Kayla Van Eps, MSUM multimedia journalism
With many theaters, museums, art galleries and historic buildings in downtown Fargo-Moorhead, the abundance of art, creativity and inspiration is unending, but some people still see the area as a flat, uninspiring region.
Many artists in the area are inspired by the land, the architecture or the happy nature of the people around them, even though the local scenery consists of snow-covered plains or dried brown grass much of the year.
Two artists and studio owners have been teaching area residents to look deeper and take in the energy around them to create art.
Basement studio brightens with children’s artwork
Emily Wheeler, owner of StudioE, a home-based studio in Fargo, has been painting professionally for 21 years and teaching art classes for children once a week for seven years. She said even though the Fargo-Moorhead area isn’t extremely appealing to her, she is inspired by the children in her classes and her emotions.
Using bold, bright colors in her paintings, Wheeler said the bleak landscape of the Fargo-Moorhead area doesn’t inspire her much. In spite of this, the painting she is working on right now is a flowing field of prairie grass. To spice up her scenery, Wheeler grows wildflower gardens in the front yard of her historic 100-year-old home.
“I’m inspired by prairie grasses and colors, but that’s not very local,” Wheeler said. “I think the area leaves something to be desired.
Wheeler started painting and became a professional artist in 1992 as a way to stay home with her children and it was her children who led her to begin teaching weekly art classes from her basement.
She encourages the children to use all the space and different supplies in her studio when creating their new protects each week. Students complete projects on the floor, sitting at a tall table or standing while working on their masterpieces.
“I want to use all the spaces in my studio, all the planes,” Wheeler said. “The kids can lay on the floor, we have projects where we draw with our feet, I challenge them to try new things, things they just don’t do in school or a structured environment.”
In her own paintings, Wheeler pulls bright colors from the environment to create intensity and draw people in.
“I want a depth that sucks the viewers in, I want to share the feeling I get when I’m creating the painting,” Wheeler said. “I want that exuberance to show.”
Wheeler uses her background in engineering and interior design to teach students how to draw floor plans and says she doesn’t limit projects to age groups. She believes that no matter the age, students will always get something out of an art project.
“I have five- and six-year-olds who can draw floor plans,” she said. “They are limitless, so that makes my studio and the experience for children a completely different experience that they won’t get in a more structured environment.”
Cozy studio in historic building offers a one-on-one experience
Kim Jore owns Riverzen Studio at 315 Main Ave. in Moorhead. It functions as two different businesses, her art studio and classroom on one side and her hair salon on the other.
She began teaching art classes at her kitchen table before she was able to move into her current space, which is special to her because she is the first person to have a studio in the remodeled building that is also home to Juanos, John Alexanders and private apartments.
Jore has been teaching classes for almost 20 years, seven of those years she has been in Riverzen studio.
In addition to painting, Jore volunteers her time to a church youth group and with Churches United, as well as teaching at local schools, providing art therapy for students who struggle in classes and students with a special talent for art.
Jore teaches private lessons and holds classes at her studio three nights a month,choosing a different topic each month. She encourages students to take in the environment around them and let it influence their work.
“One of my favorites is my class called ‘Music, Words and Songs’ where we experiment with how (the students) are feeling when (they) hear a song or read a poem, and then put that into their work,” Jore said.
She encourages students to use a variety of media like watercolor and acrylic paints, but also oils and inks. She is also studying painting with Chinese inks on rice paper, which is “a huge learning process.”
Jore is inspired by the architecture and energy of the downtown atmosphere.
“I paint a lot of street scenes, I love the buildings in downtown,” Jore said. “I sketch while I’m out for dinner or when I go see a band I sketch the scene and give them the drawing at the end.”
Over the summer, Jore painted a collection of pubs in the Detroit Lakes, Minn. area, and says that painting the pubs has become her icon, her signature paintings, and said she has painted over 80 pubs in the years she has been painting.
Living and working in downtown Fargo-Moorhead has contributed and influenced Jore’s collection of paintings.
“Downtown is special to me, I live there,” Jore said. “I do a lot of paintings down there of street scenes. I change my styles, sometimes realistic, sometimes abstract. I’ve done the Fargo Theatre many times but it doesn’t get old.”
Her most recent works include donating her time to paint a mural in the children’s area at the homeless shelter and donating a hand-painted bra for Bras on Broadway.
“I try to give the community my talents in any way I can,” Jore said.
Readers can visit the studios and speak with these artists and many more during the Fargo-Moorhead Visual Artists Studio Crawl Oct. 5-6.
Do you have a favorite place or space in the Fargo-Moorhead area that inspires you? Share your photos through the Flickr group ‘Inspiring places and spaces in Fargo-Moorhead.’
(Edited by Christa Schmidt, MSUM mass communications major)