The sheer amount of passionate artists and talent in this community is enough to fill hundreds of pages, and we can only wish we had enough to showcase them all. We talked to a handful of visual artists and those deeply involved with local organizations and galleries to highlight their unique roles in the growing art scene, and to find out why the arts are so important for our community.
SHEER ART ATTACK
Photos by Paul Flessland
Born and raised in Fargo, Steve Revland has been involved with the local and regional art scene since the early ‘60s. From playing Norwegian folk songs on-air at WDAY as an 8-year-old to a 42-year career as a furniture craftsman and gallery owner, Revland has fostered many long-term relationships with artists along the way as he continues his craft moving forward. And he doesn’t do it just for himself, but for the community.
“I’ve been an artist all my life, since childhood. It’s all I know,” said the local craftsman and gallery owner as he talked about his time as a Fargo musician before becoming a master woodworker. But in his early ‘20s, Revland took a break from his solo performing act and purchased a book on building birdhouses, thinking it might be “therapeutic.” Before he knew it, he was crafting with wood left and right, as it gradually led him down a path of where he sits today.
“It’s lead to a 42-year career. For someone who flunked woodshop in high school, I really wasn’t destined to be doing what I’m doing, but it is what it is, and I’m not complaining. I’ve lived a charmed life,” said Revland. “As far as my furniture career goes, I’ve worked really hard, but you know, there has been a tremendous amount of luck involved. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, most of the time. I’m 64 and I’ve got a lot of tread left on the tires, so I’ll probably be doing this until I tip over. I don’t know any artists who retire. I won’t be one of them.”
A Craftsman’s Career
Revland is a lot of things as an artist, but has made the most out of his career as a craftsman and was even featured on HGTV’s “Modern Masters” series in 1999, 2000 and 2001. He specializes in designing and crafting dining room tables, coffee and end tables, consoles and writing desks–mainly utilizing exotic woods from other countries–and stated, “After all these years, I can usually purchase a slab of wood and quickly determine what I will make from it. Each slab is like a snowflake, with specific characteristics, which guides me in the decision making process.”
Revland founded The UpTown Gallery in Downtown Fargo in 2013, which featured his furniture and the works of established and emerging artists from the community and region. Unfortunately, the gallery closed in May of 2016. The closure was a difficult decision for Revland to make, so he took some time off before resurfacing in the fall of 2016 at the Revland Gallery in the former Goodyear Schumacher building on Broadway.
“My ultimate goal was and has been to continue a brick-and-mortar showroom, as the majority of my yearly sales are generated from tables purchased through the gallery. I still continue to do custom work, but at my age it’s much easier to design and build to buy. Clients come in for a view and a touch, and if interested, will schedule a delivery. I’ve pretty much sold every table I’ve brought in here, closing in on 150 tables over the last three years,” said Revland.
The Revland Gallery
The Revland Gallery features the works from 17 artists, including Revland himself. Revland explained that the gallery staff has also created the “start” project, which stands for student art. If you look at the front of the building, you’ll see six paintings created by local university students. Revland explained that it’s a way for their staff to help our students launch their careers, and that the paintings will be auctioned off at an upcoming alumni event with the proceeds going back to the students as well as scholarship funding at each university. The gallery also works to support causes that they believe in, having hosted various cultural events to raise awareness such as the recent Fargo Women’s March and an opening honoring African culture.
Splated Hackberry, Old Growth Curly
Sequoia with Indian Strangler
“It’s not so much about donating money to these causes, but more about raising awareness and showing our support,” said Revland. “Our philosophy here is to give back as much as possible to the community that raised us. We also try and make it a fun and pleasant experience for everyone that comes through the door. There is nothing pretentious or elitist about this gallery. I’m not embarrassed to say that I barely graduated from high school and have no education in the arts. What you see is what you get. However, I try to think a bit out of the box, utilizing my skills as a space planner and experience as a businessman. When all is said and done, we feel if we adhere to these principles and values, hopefully everything else will fall into place.”
The Revland gallery is currently in a temporary space owned by the Kilbourne Group with a lease that runs through April. Another move may be in the works for Revland and as much as he wants to regroup, certain variables will need to take shape.
“Of course I want to continue this. It’s good for my business, yes, but I would miss the interaction with artists and the patrons that I serve. Somehow, in any way shape or form, if I can make a difference at all in the arts community, I would love to. There may be as well, some folks who would like me to go away and I get it. I inherited thick skin. Regardless, the joy I have experienced over the years has been priceless.”
The Importance of The Arts
Revland started as a musician at age 8, and firmly believes teaching children the importance of the arts should begin at an even younger age, while their “skulls are full of mush.”
“When our kids are 4 or 5 years old, we, as parents and a society, would be better served by implementing more culture within their conscientious as they enter their ‘curious’ years. They may not become artists or musicians as they enter adulthood, but it will remain with them forever and the world just might be a better place because of that,” he said. “Unlike European countries, our society has a tendency to treat artists as second-class citizens. This needs to change. That being said, I’d like to thank my parents and older sisters for filling my skull when it was full of mush. Thanks to them, it’s been a good ride.”