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Ryan Johnson, Published September 02 2012

Plains Art Museum expansion nears grand opening

FARGO - After years of planning and fundraising, the new $3 million Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity connected to the Plains Art Museum will soon open as a full community arts center.

Museum Director and CEO Colleen Sheehy said the project started eight years ago with the goal of a small expansion to the museum at 704 1st Ave. N. But the plan changed over the years, especially after Fargo Public Schools decided to relocate its Creative Arts Studio now at Clara Barton Elementary to the new space.

“Knowing that we would have at least 5,000 public school students coming every year, we knew that we would need more space,” she said.

Sheehy said a large gift from the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum trust last December, as well as private donations and a $200,000 matching gift from the Burgum family, made it possible to begin construction in January.

Located just west of the museum, the 27,000-square-foot expansion project is converting four connected buildings previously owned by the museum into a large space for teaching studios. It’s connected to the museum through the Bradley J. Burgum Skybridge that spans the alley separating the buildings.

The center will hold a grand opening celebration from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30. Visitors can make their own art, enjoy refreshments and view the new exhibitions opening in the new space and the main museum.

Once it’s up and running, Sheehy said, the center will host art classes and workshops for kids and adults in the community. For more information and class registration details, log on to www.plainsart.org.

New opportunities

Former Fargo School Board member Meg Spielman Peldo said Fargo’s Creative Arts Studio and curriculum that gives elementary students a hands-on arts experience has been around since the 1970s. Every K-5 student visits the ceramics studio, and she said the trip has a “huge impact” on the kids as they learn about art and critical thinking in a fun way.

But a task force suggested years ago that major changes were needed with the space, she said, and the Fargo fire marshal warned the district that the studio had to be moved out of the Clara Barton Elementary basement.

“We looked at putting it in a different school building, but the benefits of having the partnership with the art museum are just huge,” she said.

Superintendent Jeff Schatz said teaming up with the Plains Art Museum will allow the students to still get the arts experience, but also give them the chance to see professional work before trying to make their own masterpieces in the studio.

“It’s an enhanced experience when you really look at it,” he said.

Schatz said the resident artists who work with the kids will now be museum employees, not school district staff, and Fargo Public Schools will contract with the museum for the program. It will be administered in a new way, but the overall cost won’t change, he said.

“These types of community partnerships exist in a lot of larger school districts in different ways,” he said. “But from an arts standpoint, it’s probably a pretty unique opportunity for us here in the Fargo area to have this available to us. It’s a new venture.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587