Inside the creative studios at West Acres Mall
Story by Ethan Mickelson
Ethan's portrait by Geneva Nodland
Studio photography by M.Schleif Photography
With roots in Downtown Fargo as APT incubator, Aptitude creative studios has recently come home to West Acres Mall in Fargo. This is a home for all kinds of makers. Look around the mall and you are sure to see art everywhere, but take a closer look and you’ll also find artists in spaces you didn't know existed.
With a stroll through the mall, these days, you'll experience art all around. From musicians putting on pop up concerts, to graphic vinyls installed head-to-toe, West Acres offers a unique venue for engaging with the arts. Together with The Arts Partnership and creatives throughout the community, West Acres has built out a space for that kind of creativity to live.
Aptitude’s collection of studios, located next to Best Buy, house the physical manifestations of each individual, creative brand and identity. From the paint on the walls to the tags on their work, each touch tells a story about the person who occupies the space.
Forge your own Path
A quick walk down the corridor unfolds into a dynamic space that offers visitors the chance to choose their own path. Head inside any of the studios to experience a uniquely different world.
“First and foremost, I wanted my studio to be a space where I could create anything I wanted to,” says Nicole Nistler, the creative mind behind Dandelion Crafted. ”Other than that, I wanted it to be a space that inspires not only me, but people who come in, to just make something.”
Dina Schulz from RockGirl Studios designed a compact boutique featuring pops of color with corners lit by the sparkle of silver and polished stones. One side holds displays, books and rocks from her trips around the country. The other side is stocked up with tools and a bench. Then there’s the milky quartz wall she painted ocean blue; a charming contrast in the tall space.
“I purposely painted the walls polished Aqua to give an outdoor, calm ocean feel. My husband and I laid laminate wood flooring which gives it a warm feeling as if walking on sand. You’ll find lots of natural influences.”
Lacey Hagensen of Brown Bird Handmade built out her space for classes and straight-forward display options, perfectly cozy for an intimate group project, crafting shoulder to shoulder inside the white-walled space with skylights above. From cards to jewelry and all-natural bath goodies, her brand was crafted with rustic touches and a bit of old fashioned influence.
Spencer Johannes of SRJ Ceramics uses his studio primarily as a workshop to spin out ceramics formed from earth and modeled to reflect his passion for natural textures. While functional, his plates, mugs and decorative vases often have a bit of color to create contrast.
Born at Aptitude in the dedicated kiln room, select pieces of his work are also available locally at Gallery 4 and Dakota Fine Art in Fargo. Find them regionally in New York Mills and St. Cloud.
With a studio just to the left of Aptitude’s entrance, Tara Fermoyle of Fermie Studios occupies a bit larger space. But still, she found one of the main challenges was just getting everything to fit.
Fermie Studios made the move from her stay as a featured artist inside West Acres’ residency space near the food court at the end of the year. The challenge was to combine her ceramic works with her interior design work, all within the four walls.
“Well, I actually spent a lot of time considering the floor plan,” says Fermoyle, ”To get a base layout and balance the space between my office work and clay work, with additional areas considered for display space. I have designated shelves that I use for displaying finished work and can adapt other workspace shelves for additional display space during shows if needed.”
Another artist pushing the limits of her space is Jenny Junker. A printmaker behind the Yellow Chair Press, she is not afraid to make a little mess. Smudges of paint here and there are bound to happen during her screen printing process, or afterward when she decorates the designs with a watercolor overlay. Her designs are playful and almost always have a clever title.
“My prints have a wide variety of subjects,” says Junker. “Some are weird and strange, others cute, or silly. I want people to see my prints and find the humor, fun, and joy in them like I do when I create them.”
Open Studio Hours
Plan your visit during open studio hours held every Thursday evening from 5 to 9 p.m. Visit during the second weekend of March on Friday (5-9 p.m.), Saturday and Sunday (12-5 p.m.). And of course, don’t forget to share a photo of our “creativity takes courage” sign, designed by Fireline Neon.
Meet the full list of artists online or inquire about renting a studio at: theartspartnership.net/aptitude
Keep up with the artists on Instagram:
Yellow Chair Press
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