Robert "Rabbit Rancher" Kurkowski


Robert E. (Rabbit Rancher) Kurkowski - 1944-2011

Many of you will probably wonder why I would be posting this, you don't know him and could care less. But as usual, it has something to do with the majority of people who would visit this site, and an object lesson for all who would try to be an artist in hard times.

Bob Kurkowski was a student of mine at the University of Minnesota, Morris, MN and a good friend. He was my assistant in sculpture and ceramics, and lived in my house for a year, because his wife moved to a North Dakota farm that she had inherited before he graduated and they couldn't afford two residences.

I got to know him early on in my tenure in Minnesota, he came into my office one day, shut the door and pulled out a joint and said "I think we need to get know one another". He was really a painter and an accomplished draughtsman. But he learned ceramics well because it was a "fluid and plastic" medium, similar to painting. But the reason I write this is what he did after he graduated in 1974 and moved to his wife's farm in Christine, ND a few miles south of Fargo.

Many of you might be wondering what you are going to do after graduation; Bob had the same problem, how to be an artist and make a living? He worked a couple of small jobs in the ceramics field, but he saw a need for a communal arts studio, with facilities for he and others to work with. He somehow talked the Fargo public school system into giving him a space in the basement of a grade school and an old electric kiln, and he became the art department for the school. Within a few years he, and the artists who joined him, were the art department for the entire Fargo Public School system.

He built facilities for ceramics and photography, was given classroom space for drawing and painting, a small gallery space, and they had a functional art department for the entire city. Soon after that, the state authorities became aware of him and he expanded the system statewide.
He did workshops all over the state, for all level schools, but it wasn't wide enough distribution; North Dakota isn't as big as Texas, but it's a long way across. So he became the producer of videos about art, processes and aesthetics. He used the occasion of a foundry workshop that Phil Fitzpatrick and I did, to video the casting process.

The moral of the story is that you are going to have to be as creative at survival as you are with your work. Kurkowski did it, so can you.

And, the reason he is referred to as "Rabbit Rancher" is that he is the only person I've ever known who bought two rabbits (different genders) and didn't get any "kits" for the first five years. But, patience paid off in many rabbit dinners at the farm in Christine. May you too have the creativity and patience to be a success.


5 comments (Add your own)

1. Kinda wrote:
Bob Kurkowski has been a contributing arsitt in the downtown gallery called ART CONNECTION for the last 5 years. At his direction 3 of the arsitts have been cleaning out his pottery studio and chosen work to be sold at the ART CONNECTION 520 Brdwy. Fargo. Gallery hours are 11 to 6 Monday through Friday and 10 to 5 Saturday. Because Bob was instrumental in many young people's lives through the Creative Arts Studio for the Fargo Public Schools, in introducing art skills or an awareness of their own accomplishments, he will be remembered and missed by many.

Wed, June 20, 2012 @ 12:48 PM

2. niozofwxnw wrote:
sS9rX0 ddphcuaxjing

Thu, June 21, 2012 @ 2:41 AM

3. izcvrtjig wrote:
H6voBM zzbonnzksabl

Fri, June 22, 2012 @ 7:57 AM

4. DJ Kava wrote:
Thanks for the reminder of Bob K. He had long connections to Texas and helped others show at the Art Studio Inc in Beaumont. When he came to town for a workshop one of our artists put signs, “Hide your dogs & daughters. Kurkowski is coming to town.” When my brother came to visit, he kept hearing about “Kurkowski” and said “I have a neighbor by that name.” It turned out to the man.

On my northern visits, I’d always visited the Christie farm purchasing a small piece for future gifts. One year he was doing xmas pieces and showed me how he could pinch a piece of clay into a reindeer in 7 or 8 moves. The rabbits were gone but he was locally famous for his hardwood out house with a chandelier and was primarily a clay artist. He and his wife also enjoyed gardening and she was a plant expert. Estranged from his son, his last years were sad loosing his wife of many years and succumbing to brain cancer.

Wed, July 23, 2014 @ 4:45 PM

5. wrote:
Incredible! Your story was quite absorptive. I can say that I had similar story, but mine is a little bit different, I think.

Thu, October 31, 2019 @ 5:32 PM

Add a New Comment


Comment Guidelines: No HTML is allowed. Off-topic or inappropriate comments will be edited or deleted. Thanks.