North Dakota Museum of Art
Museum Interior, photo: Jamie Penuel
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks. ND
Director of the North Dakota Museum of Art Receives NCAA 1999 Award of Distinction
Laurel Reuter, Director of the North Dakota Museum of Art, has received the 1999 Award of Distinction from the National Council of Art Administrators at their national meeting in San Francisco. She gave the keynote address at their banquet in November 1999, speaking about her work as founding director of the North Dakota Museum of Art. (left: Laurel Reuter, 1999. Photo courttesy of North Dakota Museum of Art )
The National Council cited her for "her dedication to art and to culture in North Dakota and her struggle to create a world class museum in a remote environment." Furthermore, they commended her for "helping a devastated community draw together and recover its spiritual existence."
According to Andrea Booher, a photographer who has worked with FEMA through many disasters, including Hurricane Andrew, the Midwest floods, the Northridge, California earthquake, and the floods in Grand Forks, "no community in the history of disasters in this country has seen the arts play such an important role in recovery. Grand Forks should be a model for the rest of the country in this respect." The North Dakota Museum of Art's work within the community after the flood received wide recognition in the national media. CBS News Sunday Morning produced two specials about Reuter's work at the Museum. The New York Times featured the Museum in a long article written by Ian Swanson. And ARTnews ran a feature story on Reuter in their November 1998 issue.
Reuter grew up in Tokio, North Dakota on what was then the Fort Totten Indian Reservation. She attended high school in Devils Lake before moving to the University of North Dakota where she received two undergraduate degrees and a M. A. in English.
She founded the Museum as a student gallery on the top floor of the Memorial Student Union on the UND campus in the early 1970s while a graduate student in the English Department. According to Reuter, her goal was "to build the best small museum in America." While frequently asked to apply for much higher paying directorships elsewhere, she says she has stayed in North Dakota because "she hasn't finished what she set out to do." Her most pressing goal at the moment is to build the financial base that will secure the museum for generations to come. In November 1996 the Museum became a private, not-for-profit cultural institution no longer funded by the University.
In a rare tribute, Bernard O'Kelly, who was Reuter's undergraduate dean in his capacity as Dean of the UND College of Arts and Sciences, was quoted in the Bismarck Tribune's first edition of Notable Americans (1998): "As founder and director of the North Dakota Museum of Art, Reuter has internationalized the arts for North Dakota and primed the state for art." "Of all the people I've known, I have to say Laurel Reuter is the most lasting force in the life of this state," continued O'Kelly.
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