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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published February 16 2014

Halgrimson: Home is where the art is

Some of the happiest memories of my 12 years in the Fargo schools are of the art classes at Horace Mann from 1946 to 1952, Ben Franklin from 1952 to 1954 and Fargo Central High School from 1954 to 1958.

At Horace Mann, Jessie Wyckoff held forth in the art room. I don’t remember if we had art class every day, but I remember trying to learn to draw something that could be recognized, and I remember finger painting, which I particularly liked.

But my favorite times in Miss Wyckoff’s classes were the art appreciation days. We had little books that had reproductions of paintings with text on the facing page, and Miss Wyckoff would talk about why the paintings were considered to be great. I especially remember Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy and Pinkie.

At Ben Franklin, I was in John Hildreth’s art classes, and I had a crush on him from then until he died in 1990. I remember making travel posters with construction paper. Mine was of cancan dancers. Little did I imagine that I would some day see them at the Folies Bergère on a trip to Paris with my parents.

I don’t know what happened to the poster, but I still have some of the etchings we made in Mr. Hildreth’s class.

We incised pieces of plastic with a sharp tool, smeared them with ink and wiped it off. Then we wet a piece of paper, put it on the plastic and ran it through an old washing machine wringer. Having done this, it gave me a real appreciation for the real thing.

At Central, art was the bailiwick of Alice Wright. Mind you, in those days, we never called a teacher by his or her first name. Among the art we pursued in Miss Wright’s classes was sculpture. I made an amorphous head, which was as I recall, included in a school art show and my mother saw it.

I never brought it home, and I remember the sadness in my mother’s voice when the school burned eight years later that my sculpture had gone with it.

Miss Wyckoff was born in Page, N.D., in 1886 and was a graduate of North Dakota State University. She taught at Hawthorne school before going to Horace Mann. She was honored by the YWCA as a woman of the year in 1973. After her retirement, she continued to be active in many community activities. She died in 1976.

Mr. Hildreth was born at Argusville, N.D., in 1922. He, too, was an NDSU graduate and later earned a master’s degree. After a number of years as an art teacher, he taught English also at Ben Franklin. He retired in 1983. At the time of his death in 1990, he was working toward a doctorate degree.

Miss Wright was born in Moorhead and attended Moorhead State College. She graduated from Occidental College, Los Angeles, and earned a master’s degree at NDSU. She went to Paris art studies in the late 1920s, returning in 1930.

Miss Wright taught at Agassiz school before going to Central in 1950. She was active in community affairs and was named Fargo Lions Club Teacher of the Year in 1962. She died in 1979.

I consider myself fortunate to have had such gentle and knowledgeable teachers in my youth. Their spirits are still with me.