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Know Your Nonprofit: Arts & Culture With Plains Art Museum

Photo by Hillary Ehlen

Featured photo: Plains Art Museum‘s Director and CEO Andy Maus (L), artist/teacher Hayden Swanson (M) and Director of Education and Social Engagement Netha Cloeter (R)

With help from the Impact Foundation, we’ve broken up the numerous Fargo-Moorhead organizations into 12 categories. With more than 100 charitable organizations in the Fargo-Moorhead area alone, we know that you’ll come across an organization that tug at your heartstrings. Within the listings of local charities we’ve published, the organizations are split into subcategories that will make it easy for your charitable spirit to find its match. Here is our spotlight on the Arts & Culture nonprofits, featuring Plains Art Museum.

Plains Art Museum

704 1st Ave. N., Fargo

“I think Fargo, in its soul, is an arts community. Given the region that we’re in, there aren’t very many arts organizations in that geography,” said director and CEO of Plains Art Museum, Andy Maus. “We’re serving not only these needs here locally, but we’re also serving these needs regionally, which is a different relationship than art museums typically have.”

The Plains Art Museum showcases Native American, folk and contemporary art, but is not just a viewing place for visual arts. On top of typical museum offerings, it houses The Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity, artist studios, a Fargo Public Schools partnership and hosts a variety of artist lectures and seminars throughout the year. “A center for art making and a museum on the same campus is pretty unique. That’s something we have that a lot of other communities don’t have,” said Andy.

Hayden Swanson of Livin’ The Dream Pottery is a resident artist and a teacher at the museum, serving as part of the Center for Creativity and the learning resources that they provide. Hayden has been a teaching artist there for three years, teaching children ages kindergarten through fifth grade as part of the Fargo Public School program. He teaches the majority of the youth after-school programs, an adult Clay for Couples and Clay Sampler program as well as a teen ceramics class. Hayden also assists in outreach and events for the museum.

“I feel like I hit the jackpot. I’m able to teach quite consistently and then I have that free time to still be able to make all my pots,” said Hayden. “I make tons of pots and tons of work, I otherwise would never be able to do that without this job.” This partnership with the Plains Art Museum allows Hayden to pursue his love of pottery and to pass along his skills and knowledge to the community. With a knack for teaching and a great relationship with children, he has turned his passion into a full-time job while still having the time and resources to pursue his own projects.

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Thank you all for an amazing year. I can’t thank you all enough for the support I’ve received from my local community. Without Fargo I’d be nothing, without @wearefolkways and their amazing markets this year I’d be nothing, and without @ungluedmarket ‘s continuous support of the maker community we’d be all stuck at square one. I made a decision this year to make my pots affordable to all. $20 mugs and bowls, and $10 tumblers. This wouldn’t be possible without @amacobrent And @continentalclay With their affordable prices, and 98% success rate. People thought I was crazy, but the only thing crazy about it is the support you gave me when you purchased a pots you found yourself or others in. 2018 changed my life, and wait until you see what’s coming in 2019. Thank you to all. Also if you want any pots before Christmas I’ll be dropping them off at @ungluedmarket today or tomorrow! Plus I can’t forget my friend @mschleifphotography for helping tell my story through beautiful images

A post shared by Hayden Swanson (@haydenswanson_com) on

According to Andy, the partnership with Fargo Public Schools and the lessons students learn in classes with teachers like Hayden is valuable. “It’s a much more in-depth experience than most school trips to art museums. It goes to show that this community values art education,” said Andy. Hayden agreed, noting that teaching art to children and getting them involved in making their own art is transformative.

“They start asking the right questions, they see things a little bit differently,” said Hayden. An education in and access to the arts creates better problem solving and creative thinking that can be applied to many fields.

With the Fargo Public School partnership, the students involved become very familiar with the museum, as well as the Center for Creativity. The museum’s director of education and social engagement Netha Cloeter said, “By the second time they’re coming, they’re leading the tour basically and they have a sense of belonging at the Plains Art Museum.”

Netha remarked that she regularly sees a boost to students self-esteem when they’ve completed an art project. Learning by working in the arts introduces a problem solving that you have to do to bring a project from ideation to completion. “When you’re looking at a piece of art, there’s not a black and white answer we’re looking for. A single piece of art doesn’t mean one single thing. So students have to think and be exposed to ambiguity and think in the gray a little more,” said Netha. She noticed that student’s tolerance for when things don’t have a right or wrong answer increases when they are exposed to that kind of thinking. In a visual world with digital media being so prominent, Plains Art Museum‘s programs gives students the tools to become smart, critical thinkers when they are looking at visual objects. Andy added, “We’re not doing ceramics classes so that we have more ceramics in the world. That’s part of it, but we also want better citizens and better thinkers.”

With free general admission, the Plains Art Museum has also become a community place, in addition to an educational center. Andy said, “People need their third places. It’s well documented – well understood – that people have their workplace and their home place, and then they need those third places. We think that in a community like Fargo, those third places are most naturally an art museum.”

The Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity is a multipurpose arts facility offering classes for the entire community, as well as studio and exhibition space for learning, discussion and display of creative work. The Plains Art Museum’s studio programs focus on developing people’s potential for deeper learning and problem solving through 21st-century skills: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. A skybridge connects the original museum building with this 25,500 square foot expansion.

In Fargo’s long winters, there is a sense of social isolation that can occur, especially with the spread-out geography of the region. The museum serves as a gathering place, facilitating social interaction and cultural exchange. Visiting the museum or partaking in the adult classes that Hayden teaches are activities often designed for groups, further encouraging social and cultural interactions.

These classes sometimes even provide more than just a creative outlet for participants. Hayden shared, “In one of my first Clay for Couples classes there was a couple, Gabe and Kristen Rheault, in the class. Within a year of that first class, they had bought their own wheel, set up a space in their basement and were selling their goods at Christkindlmarkt, where they actually sold out of pots.” Known as Fargo Mean Muggin, Gabe and Kristen found that pottery was an activity they could do together and became immersed in the art. “Now it’s a family business, but it’s also the experience of making things together. Most couples don’t have that thing,” added Andy.

This is just one of many stories that have come out of the Plains Art Museum. Whether it’s a couple finding a new way they can spend time together, a child learning new techniques for how to view the world or a visitor becoming refreshed and inspired by the works of art within the museum’s walls, the Plains Art Museum is an invaluable asset to our community.

Fargo gets to host something truly unique with this combination of a museum, educational program and studio space all under one umbrella. Thanks to this community accessible space for the creation of arts and art education, a society of tolerant and socially engaged people is emerging. “Making art is for everyone. [People] have access to this creative thing and it doesn’t have to be any specific thing and it doesn’t have to be great. But making things is part of what’s great about being human,” said Andy.

More Arts & Culture Organizations in the FM Area

Bonanzaville – Cass County Historical Society

“We share the rich history of the Red River Valley, artifacts you would not have the opportunity to see anywhere else locally, and demonstrations of yesteryear. Educating the community is the most important piece of what we do at Bonanzaville.” -Missy Warren, Special Events & Wedding Coordinator

Creative Plains Foundation

Cultural Diversity Resources

Emerging Prairie

Fargo Air Museum

“To help, volunteer your time during our camps, our Veteran’s Coffee Hour (thanks to Sandy’s Donuts for the donuts each month!), attend our annual Celebrity Dinner and Auction or donate auction items. Get engaged in our mission!” – Jackie Williams

Fargo Invaders

Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre

“With greater funding, we could provide more classes to more children, making sure that every child has the opportunity to grow into a well-rounded individual through theatre education. Our education programs saw a 31% increase in the number of students last season compared to the previous season, and we see that growth continuing this season.” – Eloise Breikjern, Executive Director

Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra

Fargo-Moorhead Opera

FM Opera is the only professional opera company within 250+ miles any direction and is proud to be uniquely positioned as the smallest city in the United States to have professional opera offered to its community.” – Shirley Leiphon, Relationship Director

FM Ballet

“We had a collaborative performance and Bonanzaville last Christmas, and a young woman came up to me after the performance and said ‘this was a magical night for me and my mother. She has been so ill that I have not been able to take her to the ballet, she loves the ballet, so because you made this so close to our home and so accessible, we were able to make it to see the ballet. Her heart was filled with the beauty and grace of dance once again. GHD donations make things like this possible.” – Matt Gasper, Artistic Director

Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County

Immigrant Development Center

Lake Agassiz Concert Band

Prairie Public

Probstfield Farm Living History Foundation Red River Dance

“One of our favorite donor stories came from someone who knew how important dance was for another dancer that couldn’t afford it and paid for their tuition anonymously.” – Haylee Thompson, Program Director

Red River Valley Veterans Concert Band

“One of our very generous donors heard our band play for the very first time this year. He pulled me aside and said to me, ‘Now I get it'” – Cynthia Arnhold

Theatre B

The Human Family

“Donations provided on Giving Hearts Day will help make the documentary series ‘Home. The Homelessness Crisis in North Dakota’ free to individuals and agencies to use to help educate communities about the invisible epidemic. ” – Sean Coffman, Executive Director

The Master Chorale of Fargo Moorhead

Trollwood Performing Arts School

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Written by Alexandra Martin

Alexandra Martin is the editor of Fargo Monthly. She hails from Huntsville, Alabama, but graduated from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri with a degree in Fashion Communications. When she's not in the office, she is busy taking care of her small zoo of pets, cooking up vegetables, or listening to true-crime podcasts.

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