Nancy Edmonds Hanson
The lights may be out, for now, in Kim Jore’s Riverzen hair salon. But that hasn’t stopped her from brightening days for the rest of Moorhead.
Weary from months of sheltering within their own four walls, Moorheaders who venture out on essential errands have been treated to unexpected splashes of high-spirited color. Kim’s chalk originals have been welcoming them as they arrive at local businesses to pick up groceries, medicine and hardware … parking-lot artworks as big as the rooms that timid shoppers have fled, offering a much-needed pick-me-up in the unlikeliest of moments.
These aren’t the first outdoor works that Kim has chalked up, so to speak. Better known for her watercolor portraits of favorite pubs and other landmarks, the native of ranching country in southwest North Dakota typically divides her days between styling hair and capturing inspiration in her art studio, which adjoins the salon in the 1911 Kassenborg Block on Main just east of the Memorial Bridge.
Since mid-April, Kim has been getting fresh air – “I love being outside” – while pursuing her muse. Her 8-by-10-foot creations debuted outside the Walgreen’s store at Main and Eighth. Since then, she has produced one every Wednesday, next at the Hornbacher’s supermarket at Azool and then Ace Hardware at Main and Seventh. This week, she planned to bring her colorful media to Hornbacher’s on Main. She plans to create originals at Cashwise, M&H, Minnesota State University and Concordia in weeks to come.
She has chosen subjects, she says, to “cheer people when they get a chance to get out and walk around.” Her first celebrates the principle that everyone is in this together, with hands of different skin tones embracing a heart. Her second salutes those who “howl for hope” at 8 o’clock every evening – a wolf, of course. Last week’s edition marked the Minnesota fishing opening last Saturday with – what else? – a giant walleye.
Each of the chalkworks requires four or five hours spent crouching at the most awkward of angles adding layer after layer with chalk crayons to pavement. “It’s hard on my body. I’m not as young as I used to be,” the artists confides. “I do just one a week because that’s how long it takes to recover in between.”
The greatest threat to her admittedly temporary art is, of course, the fickle Minnesota spring. She seals them with a liberal coat of spray adhesive, which helps keep rain away. Sunny days, though, do their own degree of damage.
This is not Kim’s first experience of brightening the streets with her palette of chalk. Other works have popped up all over the community, from the Red River Zoo and Island Park to the Moorhead Library, reflecting inspirations from Pikachu to the late Minnesota musician Prince. She displays and sells her paintings (watercolor, acrylics and mixed media), as well as her popular pub prints and other creation, in the RiverZen gallery, where she also offers the work of other local artists.
When her hair salon temporarily closed its doors in March, she says, “At first I just freaked out. Now I just do what it takes to be safe and healthy. A lot of generous people have helped me out with gift cards and art commissions.” She’s also begun work much earlier than usual on her Christmas designs, an annual tradition of greeting cards, wall art, ornaments, and as she says, “a little bit of everything.”
The eighth of nine children raised on a ranch near Scranton, North Dakota, she was drawn to Fargo-Moorhead by following siblings to North Dakota State University. She also attended hair school in Rapid City. “A lot of hairdressers are artists, or at least dabble in art,” she reflects. Though she was an artist first, she recognized opportunity in hair design, color and shape – “the hair came naturally.”
She’s filling the days once spent with clients in her salon with teaching art as well as creating it. That has meant getting used to communicating with students via Zoom; she plans to post her lessons on YouTube. But her chalk creations are her biggest projects at the moment.
Unlike most artists, her next works won’t hang in a gallery or be celebrated by a stylish opening. “I’ll just share them on Facebook and Instagram,” she promises. “It’s like shouting, ‘Hey, come and see what I’ve done now.’”
Chalk it up to art