artist - musician - craftsman
and furniture maker
[August 15, 2021]
simply revland: dakota fine art (2018)
I’m feeling quite nostalgic today, as I park my vehicle in front of 19 South Eighth Street. It’s been a while since I’ve been in this neck of the woods, Fargo’s oldest retail block, spared by the great fire of 1893. Almost 40 years ago, I had my furniture shop inside of number 19, coincidentally named “Eighth Street Interiors.” I also lived across the street in an efficiency apartment, so it was very handy and affordable. I desperately wanted to see what my apartment looked like 39 years later, but I was late for an important meeting at the Mexican Village, a restaurant but a stone's throw away ... home of the famed Poco Loco. I was surprised to see my old friend Carol still running the show at this famous Fargo ethnic haunt. Something she has managed since 1975.
All this being said, my visit today was thoroughly void of anxiety but filled with a pitcher of comforting opulence.
Today I was meeting with two of Fargo’s finest artists and local cultural leaders:
All three of us had been featured on HGTV at one time or another, so this is one thing we knew at the moment...
we were on a mission
...on this frigid day, late February 2018, and it was about to get good!
Glassblower Jon Offutt
(+ yours truly)
Meg Spielman Peldo
After six years of gallery creation and sole ownership, I am now convinced that the only reliably infallible way to keep the doors of an art gallery open is the cooperative business model. Utilized more consistently nationwide (and made popular by our local Gallery 4 for more than 45 years), they are the essential “proof is in the pudding” example of intelligent entrepreneurship. Seeing as the three of us have more than 120 years of practice between us, adding another 6 artists with similar credentials would be an impressive collection of local talent. This is why we are meeting today. The timing is right, and the perfect location is conveniently available and within our grasp.
One hundred twenty-five years ago, at 11 South Eighth Street, F Leland Watkins formed the Dakota Business College in one of the oldest commercial buildings in Fargo. Typing, shorthand, and accounting were part of the curriculum for thousands of students for more than ninety years in this architectural wonder.
And the three-story brick building still stands today, in all its glory! Watkins' grandson, F Leland Watkins III, a personal friend for more than 40 years, currently owns the building and has the main floor available for rent.
Lee, as he is affectionately known, is nearing 80 years of age. A trained architect (NDSU alum) over the years, he has been anonymously philanthropic when it comes to supporting Arts organizations.
Unassuming and soft spoken is he, but very protective when it comes to the integrity of his prized structure. The main floor really requires some TLC, but fortunately, he has seen my other galleries and says he trusts that I (we) will create a gem: the main floor hub for the rest of his upper floor spaces.
F Leland (Lee) Watkins III
One of my earliest recollections as a child, in the late 50s, was Edna and I being dropped off at the corner bus stop, on First Avenue and Eighth Street, predicting that my nickel vanilla cone at the Dutch Maid was just a few steps away.
If I had peered in the large front windows of the Business College directly to the north, I would have seen endless rows of students sitting at roll top desks preparing themselves for real world employment.
Today, however, 60 years later, I am able to gaze into those same glass windows, contemplating my creative offensive. I was comprehensively experiencing a “what goes around, comes around” moment in time. Something I might carry with me into my golden years, as this is my foregone conclusion and fortuitous intention, with the help of my partners ...
to create a world-class gallery in a world-class building
... for years to come.
After securing the 2,000-square-foot space with Mr. Watkins, I created a scaled model of the new gallery space for his review. After acceptance, we went to work in the middle of March, 2018. At the same time, we also secured 6 more members, bringing the total to 9 (with a combined 320 years of practice between us). Artists added with distinction:
It was at this time we decided on a name: Dakota Fine Art Gallery. We continued to proceed with anticipatory delight.
As I approach my 65th birthday, on May 24th, I was also, to my wife’s delectation, transitioning to Medicare. Oh my! How good could life actually get! The gallery is nearing completion, and my future health care is covered (just in case I stepped on a nail). We are nearing the end of a three-month remodel and preparing for our celebratory Grand Opening!
On June 7, 2018, my life dramatically changed. Simplistic motivational positivity has come to fruition. Our Grand Opening was a huge success! Three hundred people crowded into our newly-polished domain, as we served wine, food, and conversation.
The beautiful aspect however, was the position we put ourselves in, adopting the aforementioned cooperative business model. We each work two days a month, and pay $100 apiece, due to the philanthropic rental offer by our landlord, F Leland (Lee) Watkins. We like to joke that we’d all need to simultaneously be hit by lightning for this to fail.
I can now relax, stress-free, and spend my energy creating funky tables and chairs.
Did I mention my Medicare?
Stay tuned for the final chapter (epilogue) of “simply revland” next Sunday, August 22. [Twenty-eight chapters is hard work.]
“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”