International Peace Garden, Elmer Thompson, 2019

The Rural Arts Initiative, an educational outreach program, works to encourage and empower rural school students and their teachers to actively participate in learning through the arts. The Rural Art Initiative came about in direct response to feedback from educators and families working in rural areas. Major challenges such as inadequate funding for art education, few museums and great distances have not allowed the visual arts to flourish in rural areas as much as other forms of art such as music and theater, which accompanied early settlers as they moved west. 

Museum Visits

Two major exhibitions will be selected for the program. Throughout the school year, teachers and their students will visit the Museum to see and discuss exhibitions. Financial support for travel expenses is available for qualifying schools.

Tour Exhibitions

The Museum will organize touring exhibitions of art, relevant to the local communities, that are integrated into school curricula and that can withstand less-than-optimal conditions and handling. Each exhibition targets specific age groups within the K-12 spectrum but all class levels are encouraged to visit and participate in the exhibition. Each host organization must provided a secure facility and staff for the duration of the exhibition. Exhibition times vary depending on location.

The Museum will deliver and install the exhibition

As part of the program Museum staff will train docents on the exhibition and program. In addition, Museum staff will return to pack up the exhibition when it closes. There is never a cost to host organizations. Past exhibitions, Snow Country Prison, Self Portraits, Shelterbelts, Marking the Land, and Animals: Them and Us, have been installed in buildings such as bank basements, Masonic temples, empty store fronts, school gymnasiums, etc.

If you are interested in learning more about the Rural Arts Initiative or would like to book an exhibition call 701-777-4195.

Dickinson Museum Center, Elmer Thompson, 2019.


Now booking for 2025–26 Touring Exhibition.

Click here to book today!

Currently touring




And what is empty turns its face to us/ and whispers:
“I am not empty, I am open”
—Tomas Tranströmer

This exhibition by creative partners Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb brings together two linked yet distinct photographic visions of North Dakota.

As a fellow Dakotan, Rebecca Norris Webb takes a poetic and intimate look at the natural world of North Dakota. Her work often explores those places where the natural world and one’s inner landscape meet, especially during times of change, upheaval, and shifting weathers—both meteorological and metaphysical. Her storytelling serves as a map for when one’s loss seems to have its own geography, most notedly with her book and NDMOA exhibition, My Dakota: An Elegy for My Brother Who Died Unexpectedly. Drawn to the great openness of the mixed grass prairie and the broken, surreal beauty of the South Dakota badlands while grieving for her brother, Norris Webb began photographing in the North Dakota badlands. The badlands, too, felt like a kind of geography of grief for Theodore Roosevelt as a young man, who lost his mother and wife on the same day—of this moment he wrote: the “light went out of my life.” During this devastating time, Roosevelt moved to the North Dakota badlands, which slowly kindled his lifelong love of the Western landscape, as well as ultimately transforming him into “the conservationist president,” who would end up protecting some 230 million acres of public land during his presidency. Following a similar path, Norris Webb photographed other North Dakota landscapes resonant with loss and memory, including the Lincoln Drive Park, once home to some 350 residences lost in the 1997 Red River flood in Grand Forks; and the Fort Totten Historical Site, once an Indian boarding school, which was part of a former U.S. program designed “to kill the Indian” in tens of thousands of Native American children through forced assimilation practices. As she continued traveling across the state in August 2022, Norris Webb was guided by North Dakota’s ever-shifting light and weathers: from the dark stormy skies over a luminous yellow canola field near Starkweather—to the Gumbo Lilies near Medora, which bloom at night from the crevices of the badlands, only during those summers with enough rainfall.

Meanwhile, Alex Webb, raised predominantly in New England, has been described as a “shadow sociologist” by writer Pico Iyer. The author of some 20 books—including Amazon, Istanbul, La Calle: Photographs from Mexico, and the collaborative book and NDMOA exhibition Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba with Rebecca Norris Webb—he has photographed in more than 50 countries and 200 cities around the world, sometimes commissioned by museums and other cultural institutions as well as such magazines as National Geographic,Geo, and The New York Times Magazine. Webb takes a more global and often urban approach to North Dakota. During two trips to the state in August 2019 and August 2022, he photographed in the parks, neighborhoods, and flea markets of the more populated cities and towns of the state, including Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, and Williston. He also photographed at various festivals and other events across the state, including the Icelandic Festival in Mountain, the Spirit Lake Professional Bull Riders on the Spirit Lake Reservation, the Morton County Fair and Rodeo in New Salem, and the Twin Buttes Powwow south of the Missouri River on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Additionally, Webb photographed neighborhood celebrations, which include some of the most recent residents in North Dakota, a state, which over the past decade, has resettled over 4,000 refugees, and, for several years, its total refugees per capita was the highest in the nation.

In order to create a more multi-layered portrait of North Dakota, the creative couple have interwoven their work in this exhibition—powwows and sunflower fields, rodeos and buffalo herds, twilight street scenes and badlands nightscapes. The Great Open is their seventh collaboration, including projects about a country (Cuba), a city (Rochester, NY); a borough (Brooklyn); a town (Wellfleet, MA); and now a state (North Dakota).

The artists want to thank the North Dakota Museum of Art and the National Endowment for the Arts for their support in creating this body of work—with a special thanks to NDMOA Founding Director Laurel Reuter and NDMOA Director Matthew Wallace—as well as all the North Dakotans who invited them into their lives and their landscapes.

Exhibition Partner:
This program is supported by a grant from
the National Endowment for the Arts.

Exhibition Locations

Meadowlark Arts Council, Crosby
February 29 – March 12, 2024

The Viking Building, Fessenden
March 14 – March 28, 2024

Opera House, Ellendale
April 9 – April 25, 2024

International Peace Garden, Dunseith
May 15, 2024 – June 27, 2024

Spirit Room, Fargo
July 1 – July 30, 2024

Northwest Arts Center, Minot
August 9 – September 21, 2024

Cavalier County Courthouse, Langdon
September 24 – October 3, 2024


Rebecca Norris Webb, Sunflowers, South of Lake Sakakawea, ND, 2022.
Type C Archival Digital Prints.

Rebecca Norris Webb, Gumbo Lilies, near Medora, ND, 2022.
Type C Archival Digital Prints.

Alex Webb, Williston, ND, 2022.
Type C Archival Digital Prints.

Alex Webb, Minot, ND, 2022.
Type C Archival Digital Prints.


Nelson County Arts Auditorium, Pekin
October 8 – October 17, 2024

Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten
November 5 – December 1, 2024

Barnes County Historical Society Museum, Valley City
December 5, 2024 – January 2, 2025

Red Door Art Gallery, Wahpeton
January 30 – March 2, 2025

Long X Arts Foundation, Watford City
March – April, 2025

James Memorial Art Center, Williston
April 27 – May 30, 2025

Past Exhibitions

Uff Da: The Folk Art of Emily Lunde

February 26 - March 30, 2022   Touring the state of North Dakota through the Museum's Rural Arts Initiative. Emily Wilhelmina Dufke Lunde was born in northern Minnesota and, as she says, "with a handle like that you had to have a sense of humor." Laurel Reuter...

Frank Sampson

July 18 - October 7, 2019   For forty years Frank Sampson—now ninety-two years old—taught painting and printmaking at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He returns for one month in summer and one month in winter to the North Dakota family’s home in Edmore...

Elmer Thompson: The Inventor

Growing up on a farm in rural North Dakota, Elmer O. Thompson (1891-1984) developed his creative impulses with photography, educating himself in matters of staging, lighting, and processing. Mr. Thompson quickly became an expert in the use of his 5 x 7 camera.

Visions of Home

January 12 - April 1, 2018  Home is where we live and for most of us the place where we are most comfortable. Home is home. Beyond home is everywhere else. Or is home something we carry in our heads that has less to do with place and more with feelings evoked by...

Get Involved

Rural Arts 25-26 Season Request Form

Step into a world of creativity and education as we invite you to host the Rural Arts Initiative! Crafted by the North Dakota Museum of Art, this initiative empowers rural school children, educators, families, and communities through immersive art experiences. Join hands with us to ignite young minds within a 50-mile radius of your location. We handle logistics, covering mileage, bus drivers, and substitute teachers, so you can focus on nurturing creativity. Backed by the North Dakota State Legislature, this initiative delivers curated exhibitions, engaging labels, online lesson plans, and seamless artwork installation. We adapt to any space, ensuring art thrives even in unconventional settings. Your commitment to community enrichment perfectly aligns with our vision. Become a host and shape a future where art and education unite.

Contact Details

Have you hosted the Rural Arts Initiative before?(Required)
Please select your top three months for the exhibition to come to you.(Required)
Does your location need walls in order to show the work?(Required)