Don Ofstedal and Jerry Lee are long time friends of ARENA DANCES. We sat down with them to talk about their views on art, the importance of local community, and what keeps them supporting and coming back to ARENA.

With so many worthy causes to give to, particularly in our current political climate and with many pressing issues to act on, how did Don and Jerry decide that the arts were something that they wanted to support? Jerry is a former literature teacher, so it’s not surprising he makes his point with historical literature. “They said in ancient times, the first people killed by a dictator would be the poets, because they told political stories. Stories like the Illiad and the Odyssey were political stories… and obviously there was a slant to how stories were told.” Don also cited history in his answer, bringing up a quote attributed to Winston Churchill; when Churchill was asked about cutting funding for the arts during wartime, he allegedly responded, “Then what are we fighting for?”

What both of these answers highlights is a deeply held belief that art provides something valuable, that, in their words,  “some sort of exposure to humanity, past and present” is necessary to be a full person. Jerry told us a story about a colleague of his who previously hadn’t had any interest in the arts, but through a relationship began seeing gallery exhibits and performances. When this colleague next spent time with Jerry, he told him, “There was this whole world out there I didn’t know.” The colleague “had been exposed. And that’s what art does. It exposes people to things they may not be comfortable with… but if something sparks, that’s really all you can do.”

So Don and Jerry give to ARENA DANCES. They feel that art is something that needs to keep happening–and with their donations, they ensure that it’s something that keeps happening here, in Minneapolis. They emphasized that they make it a priority to donate to causes and organizations that are local, and ones for whom their gift will really make a difference, noting the pride that they have in Minnesota’s art scene: “Sometimes tooting your own horn isn’t the Minnesotan, Scandinavian way, but it’s nice to know there’s a lot of cool stuff here.”

If Don and Jerry’s story resonates with you, you can give to ARENA DANCES by clicking the donate button below.