Art is a creative outlet that inspires, entertains, and educates. Whether it’s the performing arts, public arts, or artisan marketplaces, these events open opportunities for individuals and families to share new experiences and hear about different cultures. One Aberdeen organization in particular strives to broaden these art experiences for the community.
The Aberdeen Area Arts Council (AAAC) is a non-profit organization in Aberdeen with an outreach that serves six counties in Northeast South Dakota, which includes Brown, Spink, Day, Edmunds, Marshall, and McPherson.
In 1967, AAAC was formed to bring more arts to the community and promote opportunities for artists locally. The Art Council’s role evolved slightly over 55 years as interest in the arts expanded, introducing new organizations and advocates in the area. While AAAC is no longer the sole provider of the arts, it still plays a big role in local art experiences, and its initiative in the late 20th century impacted the future of Aberdeen.
With a mission to “enhance the quality of life through the arts by initiating, sponsoring, and promoting the arts through education in the Aberdeen area,” AAAC encourages a variety of entertainment.
“The Aberdeen Area Arts Council has a unique mission of bringing the arts to the community and region. We work with our audience and the artists, both performing and visual,” AAAC board member Kathy Brumbaugh said. “Art is such an integral part of our everyday living that most people don’t even realize how much it affects them—through music, architecture, movies, clothing, and even the color of their walls.”
The Board of Directors for the Council consists of 14 members who all bring a different perspective of the arts to the organization. The range of interests and areas of expertise of the Board reflect the purpose of the organization in bringing relatable, accessible events and shows to both first-time and seasoned attendees.
Alongside the team of board members, the Aberdeen area community, volunteers, and artists all make the work at AAAC possible. And at the heart of it all is Executive Director Stacy Braun.
Passion for the Arts
In March 2022, Stacy celebrates 20 years as the Council’s executive director. For Stacy, her love for art all started behind a piano. In 1983, she graduated from Northern State University with a degree in music and opened a piano studio in Aberdeen where she taught lessons for 18 years.
“Whether it’s playing piano or doing pottery, it is an escape for me. I get to go into my own little world where life is good because I’m doing art.”
When the executive position in AAAC became available in January 2002, Stacy was immediately interested, taking on the interim position until she was officially hired in March. She found a role where she could still be involved in the industry but with a schedule that was better suited for time with her family and her children’s school activities.
“Arts advisement is such an important role in my life. I did piano lessons growing up, band and choir in school, took art classes. … Because of how important the arts have been to me, I feel it is important that others have that opportunity to experience the arts, participate in the arts, attend concerts, things like that,” Stacy said.
Carrying her personal excitement for the arts into the workplace, Stacy enjoys many elements of her job from talking with agents and management companies that represent artists to planning and showcasing public art to organizing educational outreach in area schools.
“My absolute favorite part of my job is the educational outreach that we do with the schools and seeing those kids’ faces and expressions and excitement when they are getting off the bus and going into the theater, and afterwards hearing them talk about what they just saw and experienced,” Stacy said.
The outreach component of AAAC plays a large part in promoting arts in our community.
Encouraging the Arts
Working with schools exposes the students to the arts at an early age, creating long-lasting memories and positive experiences.
“We provide those opportunities and encourage those opportunities because if we don’t get the young people involved in the arts and not be scared to go to the theater when they are young, they probably won’t experience it as an adult,” Stacy explained.
The performances brought in by AAAC vary from musicians to acrobats to comedians in a special day-time performance free to the students. The groups usually have a later performance for the community, and some students even come back to watch it again with their families.
“The impact the performances have on our students is impossible to measure, but I do know from my observations that the students love attending. Experiences such as this are not just entertaining; they are a learning experience that cannot be replicated by a book or classroom discussion,” Mike Neubert, principal at May Overby Elementary, said.
AAAC works hard to find artists and performers who align with its mission and can interact with the students and encourage them to participate in various parts of the show.
“Being able to watch and learn from such talented performers who have amazing passion for the arts and have committed their lives to inspiring others is something we need to continue to pursue for our students,” Mike said.
Encouraging the arts doesn’t stop with the students. Promoting events that are unique and interesting for adults is an important goal for AAAC.
“You never know which experiences may spark a new interest in the arts; and providing a diverse range of art opportunities is an important part of cultivating that passion in children and adults alike,” AAAC board member Victoria Georgoff said.
An Advocate for the Arts
The Arts Council brings performing arts events of all categories to Aberdeen from dance and vocal performances to acrobatic and stringed instrument groups, but promoting arts is only one facet of AAAC. The organization also emphasizes advocating for local art events and artists alike.
“We shouldn’t have to travel out of town to experience great arts events, and by bringing artists to Aberdeen, the AAAC makes performances more accessible to our community by eliminating travel time and the extra costs incurred from travel,” Victoria said.
Two large events that AAAC organizes every year include Arts in the Park and Winterfest. These two opportunities highlight artists and exhibit their creations while giving the public access to support and embrace the arts in a fun, relaxing environment.
“For those who attend Arts in the Park, it provides an opportunity to see different forms of fine and folk art, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy some entertainment,” Stacy explained. “It’s a social event that many wait for every summer. It brings people together to enjoy the arts.”
Aside from advocating for the arts and local artists, the Arts Council also is an advocate for the community. Before COVID, the organization was the fiscal agent and led marketing for Empty Bowls, a project that used the creative arts to fundraise for the local social issue of hunger. Proceeds would go to food projects in Aberdeen like Salvation Army Backpack and its senior meal program along with various community meals.
Unfortunately, the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 paused performing arts events and projects like Empty Bowls. This gave AAAC the time to start initiating more public arts projects.
Last year, as a way to continue to support local artists who couldn’t participate in normal gallery shows, the Arts Council crafted a billboard art series. Six local artists were featured on billboards around Aberdeen, and AAAC’s website contained a blog for each artist that shared their story and more images of their work.
“I love how hard we work to bring these experiences to our local audience. The purpose of our council is to provide arts opportunities to our community, and we do just that,” Victoria said.
Even though we are still in the midst of a pandemic, the Aberdeen Area Arts Council continues to find ways to bring unique, thoughtful art to the community. Whether it is through general admission, choose-your-own-seat performing arts events, or “studio walks” to experience an artist’s progression of work, AAAC is an advocate for all kinds of art in Aberdeen. //
To read more behind Aberdeen Area Arts Council, projects, and artists, visit