Tag Archives: Grand Forks

ArtSee: A night of art and conversation

What could be better than 12 talented  local artists showing work at one of my favorite places in Grand Forks?  Last Friday, the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals held their ninth annual ArtSee event at The Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks. The event showcases local artists who work with a variety of mediums including paint, clay, diaries and sticky notes, among others. Some artists demonstrated their techniques and art form. Others encouraged attendees to join in the fun and make their own art. But, all were welcoming and enthusiastic to share their artwork with Grand Forks.

Artwork by Hillary Kempenich is displayed at the Empire for ArtSee.

Artwork by Hillary Kempenich is displayed at the Empire for ArtSee.

While I made my first round through the center, I stopped to take some photos and watch legendary Grand Forks artist Adam Kemp work on his painting.

Artist Adam Kemp works on a painting during ArtSee.

Artist Adam Kemp works on a painting during ArtSee.

I also stopped to visit with Ellen Dean Diederich from Fargo, N.D., who was working on an acrylic painting of flowers. She said she typically works off of photographs because then she doesn’t have to worry about her subject moving or the lighting changing. She focuses on flowers, farm animals and nature.

Ceramic sculptor Caitlin Friedt shared her process for making her cups, plates, bowls and sunflowers. First, she throws them on the wheel. Then, she adds the details. She said she uses various pins and objects to create texture on the flowers. Then, she fires them in the kiln. After they cool, she can glaze them and fire them again. She said they vary rarely break in the kiln, but she never knows how they will turn out. She said they usually shrink about 15 percent and different glazes will create completely different looks.

Artist Sue Burke encouraged attendees to create miniature pieces of artwork on sticky notes to display at her ArtSee booth.

Artist Sue Burke encouraged attendees to create miniature pieces of artwork on sticky notes to display at her ArtSee booth.

Artist Sue Burke invited guests over to her table to create mini pieces of artwork on sticky notes, which she then hung with clothes pins for everyone to see. She said you don’t need expensive arts supplies to create artwork, office sticky notes will do just fine. And, you won’t feel guilty when you mess up and throw them away.

Along my way, I also had the opportunity to finally meet Michelle Brusegaard, who I had interviewed over the phone for a story a while back. I introduced myself, and she (and her mom) was super friendly. It took me a while to take in everything at her booth; she had so many beautiful prints, cards, scarves and original paintings. I was most drawn to her pieces that incorporated journal entries. I asked it they were real journal entries, and she said yes, but not mine. She collects diaries and this particular one she found on eBay. She said the lady lived alone and was obsessed with entering sweepstakes. Michelle took the journal entries and used them as inspiration for her pieces. I ended up buying two!


Michelle Brusegaard’s artwork incorporates a journal entry from the 1980s.

Michelle Brusegaard's print was inspired by a journal entry about art supplies.

Michelle Brusegaard’s print was inspired by a journal entry about art supplies.

Aren’t they lovely?

I also ended up with one of Courtney Jacob’s pieces. I fell in love with Courtney’s floral pieces at the This is Personal exhibition at Blue Door, so I was excited to meet the artist behind the work. She recently moved from Minneapolis to Grand Forks, so I told her we were swapping places. She shared some advice for getting involved in the art community in the Twin Cities, and I wished her luck here in Grand Forks. But, she already seems to be off to a wonderful start. I was about to buy her beautiful piece of tulips, until I saw a city scene tucked away in her box. I couldn’t pass up on “Winter in Central Park.”


I snagged Courtney Jacob’s piece “Winter in Central Park.”

Artist Katie Lee had some absolutely gorgeous impressionist paintings of sailboats. I asked her if she had a special connection to sailboats, but she said she just lived in Seattle and developed a love for the sailboats. Who wouldn’t? They’re beautiful.


Katie Lee’s artwork was inspired by the sailboats she always saw on the shore in Seattle.

To end the night, Jazz on Tap performed some wonderful music for the Empire’s Backstage Project.


Jazz on Tap performs after ArtSee at the Empire Art Center.

Overall, it was a wonderful night full of local art and great conversation. If you missed it, be sure to check out more about the event and all the artists here.

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In the Studio w/ Guillermo Guardia


A couple of months ago, I interviewed ceramic sculptor Guillermo Guardia about his artwork. I was so inspired by his story and how he overcame the challenges of sculpting a perfect human body by sculpting bodies made of puzzle pieces. The new subject was symbolic of his journey.

When we finished the interview, Guillermo extended an open invitation for me to visit his studio and try the craft for myself. How could I pass up an opportunity to see a talented artist in action and learn hands-on about his process?

I couldn’t.

As the arts and entertainment reporter for the Herald, I often speak to artists about their inspiration and process. But after the interview, I’m always left craving something more. And this was it — my missing piece. I needed to see the artist in action.

And after much planning, I’m excited to present the first episode of “In the Studio,” a monthly Web series where we take you in the studio with area artists to show you a behind-the-scenes look at their craft and workspace.

Each month, we’ll visit another artist’s workspace, and I’ll share my hands-on experience with the new art form.

Since Guillermo’s offer sparked the idea, I thought it would only make sense for him to be the first artist.

Working with clay

Sitting in Muddy Waters Clay Center, Guillermo handed me a wad of clay. It was tough, damp and intimidating.He said we would make a dog and a llama, and I tried to convince myself that it couldn’t be too difficult.

I reminded myself that Guillermo typically taught children, so it couldn’t be too difficult, right?


I circled clumps of clay in my hand trying to form two round balls — one for the head and one for the body. While Guillermo made his effortlessly, I struggled to smooth out the lumps. As soon as I had smoothed one side, I’d pushed the opposite side out of whack. I laughed. I didn’t have time to get it right. I set aside my uneven pieces and moved on to the legs.

Rolling a slab of clay between my hand and the table, I thought back to making snakes out of Play-doh as a kid. “Why couldn’t we make snakes,” I thought. “I could handle that.”

I wondered how this long snake-like piece would become legs, but Guillermo quickly explained. We tore the long piece into four even parts. That was the goal anyhow; mine were all different sizes. Turns out, I’m not too great with dimensions.

I started putting my lopsided dog together. Again, I struggled while Guillermo worked with ease. We made two flat pancake-like circles for floppy ears and a little nub for a tail. When it all came together, I laughed and tried to see the dog in my jumbled cluster.

Next, we tackled the llama. “Great,” I thought, “even more pieces to struggle with.”

But, with one animal under my belt, the llama came together more smoothly.

The pieces were similar to that of the dog, except slightly different in size. I tried attaching the legs, but they weren’t stable. Guillermo offered to help, and I watched his hands as he worked. His fingers molded the clay proficiently.

Sculpting was second nature to Guillermo. He didn’t think; he just let his hands move and transform the clay.

He handed me my llama and with his kind heart he assured me that it was fine. I finished the face and tail. Then, we used a small sculpting tool to poke holes for the eyes and make lines along the body for the fur.

This time when we finished, I saw a llama, albeit slightly disfigured. I was proud of my little guy. We also made a tiny penguin with big eyes and angry eye brows, which turned out quite cute. With each piece we made, I gained more confidence, and I was able to relax and enjoy the process.

Despite my inability to form accurately proportioned smooth shapes, I had fun molding the clay and learning from Guillermo.

If we had more time, we could have fired the figures in the ceramic kiln and painted them. But, Guillermo said if I let them dry they would last forever as long as they weren’t knocked over. So, I thanked Guillermo for the tour and the lesson, grabbed my little figures and made my way back to the office.

The puppy fell apart in my hands. But, my surviving llama, Fernando, and penguin, Frankie, sit on my desk reminding me that art is not about perfection — it’s about experience.

First published in the Grand Forks Herald, Jan. 17.

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Here, there and everywhere

It’s been a while since I’ve shared my stories on the blog, but I’ve been doing a lot of fun things lately. I figured it was time for a quick update, so here’s a rundown of what I’ve been up to in no particular order:

  • I visited Altru Hospital and met a couple caring nurses who were trying their best to make the holidays a cheerful time for their patients. Melissa, the childlife specialist, took on a little project with the ever-so-popular Elf on the Shelf. She refused to take credit for the little elf named Elfie. “He just showed up,” she said, creating some holiday magic for the children in the pediatrics unit. To read more about their efforts, click here.
  • I chatted with Steven Grant Douglas about his journey from The Empire in Grand Forks to Broadway. The talented actor from Stephen, Minn., landed a lead role in the nationally touring production of “Ghost the Musical” right after performing “Avenue Q” in Grand Forks. We talked about his role, the tour and adjusting to the much larger audiences and life on the road. Read more here.
  • I visited with Rachael Hammarback, owner of RH Standard, about the best choices in winter work wear. We talked tights, boots and leggings. Yes, leggings as pants for work. More here.
  • I joined a group of charitable carolers as they sang holiday favorites to neighbors and friends for Caroling for Warmth. They raised money for people in need of warm clothes such as sweaters and long sleeve shirts. More here.
  • I talked to Ashok Bhatia, of India, and Omar Alomar, of Iraq, about how they celebrate the holidays and how their traditions differ from American traditions. To read more, view the full article here.
  • I visited with several boutique owners about the best New Year’s Eve fashion accessories. We discussed statement necklaces, sequins blazers and cocktail rings. More here.
  • I joined a group of regular trivia-goers for a night at El Roco. While there I met “the king of trivia” and learned about the history of the game in Grand Forks. More here.
  • I reviewed a ton of apps such as 99 Dresses, Lift and Circle.
  • And I met a couple stylish people along the way to do quick Q&A’s with for my weekly Street Style.

This month, I’m excited to share my first episode of my new video series “In the Artist’s Studio.” I’ll be back with more on that later.

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Barton’s Place


Surrounded by hundreds of art from around the world, I tried to take it all in. I imagined spending hours and hours chatting with the artist Barton Benes about his collections. He’d share stories of each piece of art, where it came from and how he acquired it through a trade with a collector, dealer or artist in another country.

Instead, I sat at his table and chatted with his long time friend, Laurel Reuter, director of the North Dakota Museum of Art. The two had met many years before and had shared many conversations over the same table when it was in Barton’s New York apartment. After Barton’s death in May 2012, the table and the artist’s many collections traveled 1,500 miles to be a part of Barton’s Place, a recreation of the artist’s apartment in the Mezzanine Gallery at North Dakota Museum of Art.


Laurel told me how some of the pieces came to be… the stuffed rooster came from the museum assistant director, Matthew Wallace… the bull’s head came from a bull in the Running of the Bulls in Spain… the African pots and masks were acquired from a dealer… As she looked around the small space full of Barton’s life and memories, Laurel recalled a curious man, who could always make her laugh, even in the darkest of times. She remembered a conversation the two of them had about his belongings and what would happen to them when he passed. He didn’t want them to be picked our by family and friends and thrown out. Laurel suggested giving them to the museum to create the museum’s first period room, a 21st century artist’s studio. Laurel said the suggestion became a dream Barton held on to. 

Now, that dream is a reality. The North Dakota Museum of Art opened Barton’s Place early this month. It’ll be on exhibit for an undetermined amount of time, with the hopes of turning it into a permanent exhibit. For more information on the exhibition, read my full article at gfherald.com or visit bartonlidicebenes.org.


Along with Barton’s Place, a collection of African pots and a batik exhibition are also going on at the museum. Be sure to check it all out before it’s too late!


And, James Rosenquist’s beautiful painting, “Through the Eye of the Needle to the Anvil” is STILL up! DO NOT MISS this one! The photo does NOT do it justice! Trust me!

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The Ska-Skank Redemption

I had the pleasure of interviewing and photographing the guys of The Ska-Skank Redemption a couple weeks ago. They’re great guys with a lot of talent. If you’re in Fargo this weekend, be sure to check them out at Spirit’s Lounge. You can also follow them on Twitter and Like them on Facebook. They also recently released their first ep “Wicked Bees,” which you can check out on Spotify, Bandcamp or iTunes.

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Trading in my reporters notebook

I’ve traded in my reporter’s notebook for a camera. Well, not really. But, I did have a freelance photo gig this weekend. My boss from my sophomore internship contacted me Wednesday afternoon asking if I’d like to shoot the Fargo Beer Festival on Friday night. I didn’t have any plans, so I jumped on the opportunity. I love writing, but it’s nice to get a change of medium every once in a while.

I arrived at the festival around 5:30 p.m., got the camera from Kurt and started shooting. Kurt is the promoter of the event, so he needed PR photos, not journalistic photos, which was also a nice change. I haven’t shot too many events, but I do enjoy it, especially when everyone’s having a good time. I got a lot of photos of people trying new beers and laughing with their friends. A lot of people stopped me and asked to take their photo, which was funny because it’s not like they ever see them. Well, maybe they will but its unlikely.  But, hey it made for some good photos.

I got back from Fargo around 11 p.m. and headed to bed so I could be up early for The Color Run. I wasn’t running, but rather interviewing new runners for a Herald story. I also brought my camera along and shot some more photos of the event. Both The Color Run and the beer festival were nice reminders that I love photography. I may not be that best but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep doing what I love.

I don’t own any of the photos from the beer festival (you can view them here), but below are some photos I shot at the Color Run. Enjoy!

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When a concert review becomes something more

When I arrived at the Blues on the Red summer concert last month, I expected to take in the music, grab a few quotes from attendees and be done. But, while the photo intern and I were scoping out the best spot to snag a photo, she heard the lead singer of the band dedicate the concert to a man who had been a staple at the concerts and had passed away the night before. I didn’t hear the tribute but when Jenna relayed the message, I knew we had to chase the story. We found an event organizer, Greg Hoover, who told us: the man’s name was Ray Ganyo, he was physically handicapped and the blues concerts were one of the few times he could forget about his illness. He also said a friend of Ganyo’s was at the front of the crowd, also wheelchair bound, and she may be willing to talk. Later, he introduced me to Peggy Dores, a longtime friend of Ganyo’s. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she talked to me about her beloved friend and shared their special friendship with me, one formed by blues music and blues festivals.

After speaking with Dores, I was touched and knew we had a story. I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet Ganyo, but from speaking with several people who knew him, I could tell he was a good, caring man that always lived life to the fullest and had a “cup half full” view of the world even after an accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. I tracked down Ganyo’s mother, Marlene Dvorak, and spoke with her about her son. My heart was hurting as she told me she had recently lost her husband as well. She fought back her tears as she said Ganyo was her life and that he was always very gracious and thankful of her help. She said he never let her leave without a hug and kiss from him.

To learn more about Ganyo and his special blues friendship with Dores, read the full article at GFHerald.com.

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‘Avenue Q’ a crude comedy with a big heart

When I first saw the musical comedy “Avenue Q” earlier this year, I was taken by surprise. The crude comedy and the way the play addressed super sensitive topics threw me off guard. I couldn’t decide whether I should be watching the puppets, the puppeteers or the person signing, so I went from one to the next to the next. I was so exhausted trying to keep up with the play that I didn’t fully enjoy it. However, when I found out the Empire Arts Center would be producing the play in Grand Forks, I knew it would make a great story. I pitched the idea and made plans to attend the media night/last dress rehearsal for the play.

This time, I sat with pen and notepad in hand and took it all in for what it is: a crude comedy with a big heart. The play may address sensitive social issues in a comical in-your-face manner, but the overall play is about understanding one another, accepting your differences and helping each other through struggles. This second time around, I actually stayed through the intermission all the way to the end. It may have gotten a little long, but it was well worth the wait.

If you’re in Grand Forks this week or next, be sure to check out “Avenue Q” at 7:30 p.m. today or Aug. 6 through 10 at the Empire Arts Center. It might take you out of your comfort zone, but, hey, we all need a little push sometimes.

For more information, check out the full story and photos.

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Summer Performing Arts: More than meets the eye

I’m constantly discovering and rediscovering reasons why I love my job. The past two weeks I had the opportunity to attend several class show-and-tells, share days, and rehearsals while covering Grand Fork’s Summer Performing Arts Company. The program is known for its two major high school musicals it produces each summer; however, the program is so much more than singing and dancing.

One of the intern reporters, Will Beaton, used to participate in SPA and now teaches the elementary SPA theater. Being an insider, Will was able to give us deeper insight into the program. Three of the programs I had the opportunity to write about were MySPA, ELL SPA and School of Rock. MySPA is an arts program that gives students with special needs an opportunity to get creative, gain confidence and perform on stage. The students are so enthusiastic and a joy to watch. ELL SPA is a program for students learning English. They spend have of their day working with ELL teachers and half of their day working on performing arts. School of Rock is one of the many classes offered through SPA. Students get the opportunity to write and record original songs (or covers) with professional studio equipment.

If you want to read (or watch) more about this awesome performing arts program in Grand Forks, please, check out my article and Will’s awesome video. 

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Jumping into local arts

Two weeks ago, I started my first full-time job at Grand Forks Herald in Grand Forks, N.D. I will be covering arts & entertainment and life & style for the features section, Accent. Since I’ll be writing a lot of previews and attending a ton of cool events, I figured I would use this blog to share more photos and information.

Yesterday, I attended Party on the Plaza at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. In an effort to thank the community for its support, the staff at the Ralph decided to host a free all-ages outdoor concert. Although the concert was moved indoors to the Olympic Arena due to poor weather conditions, it was still a great event. Doors opened at 6 p.m. with free beer sampling and some games for the kids. Then, singer-songwriter Tate Maris took the stage with his guitar at 7 p.m.

Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive at the event until after 8 p.m. when Tate Maris had already completed his set. I was disappointed to miss his performance, but I’m sure I’ll catch him another time. Local cover band Identity 5 was rocking out on the stage when I arrived. They played everything from Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Their set ended on a bitter-sweet note as they announced it was the last song they’d ever perform together for a live audience.

After a short intermission, DJ En Fuego of PopRocks got the crowd moving with the Cupid Shuffle while the rest of the band prepped for the show. With seven performers, the Minneapolis cover band is known for their energetic performances and many costume changes. In a pre-show interview, vocalist and bass guitarist J-Bone said their concerts combine a DJ in a dance club with radio, with a Broadway musical, and they didn’t disappoint. From Lady Gaga and Katy Perry to Vanilla Ice and Run DMC, to Sandy and Danny Zuko, the band brought all our favorite singers (and characters) to the show with nearly 50 costume changes.

Although the poor weather conditions and change of locations led to low attendance, many who attended stuck around to see the entire show and an encore performance from PopRocks.

The event is over, but you can still read my full article here.

I also wrote an article about a tribute gallery being held for a North Dakota native who used zippers to create beautiful pieces of art. If you’d like to read more about it, you can view the story here.

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