Empire Arts Center, Grand Forks artist selected to receive 2023 Governor’s Awards for the Arts

The city’s cultural hub and folk artist Pieper Fleck Bloomquist will be honored at an awards ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the Heritage Center in Bismarck

Grand Forks Empire Arts Center
A file photo of the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks.

GRAND FORKS – Pieper Fleck Bloomquist of Grand Forks, a contemporary folk artist, and the Empire Arts Center have been selected to receive the 2023 North Dakota Governor’s Awards for the Arts.

They are among six award recipients to be honored during a special award ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck. The event is hosted by the North Dakota Council on the Arts and Gov. Doug Burgum.

Bloomquist will receive the Individual Achievement Award.

The Empire Arts Center is the recipient of the Nonprofit Arts Organization Award.

According to a biography posted on the North Dakota Council of the Arts web page, Bloomquist paints in the traditions of the old Swedish folk-art styles of dalmalning and bonadsmalming to tell modern stories. Using common floral motifs and decorative elements of this art form, along with the traditional materials of linen, and homemade paints of egg tempera or animal glue, she creates painted tapestries with scenes that narrate modern human stories.


According to the Council of the Arts, she has twice been granted a Folk Arts Fellowship through the American Scandinavian Foundation, in 2018 and 2023, and is a regular painting instructor at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis and the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

Bloomquist draws inspiration from family traditions, her experience as an oncology nurse, rural life in the Upper Midwest, and current cultural developments, such as the COVID pandemic.

She is working on an art piece that will be placed in the 136-year-old Grue Evangelical Lutheran Church in rural Buxton, North Dakota, as part of an ongoing restoration project.

Empire Exterior for NDCA 01142023_0.jpg
The Empire Arts Center, located in downtown Grand Forks, received the Nonprofit Arts Organization Award, one of six 2023 North Dakota Governor's Awards for the Arts to be presented at a ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismarck.

According to a biography posted on the North Dakota Council of the Arts web page, the Empire Arts Center, which has graced the city’s center for 104 years, is one of the most well-known historic buildings in downtown Grand Forks.

Originally built as a movie theater, the Empire has been reimagined to accommodate changes in the community, both in entertainment and in culture.

The Council of the Arts bio notes that as a prestigious downtown movie house, the theater led the way locally during the advancement of film from 1920 to 1995. After the Flood of ‘97, the facility was given new life as a multi-purpose arts center, playing a significant role in the reinvigoration of downtown and the local economy.

Thousands of North Dakotans and others visit the Empire annually to see live performances, view visual art exhibits, watch movies, and attend celebrations. Hundreds of local performers, as well as regional and national artists, have entertained on its stage.

Established in 1977, the North Dakota Governor’s Awards for the Arts is a biennial program to recognize organizations and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the arts in the state.


Recipients are chosen for their efforts to expand arts opportunities to new audiences, create an appreciation for North Dakota’s cultural heritage, make the arts more central to education, and incorporate arts as an integral part of community life. The nominee’s length of service is also a factor.

Other award recipients honored at Wednesday’s event are: Bill Lowman of Sentinel Butte, Individual Cultural Heritage Award; Former State Senator Joan Heckaman, Dickinson, Champion for the Arts Award; Makoche’ Recording Studios, Bismarck, For-Profit Arts Organization; and Donald Larew, Fargo, Arts in Education Award.

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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