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Helmut Schmidt, Published September 28 2012

Kilbourne Burgum arts center to open

FARGO – The arts community in Fargo-Moorhead has something to get revved up about: The Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity opens Sunday.

The center’s exhibits and classrooms, soon to be filled with Fargo School District students, should be a major spark for learning the art of making art, said Colleen Sheehy, director and CEO of the Plains Art Museum.

“We want this to be a creative engine for the community,” Sheehy said.

“The kids are the fuel. … I think it’s going to be a fun experience for the kids,” she said.

The $6.4 million center is named after arts advocate and educator Katherine Kilbourne Burgum.

The 25,500-square-foot expansion to the Plains Art Museum at 704 1st Ave. N. was created from four rehabilitated buildings just west of the downtown museum, and connected by the 50-foot Bradley J. Burgum Skybridge.

“I’m just ecstatic. The building has turned out to be so beautiful and so fun and so functional,” Sheehy said. “We’re still pinching ourselves.”

The Fargo School District will be the cornerstone client for the Burgum Center, which replaces the district’s Creative Arts Studio at Clara Barton Elementary. Classes start Oct. 8 for about 5,000 students in grades kindergarten through five, Sheehy said.

Classes for other students and adults should put first-year usage numbers at 8,000, she said. That should grow more next fall, when the center will be available for other area school districts.

Bob Grosz, an assistant superintendent for Fargo schools, said the district is looking forward to the opportunities the collaboration represents.

“The benefit is that the students will also get the experience of the museum itself,” Grosz said.

Each child will have a roughly half-day at the Plains, touring the museum and creating art in the Center for Creativity, he said.

“I just think it’s a wonderful way for us to partner with our community,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for our students to experience the museum and a wonderful chance for our students to develop their own artwork.”

The annual cost of the program is pegged at $76,000 to $80,000 a year, Fargo schools Business Manager Broc Lietz said.

That’s compared with an estimated $60,000 to $65,000 annual cost for the Creative Arts Studio, he said.

Lietz said the Fire Department had been strongly urging the district to find a new, safer home for its arts programming.

The Plains/Center for Creative costs includes session fees, a portion of the operating costs of the center, and pay for the kiln technician and teachers. The contract runs for 15 years, subject to annual review by the district, Lietz said.

A day of freebies

Sunday’s grand opening and open house for the Burgum Center for Creativity is from noon to 5 p.m., with a brief dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony at 12:15.

The free event includes prizes, food, giveaways to the first 300 guests, nine new exhibitions to tour, and other activities such as clay karaoke, a scavenger hunt, face painting, T-shirt making, and turns on the pottery wheel.

New exhibits include:

The museum is also hosting Minneapolis-based photographer Wing Young Huie as an artist-in-residence.

Art to see, art to do

Students and other guests will be funneled to the Kilbourne Center through the east side main entrance of the Plains Art Museum.

They’ll then go to the second floor and walk a “Creativity Pathway” to the skyway and the third floor of the first building in the Kilbourne Center complex, said Nicole Ellis, a Plains spokeswoman.

Visitors then go through the Starion Financial Gallery, which will display a preview of the Fargo-Moorhead Visual Artists Studio Crawl.

Next to the gallery is the exhibit, “The Artist’s Studio: Robert Kurkowski.” It recreates the look of Kurkowski’s studio, honoring the work of the local ceramics artist, area visual arts leader and one of the founders of the Creative Arts Studio.

Kurkowski epitomizes what the arts center is about, said Megan Johnston, director of curatorial affairs and interpretation for the Plains.

On Wednesday, Johnston was building the exhibit to be the “dirtier working place” it would be if Kurkowski was creating his art there.

A studio is “an art-making factory, but a good factory,” Johnston said. “Not a mindless space.”

Having students see a working studio is part of the arts experience, she said. Then they can go make their own art.

21st century learning

The Burgum Center for Creativity should help students improve 21st century learning skills – communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, Sheehy said.

“You don’t just learn a set of data, but a way of learning” as an artist that can be applied anywhere in life, she said.

“You learn how not to give up,” she said. “You learn to explore without knowing where you’ll end up. You’ll learn how to talk about your work as a way of understanding it.”

“This whole building is paid for, we didn’t have to take on debt,” Ellis said. “Which is pretty cool nowadays.”

Sheehy said the combination of the museum and Center for Creativity is a novel opportunity for the region.

“Museums and artists try to shake you out of your stupor” and get you into a different mindset. “Slow down. Pay attention. Heighten your senses,” she said.

“We’re really proud that the center bears Katherine Kilbourne Burgum’s name. I’m grateful to the Burgum family for making this happen,” Sheehy said. “We know her spirit and her legacy will be carried on in what we do here.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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