A tiny swarm of tiny “vermin”

January 1, 1970 - to
A tiny swarm of tiny “vermin”

If you come to tomorrow night’s opening of Art on the Plains XI, be on the lookout for a tiny swarm of “vermin.” These little figures, each made by Jamie Burmeister, congregate in groups in the AOP galleries. They’re also hanging out by our stairs, gazing longingly out our 3rd floor windows, and spying on riders in our elevator. See how many you can find the next time you visit. These ceramic figures, which go by the name vermin.me, are part of a worldwide installation project of the same name.

Incidentally, Burmeister is also behind the interactive installation The Music Within My Head, a rocking chair that plays video and music as the viewer rocks back and forth. You can see a snippet of video here.

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“Today it is artists who are asking the large, substantive questions of our world.”

January 1, 1970 - to
“Today it is artists who are asking the large, substantive questions of our world.”

(With Art on the Plains XI, we’re examining the rich landscape of the artistic upper Midwest. The juror for AOP XI, Hesse McGraw, assembled an exciting exhibition that displays the complexities of visual art in our part of the world and, in turn, takes aim at preconceptions of the Midwest and reinforces its ingenuity.

McGraw is the curator at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha. He provided the following interpretation of AOP XI for our gallery guide. He will also deliver a gallery talk this Saturday night at the AOP opening reception.)

Hesse McGraw, chief curator at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art

The 47 artists in the Art on the Plains XI live and work in the global Midwest. Although their work emerges fervently from the terrain, culture and ethic of the Plains, it resists and upends the quaint color of this exhibition’s title.

Far from the provincial assurance of American Gothic, this exhibition collectively asserts unease with the flat stereotypes of our home. The image of the Plains presented by their work is a both/and Place — exotic and xenophobic, nostalgic and adventurous, homespun yet rigorous, desaturated, but no less ecstatic.

Werner Herzog’s 1977 film Stroszek gave us a weird and painfully impossible Middle America. That is still here, but this middle ground is contested, its landscapes are more surreal than pastoral, and rural depopulation has prompted a hopeful gallows humor. Rather than sink under the weight of knowing too much — having global perspective but a provincial everyday — these artists create a space of openness, belief and ingenuity. They have rejected cynicism to celebrate the authentic absurdities of life in the Midwest.

The exhibition careens through the fault lines of Middle America: shrinking cities, corporate agriculture, race and class divisions, and meat and potatoes culture. Their works graciously reveal a place whose politics are more complex than stark red and blue and where taste is a battleground.

The last three years — since the last Art on the Plains exhibition — have been a singular and tumultuous period. In the wake of the global economic collapse of 2008, our political structures have become increasingly constipated with useless oppositions and brinksmanship. Yet within this landscape, and self-punishing extremes such as Kansas’ elimination of its state arts commission — artists continue to advance the frontiers of our culture.

Today it is artists who are asking the large, substantive questions of our world. Their training — in deep ingenuity, creative agility, learning to solve problems by asking a different question — is fundamental to locating new ways out of our extant ills.  We are living through an ideal moment to recognize the transformative impacts of art and artists on our world. In contrast to the extremities of our political and media landscapes, one finds radical normality in artists. Theirs is a benevolent danger, intense pragmatism and hyper-rationality.

Art on the Plains XI works to defray caustic misconceptions, even as it opens new veins of thinking through our region. These artists explode our view, granting restlessly expansive perspectives of this specific world.

–Hesse McGraw, 12.21.2011

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We’re taking some credit for the lack of snow

January 1, 1970 - to
We’re taking some credit for the lack of snow

Part of the concept drawing for "Lucent Gale", the second-place proposal for the Winter Wonderland competition, by Drew Holmgren, Collin Johnson, and Tali Johnson.

We issued a press release yesterday with an update on Winter Wonderland, a winter Defiant Gardens project. For the project, we joined forces with artist, and NDSU assistant professor of landscape architecture, Stevie Famulari, and the NDSU Memorial Union Gallery to hold a juried display of snow sculptures the first week of February.

At least, we’d planned to do that. In case you haven’t noticed how limber your back feels from lack of shoveling, we don’t have enough snow for the designers to build the structures. So, the decision was made to cancel the event. On the one hand, it’s a shame that we’re unable to present this fun, winter-only spectacle … but on the other hand, we’re going to take a little credit for that limber back. From the release:

“We think that this project shows the power of art to not just change lives but to change the weather,” said Colleen Sheehy, director and CEO of the Museum. “The mere planning and organizing of ‘Winter Wonderland’ overturned weather predictions that promised a very snowy winter caused by El Nina, and produced the snowless, warm season we’ve enjoyed this year. That was an inadvertent impact of this project.”

“Our arts community, in preparation for toughing out our typically intense January and February temperatures and snow in a creative way, would like to take credit for our lack of snow by simply planning this event,” Famulari said.

Of course, we say all this with tongue in cheek; the lack of snow has derailed a lot of cold-snubbing fun in our area. The St. Paul Winter Carnival also cancelled its snow sculpture competition and the Beargrease Sled Dog Race, another regional favorite, also had to cancel this year’s event. All of these represent a dint in our respective economies and deprive us all of a needed reprieve from the winter doldrums.

You can, at the very least, see the designs that were meant to be part of Winter Wonderland. They’ll be on display at the Memorial Union Gallery January 12 – 26 and here at the Museum February 3 – 12.

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Get hands-on with some upcoming activities

January 1, 1970 - to
Get hands-on with some upcoming activities

Now that we’re getting back into our routines after the holiday season, it’s a perfect opportunity to take in one (or two, or more) of our upcoming activities and get inspired to build more creativity into your day-to-day life. Here’s a look at what we have coming up.

For the kiddos

Kid Quest, our popular art-making event for the whole family, continues into the new year and continues to inspire the next generation of artists. To register for a free Kid Quest event, call 701.232.3821 ext. 101, or click here to register online. Upcoming dates are:

  • February 4 – Furious Felters. Get your hands into fabric and felting, just like the artists in this year’s Unglued Craft Fest to be held Saturday, February 25 at the Museum.
  • March 10 – The Great Art Free for All. We give you the supplies, you take them into bold new directions.
  • April 7 – Don’t Throw That Away. Celebrate Earth Day by re-purposing your rubbish into fun creations.

Kid Quest is sponsored by Xcel Energy Foundation, Village Family Magazine, and Minnesota Public Radio.

Art for Two

Our Art for Two events are a perfect way to spend creative time with a child (aged 5-12) and encourage them to expand their abilities. These workshops are $22 for Museum members, $25 for non-members. Call to register, or register online here.

  • Saturday, February 11, 2 – 4 p.m. My Personal Piggy Bank. Get a handle on your finances with a recession-proof, paper maché piggy bank.
  • Saturday, April 14, 2 – 4 p.m. Your Own Storybook. Explore the world of book art by recreating your own story in a one-of-a-kind art book.

Activities for adults

Learn some new skills with your digital camera and stretch out in our sunrise-lit 3rd floor raw space.

  • Artful Yoga at PAM. Tuesday mornings at 8:30 a.m., January 31 – February 28. $5/class for members, $10 for nonmembers. Drop-in, no registration required. Instructor Knoedel will lead you through a one-hour beginner’s class to limber you up for the day.
  • Digital Photography for Beginners. Five Saturdays, January 21 – February 18, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. $80 for members, $88 for nonmembers. Get better photos from any digital camera by learning more about your camera and learning about composition and subject matter. You’ll need to supply your own camera, but any camera will do. Call 701.232.3821 ext. 101 to register, or register online here.

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From the director: new connections in a new year

January 1, 1970 - to
From the director: new connections in a new year

Plains Art Museum Director Colleen Sheehy

As we start a new year, I want to wish you a time of fulfillment, fun, learning, and inspiration. I know that you can find all that at Plains Art Museum, whether from taking a class, visiting our exhibitions, or having lunch in the midst of our Art = Food installation, where Liz Miller’s Nefarious Hybrid blossoms along the walls and beams of Café Muse. I hope you’ll connect with us and with art, artists, and ideas in the many opportunities you’ll find described elsewhere on our website.

Connect to fresh ideas and talent in our region through Art on the Plains XI. We’ve taken new approaches this time, expanding the show from one to two galleries; inviting installation art—a form of sculpture that involves a spatial configuration of objects rather than just one object—and we’ve invited video art for the first time. In works by 47 artists from four states, you’ll find a very up-to-date look at contemporary art making in our region. Juried by Hesse McGraw, an artist, writer, and chief curator at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Neb., AOP XI presents innovative, provocative artwork, with something sure to surprise and please everyone, whether it’s Raina Belleau’s full-size sculpture of a black bear on an Oriental rug or Mayumi Amada’s delicate pattern of flowers made from plastic water bottles. Connect with Hesse at the opening on Saturday, January 28, when he will give a gallery talk about the show.

This year, you’ll hear and see us inviting you to connect with the Museum and each other in our “Let’s Connect” campaign. We want to connect with our audiences and community in many ways. We want you to connect with each other through art and learning. We offer many ways to participate. We strive to be networked with you and the community in many ways—through personal contact and conversation, through our website and blog opportunities, through your involvement and collaboration in programs and exhibitions, or in our involvement throughout the community.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know two people that have been impacted by PAM: Joan Hruby and her nine-year-old son, Frank. I first met them in August 2010, when they were part of our In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre residency and performances, a collaboration with Trollwood Performing Arts. Frank later wrote to me, explaining that the experience had “helped me discover a new part of my life and helped me to be a better person.” That is a pretty profound impact on a young boy! Frank and Joan often spend Thursday evenings at the Museum, looking at art in the galleries and making origami and other art projects in Goldberg Art Lounge, our family drop-in space.

Frank and Joan have discovered that connecting with PAM means connecting with ideas, inspiration, and each other—and that can be transformative. We invite you, too, to connect with us this year—be inspired, be transformed.

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Burgum challenge grant: done

January 1, 1970 - to
Burgum challenge grant: done

Back on December 15, we made a big announcement: we received a $300,000 donation from the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Trust along with a $200,000 challenge grant from the Burgum family. For us to receive the challenge grant funds, we needed to meet the challenge by December 31 and raise an equal amount from the community.

And we did it! Totally nailed it. As of the end of the year, 78 donors had stepped up and given a total of $250,000, guaranteeing us the challenge match funds. Most importantly, though, it put us over the fund raising goal we needed to reach to begin construction on the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity. That’s right. Construction on the Center – a facility that will continue and expand on the services provided by the Creative Arts Studio at Clara Barton Elementary – should begin in the next few weeks. The Center will be completed and ready for use by this fall.

In a release issued on Friday, our director, Colleen Sheehy, had this to say: “What a holiday it was with the phenomenal outpouring of generosity from so many people, businesses, and foundations who responded to the Burgum family challenge. I’m so thankful to the Burgums and to everyone who came through in such a short period of time for this match. Now the Center will become a reality that will benefit our youth and the whole community.”

From the same release: “This is a tremendous example of the impact that can be made when people come together,” said entrepreneur and philanthropist Doug Burgum, one of Katherine Kilbourne Burgum’s three children. “Because of the generosity of so many individuals, our community will benefit for years and years to come. On behalf of the Burgum family, ‘thank you’ to everyone who has helped make the dream of a Center for Creativity a reality.” James Burgum, entrepreneur and grandson of Katherine Kilbourne Burgum, added: “We were inspired to make the challenge grant alongside the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Trust gift as a way to honor my late father, Brad Burgum, and his love of the arts that was shared by my grandmother K.”

So, what happens now? In the coming weeks, we’ll throw a groundbreaking celebration where we’ll formally kick off the construction project. Following that, we’ll be launching a grassroots fund raising campaign to raise money for energy-saving upgrades, an art installation for donor recognition, furnishings, equipment, and other features. Also, we’re still raising funds for the naming of the Robert Kurkowski Ceramics Studio.

Once construction begins on the Center, we’ll keep you posted with photos and facts. In the meantime, let’s get building!

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Governor and First Lady Dalrymple visit the Museum

January 1, 1970 - to
Governor and First Lady Dalrymple visit the Museum

(l to r) PAM Director Colleen Sheehy, Gov. Jack Dalrymple, First Lady Betsy Dalrymple. (Photo by Dave Arntson, Milestones Photography)

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of being the site for the rollout of the 2012 marketing campaign from North Dakota Tourism, kicking off the year’s push for visitors to visit our state. Governor Jack and First Lady Betsy Dalrymple were here for the proceedings and we managed to steal them away for a photo, appropriately, in front of James Rosenquist’s North Dakota Mural. It was exciting to have Jack and Betsy in the house, and we’re proud to say that they’re Museum members.

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Our year in review

January 1, 1970 - to
Our year in review

Without a doubt, 2011 was an exciting year here at Plains Art Museum. We had a little bit of everything: circuses, crowdsourcing, skateboards, Sodbuster, “Star Monster,” popsicle sticks, masks … plenty to look back on as we all steer our bows bravely into 2012.

The banner from the 2011 Youth Art Month exhibition. It really says it all.

At the beginning of the year, we were digging out from a huge snowstorm and preparing Cafe Muse for artist Chris Walla’s Art = Food installation Wait & See. In the galleries, we were showing The Frederick B. Scheel Photography Collection, a stunning collection of black and white prints donated by Fargo business leader, collector, and photographer Fred Scheel (who, sadly, passed away this year). We were also showing the popular exhibition The White Album: The Beatles Meet the Plains, which paired works from our permanent collection with music from The Beatles’ album The Beatles, aka “The White Album.” February brought us the printmaking exhibition Vermillion Editions to Hannaher’s Studio, which displayed 40 prints created at Vermillion Editions Limited in Minneapolis. Vermillion was curated by our good friend, and MSUM printmaking professor, John Volk (who, by the way, helped create an international award later on in the year). We also pondered the depths of communication theory (and disembodied heads) with Don Renner, voted for a successor to “Star Monster,” and got the Kid Quest kiddos printmaking.

As winter gave way to a messy and wet spring, we spent March checking out some cool birdhouses and getting into the school spirit during Youth Art Month (photo above). In April, the atrium was home to several popsicle stick towers, we said goodbye to “Star Monster,” and we kicked off the crowdsourcing project You Like This: A Democratic Approach to the Museum Collection.

In May, we held our 15th Annual Spring Gala, an evening we dubbed “Masterpiece Masquerade.” It was a tremendous event; we raised a substantial amount of money for our education programs and had a kickin’ party to boot. Really, photos like this say it all:

Who were those masked revelers? Photo by Milestones Photography/

We also said hello to a new SPACE sculpture in May and opened an exhibition of work donated by collectors Herbert and Dorothy Vogel entitled Collectors Humble and Extraordinaire. Through the 50 works in the show, we got a double whammy: we were able to display some powerful contemporary work by artists like Richard Tuttle and Judith Shea while being able to tell the delightful story of Herb and Dorothy, working-class collectors who were the subject of a Magumi Sasaki documentary.

As May gave way to June, we displayed an ArtView exhibition by Tom Kemmer, a Fargo photographer and skateboarding addict with both a passion and a penchant for skateboarding photography. His exhibition, Local Spots, was a big hit. Later on in June, we opened Big Country: FMVA Scale the Plains a group show consisting of large-scale, inventive work by member artists of Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists. Also known as The One with the Big Mosquito and the Really Big Picnic Table, this exhibition proved that some big work – both in scale and concept – is indeed being done by artists in our community.

Photo by Tom Kemmer.

In the heat of the summer, we turned it up a few degrees with Ramp Jam at the Plains, an open street course for skateboards, and Hip Hop Don’t Stop 3, a weekend of hip-hop culture and aerosol art-making. We also welcomed our new curator, Megan Johnston, to the PAM family and promptly put her to work as the tour guide for the public art bike tour during the Bike Jamboree, an event held on August 18 exploring the arts through everyone’s favorite mode of transport, the bike.

After the first eight months of 2011, though, we were just getting started. In September, we opened the fantastic See Acts of Audacious Daring: The Circus World of Judy Onofrio with a three-ring circus complete with acrobats, a magic show, and balloon animals. See Acts of Audacious Daring has been one of our most popular recent exhibitions thanks to the scale of Onofrio’s work, the subject matter, and its technicality. It’s still open through the 8th, so check it out if you haven’t.

In October, we summed up months of surveys, meetings, and stat-crunching with the exhibition You Like This: A Democratic Approach to the Museum Collection, a crowdsourced exhibition that put our audience in the driver’s seat in selecting the work for an exhibition. We made this snazzy video for it, too. We got quite a bit of attention for the show; the NEA carried an interview with staff who worked on it, and the chair of the NEA even came by to see it. The Forum listed it among their favorite things that happened in Fargo in 2011. No big whoop. All in all, we were thrilled with the process and thrilled to work hand in hand with our audience to collaborate on the You Like This project. It was a ton of fun. Also that month: Laurie Van Wieren danced her way into our hearts.

During the month of November, we ran a series of discussions on the role and future of public art in Fargo-Moorhead. Noted public artist Patrick Marold gave an enthralling presentation on his work, Rebecca Krinke detailed her project The Mapping of Joy and Pain, and we hosted a summit for Sodbuster.

(From l to r) Doug Burgum, Colleen Sheehy, Rick Buresh, and Meg Spielman-Peldo discuss the Center for Creativity following today's announcement. Photo by Dave Arntson.

And that brings us to December. After gussying up the joint for the holidays, and having a nice run of our Noon Holiday Concerts, we made a big announcement: a $300,000 donation and $200,000 challenge grant from the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Trust and the Burgum family, respectively, and we also announced that our expansion next door will be named the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity at Plains Art Museum. Construction on the KKBC4C@PAM will begin this year. Talk about your Christmas presents!

So, there you have it. The PAM year in review. It was quite a year, and we hope to keep all this momentum going into 2012. Stay tuned!


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