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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published May 28 2012

North Dakota Oil Patch as seen through an artist’s eyes

WILLISTON, N.D. – Washington artist Gregg Thompson uses YouTube to document his adventures in his new home of Williston.

The raw video clips peppered with Thompson’s humor and occasionally salty language are attracting attention from national television producers and people curious about life in the Oil Patch.

“I thought they were kind of cheesy, but they seem to love them,” said Thompson, who goes by Gregg Zart as an artist and on YouTube.

Thompson, 44, moved from Olympia, Wash., to Williston three months ago after getting laid off as a graphic designer for Sign-A-Rama.

He came by train to Williston in January on a three-day scouting trip to see if the potential for jobs lived up to what he’d heard in the media.

Thompson came with plenty of cash in his pocket, but he didn’t count on every hotel room being booked.

Night in Dumpster

Thompson’s most popular video shows him spending a night in a Dumpster by Budget Mattress. He calls it an oil boom urban treehouse, minus the tree. The video shows him in the Dumpster with mattresses, a recliner, a toilet he calls his “overnight stand” and bubble wrap for insulation.

“That was pure desperation,” Thompson recalled last week. “These are the lengths that I went to in order to come out here, and I’m glad I did.”

Within 72 hours of being in Williston, Thompson received a job offer from Walmart to manage the housewares department. He said it’s the best-paying job he’s ever had because of the overtime.

He returned to North Dakota in his Aerostar van, which he lived in for three weeks before finding a camper and a spot in a Williston RV park.

Ten-part series

Thompson has a 10-part series showing his journey from Washington to North Dakota. He also has videos portraying weather “so cold it hurts,” busy truck traffic, litter that accumulated this winter, the housing shortage and RVs getting kicked out of the Walmart parking lot.

National Geographic Television contacted Thompson after seeing his videos, and is now including him in a documentary being developed about Williston, Thompson said.

CBS Evening News will be in Williston in June, and part of the story will feature Thompson, he said. He also was recently interviewed by Popular Mechanics magazine.

“It’s really crazy,” Thompson said. “I seem to be the local color for the random guy who moved to Williston.”

His videos have received comments such as, “Inspires me to pack up and make the move myself.”

Thompson said because his videos are influencing people who may move to North Dakota, he’s taking that seriously.

“I didn’t expect it, and now it’s becoming an awesome responsibility,” Thompson said. “I’m really thinking through what I say and what I put out there.”


To watch Gregg Thompson’s videos about life in the Oil Patch, go to www.YouTube.com and type “Gregg Zart” in the search box. Some of the videos contain profanity.

Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at adalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890.