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 | Feature photo is of current members of Ochre Creative Studios; Back Left to Right: Michael Waltz, Emily Beaman, Tyler Gefroh; Front Left to Right: Andrea Qual, Ben Neyers, Emma Beatrez, Nikayla Snyder
Ochre Creative Studios
Nestled in a three-stall garage behind the Teamsters building off of Main Avenue in Fargo is the home of Ochre Creative Studios, a space where student artists have come together to create more opportunities and support for young artists alike.
A little over a year ago, Tyler Gefroh was looking for studio space and so was Andrea Qual. But when Gefroh came across the quaint, homey garage space in the alley behind the Teamsters building, he knew it was a project that couldn’t be tackled alone or as a duo.
“There wasn’t really anything available that was affordable or suited our needs. After we found the space, the only way I knew we could do it is if we had more artists,” said Gefroh. “That’s the only way I knew it was going to work. I couldn’t afford the rent by myself and even the two of us splitting it wouldn’t have worked.”
The two were able to work through mutual friends and other students in the art programs to find local talent that was interested in being a part of the shared studio space and in March 2016, Ochre Creative Studios started coming to life. It can be defined as a “contemporary art gallery and shared studio space for up-and-coming artists in the FargoMoorhead area.” However, Gefroh explained that it’s not quite a gallery. Not yet, at least. “We don’t really want to charge someone to hang their stuff up in a garage, so we just see it as more of an opportunity for them at this point,” he said.
Ochre currently has seven members, all local college art students. Each pays a cut of the rent to use the space to create art and store some of their work and supplies. The studio has also held a few shows and exhibitions displaying their own work and the work of others, and is available for other artists of all types to hold shows as well. Gefroh also explained that 10 percent of each piece of theirs that is sold gets put into a studio fund, which covers things like community membership fees, repairs, supplies, or even remodel projects such as renovating the studio’s bathroom into a photography dark room–something they plan to do in the near future.
“We have this sort of, maybe not intentional, purpose to expose people to more contemporary art. I think once we started as a group, we were motivated by each other. You have one person do something that’s really nice and you kind of want to do the same thing or represent yourself as well as the group well, so there’s a lot of accountability I feel like. It’s easier when you have more people involved,” said Gefroh.
A PLATFORM FOR YOUNG STUDENT ARTISTS
Opportunities for college student artists and young artists in general can be hard to come by, and that’s where one of Ochre’s roles really comes into play. The space gives members an adequate place to create when school’s not in session, and it gives students more opportunities to showcase their work.
“Hiding From Light” by Nikayla Snyder Digital photography, 11″ x 17″
“Basically, I see it as a platform for young student artists to get out of an institution or school setting and into the real world, so to speak. It’s sort of an experiment, because you get to see what’s in the future for you as an artist as far as what you’re going to have to do,” said Gefroh.
“Excavation 1” by Tyler Gefroh 24” x 15”, plaster, paper, coffee and charcoal on wood panel
“There’s nothing wrong with universities and our professors love what we’re doing, but I just feel like students need space to work that isn’t in their house or apartment because most of the time that doesn’t work. We agreed that we wanted to make this kind of a spot where we could show other students’ work as well.”
“Voyeur” by Emma Beatrez Oil, 3’ x 4’
The group has done just that so far by hosting various art shows and a recent juried show that featured student submissions. Michael Waltz, Ochre’s newest member, said that shows are a great way to get people into the space, but there’s still more to be done to raise awareness and get others involved.
“Living The Dream” by Andrea Qual Acrylic, 48” x 48”
“Coming from the outside, I had heard about Ochre and the things they were doing, but I wasn’t exactly sure what. I think that’s something that we’re all still working on. How can we get other people and other students involved so it’s not just us here individually working? How can we involve the community? I think that’s something we still need to figure out, and doing shows is a good chance to get other people into the space,” said Waltz.
“Kyle” by Michael Waltz 72” x 48”, charcoal on canson
“We want to support young artists. There isn’t much for young artists to do here, so they always move and try to do it elsewhere. So one of our goals is to support the young art community here and expose people to new forms of art in general,” said Gefroh.
WHY ARE THE ARTS IMPORTANT FOR A COMMUNITY?
For any type of artist, the response to this question seems like it should be a no-brainer, but it can actually be incredibly difficult. Art encompasses so many forms and mediums that answers can be truly arbitrary, as the arts impact every single person differently. Although some of the members of Ochre initially responded along the lines of, “What is water? What is breathing? What is living?” the question prompted a deep pause in thought from many members before giving answers.
“Linear Landscape” by Emily Beaman Acrylic and collage on paper
Nikayla Snyder: “I think that, although it’s really important for individual expression, it’s important to come together as a multitude and express to make positive changes, and show beauty in ways that people maybe would miss otherwise.”
Tyler Gefroh: “It’s a way of communicating. Art deals with all of your senses, especially when you think about something like music, too. All of that is important to create experiences rather than just living your day-to-day life. It’s nice to just experience something that’s out of your reality. Art is a necessity.”
Ben Neyers: “Art is in everyday things and we might not realize it. It could be clothes, menus, advertising, the products you use–there are artists that work hard on those things. If funds to the arts get cut, it would be like cutting funding to a whole generation of those people. There wouldn’t be creative growth at all, even for consumer goods.”
“Resilience” by Ben Neyers Multi-media, acrylic on canvas, 47″ x 47″, 2015
Nikayla Snyder: “I think creativity also prompts intelligence, too. You need to expand your mind and have creative opinions in front of you to think about so that you can make good choices as an individual, or even as a nation, state or world. Creativity prompts that.”
Tyler Gefroh: “Intelligence is a good point, because you can’t create something without knowing anything. A lot of your work can be very simple, but it still has to be a study of something. It takes more effort than just common knowledge, I guess.” Emily Beaman: “Historically, art has always been one of those things that challenges society to move forward and I think that’s important to continue.