things; we help other people make things.”

Konikow continued, “The installations are really in the birthing process right now. We've gotten a legislative commitment specifically toward the maintenance of the pieces, which is a huge deal, so they won't fall into disrepair. The state is working on easements with rural property owners and maintenance agreements on how to manage those pieces. We have already selected four artists. It’s very exciting.”

Staff of North Dakota Council on the Arts, eight people standing outside on a cool spring day, smiling brightly and holding artworks they created during a staff retreat
     NDCA Staff January 2024

When Konikow took the reins in 2018, there were five full-time staff, including her as executive director, a folklorist, a fiscal officer, an arts in education director, and a public information officer. By 2024, that number had increased to eight, with additions including a program manager, a special projects coordinator, and a grants administrator. What’s more, NDCA contracted a curator to manage NDCA’s rotating arts exhibits at the North Dakota State Capitol building.

In order to achieve her goals, Konikow built partnerships with various State Agencies; NDCA constituents including artists and organizations; rural community members and leaders; and ND State legislators. She said, “Building relationships outside of your comfort zone is critical . . . . By bringing people together, arts and culture have an opportunity to grow.” 

Governor Doug Burgum, ND Council on the Arts director Kim Konikow and Humanities director Brenna Gerhardt
     Gov. Burgum, Konikow, Gerhardt 2022

Looking to the future, Konikow said, “NDCA must continue to build relationships with diverse communities (immigrant, Indigenous, rural, etc.) and provide welcoming access to professional development, grant programs, and general support. With the legislature, there are new connections to be made and supporters to cultivate. The arts exist in every ND community, and our constituents must share stories that demonstrate legislative support for the arts in their home districts.” Konikow’s vision for North Dakota is to see “arts programs of some kind in every community and school across the state.”

Konikow said she will miss, “. . . getting to know the depth and breadth of the arts in rural communities and cities across the state; understanding more what makes this place [ND] tick; being able to facilitate change that is valuable for so many people; and, of course,  I will miss the people. I met so many fascinating individuals and witnessed such organizational and individual artistic growth. A special call out to NDCA’s staff for dedication, good humor, and adaptability to a crazy, pushy out-of-stater who wanted to work fast in a slow system.”

In recognition of her work to strengthen the North Dakota arts sector, Konikow will be awarded the Walt Odegaard Leadership Award from the North Dakota Association of Nonprofit Organizations (NDANO). The award will be presented to her during a luncheon on May 30 which is the closing event of the 2024 Nonprofit Leadership Conference in Bismarck. 

While Kim Konikow is stepping down as an arts director, she will remain an arts advocate and become a stronger arts connoisseur. She plans to spend more time on the other side of the arts world: practicing her skills as a culinary artist and attending a variety of arts and cultural events and exhibits. Simply put, Konikow said, “I love the arts; it’s a genetic disorder 😊.”


Messages of Gratitude

Gov. Burgum
Arts and culture play an important role in healthy, vibrant communities, and we are grateful for Kim's leadership at North Dakota Council on the Arts over the past six years. She has been a passionate advocate and partner for arts and culture in every community and has played a key role in the establishment of Arts Across the Prairie, supporting public art statewide. We wish her well as she embarks on her new journey.

NDCA Board member Dawn Mandt
Kim has been an outstanding state leader and we are so grateful for her grand initiative with Arts Across the Prairie as well as the many smaller organizations and projects and building out community vibrancy elements. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with Kim the past few years and I wish her so, so much joy and happiness in her retirement.

NDCA Board member Kimberly Gaugler
Kim has been a champion for advancing the arts and awareness of arts in North Dakota. Her leadership, passion, and advocacy have been keys to the successes of North Dakota Council of the Arts.

NDCA Board Chair Dr. Shawn Oban
Kim Konikow, with her unwavering dedication and fervent commitment, has been the driving force behind the creative growth and community strengthening initiatives of North Dakota Council on the Arts since 2018. As a passionate facilitator, Ms. Konikow's influence has been felt far and wide. We extend our deepest gratitude for her invaluable service and indomitable spirit.

NDCA Board member John K. Geyerman
[Under Kim Konikow’s leadership,] remarkable strides have been made for the arts in our North Dakota communities. She has displayed unwavering dedication in advocating for the fundamental value and benefits of the arts within ND, both economically and socially. 

One particular initiative that stands out, Arts Across the Prairie, will serve as a beacon for other arts organizations seeking to celebrate and preserve regional cultural heritage. In addition, Kim has made it a focus of NDCA to prioritize cultural equity, accessibility, inclusion, and expanding outreach to traditionally underserved communities. 

Her passion is enormous, but she cares profoundly about NDCA and arts in North Dakota. I’ve enjoyed her mentorship; her presence will be deeply missed. I wish her the best in her retirement!

NDCA Board member Kent Kapplinger
Kim has been the captain of our ship, serving ND and the Arts Council with passion, drive, and heart. She will leave NDCA with a superb strategic plan and tools in place to accomplish those goals. 


Kim Konikow Bio

Head and shoulders of Kim Konikow with short grey hair, fair skin and a closed smileAs Executive Director of North Dakota Council on the Arts (2018-2024), Kim Konikow utilized her combined employment, teaching, and consulting work. She brought to the Agency her unique skills and abilities as a passionate facilitator of opportunity. In the position for almost six and a half years, Konikow worked to promote creative growth and strengthen communities across ND through the arts.

Ms. Konikow has a varied background in the arts. Prior experience includes Conference Coordinator for Dance/USA, Washington DC; Executive Director for The Mesa in southern Utah; Executive Director for Minnesota Dance Alliance; Associate Director for Art Awareness, in upstate New York; and Director of Special Events at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

As a teacher, she served as Adjunct Faculty at several colleges and universities across the country. As a consultant through artservices & company, Konikow has been engaged in projects which focus on organizational development. 

Ms. Konikow was an Administrative Fellow at the National Endowment for the Arts, and a recipient of a Travel and Study Grant from the Jerome Foundation. She has served extensively as a site visitor and panelist for several regional, state, and national organizations.

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