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Arts Partnership staff celebrate Women’s History Month by honoring female artistic influences – InForum

FARGO — March marks Women’s History Month, and The Arts Partnership staff took some time to discuss the female artists who have influenced us.

From perennial favorite Jane Austen to lesser-known personal family members to sci-fi feminists, our influences have proven to be as wide and varied as the identified female experience.

Dayna Del Val, President and CEO

Jane Austen: Explaining to you why Jane Austen is important to me is like asking me to explain why I breathe. She’s smart, funny, and ageless. Many of its female characters are sassy, ​​smart, and close-knit—all qualities I see when I look in the mirror.

I actually fell in love with her when I first watched the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth BBC production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I picked up the book from the library the day I returned the VHS copies of the movie.

“When Dr Marry took me to Jane Austen’s last home in Chawton, England in September 2017, I stood in front of her small office and cried. I was just devastated to be standing there. in his space, imagining his short life and brilliant mind,” said Dayna Del Val, President and CEO of The Arts Partnership.

Contributed / Dayna Del Val

I had a portable washing machine at the time that was hooked up to my kitchen faucet. At the same time, the hose that filled the machine broke down, so I appropriated one of my vacuum’s attachment tubes to fit between the faucet and the barrel to fill it that way. It took a good 15 minutes each time; I held this tube with my right hand and read the book with my left, turning the pages, carefully balancing the book on the edge of the washing machine, being careful not to drop it into the slow-filling tub. I savored every page turn and immediately read his other five completed novels.

It was the beginning of my love affair with Jane Austen. She taught me that young women have always had their own minds and a lot of people have always been uncomfortable with that. But if you hold on tight to who you are, you’ll get your reward in the end. She also inspired me to call my wife Dr. Marry, a fact he doesn’t quite appreciate as I would like, but tolerates.

Tania Blanich, Director of Operations

Beverly Halbeisen Blanich: When I was asked about my female artistic influence, I immediately thought of my mother, Beverly Halbeisen Blanich, who owned the Halbeisen School of Dance for 40 years.

She performed at North Dakota State University’s Little Country Theater throughout college and was a co-founder of the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater. However, most of you don’t know that she was an above average visual artist who designed the costumes for dance recitals and sometimes painted for herself.

A painting by Beverly Halbeisen Blanich of her daughter, Tania Blanich, Director of Operations for the Partnership for the Arts, when she was about 6 years old.

Contribution / Tania Blanich

I’d like to think that I always appreciated how versatile and versatile Mom was. But in truth, even two years after her passing, I appreciate even more the great influence she had on my life, personally and professionally.

She was the gateway to my appreciation of the arts – and to never ignore that women can play any role in the arts. Mom wasn’t just a dance teacher, but she was a producer, executive producer, props man, art director, lyricist, music director, choreographer, dancer, and screenwriter. And to top it off, she ran her own business, self-promoted, kept the books, and managed to raise (along with our amazing dad) two daughters who grew up surrounded and grateful for the arts.

Mom taught me so much. From left to right (important for a young dancer). Serenity and confidence. The ability to allow art to transform and transport me. The certainty that “local” could stand on its own: Mum had works by Kitten O’Day, John Holland, Mason Arvold and other local artists in a collection that included paintings purchased on trips to the United States and in Europe. And above all, that art and creativity was something to be celebrated and cultivated – in me and in others.

Lonna Whiting, communications consultant

Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler: It’s almost a cliche to name poet/writer Margaret Atwood as an artistic influence since she became a household name (thanks mainly to the Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale” with Elisabeth Moss, not the book published in 1985 ). But there’s no denying that his writing has profoundly affected the way I see the world and the way I perceive good writing.

My high school librarian introduced me to Atwood’s work when I was 15. I asked her to pick me “something different” and she led me to a worn copy of “Cat’s Eye” in the piles.

I’ve been a fan ever since, and to say that the themes Atwood uses in his works influence me is an understatement. Atwood lives in a dystopian world, which doesn’t mean he’s hopeless. The way she uses characterization and plot to examine the choices we make and their impact on future generations is provocative, singular, even sexy. I encourage those who love “The Handmaid’s Tale” to read Atwood’s other books, especially “Cat’s Eye”, “The Robber Bride” and the “MaddAddam” trilogy.

In a distinctly different (and eerily similar) vein, I admire the works of the late feminist science fiction writer Octavia Butler, whom I discovered for myself in her late thirties.

Most famous for “The Parable” and “The Xenogenesis” series, Butler works in science fiction, and if you’re a science fiction fan, chances are you’re aware of his work. However, you don’t have to like the sci-fi genre to like Butler. Typically examining issues of gender, race, and sexual identity in her books, Butler teaches us that humanity cannot realize its full potential until we stop polarizing and categorizing.

Lonna Whiting, communications consultant for the Partnership for the Arts, maintains Octavia Butler’s “Xenogenesis” book series.

Contributed / Lonna Whiting

If you’re interested in reading Butler, and you should be, start with “The Parable of the Sower,” which has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic began. If you want to dive into it, opt for the “Patternmaster” series and revel in a tale that spans centuries and critiques human hierarchies.

What the two writers have in common, however, is that they both became literary forces in genres largely influenced by male writers until the 1980s. They were, and continue to be, powerful voices of the female experience – as well as, quite simply, extraordinary storytellers.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a non-profit organization that cultivates the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit