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Keeping it local: New UND art exhibit showcases North Dakota work

UND Art Collections Director Arthur Jones, left, and UND President Mark Kennedy discuss a painting that Kennedy did when he was 12 titled "Mare and Foal." The painting is among several art pieces by UND presidents and is part of the exhibit. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
UND students (l-r) Sam Halvorson, Jerry Cleem and Joe Dronen discuss a painting by ND artist Walter Piehl at the UND Art Collection opening at the Empire in downtown Grand Forks Tuesday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

UND's art collection contains work by artists such as Rembrandt, Matisse and Picasso, but a new exhibit at the Empire Arts Center, titled "The Creative Impulse: Artists From North Dakota and the Broader Region," showcases the talent in the university's backyard.

"It communicates art is not just an East Coast or a West Coast thing," said UND President Mark Kennedy at a reception Tuesday to celebrate the exhibit's opening. "It's a here-and-now thing for North Dakota people, that they can embrace art, that they can produce art, that they can produce art that's worthy of putting in a display."

The exhibit features a range of mediums such as paintings, pottery, photography and Native American art. In addition to well-known artists such as pottery maker Margaret Cable and painter Brian Paulsen, the exhibit includes work from people who are not professional artists. UND Art Collections Director Arthur Jones said the goal of including amateur art in the exhibit is to get viewers to think about the role of art in life.

"I thought that would broaden the show to sort of deal with the idea that art is more than just a frill," Jones said. "That art is something that meets a human need."

Among the works of amateur art are pieces by five UND presidents, including a painting by Kennedy titled "Mare and Foal." He said art is important to his family.

"My kids would be very surprised," he said jokingly of approval for his painting. "It's been hanging at our kitchen table for the last decade or so."

University first lady Debbie Kennedy's handmade hats are also on display in the exhibit. She said she has been sewing since she was a child and took to millinery while working on her Master of Fine Arts degree in costume design from George Washington University. She jokingly called getting the degree her "midlife crisis."

"I can't wait to take a picture and sent it to my professor," she said of her hat display. "Better to have them on display than in a closet."

Mark Kennedy said he believes the decision for the exhibit to have a local focus with amateur art turned out well. "In many ways, it's not meant to just give the enjoyment of seeing art," he said. "But the encouragement of, 'Maybe you should consider it.' "

The exhibit runs through April 12.