Local artist hopes Fargo gallery will allow religious painting on display

A depiction of Jesus for the Christmas spirit voted down in art gallery - and the artist hopes this isn't the end of the dialogue on the topic.

FARGO -- Karen Bakke has lived and worked as an artist in Fargo for more than forty years.

She's built a distinguished reputation with her depictions of Christianity.

Her pieces can be seen in a wide variety of places in the area; from churches and schools, to sports facilities and government buildings.

Which it why it came as a surprise that some of her artist peers decided against allowing a religious piece in the Dakota Fine Art gallery.

Bakke is one of nine co-owners and equal partners of the gallery, which opened in May 2018 on 8th St. S in Fargo.

She painted a picture of Jesus Christ with a lamb on his shoulder. Her son was the model for the picture.

WDAY News reached out to some of the other artists and they said decisions about the gallery are based on a majority-rule vote.

The nine of them voted, and a 5-4 decision determined that religious and political art wasn't allowed in the gallery because it could affect business in a negative way.

Steve Revland, one of the co-owners, says in his more than twenty years of experience in the art business, he has found that religion and politics don't mix well when running a company.

Some of the artists also said the feel that "controversial" art is more appropriate for a museum, and that if they allowed one religious or political-themed piece to hang up, then it would eventually lead to more.

"I agree that it could get out of hand as well, but I think it just depends on the situation," Bakke said.

Bakke said her intention was to get in the Christmas spirit, and knows not everyone celebrates it, but she relies on her life experience in her work.

She also said she thought it could positively affect the business.

"I think that there's a group of people out there that aren't typically attracted to whatever paintings, but they have their heart in religious art," Bakke said.

She went on to add she has a tremendous amount of respect for her peers, and hopes the discussion on the topic can continue in the future.