Art at MeritCare

At MeritCare images of people, regional landscapes and local scenes are portrayed in the paintings, photographs and three-dimensional works of regional and national artists, and they capture the splendor, ruggedness and diversity of our varied cultural, physical and spiritual geography. With the talents of these artists, we’re connecting the science of medical care with the healing powers of art.

Entering MeritCare through the lower level is like stepping into nature, thanks to the talents of Fargo artist Karen Bakke. The lower level entrance features Karen’s mural of natural scenes, with North Dakota on three walls and Minnesota on the other three.
A wife and mother of three grown children, Karen earned a degree in graphic design and worked as an artist in the advertising industry for 19 years before becoming a full-time fine artist. For the past ten years, she has focused her talents on creating fine art with a concentration in murals, and nearly 95 percent of her work is commissioned.

Karen says working in watercolor, acrylic, oil and now fresco allows a flexibility and change of pace that keeps life interesting. “My subjects, styles, techniques and painting mediums are varied and mirror my personality,” she says. “It’s ever-changing and adaptable to the environment, special requests and personal inspirations.”

Karen’s murals add life to organizations, schools and businesses throughout the region. Her work has been honored by numerous organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, the Northern Lights Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the Advertising Federation of Fargo-Moorhead.

Robert Crowe, Moorhead, Minn.

Artwork by Robert Crowe Three pastel landscapes by Robert Crowe set the scene in the family room on the second floor near the fireplace. The colorful North Dakota scenes are examples of Robert’s plein aire technique, which refers to work that is done on location, directly from nature. “We are all so busy in our daily lives that we seldom have a chance to enjoy the beauty all around us,” Robert says. “My desire is to not only faithfully capture the scene before me, but also to convey the peace, beauty and tranquility of a place and time.”
Robert worked in the interior design field for 25 years before returning to Fargo-Moorhead in the 1990s to finish his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He fell in with love teaching while he was an instructor at the Creative Arts Studio and the Plains Art Museum, and returned to MSUM once again to earn a bachelor’s degree in K-12 art education. He continued teaching at the Plains Art Museum and also began teaching art to children at Dakota Montessori School.

When he’s not teaching or painting, he takes care of his family farm near Comstock, Minn. In addition to MeritCare, his recent work can be seen at Boerth’s Art Gallery, Fargo, and the Rourke Art Museum, Moorhead.

Sandi Dahl, Fargo, N.D.

Artwork by Sandi Dahl In her pastels and oils, Sandi Dahl strives to capture the intuitive landscapes of the mind and emotional responses to the land by developing interesting artistic expressions of shapes, colors and a “special” light. “My paintings are not of a specific scene, but of a sense of place in a moment of time,” she says. “I search for basic elements of composition that convey the mood of the land and satisfy an emotional response to that image.”
Sandi has created two pastel landscapes for MeritCare. The first, a regional landscape, is displayed in the hallway near the Prairie Mill Caf? on the lower level. The second, a landscape in five pieces, hangs on a rounded wall in the lower level near the Day Unit. Sandi grew up on a North Dakota farm and earned her degree at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks. She is a signature member of the Pastel Society of America and exhibits in galleries in Minneapolis and Chicago. Her work also has been exhibited at many of the top art festivals in the United States, including Old Town Art Fair in Chicago, the Coconut Grove Art Festival in Miami and the St. Louis Art Show.

She has received grants and commissions from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the North Dakota Council on the Arts. Sandi’s recent awards include the Adrian Brianna award at the Pastel Society of America, New York, and the Historic Shaw Art Fair in St. Louis, Mo. Her pastels are published by Editions Limited in California.

Ellen Jean Diederich, Fargo, N.D.

Artwork by Ellen Jean Diederich Ellen Jean Diederich is an accomplished artist, children’s author, teacher, entrepreneur, speaker… and more. An original watercolor, called “Harvest of Promise” (featured on the cover) with fields of sunflowers in vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange with a patchwork overlay, hangs in our south staff entrance. “Embroidered Floral,” a watercolor in shades of pink, is displayed near our healing garden. Additional watercolors featuring local flowers and Minnesota landscapes are displayed in the Day Unit and on Main Street.
Ellen’s artistry and imagination spring from a gifted palette and wander seamlessly from the poignant and the adorned, to soft, comforting fields of dreams, rococo settings and on occasion, to delightful whimsical edges. Her creations suggest a timeless reflection of essential impressions honed by her extensive travels and tempered by a sense of visualization that is at once unburdened, garden-fresh and real.

She began painting at age nine and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a bachelor’s degree in K-12 art education from Minnesota State University Moorhead, where she drew portraits and caricatures during her final three years of college. Through her Fargo-based business, Givinity Press, she sells reproductions and cards of her watercolors. Ellen’s works can also be seen at Underbrush Gallery in Fargo.

Ellen has won many awards and her work has appeared in numerous art books. In 2003, she published “Where’s Petunia?” her first children’s book. In addition to teaching art in Pine River, Minn., she has led watercolor workshops in Arizona, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wyoming. She is a signature member of both the Transparent Watercolor Society of America and the Red River Watercolor Society.

Carl Oltvedt, Fargo, N.D.

Artwork by Carl Oltvedt A series of landscapes near our Lower Level Corridor by Carl Oltvedt provide an indoor glimpse of nature for patients, family and visitors at our downtown campus. “These paintings reflect my principal focus on landscape subjects from west central Minnesota and eastern North Dakota,” Carl says. “Introducing the figures and specific individuals as the principal subjects of the paintings has given me the opportunity to work with narrative ideas and add an additional level of meaning. This is a new direction for me.”
A Minneapolis native, Carl earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Minnesota. He began his teaching career at Alma College, Alma, Mich., in 1980. Currently, he is a full professor in the Department of Art and Design at Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he has taught since 1983.

Carl has been a guest artist at the Glasgow School of Art and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Scotland; the Grand Marais Art Colony, Grand Marais, Minn.; Viterbo College, LaCrosse, Wis.; and Winona State University, Winona, Minn. He is represented by Groveland Gallery in Minneapolis, where he has shown regularly in both solo and group exhibitions since 1978. He also exhibits pieces in solo and group exhibitions at the Rourke Art Gallery and Museum in Moorhead. His work is included in museum, private and corporate collections. Carl received a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Fellowship in 1991 and a Lake Region Arts Council/McKnight Fellowship in 2002.

Carl has two grown children. He and his wife, Kathy Moraghan reside in Fargo.

Patrick Tupa, Fargo, N.D.

Artwork by Patrick Tupa A series of oil paintings by Patrick Tupa displayed in the new main lobby capture the human element of caring and compassion, depicting the heart of healing and the importance of family and friends in the healing process.
Patrick, a North Dakota native and award-winning artist, has worked in pencil, pastels and oils for more than 30 years. “Growing up in the Midwest, I have always felt a desire to create and a need to draw,” he says. “Early on I studied the old masters, but soon found the work of John Singer Sargent and Norman Rockwell more suitable to what I am trying to communicate through my art – the high art of portraiture and a love for family and the everyday life we have in common.”

Patrick completed his visual arts degree at the University of North Dakota, Fargo in 1978. He later received a K-12 art education certificate and taught for a number of years in Grand Forks, N.D. and East Grand Forks, Minn. In addition to his work in portraiture, he was the 1st Cavalry Division Museum artist while in the U.S. Army and worked as a pastel portrait artist at Knott’s Berry Farm.

While many of his pieces can be viewed on the UND campus, he created two of his most prominent portraits for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. His most recent works are on display at the Rourke Art Museum, Boerth’s Art Gallery and City Hall, Fargo.

Tupa moved to Fargo in 2004 and works as a full-time artist in his home studio.


Robert Carson, Fargo, N.D.

Artwork by Robert Carson Robert Carson is better known around MeritCare for the diagnostic images he produces of internal body structures than for the shots of old buildings, landscapes and other natural subjects he takes in his spare time. But the long-time MeritCare employee’s photography is quickly, if quietly, gaining notoriety in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Robert, a Fargo native, has been an ultrasonographer in the MeritCare Health System for more than 28 years. For the past 16, he’s turned his professional eye for detail to developing his skills in still photography. His close-up color photograph of a bleeding heart is among a collection of images in the Lower Level Corridor. “I like to photograph for the particular mood the image evokes when shown,” says Robert, who works strictly in a digital format. “Having grown up in Fargo and visiting the old St. Luke’s as a patient, and having worked at MeritCare for so many years, it’s very exciting to see one of my photos displayed here.”

Robert’s work can be viewed in various coffee shops in the community. He and his wife, Candace, live in Fargo.

Mike Finneseth, Fargo, N.D.

Artwork by Mike Finneseth Mike Finneseth’s family knows no vacation is complete without a photographic detour. Family hiking trips to scenic wonders such as Glacier National Park, Olympic National Park and the Grand Tetons often include detours for capturing breathtaking images of mountain ranges or desert rock formations.
Mike’s original full-color photographs splash color and life onto the walls of the Lower Level Corridor that connects to the hospital. His close-ups of flowers and plants native to our region are accompanied by words – such as comfort and happiness – that describe their meaning. “This was an experiment to capture flowers and plants from a different perspective,” Mike says. “It reveals different aspects of the beauty of nature – not just colors but textures, too – which I hope opens up a whole new world that people might not have realized was around them.”

Mike started shooting photographs more than 20 years ago, and in 2001 turned his hobby into what is nearly a second full-time profession. When he’s not teaching biology and chemistry at Fargo North High School, he’s out searching for landscapes and vivid florals to capture on film. Mike displays and sells his work at street fairs, galleries and local businesses. To learn new techniques and apply them to perfecting his work, the Minot, N.D. native has attended numerous photography workshops through the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, Missoula, Mont.

Mike resides in Fargo with his wife and three sons.

Mike Smith, Fargo, N.D.

Artwork by Mike Smith Our new artwork collection would not be complete without the work of one of our own. Mike Smith, the MeritCare Health System photographer for the past 24 years, has shot everything from surgical procedures to medical specimens to MeritCare staff, facilities and patients. For this project, Mike turned his lens to less clinical material, providing color photos of a geranium and a hydrangea that hang in the Lower-Level Corridor.
“Color, lighting, and design are the three elements I look for when shooting pictures,” Mike says. “I think a good photograph, whether it’s black and white or color, is one that is simple, has a strong design element and compels viewers to take their time looking at it.”

Mike started with the system when we were still known as St. Luke’s Hospital. A self-taught photographer, he’s been a reliable mainstay for our marketing materials for nearly two-and-a-half decades, providing exceptional photos for everything from newsletters and brochures to annual reports to medical books. He and his wife, Linda, have three grown children and reside in Fargo.

Three-Dimensional Artists

Brad Bachmeier, Fargo, N.D.

Artwork by Brad Bachmeier An American-style Raku ceramic piece behind Guest Services near the lower-level main entrance is the creation of Brad Bachmeier. His method is loosely derived from a 16th century Japanese firing technique in which pots are removed from the kiln when they are red hot and placed in a chamber of combustible materials such as grass, leaves, sawdust or paper. As the materials combust, the flames create surface effects such as lusters, metallics, crackles and smoky swirls. Through his study of Raku firing and eastern pottery, Brad has developed an appreciation for the Zen aesthetic.
“Some of these principles – asymmetry, naturalness, a sense of age, subtle depth and simplicity – create for me a connection with the rural prairie in North Dakota,” he says.

Brad and his wife, Susan, both received their college degrees from Minnesota State University Moorhead before embarking on teaching careers. In addition to owning Bachmeier Pottery and Sculpture, Brad is the chair of the art department at Fargo North High School. Brad has received numerous awards for his work, as well as state, regional and national grants. His work is found in private and public collections including the North Dakota Governor’s Mansion.

Dale Cook, Fargo, N.D.

Artwork by Dale Cook Dale Cook has worked with wood for more than 25 years, but it wasn’t until three years ago that he began turning out wood with a lathe. Today, one of his original wooden vases stands behind Guest Services in the lower level main entrance. The exquisite vase, shaped from the burly roots of a box elder from south of Hawley, Minn., is about 17 inches tall and 9 inches in diameter at the apex. The vase contains shades of red and orange, creamy white and dark brown brought to an almost wet-looking shine through a multi-step finishing process.
It’s just one of the creations of the former northwest Minnesota native who now turns wood into art at Nature’s Gifts Woodturning in Fargo. “The figures and colors unveiled in a piece influence the shape I create,” Dale says. “This is probably the prettiest piece of wood that I’ve ever worked on in terms of the colors and the figures that are in it. It’s extraordinary, even for a burl wood.” Dale says he views his craft as an ongoing process of perfecting methods and using artistic creation to form unique pieces. His work is sold through Boerth’s Gallery in Fargo and at local and regional art shows.

Dale and his wife, Joan, have two grown sons and live in Fargo.

Hans Gilsdorf, Detroit Lakes, Minn

Artwork by Hans Gilsdorf At MeritCare Children’s Hospital, Detroit Lakes, Minn. artist Hans Gilsdorf has created a whimsical place for children with special health care needs. Now he has turned his talents to interpreting the mission of MeritCare Health System into a tactile experience. Hans designed the spectacular five-panel piece that will command a 30-foot wall in our new main lobby, and orchestrated the collaboration of master woodworker Dwight Williams, ceramic artist J. Bracken Rourke and metal working brothers Brad and Corey Bohl.
When complete, the five panels will interpret the continuum of natural settings across the map of MeritCare’s service area, representing not only our mission to serve people but also the environments they call home. Using stained glass, tile, metal, wood and other materials, the artists have depicted the colors and topographical features from the badlands of western North Dakota to the state’s middle prairies, from the agricultural patterns of the Red River Valley to the lakes and forests of western and northwestern Minnesota.

“It’s not extreme realism, but more of a multimedia geographic representation,” Hans says. “These talented artists have created a spectrum of topographies that are very tactile, and we encourage people to touch them.”

Hans has created special effects sets and costumes for Hollywood, shaped life-size animal sculptures for the blind at world-class zoos and sculpted realistic, full-size animals – from dinosaurs to wallabies and everything in between – for museums, parks and zoos across the country. He opened Gilly Art Studios in Detroit Lakes, Minn. in 1997.

Brad and Corey Bohl, Jamestown, N.D.

Brad and Corey Bohl, who inherited a love of metal working from their father, are both welders by trade, but are now making a living as full-time metal artists. Together they create unique, custom-designed steel sculptures and products at their shop, Bohl Iron Works, in Jamestown, N.D. For the past three years, they’ve been bending, welding and forming simple to extravagant steel archways, globes, business and residential signs and railings. “Whether it’s simple or extravagant, we want to offer the customer something that is truly unique,” Corey says.
J. Bracken Rourke, Fargo, N.D.

J. Bracken Rourke opened his business, Cotton Lake Ceramics, in Detroit Lakes, Minn. in 2000. He is the only custom-tile producer in the region. In addition to custom-designed ceramic art, Bracken creates framed and decorative tiles for everything from countertops to furniture to fireplaces. He’s traveled all over the world and incorporated the influences of European architecture and the landscapes of the southwestern United States into his designs. Bracken, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn. in 1989, has received numerous merit awards and a purchase award. He splits his time between studios in rural Detroit Lakes and Fargo. His work can be seen in numerous shops and galleries throughout the upper Midwest.
Dwight Williams, Fargo, N.D.

Dwight Williams, owner and craftsman at Smith Williams Studios, can duplicate existing objects or create new designs for anything his clients desire in wood, clay, metal or glass. He has more than 20 years of experience in specialty woodworking, and his projects have included everything from custom-designed furniture to assisting in building a village named Laffalot at MeritCare Children’s Hospital to creating specialty display cases for the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora, N.D. In addition to his own art, Dwight has owned several small businesses, taught high school art in Breckenridge, Minn. and served as administrative director for the Plains Art Museum. He holds a bachelor’s degree in art (sculpture and pottery) from Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Jon Offutt, Fargo, N.D.

Artwork by Jon Offutt Jon Offutt brings the inspiration of the Roman God of Fire, Mulciber, to MeritCare behind Guest Services in the lower level entrance. Mulciber is a surname of the smith-god Vulcan, and it alludes to the softening of metals in his fiery forge.
Jon knows fiery forges. A nationally recognized visual artist who specializes in blown glass, he heats raw materials to temperatures over 2,000 degrees in his Fargo studio, the House of Mulciber. For over 20 years, he has been creating blownglass inspirations, which have been described as “symphonies of color, shape and energy.” Jon has done nearly 50 public glassblowing demonstrations, including appearances at the Glass Art Society International conference in Asheville, N.C. and the St. Louis Art Fair in Missouri. He has participated in group exhibitions as far away as Denton, Texas, and Louisville, Ky., and presented solo exhibitions throughout the region. Jon’s art also can be found in museum collections from Fargo to Lakeland, Fla.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Minnesota State University Moorhead and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the glass program within the College of Art and Design at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Jon has been an Outreach Facilitator for North Dakota State University, Fargo, and has taught the art of glass blowing in a variety of other settings and institutions. He is the president of the Lake Agassiz Arts Council and a founding member of both the Fargo-Moorhead Visual Artists and New Bohemia North Dakota.

Michael Pettit, Dent, Minn.

Artwork by Michael Pettit Soft, metaphorical rains of an early midwestern summer splash and drip from a three-dimensional wrought iron and glass sculpture suspended from a wall near our new north main entrance. In Mike Pettit’s three-dimensional sculpture, called Rainbows in the Raindrops, iron is shaped into rondels, or circular shapes, and glass pieces extended from it are raindrops that form a puddle below. The piece is the Dent, Minn. artist’s first attempt at defining a new dimensional system through sculpture. “Instead of length, width, height and time, this view of the universe is composed of a point of existence, time lines, along with direction and distance from the time lines,” says Mike, who uses glass created by John Olenes of Vining, Minn. for his sculptures. “Recognizing this design as rain was easy, considering the universal perception of rain as being a life-giving, hope-inspiring event.”
Mike, who holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota, has shown his work in numerous individual and juried shows around the region. He’s received fellowships and grants from the Lake Region Arts Council and the McKnight Foundation. He’s been awarded honorariums from the Bemidji Community Sculpture Walk, the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, and the Ames, Iowa Sculpture Walk.

Charles Taube, Phoenix, Ariz.

Artwork by Charles Taube A life-threatening accident in 1997 changed Charles Taube’s life forever, causing him to pour his heart into his art. It’s appropriate that his large, free-flowing hardwood sculpture of a heart resides on the third floor lobby overlook adjacent to our Heart Center. It is visible from the first floor of our new main entrance. The magnificent sculpture, called the Heart of Healing, is a gift from MeritCare Heart Center physicians and leadership team. Created from purple heart wood, this sculpture is made to be touched and enjoyed.
Charles has never had any formal education or training in art, but it has always been a part of his life. In 1996, he created his first threedimensional hardwood sculpture. The following year, after 28 years as a professional carpenter and successful business owner, he was injured on the job and lost 70 percent of the functionality in his left hand. Determined to pursue his new-found love of wood sculpting, he cut, laminated, shaped and polished his second piece only seven months after his accident. “I was searching for a deeper meaning to life before the accident, and it has brought a deeper meaning to my work,” says Charles, who works in Phoenix, Ariz. “I’ve finally discovered my life’s purpose as a full-time artist.”

Each of Charles’s contemporary sculptures is unique. He carefully selects kiln-dried hardwoods – like mahogany, purple heart, walnut, maple, ash or poplar – with special grain patterns and colors. Then, he works to bring out the distinctive character of each piece. “I want to capture the wood’s movement, form and natural color,” he says. “When I’m done, I want them to sing.”