Partnership to open new doors, minds

The opening of the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity on Sunday, September 30 marks a milestone for both the Plains Art Museum and the Fargo Public Schools.

The District has had comprehensive arts curriculum through its Clara Barton-based Creative Arts Studio since the 1970s. It was founded by artists (and FPS teachers) Gene Okerlund and Bob Kurkowski, the latter who became known as an outspoken defender and advocate for arts funding in the Fargo Public Schools. Since that time, students in grades K-5 have used the Studio for art creation activities (e.g., clay and pottery) as a part of annual field trips. The Studio has also been a creative base for community art activities and local artists.

In 2011, the District reached a formal agreement with the Plains Art Museum to partner on a school arts education program that would replace the role of the CAS. Since that time, Fargo Public Schools teachers have worked with the Museum to author the curriculum and programming that will carry the program forward. FPS students will be first to take advantage of the new lessons, taught by Museum artists.

The new environment that comes with the opening of the Center brings with it a couple of tangible benefits for students that will be felt immediately. One is that the experience for students provides them access to the Museum’s onsite collections and exhibitions, allowing students to examine and learn from master works of art. The second, due to the first, is that the visits to the Museum and the Center will be longer ones for those students in order to provide a fully immersed, well-rounded arts experience.

The new building occupied by the Center, located just west of the original museum and connected by a skyway, will more than double the Museum’s classroom and studio space. Up to the opening of the Center, Museum’s ability to provide arts education has been limited to only a single docent studio. Not anymore. Four new studios and a ceramics room and kilns – 25,500 square feet of learning space in the newly named Robert Kurkowski Ceramics Wing – will now be used for studio classes, instruction, and community programs.

The next 9 months of activities in the Center will provide the Museum and the District with a blueprint for future collaboration. Artwork and the related lessons for this year’s partnership have been specifically selected for each grade, as a part of grade level units. (See the curriculum website that FPS and the Museum have begun. As the teachers write lesson plans and activities, they will be uploaded here.) The art concepts covered in this year’s content have been arranged and scheduled so that students think critically, build on each other’s ideas, and enhance what they’ve learned in their school classroom.

This Sunday, September 30, the Museum will hold a formal ribbon cutting ceremony and Grand Opening celebration for the public from 12:00 – 5:00 p.m. The free event will feature prizes, food, and hands-on activities for visitors. For more details, visit the Plains Art Museum’s website.

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