The Creative Impulse

UND Art Collection displays at the Empire


Dakota Student / Nicholas Nelson

The Empire Arts Center held a cooperative gallery reception on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017 with local artists including current UND President Mark Kennedy as well as prior Presidents and campus faculty.

Ben Godfrey, Staff Writer

UND Art Collections began an exhibition this past Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Empire Arts Center. The exhibition is titled, “The Creative Impulse: Artists from North Dakota and the Broader Region.” It will run from Feb. 28 to April 12, 2017.

The show features historical and contemporary works by artists of the North Dakota plains region, including UND presidents and alumni. According to the UND Art Collections, the goal is to showcase the creativity of the people here and invite us to, “contemplate whether the arts are just a frill or a necessary part of human life.”  Pieces of many different mediums are showcased, including watercolor, oil on canvas, lithograph, woodcutting, ceramics and photograph.

Works in the exhibition illustrate different facets of the state’s history. “Milling Wheat,” an oil painting done in 1934 by Isabel Pearl Snelgrove, gives us a look into North Dakota’s early agricultural industry. There are Native American works from the past and present, including Bennett Brien’s 1990 graphite drawing, “Bison.”

A buckskin pair of moccasins and buffalo hide bag from an unknown maker stood out to me for their beautiful design and craftsmanship. They are believed to have been made in the 1880s or 1890s.

The “creative impulses” of a few former (and current) UND presidents are featured at the exhibition as well. Works from Frank LeRond McVey, George Starcher, Charles E. Kupchella, Robert O. Kelley and Mark Kennedy are showcased. It’s interesting to see how many presidents the university has had that have created with no formal training. It goes to show how important creativity is to our human experience.

Debbie Kennedy, current first lady of UND has her own case at the show. Using materials like silk, straw, glass beads and feathers, Mrs. Kennedy creates elegant hats for use in the theatre arts. A select few of her works are displayed at “The Creative Impulse.”

A large collaborative effort was required to organize the exhibition. Dawn Botsford, Arthur Jones, Emily Montgomery and Debbie Storrs worked together as exhibition curators. A variety of curatorial assistants, graduate research assistants and collection assistants also played a role in the planning and execution of the event.

A portion of the artworks featured were purchased with funds provided by the Myers Foundations. This organization supports the activities of the UND Department of Art and Design through continued donations that provide for the purchase and maintenance of collections.

Arthur F. Jones is the Founding Director for the UND Art Collections. According to the University’s web page, “the mission of the UND Art Collections is to facilitate the use of the University’s art for education, research and community cultural enrichment…”

The organization networks nationally and globally with museums and art conferences in order continuously share and gain knowledge and to further the University’s goals of higher education.

Many of you are aware of a petition going around that states that the UND President has been keeping students in the dark about plans to cut liberal arts budgets and is “unfit” to represent our institution. In the midst of this controversy, Mark Kennedy and UND show the arts are still an important piece of the region’s identity. What I’m wondering is, could the President’s involvement in this exhibition be an act of public relations in order to save face? It seems paradoxical to actively support an event like this while simultaneously “gutting” programs in the liberal arts.

Regardless of the controversy, it’s clear that creativity is an important part to the advancement of higher education as well as a crucial piece of our human experience. The UND Art Collections and the Empire Arts Center show us with “The Creative Impulse” that the arts are an important facet of the identity of the Great Plains region. The artistic works of the people here teach us about the area’s vibrant history.

Visit “The Creative Impulse: Artists from North Dakota and the Broader Region” at the Empire Arts Center from Feb. 28 to April 12.

Ben Godfrey is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]