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You’ve heard of “Hotel California,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Rocky Mountain High,” and “Wichita Lineman.” Well, now rural Nebraska has “The Dream Switch.”

“The Dream Switch” is a brand new original album written by the award-winning, Nebraska-based musical theatre team Becky Boesen and David von Kampen.

“The Dream Switch” story revolves around a young woman from the Sandhills who decides after her first year of college in Nebraska that happiness awaits elsewhere. Audience members follow her journey as she leaves home, explores the world beyond, and then comes to her own understanding that “everything I needed to be me, was around me.”

Nebraska Community Foundation and our partners at Blixt are challenging Nebraskans to “turn up their dream switch” through “The Dream Switch Project.” This makes “The Dream Switch” far more than just outstanding art. Centered on the music and performance, to be sure, but it focuses on welcoming, belonging, and how Greater Nebraska, can further its efforts to attract returners and newcomers, as well as retain those who currently call it home. After public performances there will be candid conversations exploring the show’s themes, what it means to belong, and what Nebraska’s hometowns can be doing to create more welcoming places.

This creates a wonderful example of how economic development, community development and workforce development are all morphing into one thing. The idea that art and economic development would be part of the same whole would’ve been completely foreign not very long ago. But today, not so much. The need to attract talented people to Greater Nebraska and the fact (as discussed in our last column) that great communities are the attractors have brought “softer” disciplines like art and community development together with more concrete pursuits such as economic development.

The first performance of “The Dream Switch” will be in Auburn this Friday and another in Ord will be Sept. 23. After that, other communities will be able to pursue presenting the work and hosting similar conversations in their place.

What might local communities do with this opportunity? Those first two communities are providing some great examples. For instance, in Auburn, local youth and educators have been working on arts-centered projects that focus on sense of place and students’ perceptions of their community. The group also held a virtual meeting with kids in Sweden to discuss the similarities and differences among their places. In Ord, a “Dream Switch Day” will proceed the performance, when students from Valley County and surrounding areas will have the opportunity to participate in workshops and activities exploring the themes of the album.

NCF hopes these performances will serve as a catalyst for honest dialogue about what makes Greater Nebraska special, what are the road blocks to growth and the opportunities to grow despite those challenges, and how we can make our communities more inviting and welcoming. This is the nexus of personal, professional, community, and business development…and that’s where the future of rural economies will be found.

Please keep your eyes and ears open for the opportunity to bring “The Dream Switch” to your region and please attend … and participate … when you have the chance!

K.C. Belitz is the chief operating officer of the Nebraska Community Foundation.

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