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12th annual Grand Cities Art Fest opens this weekend

Karen Engevik and her pottery business, Black Horse Pottery and Tile, have been honored as this year's featured artist at the 12th annual Grand Cities Art Fest. Engevik returns to the festival after winning Best in Show last year. Many of Karen Engevik's artwork features images of horses. Engevik has always been interested in art, and constantly sketched horses as a child. 1 / 2
Pottery by Engevik.2 / 2

For 35 years, she taught special education, specializing in visually impaired for the Roseau Community School District, and tried to find things to keep herself busy in her spare time. But routine chores, such as doing the dishes, weren’t cutting it for her.

“I had to come up with something to occupy my life,” she said.

So, she bought a pottery business.

At the time, she knew little about pottery other than the little bit she had done as a stress reliever in her spare time.

Fourteen years later, the now retired teacher has transformed her pottery venture into a successful business. Engevik won Best in Show at last year’s Grand Cities Art Fest, and will return this year as the festival’s featured artist.

“I feel like I won the lottery,” Engevik said. “It’s very exciting and very surprising. I didn’t think I’d ever get there.”

About 160 other artists will join Engevik at the 12th annual Grand Cities Art Fest from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Drawing and art have been a passion since Engevik was a little girl. As a child, Engevik said the only thing she wanted to do was draw. Many of those sketches were of horses, much to the chagrin of her mother.

Now, Engevik, 60, is a self-taught potter, who said she has molded clay all of her life. The clay, according to Engevik, allows for a hand’s on activity for her to express herself.

Engevik’s shop, Black Horse Pottery and Tile, located in Roseau, Minn., makes everything from coffee mugs and vases to tiled fireplaces. Many of the items feature drawings of horses that Engevik grew up drawing as a child.

She said designing the pottery is a process, and every piece she makes is a little different. A mug may take Engevik an hour, whereas she may devote a couple of hours a day over the span of a week on a vase.

“If I can’t do something creative, then I feel dull,” she said. “A great thing about clay is that I can rearrange it to tell different stories. It’s a great way for me to get creative and problem solve.”

Engevik has attended all of the previous Art Fests, but never in her wildest dreams did she think she would one day be the festival’s featured artist when she started her pottery business.

“I’ve come a long way since learning everything from trial and error,” Engevik said. “I’m totally, totally surprised that I’ve been honored.”

Art Fest continues to see growth, changes

Despite being in its 12th year, the Grand Cities Art Fest continues to find ways to adapt and grow as a festival.

Marie Striden, executive director for the North Valley Arts Council, said although they have around the same number of artists as last year, the quality of those attending this year’s festival will be the highest in history.

“We’ve done a great job of finding improvements every year,” Striden said. “At this point, we’re a well-oiled machine.”

There will be about 160 artists at this year’s Art Fest. The festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday in downtown Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Admission and parking are free.

One of the major changes at the Art Fest this year will be the addition of more children-friendly activities. One such booth will allow kids to paint a mural that will then be hung up around the city.

“This really is a family event, and we want to try to get as many members of the family involved as we can,” Striden said.

Though rain is in the forecast for this weekend, the Art Fest will continue rain or shine unless the National Weather Service issues a severe weather warning, Striden said.

This year’s festival will also include a cooling tent, as well as some vendors being housed inside the Grand Historic Events Center.

Xcel Energy Stage—Town Square, Grand Forks

  • Saturday

11 a.m.: Polish Dancers

12:20 p.m.: Ron Franz

1:20 p.m.: African Arts Arena

4:20 p.m.: Acoustic Smoke

5:20 p.m.: One Team Ride

  • Sunday

11 a.m.: Popejoy Strand Duo

12:20 p.m.: Penumbra

1:20 p.m.: Artist awards and “Spring Awakening” performance

2:20 p.m.: Sneaky Wild Oats

3:20 p.m.: The Diers

HB Sound and Light Stage—River Road, East Grand Forks

  • Saturday

11 a.m. to noon---Matt Strand Group

12:20 p.m.: The New Hi Fi

1:20 p.m.: Carl Unbehaun

2:20 p.m.: Acoustic Smoke

3:20 p.m.: Ron Franz

4:20 p.m.: Calamity James

  • Sunday

Noon: Carl Unbehaun and Lisa Dixon

1:20 p.m.: The Diers

2:20 p.m.: Popejoy Strand Duo

3:20 p.m.: Mudbucket

Performances around the venue

  • Grand Forks Greenway

Kathryn the Clown: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday

Greg Herriges: 11 a.m. to noon Sunday

Ron Franz: 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

  • South Cabela’s Parking Lot

The Lovely Dozen Belly Dancers

Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to noon---Formal Set

Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.---Kids’ Jam


The Best of Category artists will be recognized at the Art Fest awards ceremony at 1:20 p.m. Sunday at the Xcel Energy Main Stage in Town Square, downtown Grand Forks. Best of Show and Runners-Up will be announced. The Best of Category artists are:

Naturals: All Things Herbal

Ceramics: Ulmer Stoneware

Photography: Darren Olson Photography

Drawing/Painting: John Cartwright Railroad Art

Textiles: Blushing Tomato

Recycled: Recollections by Kathy Kirchoff

Wood: Wood Wildflowers

Glass: Becker Art Glass

Jewelry: John’s Very Cool Glass Art

Metal: Swede Steel Works

Mixed Media: Ragged Edge Art Studio


Guests can pick up an official guide to the Grand Cities Art Fest at most downtown Grand Cities’ businesses. The festival will also have a phone app for the second straight year. To download the app, you can scan the QR code in the guide book or visit with your phone.


Wade Rupard

Wade Rupard is a reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 

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