By HPR Staff
Tour the studios of some of F-M’s most popular artists
The Fargo-Moorhead area’s largest art event, the Studio Crawl, is just around the corner—October 1 and 2. The members of the Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists organization hosts the event, now in its 19th year, always on the first weekend of October. You can find a Studio Crawl brochure and map at fmva.org, in this issue of HPR, or at a variety of businesses.
We talked with the executive director of the Studio Crawl, Jon Offutt, (a glassblower who has been voted HPR’s “favorite established artist” for several years), about what makes this event so special.
“During the free event, more than 40 artists around the area open their doors to the public to show their work spaces and their art, talk about what it’s like to be a working artist, and demonstrate their work. The public is welcome to ask lots of questions and,” Jon said, “be inspired.”
It’s difficult to estimate the numbers of people who tour the Studio Crawl, since there are a variety of studios to tour, and some people visit two or three while others try to see them all, but Jon estimates that more than 1,000 people are out Studio Crawling over the weekend. “Groups of friends, couples of all ages, families with young children, students who get their brochures initialed by the artists to get school points and sometimes busloads from out of town—the crowd is always diverse.”
Some studios house more than one artist, and some serve refreshments. Jon always has a root beer keg at his studio. Some are interactive—like Jodi Peterson’s slumped glass studio, where everyone can create a glass bead during their stop.
Offutt said along with the dozens of returning artists, seven new artists are joining this year: “Two very talented abstract painters, a ceramicist who creates interesting textures on their work, an oil painter who paints the human figure and especially dancers, a potter who makes nifty shapes you can use to amplify your cell phone, a painter who paints whimsical scenes, and a studio worth stopping at if only just to see their giant sculptural boulder.”
That studio is Mothership Workshop—a 2,000 square-foot space where artists Mike and Josh build molds for custom concrete furniture, throw ceramics on a wheel, and create large scale sculptures.
An exhibit currently open (free!) at Plains Art Museum previews the Studio Crawl with a piece of work from each of the nearly 50 artists participating—furniture, clothing, ceramics, turned and carved wood, jewelry, glass, framed prints, photos, paintings, and more.
“We’re grateful to Plains Art Museum for hosting the preview exhibit and to Prairie Public for being our media partners—both have supported the Studio Crawl since the very beginning,” said Jon. Jon also acknowledged the many businesses that contribute to the event. “We live in a community that really supports its artists. I hope people will see those businesses listed in the Studio Crawl brochure, visit them, and thank them for us.”
Jon said he, Brad Bachmeier, Ellen Diederich, and Karen Bakke are the “hard core” Studio Crawl artists who have been there every year since that first event nineteen years ago. He put us in touch with some of the other artists to learn more about the event and those artists’ contributions to it.
One of the Studio Crawls artists who is also an educator is Barbara Benda, who runs Mourning Dove Studio and Double Trouble Gallery in Moorhead. “I’ve been painting in watercolor, acrylic, and mixed media collage for over 40 years while also teaching in area schools for 31 years. My greatest joy is sharing what I know and encouraging others to put in the work to develop their own artistic skills. Creating a work of art involves study, problem-solving, experimentation, and practice. I tell people, ‘paintings don't paint themselves.’"
A fabric studio on the map is the working space of Cynthia McGuire Thiel, who describes herself as a “sewist”—a portmanteau of sewing and artist. Her stitching talent comes from years of effort. She started sewing at age three with her mother, who learned from Cynthia’s grandmother.
Craftsman Steve Revland said he participates in the Studio Crawl every year, in part, because it’s his best financial weekend of the year—close to 350 people visit his home’s courtyard to see, and purchase, his artful furniture. Steve says he’s celebrating 50 years as an artist, he’s having the time of his life, and he credits the Studio Crawl for helping him to keep his dream alive.
Britt Dalice said she had the chance to attend the Studio Crawl as a community member before becoming a practicing artist. She thought the event was a “really awesome” way for artists to share their art and creative process with the community, so once she became a practicing artist with a studio, she wanted to also take part. At her studio, she will demonstrate her process of combining wooden shapes and oil paint into unique works of art. Over the course of the weekend, visitors will be able to watch her transform a traditional flat canvas to a fully three-dimensional work.
Elizabeth Schwankl, who has developed an original technique called “Aluminart,” says the Studio Crawl is her favorite way to connect with people who have an interest in her work. Elizabeth’s Aluminart art is embossed and painted on aluminum, but she also takes commissions in oil, watercolor, pen and ink, pastels, and statue and painting repairs—she says no job is too big or too small, and she loves fulfilling client’s wishes for custom pieces of personalized art for homes, offices, and public spaces. Elizabeth has been a professional artist for 33 years, and she’s had extensive training with nationally-known artists, so everyone could learn a thing or two with a stop at her studio.
Doug Stuckle is an oil painter—describing his painting as a natural/realism style. He said he’s had a very productive year, and he has much new art to show during the Studio Crawl. He participated in many art shows this year, one being a sixty-day solo show at Bonanzaville USA in West Fargo, where he showed 47 pieces of art—from landscapes to animal and agricultural paintings.
Shelli Fenski shares a studio space with Doug Stuckle, so Studio Crawl visitors can see two artists at work with one stop! Shelli creates jewelry with semi-precious stones—and she says she loves adding fossils to her pieces. She also loves working in mixed media and stained glass, so visitors will see sun ornaments and butterflies in stained glass. Creating works using an enameling process and the torch adds color to her work as well. Shelli appreciates participating in the Studio Crawl because she says it’s a great opportunity to meet and share with visitors, and for her the weekend is reflective of teaching. She likes that visitors are curious. Be sure to have some questions ready for Shelli when you stop by her studio!
Next year, the Studio Crawl will celebrate its 20th anniversary. We asked Jon if the Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists were planning a special celebration. “Should we? Yeah, probably. I’m just working on getting my studio cleaned and ready for this year’s event!”
Editor’s note: “You can find a Studio Crawl brochure and map at fmva.org, in this issue of HPR, or at a variety of businesses.”
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