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Dance, Drama, Literature, Music, Visual and Traditional Arts
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Walter Piehl Painting
Visual Arts vase
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Folk Arts

The Folk Arts Program encourages the preservation and continuation of traditional culture and traditional/folk art throughout North Dakota. This is done through fieldwork that identifies and documents traditional art forms. This work is often used in exhibits, recordings, and other projects conducted by the NDCA. A number of books and enhanced CDs featuring traditional arts and culture are available for purchase through the NDCA. Accredited Summer Folklore and Folk Arts Classes are offered to K-12 teachers and the general public interested in learning more about folklore and folk art.

~ Grant Program available through Folk Arts includes the Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship.

Documentary on the travels of Bloch in North Dakota now available! Bloch, an interactive global art project featuring a large tree trunk, is making one stop at each continent and North Dakota was selected as the North American location. The North Dakota Council on the Arts, in July and August 2014, participated in this global art project. The project involves a large spruce tree log that is traveling to every continent. The idea is to have communities interact with the log to communicate something to the world. North Dakota represented the North American continent through interaction with folk artists and folk communities. When Bloch came to North Dakota, it was bare. No artistic work was done to it even though it previously traveled to Europe and Asia. So, inspired by the Great Plains American Indian tradition, we interacted with the tree by transforming it into a “global talking stick” to communicate to the world who we are and what we are about. The Bloch made appearances at the Downtown Fargo Street Fair, Napoleon and the Nokota Horse Conservancy in Linton, Taylor Horsefest, Fort Totten Days, Spirit Lake Indian Reservation, Rugby, Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, and the Hjemkmost Center in Fargo/Moorhead. As part of the project, a 23-minute documentary was produced showing Bloch’s travels throughout North Dakota and the folk artists who interacted with and transformed the log.  All the artwork shown on and with the log were done here. Due to time constraints and other factors, not every traditional artist or art form was able to be shown, though all are appreciated greatly. However, all the artists, sponsors, and local coordinators who participated are included in the credits at the end. The video is now available online at Thank you to everyone who participated and contributed your talents, be it artistic or logistical, to the success of the North Dakota/North American component of this project. Thank you for presenting our area of the world in such a positive way. For more information, pictures and updates, be sure to visit on the Bloch-Blog at; or on their Facebook page at

~ The Hammer and the Axe is a 5 ½-minute documentary featuring traditional blacksmith master Doug Swenson of Hawley, Minnesota, and his NDCA apprentice Tim Jorgensen of Fargo, North Dakota. The film was produced and directed by Greg Carlson who teaches in Concordia University’s Communication Studies and Theatre Arts Department. Edging out hundreds of films submitted from around the world, The Hammer and the Axe received international honor as a finalist in the 2014 International Documentary Challenge. The film shows Doug and Tim working together through their 2013-14 Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program grant from the North Dakota Council on the Arts. This program is designed to help preserve and perpetuate traditional arts, skills, and knowledge by passing them on to apprentices, who must be North Dakota residents who will continue the tradition into the future. The documentary is available online at

~ North Dakota recipients of the 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellows were featured in a free performance at George Washington University Lisner Auditorium on October 4, 2012, the recipients were Paul & Darlene Bergren, Dog Sled and Snowshoe Designers and Builders from Minot, ND. To view photos and watch the concerts, visit

~ Online Folk Artist Documentaries and Lesson Plans
The following documentaries were produced by the North Dakota Council on the Arts in partnership with Prairie Public Broadcasting, the Bush Foundation, and the Spirit Room Gallery.  Four lesson plans (one pre, two while viewing, and one post viewing) for teachers and students are associated with each documentary.  The lesson plans are based on the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction’s Standards and Benchmarks. Schools and teachers are encouraged also to utilize these documentaries, lesson plans, and featured artists themselves with the NDCA’s Artist-in-Residence and/or Teacher Incentive grant programs. For more information visit; or

  • A Lyrical Life: The Struggle and Hope of South Sudan (approximately 26 minutes):  This documentary introduces people to the culture, history, music, and dance of the Ma’di people of southern Sudan and northern Uganda. Through three traditional songs, the issues associated with the struggle of South Sudan are revealed; centuries-old conflicts over religion, slavery, race, genocide, displacement, war, and refugee status. “Hope” refers to the reconciliation process taking place in Africa and in America in places like North Dakota where the featured musicians now live.
  • Lesson plans with Benchmarks and Standards for Grades 9-12: English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Music,
  • Kalendo is a track and music video from the enhanced CD Achikadidi: Traditional Ma’di Music of Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda produced by the North Dakota Council on the Arts in 2003. The song was a favorite of Ma’di militiamen who fought in the 1980s in Sudan’s civil war. It describes the weariness of war and the desire to return to a life of farming. Watch the YouTube video via this link.
  • Turtle and Pretty Crane (approximately 9 minutes):  This documentary features renowned Mandan and Hidatsa storyteller and flute player Keith Bear from Drags Wolf Village on the Forth Berthold Indian Reservation of north-western North Dakota.  The traditional story told is included also in greater detail on the NDCA produced CD Morning Star Whispered.  The narrative is described by Keith as an American Indian “Romeo and Juliet.”
  • Lesson plans with Benchmarks and Standards for Grades 9-12: Music, English Language Arts, and Social Studies,
  • God Given: Cultural Treasures of Armenia (approximately 10 minutes):  The exquisite metal repoussé artistry and life experiences of Norik Astvatsaturov, formerly of Baku, Azerbaijan, now an American citizen in Wahpeton, North Dakota, reflect in microcosm the history and culture of Armenia.  Armenia is an ancient country in Eurasia’s mountainous Transcaucasian region within an area often referred to as the ‘Cradle of Civilization.’  Because of its position as a crossroads between East and West, Christian and Muslim, Armenia’s existence is marked throughout by turbulent occupation and persecution stemming, in part, from cultural and religious intolerance.
  • Lesson plans with Benchmarks and Standards for Grades 9-12: Visual Arts, English Language Arts, and Social Studies,
  • Online lesson plans for The Blue Heron Who Stayed for the Winter from the enhanced CD My Relatives Say: Traditional Dakotah Stories as Told by Mary Louise Defender Wilson:  This teacher’s guide will introduce your students to the stories, legends, culture and language of renowned storyteller Mary Louise Defender Wilson and the Dakotah tribe.  The narrative describes what happens to a blue heron who struggles with the dangerous winter conditions of the Northern Great Plains while other species of birds rally their own unique skills to help the blue heron survive.  Four lesson plans (one pre, two while listening, and one post listening) for teachers and students are associated with the story.  The lesson plans are based on the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction’s Standards and Benchmarks.  Schools and teachers are encouraged also to utilize this enhanced CD, lesson plans, and featured artist with the NDCA’s Artist-in-Residence and/or Teacher Incentive grant programs. For information on Artist-in-Residence and Teacher Incentive visit; or
  • Lesson plans with Benchmarks and Standards for Grades K-6: English Language Arts and Social Studies,
  • For more information on the CD and to hear a sample of the story visit

For more information, contact Troyd Geist at (701) 328-7590 or

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