It�s easy � perhaps too easy � to fall into a cultural trap here on the plains of South Dakota.
The very nature of the setting that we�ve been blessed with leads us to stumble into that trap. Listen to an out-of-stater describe South Dakota, and you often hear terms like �Desolate.� �Flat.� �Too hot.� �Too cold.�
And, whatever the season, all we have to do is step outside, or look out our kitchen windows to be convinced that an outsider�s typical view of our state is correct.
There is a special richness, however, in several of the state�s communities. And the Vermillion citizenry, once again, has demonstrated how it is near the top of the peak in South Dakota in terms of supporting, funding and recognizing the importance of the arts.
This weekend, the community was once again treated to a stellar performance by the Vermillion Community Theatre who staged �My Fair Lady� in the Vermillion High School Performing Arts Center.
It may be easily argued that this musical is perhaps the most challenging offering presented by the community theatre in its illustrious history. We South Dakotans are known to speak rather simply. Imagine the challenge of mastering a cockney English accent. Or a refined one. Or both.
A plus this year � and with last weekend�s musical, it was a necessity, really � was the inclusion of a small orchestra in the pit under the stage. To hear the sounds of not only percussion, brass and piano, but also violins, cello, oboe and bassoon was frankly incredible.
As usual, everyone involved with the musical met their goal in fully pleasing their audiences. We shouldn�t be surprised by this. Success has become a traditional hallmark of the VCT.
We would be mistaken if we didn�t trace this success to its roots.
The Vermillion Community Theatre is successful year after year because we are fortunate to have people in this community who understand just how vital the arts are to our very well-being. South Dakota can sometimes be unrelentless, especially during long, cold winters, in convincing us that we live in a stark world.
Thank goodness we have the arts to snap us back into reality.
The VCT helps open our eyes to the beauty around us. So does the efforts of the volunteers at the Washington Street Arts Center, who earlier this month helped young people plunge head-on into artistic expression with their Messy Hands Art Camp.
In a state where city, county, and state governments, along with school districts, just experienced a 10 percent budget cut only to be sent reeling this year with Missouri River flooding, it�s likely that government support of the arts will be, at best, very limited.
We are very fortunate, indeed, in the Vermillion community, to have people and organizations who step in to fill in during these tight times to supplement the arts and music education programs offered in our schools.
The community�s citizens follow through by offering venues for artistic expression. They present a musical, or host an artist�s work in a private business, or introduce musical talent to us during such events as Thursdays at the Platz, which begins July 21 in downtown Vermillion�s Ratingen Platz on the corner of Market and Main streets.
We can all agree that performing and visual arts are supposed to be entertaining, but there�s more at stake here, especially in the challenging times we�re currently living in.
The arts isn�t simply a passive part of our lives, something for us to just simply idly enjoy.
The arts remind us of our power to innovate. It reminds us of the importance of creativity, of critical thinking (imagine all of the thought that went into simply designing the various sets for �My Fair Lady.� Now imagine actually constructing them).
The arts ultimately teaches us all how to think beyond boundaries and inevitably overcome obstacles. The arts is critical to forward-thinking, and developing the ability to face any challenge.
We are indeed fortunate that the arts continues to flourish here in Vermillion.