One 'WILD' exhibit down, many more to go: New art gallery opens in Detroit Lakes

Ellen Moses, a ceramics artist whose work has been pictured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, has opened Art Project 605, a studio and art gallery, on Washington Avenue in Detroit Lakes.

Ceramics artist Ellen Moses has recently opened a studio and art gallery in Detroit Lakes, Art Project 605, located at 605 Washington Avenue. Moses, born in Fargo, had been living in New York City since 1987 but came back to her family's lake cabin in Detroit Lakes a few years ago to help her mom with a renovation project. She found she liked it, and decided to stay longer. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

She’s well-practiced at carving out the details of her sculptures. Now, longtime ceramics artist Ellen Moses is trying her hand at something different -- carving out a niche for her new art gallery in Detroit Lakes.

The gallery, Art Project 605, wrapped up its inaugural exhibit on July 30. The show, called "WILD," featured contemporary paintings and other artwork by seven artists from around the region.

Community response to that exhibit, and to the gallery itself, has been strong, with the show’s opening reception on July 8 drawing a big crowd that packed the little gallery and even spilled out onto the sidewalk.

“I had bookmarked the opening for 20 to 30 people, but over 100 people came,” said Moses, the owner and director of Art Project 605. “They were outside the door, even. I was completely surprised by that. It was really exciting.”

The comments Moses heard from people that night, and that have been echoed by other visitors since then, have been very positive, she said, with people saying how much they appreciate having an art gallery in town.


“I didn’t realize that people felt that way, until the show,” Moses said. “Like, a contemporary art gallery is something you need? That’s awesome! … It feels like there’s a community swell for art, and I’m very on board for participating in that.”

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Ellen Moses carves a loon chick out of clay at her studio at Art Project 605 in late July, 2021. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

Born in Fargo, Moses lived and worked in New York City for decades before finding her way back to the Lakes Area a few years ago. She returned to help her mom out with a renovation project at the family's lake cabin in Detroit Lakes.

While that project was going on, Moses got familiar with the local arts scene. She learned about contemporary artists working in the Fargo/Moorhead region and across the Lakes Area, and she discovered that, “there weren’t a lot of places for them to be seen,” she said.

She also found that the area sparked her creativity. Inspired by her natural surroundings, she now has a long list in her head of all the local wildlife she plans to sculpt in the near future: loons, beavers, snapping turtles and more.

Those months during the cabin reno, “brought me closer to Detroit Lakes again,” she explained. “It made me think about spending more time here, and that led to the thought of having a studio here.”

That idea evolved even further, into the idea of opening a public art gallery, after Moses attended the “150 Sails Up in DL” art exhibit at the Kent Freeman Arena in April. She saw the strong turnout at that exhibit -- of 150 sailboat sculptures created in celebration of the city’s 150th birthday -- and was heartened by it: “That made me really think I ought to pursue the gallery concept,” she said.


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A sculpture of a mother loon and her chick, created by Moses, on display at Art Project 605. Moses said she finds inspiration in the natural surroundings and wildlife of the Detroit Lakes area. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

Moses is the owner of her own label of hand-cut clay tiles and slip-cast stoneware sculptures and tableware, called EM Ceramics , and also makes ceramic sculpture under the banner of Studio Moses . Her work has been featured in photographs for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She's had studios of her own before in New York, but said Art Project 605 is different, in size and scope.

“New York is a hard place to have a working studio, and it just got more and more difficult,” she said. “I’m pretty relieved to just have a studio here.”

She found the right spot for it through a local realtor friend, who directed her to a few potential sites. The tall ceilings, historic feel, and energetic downtown location of 605 Washington Avenue drew her to that space instantly. She bought it, and soon started in on a major remodeling project. Thanks to connections she made during the renovation project at her mom’s cabin, she had no trouble finding workers to help her with this next adventure.

The process took longer than expected because of delays related to COVID-19, but in the end, Moses got a contemporary space she's proud of: a gallery room up front with the right tonality and lighting for art exhibitions, a comfortable studio to work out of in the back, kiln firing and storage space in the basement, and a private apartment/lounge area upstairs. The building is bigger than it looks, and she makes good use of every inch of it.

The 'before and after' of the building, she said, “is really remarkable.” It was being used as a storage space before she bought it, and it was due for a makeover. Longtime locals may remember it best as the former home of the Evans bakery (the old Evans Grocery Store used to be right up the road).


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Art Project 605 is located at 605 Washington Avenue in Detroit Lakes. (Photo from the EM Ceramics website)

In the future, Moses would like to use the space for intimate live concerts, open mic nights and other events that extend beyond the visual arts -- though she plans to have more of those kinds of exhibits, too, especially in the warmer seasons. She wants to continue building on the success of “WILD."

She’s already got ideas for future shows, but nothing’s official yet. Even when there’s not a public exhibit going on, however, people are invited to stop by the gallery to check the place out, see Moses’ work, and chat with her. She’s there most weekdays and loves to engage people in art and the artistic process.


WHAT: Art Project 605

WHERE: 605 Washington Avenue, Detroit Lakes

WHEN: Gallery hours Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


MISSION: To promote regional contemporary art and offer a space for visitors to discover new representations of their surrounding environments and community.

CONTACT: | | 917-971-7712


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Moses created this tile set in honor of Detroit Lakes' 150th birthday. They feature a sailboat, pontoon, loon and sunfish (clockwise from top left). (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

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