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John Lamb, Published February 03 2010

Plains Art Museum gets $1.2 million mural

With the help of an anonymous donor, the Plains Art Museum in Fargo has finalized its commission of a $1.2 million James Rosenquist mural.

The commission had been in the works for years and planned when the renowned pop artist visited Fargo in 2005.

Funding had been a hurdle in the acquisition. A press release announcing the arrangement on Tuesday said a donor gave $600,000, which was matched by the artist in labor, materials and lowering his fee.

The donor’s name was not revealed, but Plains Art Museum Director/CEO Colleen Sheehy said the giver was from the community.

“We’re so grateful because this donor was able to fulfill this dream,” said Sheehy. She called the piece of work a “resource to the community and the nation,” adding that the donation boosts the museum’s profile in the art world.

Rosenquist was born in 1933 in Grand Forks. After attending the Minnesota School of Art, he moved to New York and worked as a billboard painter until establishing himself as major force in the pop art movement in the mid-’60s.

The first version of “The North Dakota Mural” burned in a fire that destroyed his Aripeka, Fla., home in January 2009.

Sheehy saw the original and after the fire asked Rosenquist to maintain the piece’s spirit.

She and curator Mark Ryan will travel to Rosenquist’s home in March to examine the painting.

The new piece is 13 feet high and 24 feet long. The painter used imagery associated with the state, like a meadowlark, a northern pike, a cow’s skull, a Native American tepee frame and the state seal.

The mural will be unveiled in early October and will hang above the main floor in the Ruth and Seymour Landfield Atrium.

“I’m ecstatic that we’ve finished one major piece in the capital campaign,” said Sheehy.

This is the second recent announcement about major donations to the Plains’ campaign. In December the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Kresge Foundation gave $800,000 and the St. Paul, Minn.-based Bush Foundation gave $555,000.

Sheehy says the goal for all fundraising is to finish by fall 2011.

“We’re charging ahead,” she said. “There’s momentum.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533