Outdoor Fall Festival in Grand Forks showcases area artists

The Sept. 19 event, held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., highlighted Muddy Waters Clay Center artists and artists from

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The Sept. 19 event, held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., highlighted Muddy Waters Clay Center artists and artists from River Forks Watercolor Society. Besides demonstrations, the event featured for sale hundreds of pottery pieces made by Muddy Waters Clay Center artists

Muddy Water Clay Center, founded about a dozen years ago, is a nonprofit community clay studio in Grand Forks. Membership in the center, which is run and operated by volunteers, has grown from 10 to 37.

The clay center offers classes, and after taking a class, some students become members of the center. Members of the center can exhibit their pieces in the Muddy Water Clay Center gallery.

Athena Threatt, of Crookston, learned how to hand build pottery at Muddy Waters Clay Center..

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“I took two or three classes and fell in love with it,” said Threatt, who on Saturday at the fall festival, demonstrated her hand-building pottery skills.

She prefers hand building to throwing pots because the former isn’t as fast paced, she said.

“It’s a good, creative process. It forces you to slow down,” Threatt said.

Collaborating on events, such as the fall festival, gives Muddy Waters Clay Center and River Forks Watercolor Society an opportunity for both organizations to highlight their work at single location, said Larry Bannick, River Forks Watercolor Society president.

“We paint their product and make it our product, too,” said Bannick, noting it's also good to meet members of other art organizations and the people who attend events, such as the Outdoor Fall Festival.

During the coronavirus pandemic, art organizations have been unable to hold their annual events because of safety concerns, so they’ve been innovative about finding new ways to gather, while remaining socially distanced. For example, members of the River Forks Watercolor Society painted this summer in the backyards of area residents, Bannick said.

“”People have been so creative about creating,” said Betty Bloomquist, a Grand Forks arts enthusiast who was at the Outdoor Fall Festival.

Pirjo Berg, of Grand Forks, painted pottery pieces during a morning demonstration and also had for sale her own clay creations. Berg is the Muddy Water Clay Center “Mudder of the Month" for September.

“All these movements support local artists,” Berg said.

Inside the Muddy Water Clay Center, a handful of artists on Saturday were scattered throughout the building working on clay projects. For some artists who had extra time on their hands during the pandemic, creating pottery pieces has been therapeutic.

“It’s calm and quiet, and we aren’t teaching classes, so a lot of us have been making things,” said Martha Keifenheim, Muddy Waters Clay Center president.

The Outdoor Fall Festival gave Muddy Waters Clay Center members an opportunity to highlight their creations at the same time, showcasing the work of River Forks Watercolor Society artists.

“It’s very fun to do something collaborative,” Keifenheim said.

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