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24th Annual ArtWise Art Show promotes creativity, education

University of North Dakota students hold barn quilt designs they created in support of this year's Artwise theme: agriculture. Submitted photo.1 / 3
University of North Dakota's Alpha Chi Omega students create ears of corn using paint, bubble wrap, cellophane and construction paper for this year's Artwise. Submitted photo.2 / 3
University of North Dakota's Alpha Chi Omega members design barn quilt squares that will be presented at this year's Artwise, held March 21 to 23 at the Alerus Center. Submitted photo.3 / 3

Paintings, sculptures, drawings and other varieties of art will adorn the walls and tables of the Alerus Center in Grand Forks once again for this year’s 24th Annual ArtWise Art Show.

This year’s theme, chosen by the Artwise board with help from area teachers, will focus on none other than agriculture and its role in nutrition, livelihood and feeding the world — all with the help of art and activities for all ages. The group is calling the theme “On the Farm.”

Martha Keifenheim, director of ArtWise, says the show itself will not only build upon the program’s past success, but will offer many hands-on educational opportunities for kids and adults to interact with the products produced in the region, as well as those who produce them.

President of the Board of Directors for ArtWise, Arlene Gunderson, says the theme this year will bring students, urban and rural, together to learn more from one another. “We want them to think about life on the farm — on the farm art,” she says. “We talked to a lot of teachers in schools and the board to try and get a theme for the year. We haven’t done this yet — a farm scenario — where we can get together with families on farms, city kids.”

Keifenheim says she is arranging to have American Crystal Sugar representation at this year’s event, to provide details on the sugar beet production process and packaging.

“We’ve been trying to branch into businesses a little more to get people to come over in person,” she says. This includes staff and representatives of various companies in the community — University of North Dakota, North Dakota Museum of Art, North Dakota Mill, Fiber Arts Guild of the Red River Valley, and more — who will educate and entertain with the agricultural aspect in mind.

“There will be a lot of activities involving seed art, colored popcorn, potato art, silk screen with hopefully the help from North Dakota Mill, and the UND art department.”

Art and more

Each year, the primary thrill for community children is to see their artwork displayed at the event.

“It’s fun for the kids to come and look for their art, which is the most fun because there is so much of it,” Keiferheim says.

While the focus of ArtWise is to encourage learning and creativity through the art projects made throughout the year and at the show itself, the main goal of the event is to promote the theme of the year and showcase local knowledge and talent.

Among the many activities at the show:

  • North Dakota Museum of Art staff will be on hand to promote summer museum activities and teach about community supported agriculture. “They’re going to combine art with this idea of growing healthy food,” Keiferheim says. “But they’re also going to be demonstrating the silkscreen process and make some bags that they’ll be using this summer for the CSA.”
  • The Fiber Arts Guild of the Red River Valley will showcase spinning, knitting and more.
  • Muddy Waters Clay Center will demonstrate wheel throwing.
  • Firehall Theatre’s puppet wagon will perform their latest theatrical featuring Jacques and Coyote.

Additionally, there will be performances by various elementary school choirs and bands, Arioso harp students and the Second Wind Band.


The number of volunteers that offer their time to the event — from the earliest preparations to the late cleanup — is estimated to be near 300, Keiferheim says.

Each year, there are many people and businesses who want to work with ArtWise and offer their time. “We’ve worked with UND a lot — archeology department, art department, engineering — they all have pretty good-sized roles and the students come and get volunteer hours, as well,” Keiferheim says.

HB Sound and Light has been working with the group for years, because the owners have a keen interest in offering experience and activities for children in the community. And students at UND are always excited to help with the preparation and operation of the event. This year, Alpha Chi Omega students helped create decor for the show, including barn quilt squares, which will be prominently displayed around the venue.

Keiferheim is certain the agricultural theme of this year’s event will leave a long-lasting impression on those who attend and those who helped make the event a possibility.

“We look at the world around us, and agriculture is the world around us,” Keiferheim says. “There is something for everybody. We’re always trying to reach new audiences.”

And Gunderson thinks the continued passion of all involved with the program will continue to build on the value of art in schools and life.

“A great awareness of art in our schools, coming to see their child’s piece of work, makes this a well-regarded art experience for families and children, and will continue maintaining the existence of ArtWise. All children have the opportunity to experience art in the community.”