In 2020, the community of Minot, coordinated by Minot Area Council of the Arts (MACA), was chosen to be the North Dakota World Fest host from 2022 through 2025. MACA Operations and Special Projects Coordinator Chandell Lattin explained, “every fall and spring through 2025, MACA will be hosting international culture-bearers and artists who will spend a week in Minot providing educational workshops and concerts in the schools and in various locations around the community.”
Started in 2003 by Regional Arts Organization Arts Midwest, World Fest offers Midwestern communities, especially smaller and mid-size communities, an opportunity to experience music, language, and culture from across the world. During each session of the program, three international ensembles tour across the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
The first two groups have already held their residencies in Minot. In October 2022, Okaidja Afronso and his ensemble of Ghanaian musicians, dancers and storytellers, performed at various locations throughout Minot. Then in April 2023, Okra Playground, an electro-folk band from Finland using both traditional and modern instruments, held a week-long residency in Minot where they shared traditional stories and themes from ancient Finnish poetry through music.
Lattin said, “The next group that will be joining us is Pamyua, an Inuit-soul musical group that blends traditional teachings and art from their culture with influences from around the world.” The Minot World Fest Stakeholder group has not finalized the dates, but they are looking at either October or early-December 2023.
The goal of the program is to provide unique worldwide cultural experiences to as many people in the community as possible. Lattin said, “We view these residencies as extremely valuable opportunities to introduce cultures and different styles of music to members of our community that they wouldn’t necessarily encounter otherwise. World Fest offers us the chance to coordinate these cultural exchange experiences to people in our community from all backgrounds and demographics. Through school workshops and concerts, we get to expose local youth to new music and they have the chance to learn about different cultures from individuals who are not only incredible artists, but people who are passionate about sharing the stories and traditions of where they come from; library workshops and workshops at our collaborative arts events provide that opportunity to adults of all ages and to families whose children aren’t able to attend the school events. It is important to us that these experiences provide equitable access to quality arts exposure, which is why we have chosen for all our World Fest programming to be offered with open attendance to the public at no charge.”
When evaluating the week with Okra Playground, Lattin commented, “Overall, we are very happy with how this last residency went. We had over 950 attendees and getting to witness and hearing about attendee’s reactions has been so much fun!” The Minot World Fest Stakeholder group continues to re-evaluate how to best promote the program, more effectively reach out to schools, and create more community partnerships. Lattin said, “It's been really great to experience how the Minot community comes together to welcome these groups and to make sure they are getting the most out of their stay with us. Everyone who has visited so far has expressed their excitement about all that we have going on here and it’s great that we’ve been able to share that with them.”
Looking to the future, Lattin explained, “The way that Arts Midwest structures this program provides the opportunity for our organization to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of hosting international groups so that once the program is over, we can continue to provide this value to our communities. We hope that over the next few years, we will be able to foster an understanding of the importance of cultural exchange programming throughout our area so that we can garner the support necessary to keep things growing.”
For more information about upcoming World Fest events happening in Minot, visit MACA’s website and watch for announcements on their social media pages.