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By Kris Kerzman, Variety contributor, Published August 11 2013

Wolftree magazine takes root in Fargo

FARGO – The story of Wolftree stemmed from an idea that defined – or rather redefined – the quarterly magazine.

A group of twenty-something friends sat around, mulling the idea of starting a magazine that featured the work of area artists they knew. As the idea flew around the room, the talk soon turned to what it would be named. Dustin Snyder, one of the magazine’s co-founders, blurted out “Wolftree!”

The name stuck, even after the group was horrified to discover a wolftree is a type of tree that kills smaller trees around it. Not exactly the most nurturing metaphor.

Instead of changing the name (or messing with a good story), six months later when it launched, Wolftree redefined the term for its tagline, “Adventure. Relationships. Stories. Redefinition.”

All of these notions contribute to the new attractive quarterly based out of Fargo.

The first volume – comprised of quiet snippets of Upper Midwestern life told through vignettes, photography, recipes and interviews dressed in minimal layouts and framed thoughtfully in white space – was warmly received back in June.

Wolftree’s three other co-founders, Brooke Kupcho, her husband, Noah Kupcho, and Sarah Strong, all agree the magazine’s origin had less to do with addressing some external need and more to do with a home for self-expression for themselves and the artists they know.

“The artists we had for Volume One were dependent on the little network we had,” Brooke said, “which makes us really excited for Volume Two because our network has multiplied so much.”

Despite the size of its network, the first volume of Wolftree covered a broad spectrum of stories, including a profile of printmaker Katelyn Bladel, a short photo tutorial on knot tying, and a piece on Cody Qualley, a musician who recorded an album in an empty grain silo.

Following Volume One’s release, they received many submissions from artists across the country for their second volume, set to be released Aug. 26. But they’re pretty firm on maintaining a regional focus. After all, this area is an essential part of their inspiration.

“I feel that the Midwest gets ragged upon, or that people want to run away to the coasts to become artists, but there is a heart here,” Brooke says. “People are so supportive. There’s this root of hard work and determination behind it.”

“And, Midwest is best,” she added, laughing.

‘Rookie mistakes’

Wolftree’s creators said the magazine’s calm aesthetic came with a frantically scaled learning curve.

Noah admits a few “rookie mistakes” in learning the graphic design application InDesign and “teaching himself how to make the mistakes” needed to learn how to design a publication.

“I went to upload it all and send it to our printer, and it said it was going to take 10 days,” he said.

He had to reformat the entire magazine, a process that took about a day. The pressure was compounded by a launch event that had already been scheduled.

“I was freaking out,” Noah says.

The Kupchos and Strong work day jobs, and Brooke and Strong are completing undergraduate degrees at Minnesota State University Moorhead, adding to the monumental task of starting up a publication.

But they’re taking steps to keep Wolftree sustained into the future through sales, subscriptions and possibly sponsorship.

Sales of the $22 first issue have picked up online and locally. Issues have even begun selling overseas. As of last week, the founders are about a third of the way to a $6,000 Kickstarter goal to print Volume Two, which will offer a feature on the textural rural landscapes of Sarah Hultin and longer writing pieces.

As they nurse their Wolftree sapling, its publishers plan to keep their priorities focused on a few simple notions. They’re striving for a tasteful addition to the nightstand or coffee table, a small compendium of local creative activity that brims with meaning.

“We’re trying to define what really counts in life, and that’s people, relationships and their passions,” Brooke said.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead, and West Fargo, and its online publication, ARTSpulse. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net/artspulse.