The Plains Art Museum and Creative Plains Foundation are different in many ways, but in addition to having “Plains” in each of their names, the two Fargo nonprofits share one major thing in common: the belief that everyone deserves access to quality art experiences and education.
As of Thursday, July 18, however, the arts organizations will also share an address when Creative Plains Foundation moves its operation into the second floor of the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity, which is owned and operated by the museum in downtown Fargo.
While the first and third floors of the center have buzzed with activity since it opened in 2012, Plains Art Museum Director and CEO Andy Maus says the second floor has always been “a big question mark” that was previously used for storage. But after Creative Plains Foundation’s renovation of half of the floor — approximately 5,000 square feet — the space will be bright, modern and ready to provide a variety of art classes to local youth.
“When you think of Plains Art Museum, you think of quality all the way around in the facilities, the exhibits and the team, so (the move) made sense for what we want to provide to the kids that we serve,” says Christine Jaeger, executive director of Creative Plains Foundation.
The organization provides free art education specifically to children from low-income families and those affiliated with CHARISM, the Fargo Police Department Youth Group, Boys and Girls Club and other community outreach-based organizations. Providing kids access to quality art experiences has always been at the core of the organization’s mission, but combining resources with Plains Art Museum will significantly increase its impact in the community, Jaeger adds.
“Statistics show that art education produces better outcomes for students, including increased academic performance, higher rates of college acceptance and greater success in future careers,” she says. “Together we are going to drive change through art education.”
“What these kids deserve are the best resources the community has, and when you put them together, I feel like there’s a two plus two equals five type of thing going on,” he says.
Creative Plains Foundation has been located at 18 Eighth St. S. in downtown Fargo since it was founded in 2016. Around that same time, Maus and Jaeger met through a Plains Art Museum board member to discuss potential collaboration, as the leaders “saw a lot of alignment in what we value,” Maus says.
They met periodically over the next two years and eventually established a Creative Plains Foundation scholarship fund for local youth to attend art classes at Plains Art Museum. But Jaeger always envisioned a deeper collaboration.
When Maus showed her the vacant space at the Center for Creativity last year, ideas started to flow, and soon renovations began. Before this decision was made, Maus discussed the possibility with his board and staff to ensure the institutions were complementary, not competitive. Fortunately, “the strengths of Creative Plains Foundation programs were things we weren’t doing and vice versa,” Maus says.
Creative Plains Foundation will now have four teaching studios for classes in visual, textile, culinary and mixed media art. When they want to work with clay, they’ll have access to the ceramic facility on the first floor of the Center for Creativity — and Plains Art Museum instructors will have access to the foundation’s studios as well.
“It is actual synergy,” Maus says.
Jaeger says sharing space with a cultural landmark will enhance the learning experience for the kids they work with and “transcend them to a different place where they can forget about some of the things that may be going on in their lives for an hour or two.”
Although the organizations will now share space, the leaders clarified that each organization will still operate as separate nonprofit entities.
Before he became director and CEO of Plains Art Museum in 2016, Maus worked as the director of education, curator of public programming and as a curator from 2006 to 2010. His major project at the time was to develop a program and business plan for the Center for Creativity, which resulted in the current ceramic studio, exhibition space and other education-based initiatives.
The addition of Creative Plains Foundation to the space is “actually the full realization of the project,” Maus says.
“It’s all centered on education for kids,” he says. “There’s not a more perfect union than this to fully realize the vision of the center in my view.”
Creative Plains Foundation will host a public open house at its new space sometime this fall. Keep an eye out for announcements on creativeplains.org and on social media.
This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and originally appeared in print on Monday, July 15, 2019.