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*Stories marked with an asterisk were written by experienced contributing editors with the goal of showing North Dakota's diversity.

- - - - A first-person account by artist and contributing editor Mollie Douthit.

Full-length image of a blurred woman wearing black pants and a long-sleeve dark-pink shirt, standing in between a variety of small rectangular artworks on a white wall
                Photo by Ros Kavanagh

My friend Sara and I have an ongoing conversation, are you a ‘Somewhere’ or an ‘Anywhere’? Meaning do you feel as if you belong to a place of origin on this earth, or not. I explained to her I had a paternal granddad from the east coast, and grandmother from Oklahoma, a maternal grandma from England (definitively Irish), and a grandpa from Western North Dakota. My parents both grew up in Western North Dakota, and moved to Grand Forks for college, where they raised my sister and me. In short, I am an Anywhere. I grew up with friends who had legacies in Grand Forks, and I felt disarmed in that kind of belonging. I have always been deeply aware that my family did not have legacy in the place I was born, leading to the fact that I grew up being an ‘Anywhere’, and once an ‘Anywhere,’ it takes work to become a ‘Somewhere’.

I was born and raised in Grand Forks, ND, the Somewheres I grew up around were all from mainly Nordic heritage, many of their ancestors pioneering in Eastern North Dakota and Minnesota. I don’t have a drop of Nordic blood in me, and only since marrying a Swede in June 2023, have I started to learn and incorporate some of those traditions into my own quilt of self. While my grandma grew up in London, she was Irish at heart, ‘Irish’ was her nickname when she immigrated over to America.  Her sisters and brother were taught to passionately defend their Irish heritage. This passion was passed down to my mom. St. Patrick's Day in our house was always complete with green outfits, corned beef and cabbage, and mom letting us put green food coloring in our milk. It was the one cultural holiday (outside of 4th of July) we fully embraced.

The first time I felt a genuine connection to a place happened when I was 8. Our family took a trip to London to visit my grandmas’ relatives — there I felt a deep connection to place, not just people. The day we left, tears welled up inside me at the airport. It was the first time I felt a sense of being a ‘Somewhere’. Make no mistake, Ireland and England are two definitively different places, but in the eyes of an 8-year-old girl from North Dakota, they were one in the same. That sense of connection never left me and is what pulled me across the Atlantic for my Master of Fine Art in Studio Art at Burren College of Art, Ballyvaughan, Ireland (MFA).


Mollie Douthit 2023 oil on linen panle painting called The goal. Overhead view of a room with a wooden floor, walls, two round tables, a bed and a double-paned window on the side. There are dishes on the table and a small green plant in the corner. Whimsical and earthy.
"The goal, 2023." Photo by Ros Kavanagh

The first half of my twenties were full of part time jobs and college. I did a one-year art program in Boston after my undergrad degree, where I have never felt so scared on a daily basis. I learned quickly it was not a place for me. I went back to Grand Forks to regroup and apply for a master’s program. Recalling a school in Ireland I had come across during an undergrad study abroad fair I researched and found they had an MFA program. The location was ideal: a barren landscape, next to the sea, just outside of a small village. It felt like the right fit, so I applied and got in. I flew over in the fall of 2012, scared out of my mind, but it felt like a good scared — I was being brave in a way I had not been. Within my first year, things fell into place. I was noticed early on and welcomed into the Irish arts scene. By the time I graduated, I had a solo show in Dublin booked for the next year and a spacious one-year low-cost residency for myself. Following that, I was granted a special circumstance visa extension for two years and another show booked. I was hired back as a part time teacher at my college and was on the outside thriving.

The weight of feeling like I had found my ‘Somewhere’ never solidified - as visas have end dates - and I knew a day would come when I would not be able to stay. The weight of this knowledge in the back of my mind was a plaque, building and starting to weaken my mental health. By 2017, I knew it was time to leave. So, I went back to North Dakota and fortunately had a show lined up at the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks. I moved in with my parents and melted. Life spiraled, and I had to slowly collect myself. Through therapy and self-work, I built a mental foundation again. Passionate to not lose everything I had built in Ireland, I diligently kept up to date with opportunities or reasons to return and did for solo shows and teaching opportunities. When the pandemic hit, I was well enough to make a game plan for myself and mentally ready for a rocky road with immigration. I booked tickets back to Ireland over the summer of 2020 and prepared a solid case for myself to present to immigration authorities. Long story short, after a strenuous wait, I was approved for a visa that can now renew yearly.

Mollie Douthit and husband Arvid Hägg standing next to and looking own at their tiered yellow wedding cakeI’ve been in Ireland since, and I have made a home for myself, where I am a full-time artist. Ireland has taught me some hard lessons about myself. Ireland is where I became a 'Somewhere'. That Somewhere is inside of me and not a location on this earth. Ironically, I recently married a Swede, and am once again navigating the hurdles of immigration to eventually move to him.

Perhaps the larger point I am trying to make is that many of us are ‘Anywheres’ and it takes time to become a ‘Somewhere’. In today’s world being born a Somewhere is becoming more and more unique, yet still a sense of power is held in this because being a Somewhere ties you geographically to a place. To be born with a feeling of being an Anywhere requires more diligence in making a Somewhere in yourself.


About the Author

Artist Mollie Douthit taking a selfie in Ireland with people walking behind her on a narrow paved street that leads to a small lake, on a lightly raining day with the sun peaking over the horizonMollie Douthit (b.1986) is a Cork-based oil painter.

Originally from North Dakota, Douthit has resided between Ireland and the US since 2012. She holds a BFA from the University of North Dakota; Post Baccalaureate from Tufts University, Boston; and MFA from Burren College of Art, NUIG. Major achievements include the 2013 RHA Hennessy Craig award, a solo exhibition at the North Dakota Museum of Art, twice awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Grant, a 2022 Arts Council Bursary, and 2022 acquisition of three works by the Arts Council, Ireland.

Additionally, her work has been featured in Hyperallergic, The Irish Times, Sunday Times Culture, New American Paintings, and Ilikeyourworkpodcast. Her work has been supported by residencies at the Tony O’Malley residence, Jentel Foundation for the Arts, Tyrone Guthrie Center, Ballinglen Arts Foundation, and Vermont Studio Center.

Exhibitions include Dreams are important, Molesworth Gallery; Tyranny of Ambition, Highlanes Gallery; Cover Versions, RHA; Save the best part, BernBaums, Fargo, North Dakota; Generation 22, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny; and When Worlds Collide, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny.

Douthit starts every day with a run, followed by coffee. She is a fan of all things domestic and finds thrills in mending clothes, baking bread, and reading. With a home-based studio, daily moments, objects, and places inspire her personally narrative paintings.

Visit Mollie's website or connect on Facebook or Instagram.

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