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Unique art, activities set for Prairie Village Museum’s season opening

By Sue Sitter - | Apr 24, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT A piece from Shane Balkowitsch’s Northern Plains Native American Wet Plate Retrospective hangs in the gallery at the Prairie Village Museum in Rugby.

Art celebrating North Dakota’s Native American culture will be on display to welcome visitors to the Prairie Village Museum’s opening day May 1 at 9 a.m.

Photographs created by North Dakota artist Shane Balkowitsch using a traditional wet collodion process will hang on the walls of the museum’s gallery. The process dates back to the mid-1800s and was used by photographers such as Matthew Brady, who brought it to Civil War battlefields.

Balkowitsch brought the process to the present day, using it to depict subjects from Native American tribes in North Dakota.

The pieces in Balkowitsch’s display comprise a small section of his Northern Plains Native American Wet Plate Retrospective.

Describing the process, Museum Director Jennifer Willis said, “They take colloidal silver and brush that on glass. Then, they seal it with shellac. Back then, photographers had studios in covered wagons. Of course, the shellac has to be warm so it can be cured, so they had to use an open fire for that.”

Willis said Balkowitsch adapts his work to modern times. “He puts his work on a tray over a warmer,” she said, adding, “It’s a really neat technique.”

Willis noted Balkowitsch initially photographed “a handful of people in his show. I think he wants to expand it to 1,000 people now. His subjects are all Native Americans. We’ll have just a minute piece of what he’s produced. He has a lot of work at NDSU and he’s been sending some of it to museums around the world now.”

Unique works created by Turtle Mountain artist by Denise Lajimodiere will also be on display.

Lajimodiere will be on hand to create pieces using birch biting, a technique used for generations by tribes in North America. She will also describe the art and its meaning for Native American cultures.

In addition to creating art, Lajimodiere holds a doctorate of education from the University of North Dakota and is an assistant professor of educational leadership at North Dakota State University. Some of Lajimodiere’s work will be available for purchase.

Other activities on the museum grounds include a car display by the Rugby Car Club and food sold by Arnold’s Misfit Acres and the Heart of America Germans from Russia.

Visitors will also have a chance to donate to restore Rugby’s well-known Brown Street Clock, which stood in front of Johnson’s Jewelry and Lien’s Jewelry stores in the 1900s.

“We’ve raised $5,600 toward our $9,000 goal to restore the clock,” Willis said.

Willis said the museum hopes to move the restored clock to the Merchants Bank Plaza, located at the corner of Main Avenue and Second Street downtown.

“They’re doing a second round of sandblasting and they’re going to repaint it green and gold,” Willis noted.

The museum will also be open for school tours starting in May.

Residents wishing to donate money or volunteer at the museum can call 776-6414, visit the museum’s Facebook page or visit the museum itself.

“They can stop by the museum and I’ll be glad to help them out,” Willis said, adding, “Starting in May, I’ll be here Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.”

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