The UND Art Collections Gallery at the Empire Arts Center, 415 DeMers Ave., operates under the direction of Art Jones, UND professor and chair of Art & Design and founding director of the UND Art Collections; and Dan Van Tassell, art collections preparator and registrar.
The downtown gallery was established on Aug. 29, 2012, extending UND's rich collection of art beyond the campus borders. It was one of the first tangible examples of the University's commitment to expand its presence into the community – a primary tenet of the University's Exceptional UND initiative.
Art gallery hours at the Empire Arts Center are Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon to 5 p.m.; and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Nicole Derenne served as guest curator for the exhibition. The selection of 30 works by 19 artists from North Dakota and western Minnesota provides insight into stylistic and cultural changes over the past 80 years.
In her essay about the show, Derenne observed that several of the featured pieces have a common thread, a desire to capture the essential elements that give meaning to a physical place. While historical painters of the region, such as Paul Barr (first chair of UND's Art Department) and Isabel Pearl Snelgrove (former UND art instructor and acting chair after Barr's death) portray places, contemporary regional artists tend not to focus on the physicality of location, but rather on the spirit of the regional culture that builds community bonds.
Paul Barr's Morning Comes to Painted Canyon, 1937, oil on canvas
"Barr's Paintings of the 1930s present the rugged beauty of western North Dakota, and Snelgrove, by contrast, evokes an atmosphere of quiet, studious university life during winter on the UND campus in 1941," Derenne wrote. She added that other artists in the show, however, desire escape from here-and-now realism—as seen in works by the late Emily Lunde (a nationally recognized and self-taught "memory painter") and former UND art instructors Robert Nelson, Jackie McElroy, and Brian Paulsen. McElroy and Nelson also chaired the UND Art Department, and Paulsen was a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor.
The show's curator also included other artists from a 2010 print suite titled Touched and Untouched. According to Derenne, several of these artists urge viewers to consider regional identity factors.
Jackie McElroy's North Dakota Tree Project #2: Wishful Thinking, 1993, screenprint
"Laura Youngbird (American Indian artists who teaches at Circle of Nations School in Wahpeton, N.D.), for example, challenges the notion that regional identity is rooted in physical place by depicting fragments of memories that recall a sense of home," she wrote. "Other artists question if a sense of place is developed from a community with shared experiences or by an internalization of cultural norms."
According to Derenne, a 2001 lithograph depicting a cowboy on a wild bronco by UND alumnus and Minot State art instructor Walter Piehl, brings out the soul of early settlers and encourages viewers to considers ways this spirit is relevant today.
Many more artists
These are just a few of the works by regional artists that are currently featured at the UND Art Collections at the Empire Arts Center.
Other artists with works in the show include Kim William Fink, UND professor of art & design and master printmaker; Margaret Kelly Cable, a Crookston, Minnesota, native, and well-known regional ceramist; Rebecca Sefcovic Uglem, UND alumna and co-founder of the Third Street Gallery in Grand Forks; Michelle Lindblom, professor and gallery director in the Department of Visual Arts at Bismarck State; Linda Olson, professor of art and chair of the Department of Humanities at Minot State; Kent Kapplinger, associate professor of art at North Dakota State; Heidi Goldberg, associate professor of art at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.; Linda Whitney, associate professor of art and chair of the Department of Art at Valley City State; Duane Penske, a native of southwestern Minnesota; Susan Morrissey, a mixed-media artist from Fargo; and Eric A. Johnson, a printmaker based in Fargo.
Partial support for this exhibition was generously provided by the Myers Foundations.