BSU’s Harlow|Kleven Gallery at Watermark Art Center Debuted Dec. 2

Two historic art collections at Bemidji State University and the women who made the collections possible were honored when the exhibit “A Lasting Gift” debuted at the Harlow|Kleven Gallery in Bemidji’s new Watermark Art Center.

When the gallery opened to the public at a Dec. 2 dedication ceremony, visitors explored portions of BSU’s Margaret A. Harlow Ceramic Teaching Collection and Lille M. Kleven Print Collection. Harlow and Kleven were contemporaries at BSU — both alumna of the school, Harlow graduated in 1936 and Kleven in 1937.

The Harlow Ceramics Collection was established by Harlow, a BSU alumna, in 1973. The collection, which today includes more than 400 pieces, includes work by professional ceramics artists from around the world and is used as a teaching tool for BSU students. The collection includes ceramics from all eras, including modern work and a terra cotta piece produced in Turkey that dates to the first century A.D. It also supports a scholarship by purchasing work produced by a BSU student for permanent inclusion in the collection.

Kleven, also a BSU alumna, established her print collection at BSU in 1979. The collection, which today includes more than 800 pieces, includes work produced using a variety of techniques including woodblock, Lino cuts, serigraphs and lithographs, among others. It includes work by world-renowned printmakers, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Like the Harlow collection, the Kleven Print Collection supports a scholarship by purchasing work produced by a BSU student for permanent inclusion in the collection.

BSU’s gallery space in the Watermark Art Center was secured in Feb. 2015 with the efforts of BSU President Emeritus Dr. Richard A. Hanson and Dr. Martin Tadlock, BSU’s former vice president for academic and student affairs.

With Hanson’s encouragement, the BSU Foundation Board of Directors voted to use a $500,000 unallocated gift raised as part of the university’s Imagine Tomorrow campaign to fund an ongoing lease for BSU gallery space in the center.

The funds came from a gift by the Joseph and Janice Lueken Family Foundation. Coincidentally, the late Joe Lueken, a former BSU Foundation board member and community leader who died in 2014, opened his first Bemidji grocery store in the Bemidji Avenue building that is now the Watermark Art Center.

The Watermark Art Center has operated in Bemidji since 1982 as a member-supported non-profit organization. The new Watermark Art Gallery is located at 505 Bemidji Ave N. It is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday—Wednesday and Friday–Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; and noon-4 p.m. Sunday.

About Margaret H. Harlow

Margaret H. Harlow graduated from Bemidji State with a degree in education in 1936. She taught school in Minnesota before receiving a scholarship to earn a master of arts degree at George Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn., beginning in 1941.

She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps in 1942 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. During World War II she was stationed in Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, California, New Guinea and the Philippines — where she was promoted to captain on V-J Day. She applied for a regular Army commission and retired as a major after a 20-year career that included tours of duty at the Pentagon, in London, at Brooklyn Army Base and at the Presidio in San Francisco.

After retiring from the military, she worked for the YWCA in Washington, D.C., as director of a vocational school, and retired to Walnut Creek, Calif., in 1974. She began collecting ceramics following a trip around the world in 1970, and in 1973 she established BSU’s Margaret A. Harlow Ceramic Teaching Collection. She died in California on July 7, 2007.

About Lillie M. Kleven

Lillie M. Kleven graduated from BSU in 1937 with an education degree and later received a master’s degree in library and information science from George Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn. From there, she oversaw the reference department and readers service at the University of New Hampshire from 1941-42 after which she spent three years in the U.S. Navy Reserves. After World War II concluded, she helped establish American Cultural Centers throughout Japan from 1946-49. There, she became interested in Japanese printmaking and began collecting wood-block prints.

She returned to the United States in 1950 to serve as a cultural affairs office for the U.S. Information Agency in Washington, D.C., where she oversaw the Far East Branch of the agency’s Information Center Service. She retired from government service after 30 years in 1972 and moved to Rossmoor Walnut Creek in California.

She established the Lillie M. Kleven Print Collection at Bemidji State in 1979, a collection which now totals several hundred pieces. New additions are made to the collection annually.


Dec. 2 – 1-4 p.m. – Opening reception and ribbon-cutting (2 p.m) for Bemidji’s Watermark Art Center, featuring “A Lasting Gift,” an exhibition of work from Bemidji State University’s Margaret A. Harlow Ceramics and Lillie M. Kleven Print collections. Location: Watermark Art Center, 505 Bemidji Ave. N, Bemidji. Admission: free. Information: (218) 444-7570.

  • Laura Goliaszewski, gallery director and collections manager, Bemidji State University; (218) 755-3737,
  • Lori Forshee-Donnay, executive director, Watermark Art Center; (218) 444-7570,

Bemidji State University, located amid the lakes and forests of northern Minnesota, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling more than 5,100 students, Bemidji State offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and eight graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select professional programs. BSU is a member of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities and has a faculty and staff of more than 550. The university’s Shared Fundamental Values include environmental stewardship, civic engagement and international and multicultural understanding.