The art of space with APT: A Creative Incubator

Written by: Mike Allmendinger

Photos courtesy of Kilbourne Group, Kaija Thorson & Dayna Del Val

If you love Downtown Fargo, it’s likely that you appreciate diversity, beauty, culture, art and unique experiences. You perhaps enjoy unexpected run-ins with friends, knowing you are supporting your neighbors when you shop, being surrounded by history and culture, and having the option to walk between buildings instead of drive.


The ongoing revitalization of Downtown takes a village. It takes people choosing to live and work in the neighborhood. It takes entrepreneurs and dreamers to take the leap and start businesses and create experiences. It takes a commitment from the city to maintain the infrastructure. And it takes private investors assuming the risk and injecting capital into Downtown.

It also requires a strong community of artists and culture creators—those who amplify all that is unique about Fargo and its people. We think Laura Zabel of Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul, Minn., captured this essence when she said, “Artists are people who know place, love place, and will use their creativity to tap into its potential and opportunities.”

This past summer, Kilbourne Group and The Arts Partnership began a conversation about shining a light on the arts as a community-development asset. How can we, in a concrete way, demonstrate to the Fargo region the vital role that the arts play in making this a great place to live?

APT A creative incubator

Kilbourne Group is about creating great spaces and unique experiences in Downtown Fargo, developed in smart, sustainable ways that benefit the whole city. That often means developing the highest utilization of a space to get more value out of it, combining resources to make projects happen and finding beauty in the in-between spaces.

What if there were a space where artists could test the same concepts? The Arts Partnership and Kilbourne Group held a meeting of the arts community outside the Broadway Theatre Garage in late June to talk about the unique characteristics of the spaces artists desire in which to create, perform and sell their work. The idea of a shared creative space for the Fargo-Moorhead community developed.

At Kilbourne Group, we’ve experienced the power of temporary activations of our space. A nondescript alley becomes a unique community event venue. A vacant gas station becomes Sudden Park. A former service garage becomes a theatre, a tasting room, an art gallery and more. What could artists do with 11,000 square feet of subdivided, move-in-ready office space?

The building at 225 4th Ave. N is scheduled for redevelopment in December 2018 so leases are short-term—two-years at max. Its characteristics align with what artists are looking for in a shared space. With an incredible amount of work and planning on behalf of The Arts Partnership to connect the arts community with the concept and vision—and space and seed capital from Kilbourne Group—APT was born.

APT is a creative incubator. This includes studio spaces, gallery walls, and rental areas for arts workshops, classes, rehearsals, performances and more. APT centralizes support and maximizes resources through creative sharing. The mission of APT is to provide a creative, collaborative, and safe place for artists to make art and for the community to collide with it.

By partnering to create a first home for APT, The Arts Partnership and Kilbourne Group invite other community partners to join in this exciting endeavor and find creative ways to work with and support APT. While 225 4th Ave. N is a two-year, temporary demonstration space for the arts, our goal is to be so successful at engaging the larger community that when it comes time to find a permanent home, APT knows exactly where it’s going and how to get there.

Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership, is designing and leading APT to be a suitable space for creatives to thrive. In a nurturing, shared, safe, and creative environment, individual artists of all types will grow their own artistry, receive more recognition for their art, and join a communal artistic practice of excellence that also serves the larger community through programming, access to the arts and by providing a gathering location in a highly creative space.

The Arts Partnership and Kilbourne Group seek to demonstrate that a healthy arts presence is a vital part of our community’s infrastructure, paving the way for a sustainable, long-term shared arts space. We welcome you to be part of our dedicated team of diverse art-supporters working to support start-up artists in their risk-taking and collaboration.

Downtown Fargo is a thriving arts scene, and for that we are grateful.

Meet An Artist

A founding member of APT, Kaija Thorson (Art by Kaija Lea) is a graphic designer by trade, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that she discovered her passion for illustration.

Kaija Thorson, APT
Artist Kaija Thorson

She uses both traditional and digital mediums to create her pieces, using mostly inks, brush markers and watercolors.

Kaija Thorson, APT

Some of her recent illustrations have been seen on billboards (Hatch Realty), Albino Buffalo stickers (series 2), a phone app (GoDoo) and greeting cards. Her digital art portraits have been a successful venture over the past two years as well. She has created more than 75 pieces thus far, commissioning mostly through her website and Etsy.

Kaija Thorson, APT

Check her out at

Just a Few Founding APT Members

Kaija Thorson APT
Kaija Thorson

Melissa Steedsman APT
Melissa Steedsman

Nathen Jensen
Nathen Jensen

Lexie and Nayt Rundquist APT
Lexie & Nayt Rundquist

John David Berdahl
John David Berdahl


APT A creative incubator
APT: A Creative Incubator

Kilbourne Group
1222 4th Ave. N, Fargo

The Arts Partnership
1104 2nd Ave. S, #315, Fargo

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Mike Allmendinger is the General Manager of the Kilbourne Group.