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Museum hosting ‘Bloch Party’

July 18, 2014
Pierce County Tribune

A global, multidisciplinary arts event inspired by the Bloch - a 17-foot tree trunk from Switzerland - is coming to Rugby on July 28. Prairie Village Museum is hosting a Bloch Party to give area artists and musicians the opportunity to interact with the Bloch and Swiss artists Marcus Gossolt and Johannes Hedinger, photographer Barbara Hauser and videographer Fabian Kaiser.

The party will start about 10 a.m., when Dean Hagen and his blacksmithing apprentices start work on 17-piece turtle and metal ring to be placed on the top cut end of Bloch. The party will continue throughout the day, culminating in a free concert at 7:15 p.m., by nationally acclaimed North Dakota folksinger Chuck Suchy of Mandan.

To understand Concept Bloch, it's necessary to understand the ancient carnival tradition that inspired it. Each winter when the last spruce tree is felled in the Swiss region of Appenzell, the tree trunk known as the "Bloch" is pulled by 20 men from the village of Urnsch to Herisau and back again. At the end of the one-day procession, the Bloch is auctioned off in the Urnsch village square.

Article Photos

Concept Bloch is a multidisciplinary, global art project inspired by an ancient Swiss logging tradition. Artists Marcus Gossolt and Johannes Hedinger plan to take the tree trunk or Bloch to every continent.

Normally the winning bidder turns the Bloch into shingles or furniture, but in 2011 artists Gossolt and Hedinger, known as Com&Com, purchased the Bloch and gave it a new role. Instead of traveling between the two Swiss villages, Bloch is traveling the world.

To create an international cultural exchange uniting contemporary art, folk culture and folk art, Com&Com plan to bring Bloch to every continent. In 2012 Bloch started its travels in Switzerland and Germany. In 2013 the artists brought it to China, Taiwan and Singapore. Bloch's 2014 North American tour is exclusively taking place in North Dakota, with a slight jog across the Red River into Moorhead, Minn. Bloch's worldwide tour will culminate in a publication, an exhibit and a 90-minute documentary film by Kaiser.

Procession to Geographical Center

In keeping with Bloch tradition, at 5:30 p.m., July 28, the public is invited to join a procession from Prairie Village Museum's village square to the Geographical Center of North America monument and back again. Local dignitaries will welcome the artists and they will give a brief talk about Concept Bloch. Bloch will be pulled by a team of horses driven by Willow City native Mel Atkinson, of Hazen, who will be celebrating his 80th birthday that day.

Throughout the day attendees are invited to watch the blacksmiths work and write messages for inclusion in a future Bloch exhibit. From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Rugby watercolor artist Caroline Doucette will paint images of leaves to be displayed with the messages from North Dakota. That afternoon quilter Eldeen Geist, of Devils Lake, will contribute a piece of work to the Bloch.

At 4 p.m., Minot accordionists Jerry Schlag, Marla Rose and Karen Stevens will start an informal performance alongside the Bloch. David "White Thunder" Trottier of Rugby, chairman of the North Dakota Council on the Arts, will share his musical talents about 6:30 p.m.

Before Suchy's performance at 7:15 p.m., Towner wildlife artist Andrew Knudson will ceremoniously shoot arrows into the Bloch. The arrows were made from wood taken from the Bloch by John Martinson of Minot.

Admission to the museum will be free throughout the day. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. Friends of Prairie Village Museum will be selling pub burgers, hotdogs, chips, baked beans, pop and water from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and chocolate chip cookies and coffee that afternoon.

Bloch's journey North America is made possible by an exclusive partnership with the North Dakota Council on the Arts; North Dakota state folklorist Troyd Geist; and Barbara Hauser of Zurich, Switzerland. Financial support is being provided by the North Dakota Council on the Arts, Arts Midwest/National Endowment for the Arts, and the Swiss Arts Council.

Support for the Rugby Bloch Party is provided by the North Dakota Council on the Arts, Rugby Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Geographical Center Historical Society. Most of the local artists and musicians are donating their time and talents; Suchy's performance is courtesy of the North Dakota 125th Anniversary Committee.

For more information and a complete Rugby Bloch Party schedule visit the museum website, For more information on the Bloch project visit

- Prairie Village Museum



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