Right down the street from Concordia’s campus is a beautiful building home to thousands of the Midwest’s artistic treasures. Open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the Rourke Art Gallery and Museum is within walking distance of campus and is completely free for students.
Going to art museums is not always an activity high on students’ priority lists, myself included, but the Rourke has some pretty cool stuff to offer. The building itself is on the National Register of Historic Places and still has all of its original architectural details since first being opened in 1915 as a post office. The Rourke is one of the only buildings downtown of its kind, dedicated to inspiring the Fargo/Moorhead community through the collection of the region’s and world’s artistic heritage.
I have been to the Rourke on a couple different occasions, and each time I leave feeling better than I did when I walked through the doors. The staff and volunteers there work hard to make it an inviting atmosphere for everyone, regardless of their experience or lack thereof with art.
According to the Rourke’s website, the original mission statement of the museum was “to collect the art of our time and place.” To achieve this, the museum consists of four permanent art collections: Midwest Modern, 20th Century, Pre-Columbian, and Global; and one visiting collection: Pop Art. Works by Midwestern artists represent over half of the total 4,000 works in the Rourke’s permanent collection. These four collections work to represent the Fargo/Moorhead community not only today, but in days past.
Why should we, as students, care about art?
For me, it is less about the art itself and more about what purpose the art serves. The Rourke Art Gallery and Museum is a great place to facilitate local community and relationships. It is a place to show off who lives in our area and how many diverse perspectives truly do exist by showcasing talent from local artists with various backgrounds. Art promotes genuine conversation, something there is seldom enough of these days. By going to the Rourke, students can physically see the good that people are doing in our community and the beauty they are putting into the world.
Another important piece about the Rourke is its dedication to representing the Fargo/Moorhead community of days past. By attending the Rourke’s exhibits, we can learn more about the history of our area. Knowing the history and ancestry of the town you live in is an important piece of claiming to live somewhere. Students should be able to recognize what was here before we were, and who we owe this great place to.
By supporting the Rourke and seeing what it has to offer, you are supporting local artists and in turn supporting someone’s livelihood. It is our responsibility to support and give back to a community that has given us a place to pursue our education and perhaps even our future careers. Similar to the Red River Market (that is unfortunately now closed due to the horrendous weather that is about to come our way), local artists like local merchants create a sense of home in a place that might still be unfamiliar to some of us.
If nothing else, go see the Rourke for a breath of fresh air or a break in your routine. The building is cute, the people nice, and a lot of the art absolutely stunning. There is always something new to see with a new story to hear.
Sonja is a sophomore double majoring in Global Studies and English Writing. Aside from writing, she enjoys singing in the Concordia Chapel Choir and spending time with her two golden retrievers. This is her first year writing for the Concordian and she hopes to continue in the years to come!