MOORHEAD — The sixth annual Art-A-Fair hosted by Minnesota State University Moorhead’s School of Art recently brought around 300 students from 25 schools in the region under one roof to explore and exhibit art.

An awards ceremony held in the middle of the busy day honored students’ budding creative talent and the dedication of teachers from across the area.

Administrators from Fargo Public Schools attended to help honor colleague Sharon Eide, who received the 2020 Legacy Flame Award, signifying a lifetime achievement of passing the flame and making an impact on the lives of students.

Sharon Eide, Fargo Public Schools' visual art coordinator, received the first-ever Legacy Flame Award on Jan. 31 for her career of dedication to arts education. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
Sharon Eide, Fargo Public Schools' visual art coordinator, received the first-ever Legacy Flame Award on Jan. 31 for her career of dedication to arts education. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

Just north of the Gaede Stage where that took place, a single day of art action saw works in various media flood into the Roland Dille Center for the Arts Gallery, giving students the chance to exhibit their work in a professionally curated space alongside fellow artists working at a high caliber.

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“Every time I walk into the gallery, I’m always blown away at the quality of work that the schools bring in,” says Tara Hager, an instructor of art at Hawley (Minn.) High School.

A graduate of MSUM, Hager and her students have attended the art fair since its inception. This year, her school took home two big awards during the ceremony, including Best Minnesota Art School and the individual Best in Show award presented to Maya Kruger for her piece entitled “Squint.”

“I fought it a little bit, but I knew from an early age that I wanted to go into art education,” Hager says. “Art called me from an early age. I was a creative and curious kid. Both my mom and dad did a good job of providing materials for me, and that love kept blossoming.”

An acrylic painting entitled “Squint” by Maya Kruger of Hawley (Minn.) High School earned Best In Show during the recent Tri-State High School Art Exhibition at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
An acrylic painting entitled “Squint” by Maya Kruger of Hawley (Minn.) High School earned Best In Show during the recent Tri-State High School Art Exhibition at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

Interactive sessions offered throughout the day at Art-A-Fair featured over 20 workshops, including psychedelic screen printing with assistant professor Brett Lysne, Chinese brush painting with professor Zhimin Guan, special effects makeup for theater and film with associate professor Ricky Greenwell and drawing a "real" dragon with Red River Zoo animals lead by professor Jim Park, plus many more.

Teachers weren’t left out of the fun, either, with professional development sessions held throughout the day. Among others, these sessions included an introduction from Gallery Director Wendy Fuglestad as well as building with plaster molds led by Tara Swartout. The program director and art education professor at MSUM, Brad Bachmeier, drove the point home with his workshop “Yes You Can,” an exploration of all the career options in the arts.

For one day, high school art students got a taste of what it’s like to have their artwork displayed in a dynamic exhibition with the help of Minnesota State University Moorhead's art gallery in the Roland Dille Center for the Arts. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
For one day, high school art students got a taste of what it’s like to have their artwork displayed in a dynamic exhibition with the help of Minnesota State University Moorhead's art gallery in the Roland Dille Center for the Arts. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

As varied as the background of the young participants involved were, Bachmeier offered a snapshot of the expanding fields in demand including arts education. He grew up in a small town with limited art opportunities, but was encouraged to pursue art by his mother. The second he picked up clay for the first time, he says he found his calling.

Now, Bachmeier works with students and regional teachers to inspire more people with educational opportunities, including at MSUM, which is the largest art education program in the tri-state area. Through the art fair, he’s been able to inspire educators and encourage the pursuit into art fields.

“I tell them this all the time and they’re so surprised, but I came from the little tiny town of Marion, N.D., and we did not have any art in high school,” says Shelli Fenske, an art instructor with Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Public Schools. “I was well supported by my mother because she knew I was passionate about it. That’s what I tell my students, to grab onto something you’re passionate about.”

RaeAnna Peterson of Youth Education Services in Moorhead shows off her art from a workshop led by professor Zhimin Guan. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
RaeAnna Peterson of Youth Education Services in Moorhead shows off her art from a workshop led by professor Zhimin Guan. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

Support from Art-A-Fair also comes from the Kiwanis Club of Fargo, which provides funding for awards presented to 26 students as well as faculty members, providing gift cards for art supplies.

“Our mission is to serve the children of the world,” says Mark Hensrud, the local Kiwanis Club president. “Since this is a showcase of high school students, we feel this was a great way to give back to our community.”

Minnesota State University Moorhead faculty member Brad Bachmeier speaks at the recent Art-A-Fair awards ceremony on the MSUM campus. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
Minnesota State University Moorhead faculty member Brad Bachmeier speaks at the recent Art-A-Fair awards ceremony on the MSUM campus. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

While the artwork from the sixth annual Tri-State High School Exhibition is no longer on display, the art gallery in MSUM’s Roland Dille Center for the Arts now features another group of young artists in the Student Juried Exhibition, on display through Feb. 27. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

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