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*Stories marked with an asterisk were written by experienced contributing editors with the goal of showing North Dakota's diversity.

“Art is a Practice; Community is a Practice. Both are based in relationship. It is a scary time because of how disconnected we are from one another” – Eleanor Savage (Walker Art Center, June 2018)

teenager Jason Grueneich in constume on stage, smiling and laughing with other actors, during a Sleepy Hollow Theatre production in the 1990sGrowing up gay and in the arts scene in North Dakota in the 90’s and 00’s was surreal. I saw the destruction of AIDS in major cities and the LGBTQ community under attack from the “Moral” majority, while struggling with my own identity - still in the closet. I saw the Queer community rise up using art and music to cry from the roof tops about the destruction they were walking through, the heart break of losing loved ones, and the absolute lack of help from the community in general.  

The Truth is, The Arts saved my life.

teenager Jason Grueneich in constume on stage, smiling and laughing with other actors, during a Sleepy Hollow Theatre production in the 1990sI was heavily involved in Music and Theater and continue to be today. If it wasn’t for the Arts programs in school and Sleepy Hollow summer theater, I honestly don’t know where I would be today. It gave me an outlet to find a community that embraced me for who I was and taught me how to function in a group; to support each other’s creative spirits and to learn how to share that creativity with the community as a whole to make it a better place. The friendships that were forged all those years ago still play a major role in my life.

Adult Jason Grueneich joyfully acting, singing and dancing on stage with other cast membersI have returned to my love of singing and performing again after a hiatus and I am so grateful for it. I lost my partner last year and music has sustained my soul through this difficult time. Music and the arts do that for us. They comfort, they inform, they heal, and they help us grow.

So that brings us to today. Why Arts now? Why during Pride month? I believe we need the Arts more than ever, especially hearing from Queer artists during Pride month. There has been a major swing again in the world. Some feel that it is ok to single out certain members of our community and ostracize or demonize them. We have been down this road before and it never does the community any good. It causes unnecessary destruction. It is time to realize that our community is a beautiful rainbow of people who make our amazing communities what they are: Diverse, Beautiful, Productive, Engaged, FLOURISHING.

Plug into the Arts in ND and in your cities. Support your local artists. Get involved with volunteering. You never know what young life you may save through just the simple act of singing a song or creating art together. Happy Pride month everyone. 


Chest-up photo of Jason Grueneich wearing a black shirt, with short dark hair and short beard, with a big toothy smile; standing in front of the North Dakota Capitol building in Bismarck

About the Author
Jason Grueneich has been an active participant and advocate in the Arts & Humanities for years, starting with a passion for music, theater, and literature as a child. His love for theater and music was developed through amazing Public School music and theater departments and blossomed with Sleepy Hollow Summer Theater in the 90s. After some out-of-state adventures, he returned to ND in 2016. Along with volunteering at the park, Grueneich jumped back into performance with the Sleepy Hollow musical review to raise funds for their youth summer programs. Grueneich also joined the ND Council on the Arts R.E.A.C.H. advisory board to brainstorm ways to reach more diverse groups and individuals in the arts. All this while, Grueneich was also bringing arts into the HIV communities across the state and starting the first ever HIV nonprofit for ND, “Shine Bright & Live”. 

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