The 7 Best Ways to Experience Bismarck Art in North Dakota

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The 7 Best Ways to Experience Bismarck Art in North Dakota

Just a stone’s throw away from the bustling city of Fargo, nestled in the heart of North Dakota, you’ll find a town with a great big, artistic heart in Bismarck, North Dakota.  The thriving Bismarck Art scene is an unexpected delight for locals and tourists alike.

The vibrant murals that adorn Bismarck’s Alley 5.5 are just one example of how this small city has become a canvas for creativity.  There’s no shortage of artistic expression here, from refurbished vending machines filled with local artwork to public displays depicting North Dakota’s rich history.

For those seeking something unique and creative to do on their next trip, Bismarck Art has plenty of artistic expressions that will surely captivate.  Fair warning, though – once you’ve had a taste, it might be hard not to return for more!

Discovering Bismarck’s Artistic Side

The capital of North Dakota, Bismarck, boasts a cityscape alive with artistry.  One visit to this bustling business district reveals that beneath its political prowess lies an unexpected treasure trove for art enthusiasts.

Brimming with public displays of creativity and unique shopping experiences such as Meadowlark Mercantile, Alley 5.5, and a plethora of local art vending machines, it is an uncharted paradise for those who love artistic expression.

Let’s explore seven unique and obvious ways to get in touch with your inner artist when you visit Bismarck, North Dakota!

Bismarck-Mandan Art Trail

Discover the magic of artistic expression along the Bismarck-Mandan Art Trail in North Dakota!  This captivating trail winds its way through the heart of the sister cities of Bismarck and Mandan, offering a delightful journey through an array of stunning murals, sculptures, and installations.

From the urban pulse of Bismarck to the charming streets of Mandan, each stop on the trail unveils a unique story that celebrates the region’s heritage, creativity, and community bond.  So grab a friend or your family, and embark on an adventure that promises not just art but a deeper connection to the cultural tapestry of this picturesque corner of North Dakota.

See, Snap, and Win!

Along the Bismarck-Mandan Art Trail, you’ll find over 80 locations with unique and compelling works of art.  Before you explore, download the Bismarck-Mandan Art Trail Free Pass, Which highlights all the stops along the trail.  Check-in and share your photos as you make your way around town.  Be sure and use the provided hashtag as you share your photos.

If you check in at a specified number of stops, you’ll receive a small token to celebrate your accomplishment.  But the award isn’t in the small token; it’s in the stunning works of art you’ll enjoy as you explore!

multi-colored background with the words "let's be friends" printed on top with "click here to join the facebook group"

Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative (BDAC)

The Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative, also known to locals as BDAC, is nestled in the heart of downtown Bismarck between 5th and 6th Streets.  This dynamic Cooperative serves as an art gallery and a working studio space for artists in the community.

These artists work together to share this creative space and host special themed exhibits through the years.  Twelve artists make up the full Gallery Membership of BDAC, and all have a permanent exhibition space and a workspace in the gallery.  In addition to the 12 professional artists, the Cooperative has 15 student members who participate in monthly shows and help with the many community activities that the Co-Op sponsors.

purples and pinks surround a woman in a swimsuit and shower cap - art by Ali LaRock
A Painting by Tracy Moser in bright colors depicting Frida Kahlo

Local Artist Paul Noot

One of these 12 artists is Paul Noot.  Mr. Noot is not only an incredible artist but also a treasured member of the community and a Visual Art teacher at the local high school.  

Mr. Noot has his work displayed throughout Bismarck and participates in many exhibitions around North Dakota.  I was delighted to see some of his work on display while I dined at the Pirogue Restaurant in Bismarck.  I recognized his unique style before reading the placard and was delighted when I saw it was his work.  You can see more of his work at the North Dakota Art Gallery Association, where Mr. Noot is featured with his son, Dakota. 

Exploring Bismarck’s Art Alley 5.5

You can’t visit Bismarck without taking a wander down Alley 5.5.  This local treasure is tucked into a hidden alley behind some local businesses.  The passage is active and has regular, slow vehicular traffic, and this project helped beautify an otherwise not-so-attractive area.

As you wander down the alley, take note of works such as “53 North Dakota Counties” by Paul Noot, “Wall of Faces” by Bailey White, “Grandma’s Pickles” by Nicole Gagner, and “Sitting Bull” by Melissa Gordon.

A colorful mural of North Dakota by artist Paul Noot
“53 North Dakota Counties” by Paul Noot
A Mural of many faces in different colors - by artist Bailey White
“Wall of Faces” by Bailey White

One piece that particularly stood out to me was the Steam Punk Mural, created by Bismarck High School students.  This captivating mural is a tribute to well-known alums and indicative of how every individual contributes uniquely to shaping society’s collective machinery.  If you’re intrigued by Steampunk or enjoy detailed artwork, this mural will capture your attention.

A brightly colored mural with faces, yellow duckies, and many details entitled Steam Punk
Steam Punk Mural by Bismarck High School Students

National artists do great work, but if you want to get a feel for a town and its culture, you want to see work by the local artists, whose lives in the area sculpt them into living representations of the area in which they live.  Alley 5.5 is the perfect example of this in living color.

A Local Initiative

Spearheaded by the Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative’s initiative known as Alley 5.5 in 2016, the alley represents 22 local artists whose murals best represent the theme “Reflections of North Dakota.”

The Alley 5.5 Team worked hard to raise funds for this project, which helped fund the artists and provide supplies.

Bismarck Art & Galleries Association (BAGA)

You must check out the Bismarck Art & Galleries Association (BAGA) in Bismarck.  BAGA is a private, non-profit art gallery open to the public at no charge.  BAGA supports local artists and galleries like nobody’s business.  They’ve got everything from cool exhibitions to workshops that’ll unleash your inner Picasso.

BAGA is the spot if you’re up for a dose of inspiration, a chance to connect with fellow art lovers, and a front-row seat to the local art scene’s coolest happenings.  Whether you’re an art lover or just looking to dip your toes into the artsy pool, BAGA will make your Bismarck experience much more colorful.

Hip Grandma having fun posing with her face showing in the middle of the famous painting called "The Scream"
We had so much fun at BAGA – posing in The Scream here.

When I visited, I enjoyed an exhibit titled “Doug & Walter’s Dog & Pony Show,” featuring works by Doug Pfliger, Walter Piehl & Ned Krouse.  I loved the bright colors and the abstract yet recognizable theme of the rodeo, horses, and riders.  My favorite was the work with PINK, of course!

The Hip Grandma posing with a work of art by artist Walter Piehl
One of my favorites by Walter Piehl

Adult Art Classes at BAGA

If you’d like to do more than observe the art and like getting your hands dirty and your creative juices flowing, you’ll want to check out the available classes at BAGA.  They have everything from painting and drawing to pottery and even digital art!  

When I visited, I took part in a Zentangle class.  Zentangle is a meditative activity focused on mindful drawing.  This unique doodling method combines defined patterns to create an original work of art.  Local Pam Vukelic, a trained Zentangle Instructor, taught this fun and relaxing class.

Pam achieved something unique and unusual for a group of gregarious travel writers.  She got us to focus on the work in front of us quietly.  Rarely do you look around our group of travelers without seeing laughter, chatting, and people studying their phones.  Still, we were all focused on Zentangling for a minute, and the room fell silent in concentration.

So, whether you’re a brush-wielding newbie or a seasoned doodler, there’s a class for you.  And the best part?  The costs are reasonable – consider it an investment in your artistic superpowers.  You’ll learn about fun and growth in a laid-back, supportive environment.  Trust me.  These classes are a fantastic way to unleash your inner visual artist and maybe even make a few new artsy pals.

an organized stack of Zentangles showing how different each one is.
All of us had the same directions and the same tools. It’s so interesting how everyone’s work is so different.
The simple tools needed to create a Zentangle.
The simple tools needed to create a Zentangle.

Public Art Displays

In addition to initiatives like Alley 5.5, countless public works are scattered throughout town worth exploring. 

Take a cruise around town to see many other art displays, including more by my favorite North Dakota artist Paul Noot.  Find a honeycomb mural and a pair of butterfly wings on the First Street Lofts at 1st Street and Suite Ave.  These murals are the perfect spot to take an Instagrammable selfie!

a large mural with a honeycomb outline with North Dakota images inside each section.
This mural by Paul Noot is called “Bee Legendary”
a large butterfly mural by artist Paul Noot
Stand inside the wings for a picture-perfect selfie in this mural by Paul Noot.

Walking Through History at Heritage Art Tunnel

One notable display is The Heritage Art Tunnel which connects The North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum and Myron Atkinson Park.  This tunnel showcases sequential artwork depicting state history from prehistoric times until today. 

Each piece narrates its own unique chapter about how this state has transformed over centuries, including key industries such as energy and agriculture, which have shaped modern-day North Dakota.

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And I, the Hip Grandma, contributed by writing the Michigan chapter!

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Tractor Art – A Rural Treasure

North Dakota’s rural charm goes beyond its wide open fields and peaceful views.  It extends into a unique art form deeply ingrained in the state’s cultural tapestry, known as tractor art.

Tractor Art might seem an unconventional concept at first glance, but it perfectly encapsulates the vibe of North Dakota.  Tractor art turns old tractors into these awesome sculptures in fields you can see from the main roads.  It’s like a whole new way to appreciate art and the countryside all in one shot.

Agriculture Industry Depictions – An Homage To Farming Legacy

North Dakota’s Tractor Art symbolizes the story of farming communities across the state.  These imaginative exhibits are typically crafted by local farmers using their old machinery, which they wish to retain as tokens of their industrious pasts.

What a great way to retire a piece of obsolete farm equipment while appreciating the work it has done as part of your story.  Tractor Art around Bismarck and North Dakota is worthy of your time and the perfect excuse for a leisurely drive through the countryside.

The Gist: 

North Dakota’s tractor art, a unique form of expression that repurposes old farming machinery into outdoor sculptures, is more than just rural decoration. It symbolizes the state’s agricultural heritage and human spirit while offering off-the-beaten-path explorations.

Meadowlark Mercantile

Immerse yourself in the artistic spirit of Bismarck at Meadowlark Mercantile, a local haven for visual art.  Meadowlark Mercantile isn’t your run-of-the-mill gallery; it’s an innovative platform that makes artwork accessible to all by showcasing creations from over thirty local artists through refurbished vending machines.  You will ADORE this concept if you love a craft fair because of the art represented there.

This ingenious platform supports member artists’ careers while making their work accessible to locals and tourists alike at affordable prices.

Rather than browsing through traditional shelves lined with products for sale, you’ll find refurbished vending machines filled with miniature creations from over thirty talented artisans.  From handcrafted jewelry pieces made of recycled materials to tiny paintings encapsulating vast landscapes – something intriguing is waiting behind every slot.

a framed statement about the positives in purchasing an artist's work.

The Brains Behind the Machines

Nicole Gagner, a local artist (remember Grandma’s Pickles?), is the brains behind the Machines.  A simple belief sparked her idea: everyone should have the opportunity to own original pieces without straining their wallets.

And so, Meadowlark Mercantile emerged as a beacon for affordable and unique art within Bismarck’s downtown artist cooperative.

In addition to its novelty factor, Meadowlark Mercantile is an invaluable resource for member artists struggling with exhibition space or marketing hurdles.  It offers them exposure while engaging new audiences who can support their artistic growth without breaking the bank.

Need a Place to Stay in Bismarck?

FAQs in Relation to Bismarck Art

What is Bismarck North Dakota known for?

Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, is renowned for its rich history, vibrant art scene, and outdoor recreational activities.  It’s also home to the iconic Art Deco-style State Capitol building where the State Legislature resides.

Where is Bismarck Mandan?

Bismarck-Mandan refers to two cities in central North Dakota that are separated by the Missouri River. They’re often referred to together due to their close proximity and shared community events.

What state is Bismarck in?

Bismarck is located in the U.S. state of North Dakota as its capital city.

When was Bismarck North Dakota founded?

The city of Bismarck was established on July 17th, 1872, as Edwinton before being renamed after German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck a year later.

Wrapping It All Up

Bismarck, North Dakota, isn’t just a political hub; it’s an artistic paradise teeming with vibrant murals, innovative art vending machines, and public displays of creativity.  From downtown alleyways to refurbished shopping experiences, the Bismarck art scene is painting itself as America’s uncharted haven for art lovers.

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PIN image for the 7 Best Ways to Experience Bismarck Art in North Dakota including the Hip Grandma with artist Nicole Gagner in front of a mural entitled Grandma's Pickles.