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 Рboth in scale and concept Рis 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!