Studio, living space designs for N.D. artist colony on display at NDMOA

Sketches and models of studios and living spaces at the North Dakota Museum of Art McCanna House in McCanna, N.D., will be on display at the museum in Grand Forks through March 20.

North Dakota Museum of Art

Sketches and models of studios and living spaces at the North Dakota Museum of Art McCanna House in McCanna, N.D., will be on display at the museum in Grand Forks through March 20.

Margery McCanna Jenniston, who died April 22, 2010, left her ancestral home in McCanna to the North Dakota Museum of Art to develop as an artist-in-residence colony. The town of McCanna 35 miles west of Grand Forks was built on land homesteaded by Jenniston's grandfather more than 120 years ago. The McCanna House, a 1920 French-style country house, was built by Joseph Bell DeRemer, one of the region's first architects.

Last fall, third-year architecture students from North Dakota State University traveled from Fargo to McCanna to visit the site. The students were charged with designing combination studio and living spaces for visiting artists that would be nestled into the shelterbelt surrounding the 10-acre farmstead.

The students' sketches and models were unveiled during a reception Sunday at North Dakota Museum of Art to spark a discussion among interested citizens and regional architects, officials at the museum said

Laurel Reuter, director of North Dakota Museum of Art, joined the students when they visited McCanna in October to outline the project. The studio would be on the ground floor and a modest living space on the second with sleeping quarters, a bathroom, an efficiency kitchen or kitchenette and some storage, she explained.


Cottages in the cottonwoods

There were few restrictions. Because the cottage-like buildings would be situated in a grove of trees dominated by cottonwoods, she wished them to consider designing a sleeping porch on the upper floor. The students spent a couple of hours poking into every corner inside and outside the house. Gradually they staked out the sites for their imagined cabins before going home to begin drawing.

Regin Schwaen, associate professor of the NDSU department of architecture and landscape architecture, accompanied his students to McCanna. Previously, he taught for five years at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, Denmark, spent two years practicing in Berlin and then opened his own practice in Copenhagen.

As an architect and a teacher, Schwaen said, he was happy to be able to create a task within the academic realm with focus on different arts.

"Together with North Dakota Museum of Art, we decided to have third-year students at NDSU create separate cabins for a musician, a writer, a sculptor, and a painter," he said. "Most students had never before thought in those dimensions, to design rooms for the arts."

A chance for architecture students

Architecture student Brittany L. Taplin said third-year students typically work on two to three projects a semester, designing models and board for each one. This was a chance to create living spaces after meeting with a client and visiting a site.

"I loved this project," Taplin said. "For a typical studio project, we have a real site, but the client is usually imaginary. In this case, we had a real client, Laurel, who we could talk to and ask specific questions. She could describe to us what she envisioned. It is also nice to know that our project could be inspiration for the architect who will be hired to ultimately design the final artist-in-residence spaces."


If one of the student designs were to be adopted, a North Dakota licensed architect would have to head up the project. Case in point: In 1981, at age 21, and while still an undergraduate at Yale University, Maya Lin won a public design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., beating out 1,441 other competition submissions. Lin, while the designer of the Wall, assisted the architect and his team of engineers for the actual construction on the site.

Overall, the NDSU students said they appreciated the chance to work for a real client on an important project.

"It was exciting to be a part of a project that generates interest into what will hopefully become an actual project that will greatly benefit the North Dakota Museum of Art," Matt Fremstad said.

The North Dakota Museum of Art is on Centennial Drive on the UND Campus and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. weekends. Info: (701) 777-4195; .

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