Art hanging on the back wall of Cooks on Main is a small taste of what’s to come for the next edition of Williston’s twice annual Art and Wine Walk.
The story of how that art came to be there is a bit of a love story for art’s sake, and that’s central to what the Art and Wine Walk is all about. Williston has a vibrant artist community, but it hasn’t always been front and center. The Wine Walk is helping to change that.
Cooks on Main recently doubled in size, creating a culinary center and adding retail floor space to its business. To celebrate the occasion, Angela Skogen’s uncle commissioned a special piece of artwork by Connie Semler to present to her.
Skogen was art struck at first sight by the piece.
“All of the wood in her pieces have stories,” Skogen said. “She knows where she gets all the metal. Every piece has its own history, it’s own story, before it’s done. For me, I just loved that experience.”
The piece her uncle commissioned has a backdrop of white wood from a dairy barn, framed by red wood from her mothers barn, and some dark brown wood from a walnut tree her uncle felled. In the middle is a metal silhouette of a chef with some attitude, holding up a cooking spoon.
Skogen was so taken by the work she decided to ask the artist — a longtime family friend — for a special favor.
“I said, ‘Hey, I think your pieces are beautiful, would you come to the Art and Wine Walk in Williston?’”
At first, Semler was hesitant. She didn’t know if she could go all the way to Williston, but she was persuaded by Skogen’s enthusiasm for her work.
“She has slowly been working on pieces for us, so she will have 24 to 30 of them for sale, and she has been gracious enough to send a few out as she has been getting them ready,” Skogen said.
All the pieces are hand made from refurbished wood and metal, and all of them have an art story to tell.
It’s just one example of several that have Louise Skaare, executive director of the Williston Downtowners Association, excited for this spring’s event.
“We have artists coming from outside the area — Minot, Montana, Bismarck,” she said, “and we have artists from the community that we have never featured before.”
Among these is a fabulous photographer who is virtually unknown in Williston. The request to showcase his work started as a somewhat timid email from an employee at the store, Miranda Merritt, asking if her father could be Ritter Brothers’ artist for the wine walk.
Skaare took one look at his work, and was shocked in a very good way.
“He does some really cool stuff,” Skaare said. “I don’t understand why people have talents that they hide, but the Art and Wine Walk is a time when we can showcase them.”
Skaare’s favorite, she said, might be the Plentywood, Montana bronze artist, Michael Westergard. He has won many awards for his Native American-themed work, including Best Living Western Sculptor by the historical publication true West magazine.
But wait, there’s also the work by Nicole Gagner, discovered by a board member when she was an artist in residence at Medora. That’s a favorite, too.
Gagner lives in Bismarck but studied in Italy under Janice Whiting, and under Tom Nakashima in Augusta, Georgia. Her paintings are touring the state with the North Dakota Art Gallery Association. She was also recently featured at the state capitol, as well as many other places.
“Our board members are always keeping their ears open, looking for artists for the Art and Wine Walk,” Skaare said. “These artists are literally hand-picked by our committee members.”
All of the art from the 11 artists will be tastefully displayed along with equally tasteful food and wine at 11 different downtown locations. The latter will be paired in many case for an additional sensory experience on the Art and Wine walk.
Skogen, for example, has a chef working at the store who will do all the food and wine pairings for the Art Walk. Others might be paired by Sheila Goehring, owner of 26th Street Liquor, who has helped with that in the past.
“One business wants a sweet wine no matter what,” Skaare said. “I don’t know if it goes with their food, but it’s all tasty, so it works out.”
The different locations downtown all had to apply to be on the Art and Wine Walk and were chosen by a committee. Skaare said an additional point behind the walk is to introduce people to a variety of businesses downtown.
“The biggest thing I hear from people is that they didn’t know we had so many places downtown,” Skaare said. “So it’s a fun way to get out and see the different locations and get to know Williston’s downtown.”
Tickets for the event are on sale at Cooks on Main and at Castle Framing. They are $10 off if bought in advance. The event will start at 5:30 p.m. at the James Memorial, 621 First Ave. W.
There is an important point behind the Art and Wine Walk’s starting point, Skaare added.
“We have a public library for artwork, and we want people to know that,” she said.