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Individual Achievement: Pieper Fleck Bloomquist

Pieper Bloomquist wearing black long-sleeve shirt, smiling, with glasses and long blonde hair, standing next to her painted tapestry.Pieper Fleck Bloomquist is a contemporary folk artist painting in the traditions of the old Swedish folk art styles of dalmålning and bonadsmålning to tell modern stories. Pieper uses common floral motifs and decorative elements of this art form along with the traditional materials of linen and homemade paints of egg tempera or animal glue to create painted tapestries with scenes that narrate modern human stories. She draws inspiration from family traditions, her experience as an oncology nurse working with life and death, rural life in the Upper Midwest, as well as current events such as the Covid19 pandemic.  

Based in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Pieper has been active in programs sponsored by the North Dakota Council on the Arts including the Art for Life Program, the Traditional Folk Arts Apprenticeship program as a Master Artist teaching both Norwegian and Swedish folk painting, and as an Individual Artist Fellow (2021). She has twice been granted a Folk Arts Fellowship through the American Scandinavian Foundation (2018, 2023). She is a regular painting instructor at the American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis, MN, and North House Folk School, Grand Marais, MN. She is a frequent guest instructor holding workshops and lectures for regional art galleries and Nordic heritage groups – all with the goal of creating awareness and appreciation for folk art, its connection to a heritage, and the ability it has to connect us all through our stories.

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Arts Organization: Empire Arts Center

Empire Arts Center view from the street - red brick building with tall lighted signThe Empire Arts Center has served as a Grand Forks staple for one hundred and four years. The facility has seen a series of name changes, a multitude of uses, and a past complete with bright lights and dark challenges, but these aspects make the Empire one of the most well-known historic buildings in downtown Grand Forks.

The Empire Arts Center was built in 1919 for showing movies. Over the past 104 years, the facility has been molded to fit the changes in the community, both in entertainment and in culture. As a prestigious downtown movie house, the theater led the way locally during the advancement of film from 1920-1995. After the flood of 1997, the facility was given new life as a multipurpose arts center, playing a large role in the reinvigoration of the downtown and the local economy. The Empire Arts Center is not only a facility but a nonprofit serving Grand Forks and the region. Thousands of North Dakotans and others visit the Empire annually to see live performances, view visual art exhibits, watch movies, and attend celebrations. Hundreds of local performers have enjoyed its spotlights, and many regional and national artists have entertained from its historic stage. The Empire Arts Center is a partner to local arts organizations and artists, the University of North Dakota, and the community, and it is a place for people of all ages to gather and be inspired.

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Business: Makoché Recording Studios

Makoche Recording Studios interior showing sound board, instruments, padded wallsThe idea for creating Makoché Studios occurred in 1990, with building beginning in 1991. David Swenson, working with a world famous studio architect and local construction firms oversaw the design concepts and building of the facility. In 1992, the studios were named a  Mix magazine “Room of the Year”.  In 2005, longtime friends and associates Mike Glatt and David Swenson took over ownership and management of the studio.

During the past 30-plus years, Makoché has received numerous awards, including 2 Grammy nominations. Makoché has become particularly known for its work with Native American music and language preservation as well as a haven for local artists developing their craft. Music produced by Makoché has appeared in numerous movies and documentaries, most notably the work of Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan for Florentine Films. 

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Arts in Education: Donald E. Larew

Don Larew standing outside wearing suit with black and white checkered tie, glasses and grey hairProfessor Emeritus Larew began his forty-year teaching career with North Dakota State University in 1969. He was Designer and Technical Director for the university's Little Country Theater, Prairie Stage touring theatre, North Dakota Repertory Theatre and several Music Department Opera Workshops. In addition, he directed several musical theater productions, served a term as chair of Theatre Arts and faculty advisor for NDSU Delta Upsilon Fraternity for 30 years. He is currently Drama section chair of the Fine Arts Club, serves as a docent for Plains Art Museum, and is working on a history of First Presbyterian Church in Fargo.

Don served on the boards of FMCT, original Red River Dance & Performing Co., FM Opera Company, Probstfield Living History Farm, & ISU Delta Upsilon Fraternity Colonnades Alumni Association. He did extensive scenic designs for Sceno-graphics in New Wilmington, PA. He freelance designs locally for FMCT, RRD&P Co., Carousel Dance Theatre, FM Opera, Ursa Major Productions, and Horizon Middle School in Moorhead. He also created designs for the community theaters in Bismarck, Williston, and New Rockford.

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Cultural Heritage: Bill Lowman

Bill Lowman wearing 2-tone jacket, cowboy hat, mustache on faded pink and purple backgroundA rancher-cowboy, Bill Lowman was raised in the western badlands of North Dakota. He is an accomplished visual artist, performing artist, and author, eloquently bringing the seasons and stories of life as a Dakota rancher to audiences. Lowman has written and illustrated five books of cowboy humor and poetry as well as a book of cowboy cartoons. His inspiration in all his pursuits is the American cowboy culture and the need for its preservation. He founded the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1987, which is still going strong in Medora, North Dakota, and he is a charter member of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.

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Champion of the Arts: former state Senator Joan Heckaman

Joan Heckaman wearing deep red sweater, decorative matching scarf, glasses, grey hair and toothy smile with red lipstickJoan comes from a rural background. She was born in New Rockford, ND, and raised on a cattle/sheep ranch in eastern Eddy County. Her elementary education came from a one-room schoolhouse for six years, followed by her 7th and 8th grades in a two-room rural consolidated school. She graduated from Grace City High School.

She completed her college degree at Valley City State University with a double major in Mathematics education and Health/Physical Education. She received her Master’s Degree in Special Education from Minor State University and holds credentials in Learning Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, and Emotional Disturbances.  Her first teaching position was a fill-in position at Edmore High School. She then taught at Grace City High School and the East Central Special Education Unit in New Rockford until retirement in 2004. Following her retirement, she taught at the Four Winds Tate Topa Elementary and Middle School and the Four Winds Alternative High School until another retirement in 2013.

Joan’s legislative career began in the 2007 session when she was elected to the Senate to serve District 23. Human Services, Agriculture, Education, and Appropriations were her committee assignments over her tenure. She also served two sessions as Assistant Minority Leader in the Senate and three sessions as Minority Leader. She ended her service on December 1, 2022.

Joan served in several community and church organizations over the years, including church boards, Eastern Star, golf club, book club, library board, Central ND Steam Thresher’s Board Secretary, and a quilting club. She also serves on a number of nonprofit boards of directors across the state.

She and her husband, Dewey, have now moved to Dickinson for retirement. They both look forward to spending more time with their four children and ten grandchildren and connecting with their new community.

ND Governor's Award for the Arts by Native Artist Nelda Schrupp
     Created by Nelda Schrupp

The North Dakota Governor’s Awards for the Arts is a biennial program presented by the Governor’s Office and North Dakota Council on the Arts (NDCA) to recognize organizations and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the arts in the state.

Award recipients are chosen for their efforts to expand arts opportunities to new audiences, create an appreciation for North Dakota's cultural heritage, and make the arts more central to education and an integral part of community life as well as the recipients' length of service within the state. 

The 2023 ND Governor’s Awards for the Arts reception and ceremony took place on Wednesday, February 1, 2023 at the ND Heritage Center in Bismarck. NDCA, along with the Office of the Governor, presented six awards to a variety of organizations and individuals from across the state. 

Watch recording of 2023 ND Governor's Awards for the Arts Ceremony

Special thanks to Jacob Krein, born and raised in Hebron, ND, who played guitar music during the reception. He comes from a musical family known by many in the area as "The Tibor Brothers." Jacob is a classical guitarist, substitute teacher, photographer, piano technician, rancher, and town historian who is 36 years of age with a passion for all arts and cats. Also, thank you to Stephanie Delmore and Susan Lundberg, Sleepy Hollow Theatre & Arts Park, Bismarck, who provided the elegant gold décor.

*E-mail NDCA with any questions:

Watch recording of 2021 Online Ceremony

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Past Award Recipients

2021: Arts in Education: Dr. Jo Ann Miller (Fargo); Arts Organization: Minot Area Council of the Arts (Minot); Individual Achievement: Melissa Gordon (Bismarck) and David "WhiteThunder" Trottier (Rugby); Individual Cultural Heritage: Rex Cook (Dickinson); Private Business: Maryhill Manor with Enderlin Fine Arts Association (Enderlin)

2019: Arts in Education: Annette Hovey (New Rockford); Arts Organization: Jamestown Fine Arts Association (Jamestown); Cultural Treasure: John Gross (Napoleon); Individual Achievement: David Borlaug (Bismarck) and Jessie Veeder (Watford City); Private Business: Office Sign Company (Fargo)

2017: Paul Noot (Bismarck), The Arts Partnership (Fargo), Deb Belquist (New Rockford), Bennett Brien (Belcourt), Jon Offutt (Fargo) ~ NDCA would also like to thank Matt Fern, Owner of The Creative Treatment, for filming and creating this wonderful video of the 2017 Governor’s Awards for the Arts Ceremony. The video is available at

2015: Keith Bear (New Town), Linda Christman (Bismarck), Chuck Suchy (Mandan), Marilyn Johnson (Bismarck), Annette Rorvig (McVille) 

2013: Taylor Barnes (Jamestown), Eddie “King” Johnson (Rolla), Dr. Thomas Porter (Bismarck), North Dakota Art Gallery Association (Minot), Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre (Grand Forks)

2011: North Valley Arts Council (Grand Forks), Northern Lights Arts Council (Langdon), Sleepy Hollow Summer Theater (Bismarck), Hardy Lieberg (Minot), The Hotel Donaldson (Fargo)

2009: Bradley Bachmeier (Fargo), Scott Prebys (Bismarck), Agnes Palanuk (Dickinson), Dakota Prairie Regional Center for the Arts (New Rockford), Tom and Frances Leach Foundation, Inc. (Bismarck)

2007: Beth Gigante Klingenstein (Valley City), Little Country Theatre/NDSU Theatre (Fargo), Laurel Reuter (Grand Forks), Cynthia Schumaier-Jelleberg (Belcourt)

2005: Bill Eckroth (Bismarck), Gene Okerlund (Fargo), Glory Monson (Rugby), Walter Piehl (Minot), International Music Camp (Minot/International Peace Gardens)

2003: Mary Louise Defender Wilson (Shields), Jack Dyville and B. Michael Quale (Williston), Grand Forks Public Schools (Dr. Mark Sanford, Superintendent), Trollwood Performing Arts Schools (Fargo)

2001: Dr. Timothy J. Kloberdanz (Fargo), Sue Jacobson (Bottineau), David Hamilton (Fargo-Moorhead), Nelson County Arts Council (Pekin)

1999: Linda Whitney (Valley City), Rebecca Engelman (Bismarck), Gwinner Junior Players (Gwinner), Summer Performing Arts Company (Grand Forks), Hornbacher’s Foods (Fargo-Moorhead)

1997: Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre (Fargo), Wayne and Bernice Stroup (Garrison)

1995: Cando Arts Council (Cando), Hal and Kathy Gershman (Grand Forks), James D. Ployhar (Fargo)

1993: David Hanna (Fargo), Jean Waldera (Dickinson), Fargo-Moorhead Civic Opera (Fargo)

1991: Rosemary Landsberger (Bismarck), Peter Schickele (New York City)

1989: Alma Studness (Devils Lake), Catherine Mulligan (Fargo)

1987: Frederick Walsh (Fargo), The Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks)

1985: Vern Bennett (Fargo), Rose and Francis Cree (Dunseith)

1983: Winifred B. Stump (Dickinson), The Straus Company of North Dakota

1982: Fritz Scholder (Scottsdale, Arizona)

1981: Anne-Marit Bergstrom (Devils Lake), Phyllis Frelich (New York City), Anne W. Ness (Fort Ransom), Fargo-Moorhead Orchestral Association (Fargo)

1979: Mary Gray (Valley City), Belle Mehus (Bismarck), Plains Art Museum (Fargo)

1978: Alene Larson (Fargo), Arlene Saugstad (Minot), Prairie Arts and Humanities Council (Hettinger)

1977: John Hove (Fargo), Nellie Solberg (Bismarck), Merton Utgaard (Bottineau), Sheyenne Valley Arts and Crafts Association (Fort Ransom)