Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Case of the missing mosaic

by C.S. Hagen | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | News | May 22nd, 2019

Bonanzaville Executive Director Brenda Warren looks over the Great Depression era mosaics made from North Dakota clay that will be on display and priced during the Antique Road Show - photograph by C.S. Hagen

FARGO – Nine Great Depression era mosaics included in a Bonanzaville collection to be priced by the Antiques ROADSHOW on June 1 carry a 40-year-old mystery nobody has been able to solve.

One of the pieces – of an entire collection of 11 depicting characteristic themes of the state – was stolen in the mid 1970s. Each piece is unique, a framed mosaic plaque made from North Dakota clay. Bonanzaville purchased nine pieces through the Pioneer Daughters in 1935 for approximately $75, and the University of North Dakota retained two, Bonanzaville Executive Director Brenda Warren said.

“The pottery was boarded up and ready to be moved and during the evening someone familiar with the ceramics decided they’d rather own a piece and it was stolen out of there,” University of North Dakota professor emeritus Donald Miller said.

“We have nine and we’ve always had nine and the University of North Dakota had two, but when their art department moved one of the two got stolen,” Warren said.

The stolen piece was part of the now defunct UND School of Mines, which was turned into the university’s arts department after Cable retired.

“There are no other tile pieces like this made at the university,” Miller said. “Each of them is one of a kind. They were actually designed by a woman in the art department. My guess is individually they’d bring $25,000 or $30,000.”

Warren is waiting on pricing predictions from PBS’s 16 Emmy Award-nominated Antiques Roadshow.

The designer and producer of the plaques – the heart and soul of UND pottery – was Margaret Cable, first teacher of the university’s ceramics department. She accepted a mission at the time to prove that North Dakota clay could make good pottery, the result of which ended in an artistic explosion that rivaled the work of the best American producers at that time.

Cable, who named herself “Maggie Mud,” struggled through the Great Depression to keep her department alive, even after her salary was cut and she was told her department’s funds had to come from pottery sales. During the Great Depression she became head of the of the President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal WPA or Works Progress Administration program at the local level, making pieces crafted during that time period highly sought after items.

Margaret Cable - History of UND Pottery - The Cable Years documentary screenshot

She taught her students to use indigenous imagery, reflecting scenes from the prairie, buffalos, Conestoga wagons, wheat and corn stalks, sweet clover, honeybees, and farm animals. In 1927, she was named North Dakota’s Woman of the Year, and after retirement received the world’s most prestigious pottery medal.

Some of the figurines crafted by Cable and her more than 1,800 students included: Mother Goose nursery rhyme characters, doll heads and animal figurines, cereal bowls, custard cups, milk jugs, pitchers, and beverage glasses. Other ceramics included bookends, paperweights, lamps, incense burners, ashtrays, and decorative plates. Some are stamped with “WPA Ceramics N. Dak.,” while others with WPA or WPA N.D. A small portion also possesses the initials of the potter, according to the North Dakota Pottery Collectors Society.

The mosaic plaques, some of which are named The Dakota Badlands, An Indian Smoking a Peace Pipe, An Ox and Oxcart on the Prairie, A Drill Sowing Corn in Reddish Soil, and The State Owned Mill at Grand Forks, were a part of the North Dakota exhibit at the Century Progress World’s Fair in Chicago, Illinois in 1933.

Someone, somewhere, has the stolen piece, Donald Miller said.

“Please turn it over to the police department and have it returned to the Alumni Association at the University of North Dakota,” Miller said. “It would be wonderful to have the other piece hanging next to it.”

The mosaics have a near 80-year-old history, and at one point Miller said UND wanted the artworks back.

“Those pieces had been bought from UND and were meant to be displayed and we gave them an idea of what they were worth and made them an offer on the pieces and it wasn’t until we pointed out the uniqueness and value of these things that they took notice,” Miller said. “They were looking at one point to sell them on Ebay. And it was like ‘Oh my god, don’t sell those things.’ They are heritage here in North Dakota, they belong someplace on display.”

Miller, who said he authored a book on Cable and UND pottery entitled “History of UND Pottery – The Cable Years,” made Bonanzaville an offer to return the nine pieces.

“Not $200,000 but enough for recognition, and to be recognized for placing them back at UND,” he said.

“I’m hoping they have had them upgraded and cleaned up and re-grouted,” Miller said. “Some of the tile pieces were a little bit in disrepair. I think in some ways they’d have been better cared for and more secure here.”

In a video documentary published by UND TV Center, head of Chester Fritz Library Sandy Salter said ceramic works of art are worth more than money.

“I think the legacy for the Ceramics Department then and UND pottery, I think is found in the pieces themselves and what they represent,” Slater said. “Certainly what the pieces that one considers art pottery today are very favorites by collectors. But beyond that they represent Margaret Cable’s teaching. I think the legacy of the Ceramics Department is found in those pieces.”

The Fargo Antiques ROADSHOW is scheduled to last all day on June 1 at Bonanzaville. 

Recently in:

WATFORD CITY – A reported 10-gallon spill of liquid gold at the Garden Creek I Gas Processing Plant in 2015 – just before the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy – could now be renamed as the largest land spill in human…

The 2019 North Dakota Senior Games begin this Thursday, August 15 and will continue through Saturday, August 17. There are 20 events scheduled for the Senior Games, which take place at various locations around Fargo and West Fargo.…

Thursday, August 29, 6-10 p.m.This Skateshop, 625 1st Ave. N, FargoShop vintage, enjoy a complimentary drink, play some vintage board games, VHS movies will be projected on the wall. It’s predicted that it will be an epic night for all!

Editorial

The power of song

by Sabrina Hornung

In this issue David Crosby said, “You know, music is like a lifting force. It makes things better.” Truer words have never been spoken. This week we decided to change things up a bit and offer our readers an exclusive music…

Basing Gun Control On Militia Muskets Is NutsThere was a picture of hundreds of colorful backpacks in the Fargo Forum that were distributed to children at the Fargodome a couple of days ago. It was part of the 21st Annual 2019…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comThe High Plains Reader spoke to Ojata Records and the Dogmajal owner and operator Jeremy Swisher about the ever-growing Grand Forks record store and hotdog shop.HPR: We might as well get the elephant…

If you’ve ever craved an outdoor music festival where you can walk to downtown shops, do yoga or go fishing in between sets, you’re in luck. The Greenway Takeover Festival returns to two stages in the heart of Grand Forks…

By Scott Ecker notharrisonford@gmail.comLast Tuesday I joined many local artists and audience members for Theatre B’s season preview at the Hjemkomst Center. As one of their board members, I see Theatre B regulars very often. …

Arts

‘Local American epics’

by Sabrina Hornung

The US Postal Service recently released a set of stamps celebrating the New Deal era post office murals that were federally commissioned during the Roosevelt administration, though the mural that graces the walls of the New…

The annual mainstage summer musical, produced by Trollwood Performing Arts School and sponsored by Bell Bank, opens Thursday, July 11. This year’s performance is Disney’s “Freaky Friday.” Trollwood Performing Arts…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

If you’re from the region you may have sipped, sampled or caught word of a libation often referred to as “red eye” or “wedding whiskey” at some point. In fact some of our friends of German Russia descent swear by it. If…

Wellness

Yoga on the Farm

by Ryan Janke

Every Thursday evening during the month of June, Mara Solberg is inviting people to come out and try Yoga on the Farm. It is a unique yoga experience that was born from an idea that was proposed to Solberg.“I’ve been with Red…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights…The purpose of any political association is the conservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of woman and man; these rights are liberty, property, security, and…