MOORHEAD — As questions remain about reopening the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County has adapted an annual art show into a virtual gallery.

Typically, Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists' Big Art Exhibition fills the fourth floor gallery each spring with new themes and media, taking a hyperlocal look at visual art. But this year, they’re taking that regional perspective online for anyone to experience, preserving a staple art exhibition in the Red River Valley during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The BIG Show lives on,” says Davin Wait, communications manager for HCSCC, adding, “We are very much looking forward to safely opening our doors again.”

Since the museum closed to the public in March to stave off the spread of COVID-19, they have been working to create a comprehensive art show featuring almost 40 artists with work as diverse as their individual backgrounds.

Know for his work in glassblowing, Jon Offutt steps out of the box with an unconventional assemblage of materials found around his home called “I Have an idea.” Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County / Special to The Forum
Know for his work in glassblowing, Jon Offutt steps out of the box with an unconventional assemblage of materials found around his home called “I Have an idea.” Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County / Special to The Forum

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Though it may be virtual, some consistent themes have made their way into this show, including concentrations on nature, social concepts and three-dimensional forms.

In “Cowgirl Quadtych,” Char-Marie Flood pays tribute to the state’s cowboy culture in a panel of four images pulled together by a rustic frame.

“In North Dakota, belt buckles tell a lot about a person, Cowboy Poets describe the life, Rodeo Queens reign,” Flood says. “If you fall off your horse, you get right back on. Giddyup!”

Char-Marie Flood works in photography focusing on forms from city street shots to trees and rural areas, such as in her work “Cowgirl Quadtych.” Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County / Special to The Forum
Char-Marie Flood works in photography focusing on forms from city street shots to trees and rural areas, such as in her work “Cowgirl Quadtych.” Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County / Special to The Forum

Other works including social themes can be found in Donna Chalimonczyk’s nostalgic watercolor, “Home Sweet Home,” as well as in the clarity of abstraction in “Modern Communication” by Mark Holter or a tough look at the prevalence of sex trafficking in “Shattered” by Karen Perry Anderson.

For artist Mark Holter, creating work across media and styles is a way to communicate complex thoughts and emotions, like in “Modern Communication.” Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County / Special to The Forum
For artist Mark Holter, creating work across media and styles is a way to communicate complex thoughts and emotions, like in “Modern Communication.” Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County / Special to The Forum

A photograph entitled “Crocus” by Scott Seiler captures the glimmer of spring; a sign of hope for things to come. As a lifelong North Dakotan, Seiler’s work reflects the simplicity of nature.

"I often would walk the pastures as a kid on the farm and appreciate all its beauty,” Seiler says. “Especially when the wild crocuses would bloom and cover the hills, signaling that spring is here."

Other elements of nature come through in the boldly lit clouds of “Summer Storm” by Gloria Reiss, the vibrant pinks and purples of “Inside Out: Poppy” by Brandi Malarkey or Elizabeth Schwankl’s use of aluminum and silver paint to create the perfect silhouette of a “Robin in Tree.”

A watercolor piece by microbiologist Birgit Pruess explores COVID-19 in “Made to Replicate: A New Virus,” inspired by a research paper she wrote recently on the topic.

“Both the art piece and the research paper describe the initial stages of the viral infectious cycle,” Pruess says, “namely, attachment by means of the spikes to the receptor on the human host cells, found in lungs, liver and other organs.”

Birgit Pruess' artistic spin on “Made to Replicate: A New Virus” gives a more personal look at the coronavirus. Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County / Special to The Forum
Birgit Pruess' artistic spin on “Made to Replicate: A New Virus” gives a more personal look at the coronavirus. Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County / Special to The Forum

While the exhibition has pivoted online at the last minute, show lead Amanda Heidt believes taking part in this yearly event is a big part of creating community in the local art world, saying "that is completely irreplaceable."

The FMVA Big Art Exhibition is a collaboration between the HCSCC and FMVA and is sponsored by The Arts Partnership, North Dakota Council on the Arts and The Alex Stern Family Foundation.

Visit hcscconline.org/fmva2020 to view the full lineup of artwork.

Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists have launched the virtual version of this year's Big Art Exhibition. Special to The Forum
Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists have launched the virtual version of this year's Big Art Exhibition. Special to The Forum

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.