Rural Arts

The Rural Arts Initiative, an educational outreach program, works to encourage and empower rural school students and their teachers to actively participate in learning through the arts. The Rural Art Initiative came about in direct response to feedback from educators and families working in rural areas. Major challenges such as inadequate funding for art education, few museums and great distances have not allowed the visual arts to flourish in rural areas as much as other forms of art such as music and theater, which accompanied early settlers as they moved west.

Museum Visits
Two major exhibitions will be selected for the program. Throughout the school year, teachers and their students will visit the Museum to see and discuss exhibitions. Financial support for travel expenses is available for qualifying schools.

Tour exhibitions
The Museum will organize touring exhibitions of art, relevant to the local communities, that are integrated into school curricula and that can withstand less-than-optimal conditions and handling. Each exhibition targets specific age groups within the K-12 spectrum but all class levels are encouraged to visit and participate in the exhibition. Each host organization must provided a secure facility and staff for the duration of the exhibition. Exhibition times vary depending on location.

The Museum will deliver and install the exhibition
As part of the program Museum staff will train docents on the exhibition and program. In addition, Museum staff will return to pack up the exhibition when it closes. There is never a cost to host organizations. Past exhibitions, Snow Country Prison, Self Portraits, Shelterbelts, Marking the Land, and Animals: Them and Us, have been installed in buildings such as bank basements, Masonic temples, empty store fronts, school gymnasiums, etc.


If you are interested in learning more about the Rural Arts Initiative or would like to book an exhibition, please contact Matthew Anderson at or 701-777-4195.





Elmer Thompson: The Inventor


Capturing the history of photography played out in North Dakota. 


Growing up on a farm in rural North Dakota, Elmer O. Thompson (1891-1984) developed his creative impulses with photography, educating himself in matters of staging, lighting, and processing. Mr. Thompson quickly became an expert in the use of his 5 x 7 camera. His early photos show the development of a talent that would lead him first to the State Normal and Industrial School in Ellendale, ND, where he served as the official school photographer. He went on to earn an electrical engineering degree at the University of California, served in the Signal Corps in Paris in WWI, and then moved to the center of technological innovation in New York City.


Mr. Thompson earned the first six of his ultimate thirty patents at the AT&T Headquarters in New York City. From there he moved to RCA Victor, then spent several decades at Philco, where he earned two dozen more patents, including the first wireless radio remote control (Philco’s “Mystery Control”) and a phonograph that transferred the signal from record to the amplifier by means of an optical sensor (the “Beam of Light” system).


Mr. Thompson’s progress—from the prairies of North Dakota to New York City, the technological heartland of the early radio and television age—illustrates the marriage of artistic vision with technological innovation. This exhibition delineates his life as a photographer with large framed prints of his photographs, many of which were taken in and around Ellendale and near his home in Cavalier County. These include individual portraits, landscapes, buildings, scenes of farm life such as haying, harvesting, and  blacksmithing, and musical and military performances. He often staged trick settings for his 5 x 7 camera as he taught himself the rudiments of photography. He believed that having control, not only of the lens, shutter and chemicals, but of the source and volume of light, underlies creativity. Even devotees of palette and brush must acknowledge, if his results are pictorial, that he is an artist, not a ‘mere copyist. It is here that science and art intertwine. 


Curated by Paul Gronhovd, a farmer and retired head of the Graphic Design Department at UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center.


The number of photos in the show will be tailored to the wall space of the venue.

This exhibition is no longer available.



For more booking information please contact or call 701-777-4195

Photograph by Elmer Thompson of his brother Fred with kitten

Elmer O. Thompson: The Inventor, installed at NDMOA



Frank Sampson Retrospective


Echoes of the fantastic, magic, and European Old Master Paintings


For forty years Frank Sampson—now ninety-two years old—taught painting and printmaking at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He returned to his North Dakota family home in Edmore for one month in summer and a second month in winter where he continues to paint. His parents, Abner and Mabel Sampson, were farmers. He visits his older brother Abner Jr., now in a Devils Lake nursing home, and eighty-year-old Clark who continues to farm with his sons. Another of the farming brothers, Milton, is deceased. His youngest brother, the late Douglas, took his PhD from Yale, became a nuclear scientist at Los Alamos, and  taught at Penn State for three decades. 


When asked about his paintings, Mr. Sampson says, In looking for past experiences and antecedents that may have influenced my work as an artist I think immediately of my childhood on a farm near Edmore, North Dakota surrounded by pigs, chickens, horses and cows as well as a story-telling mother who entertained and rewarded us, her five sons, with vivid adventure stories. These wonderful tales were full of fantasy and frequently animals played major roles.


Sampson is considered one of Colorado’s most revered and important artists, a devotee of his own brand of Surrealism.  Through his  paintings he tells fantastical stories. For example, Waiting at the Train is a monumental landscape. Gathered under the dominating tree is an unlikely cast of characters including the French stock character, weary Pierrot. Other signature Sampson symbols assembled for travel are an elephant, a lion, a bear, a pelican, a giraffe and a child. But could any train make its way through the dense forest? Like Old Master Paintings, Sampson’s charming paintings mystify.


Mr. Sampson earned his BA in art from Concordia College, Moorhead (1950) and his MFA in painting and printmaking from the University of Iowa (1952). He joined the United States Army (1954-56) then returned to Iowa for three years of postgraduate work under Mauricio Lasansky, the groundbreaking and world-famous printmaker (1956-50). He won a Fulbright to Belgium to study the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch (1959-60). Upon his return, he joined the art faculty at the University of Colorado in 1961 to teach painting and printmaking. He retired as a full professor in 1990.


Curated by Laurel Reuter, Director of the North Dakota Museum of Art, the exhibit  will be tailored to the available wall space of the venue.

This exhibition is no longer available.

For more booking information please contact or call 701-777-4195

Frank Sampson, Swan Song, 1996
Mixed media on paper, 32 x 40 inches
 Frank Sampson, Swan Song, 1996
Mixed media on paper, 32 x 40 inches