For the family of Ruby Johnson, seeing some of her artwork put on display for the rest of September at the Mott Gallery of History and Art was something special.
“It is nice because everyone that volunteers here knew grandma in one capacity or another, but mostly as a friend,” said Kris Brunelle, Johnson’s granddaughter said during a reception Saturday at the museum. “They did a really good job.
The museum is known for featuring the history of area businesses, homesteaders, the military and much more in the old bank building in the center of town.
The museum has had a featured artist since it was opened more than a decade ago in the former bank building it now calls home.
In September, the feature artist is Ruby Johnson, a local artist who specialized in landscapes until her death earlier this year.
“She could take a simple barn and make it look beautiful,” Brunelle said. “It is how she saw the beauty in things.”
The museum will be closing for the winter at the end of the month, and will be reopening again next year on Memorial Day. The museum does offer some opportunity for people to visit by appointment only during the off season, according to Shirley Halvorson, the museum’s art director. People can still arrange for special or school tours after the museum closes.
The gallery will have a volunteer party Sept. 28 with lunch and gifts as a way to thank the volunteers, Halvorson added.
When it came to Johnson, the artist was a fixture.
“When the museum first opened here, she was their first featured artist,” recalled Lanny Johnson, her son. “She has had a couple of showing since then. She’s always had some pictures on display here.”
Although most of her work focused on foreign locations, Johnson said his mother only made a few trip overseas, mostly to Norway because of her heritage. “Our heritage is all from Norway. It was because of the family ties, I guess,” he said, adding that there were three on display from Norway.
Most of it, she took from pictures,” he explained.
“They are doing it because she just passed away in July,” the son, explaining why the museum is showing off 17 examples of her work. “I think it is just in recognition. She always has been a supporter of the museum here.”
The featured artist program started after the museum moved into the bank, with Johnson’s oil paintings being highlighted in 2007.
In 2018, her work shared the display with Marie and Sara Snavely’s mixed work, Nancy Schaefer’s glass art, drawings by Charity Newman and layer paintings by Jessica Hill.
“We have had everything from oil paintings … and one year we even had wedding dresses. It wasn’t even October, but it sure looked ghostly with all those white gowns,” Halvorson added. “We have had quilting, drawing, we have had the school of art, leather art, and Fred Everhardt with his poorly-made birdhouses.”
Halvorson said Johnson was really a “special, special lady.
“She was awfully good in the jewelry store. I think I was one of her favorite customers because my husband liked buying nice things. She designed my 25th anniversary ring which I think is pretty darned special. Ruby was something special.”
According to museum president Joyce Hinrichs, is open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Thursday and Saturday from Memorial Day through the end of September.
In October and November, there can be special tours, the president said. “It depends on how cold it gets. Believe me, you don’t want to be in this building. October would probably be the latest.
“Then (the following Spring) we start all over again,” she added. “Memorial Day is our big opening. Every month, we have a book a different artist from somewhere, anywhere. We have had one from Delaware. We have one artist every month and for that artist, we have a public reception so people can come in and spend time with the artist.”
If the museum is having a reception, it is usually on the first Sunday of the month, she added.
WHAT: Mott Gallery for History and Art
WHERE: 224 Brown Ave. Mott, ND 58646
HOW TO GET THERE: From I-94, take Highway 8 south for 35 miles to Mott. From New England – take Highways 21 and 22 south, then Highway 21 east through Regent to Mott (approximately 38 miles).
WHEN: Open Thursdays and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. until the end of September. After September, special tours can be arranged by appointment only.