Photos by Hillary Ehlen
For the past eight years, Adam and Kayla Helenske pursued careers as artists in Seattle, Washington where they built a community arts studio. Now, they’re back in Fargo with two young ones and a baby due in June. We met with this artistic family in their home to find out what inspired them to make the big move and how they plan to build a bridge between new construction and visual arts with Holly & Co.
Adam Helenske is a Fargo native, while Kayla Helenske is originally from Minot. The couple met as undergraduate students at MSUM and got to know each other during a study abroad trip to Scotland, though their first interactions occurred in a clay class. “I was always sitting next to her, trying to borrow tools and doing what I could to spark a conversation,” Adam Helenske laughed. The two have been married for eight years. Together, they have two young children, Madaak (5), Amarie (2), and are currently expecting a baby in June.
The couple initially moved to Seattle so that Kayla Helenske could study art therapy. “I’d been teaching for Fargo Public Schools for a few years, and I was inspired by my students to be an art therapist,” she said. They eventually settled into Seattle, started a family and built a community arts studio, Circle of Art Studios, where they facilitated classes and where Kayla Helenske had her private art therapy practice.
Though the couple loved living in Seattle, they moved back to Fargo in 2017 to be closer to relatives, especially the kids’ grandparents, and to provide their children with different opportunities. “We wanted to raise our family in a place that is more stimulating for kids,” Adam Helenske said. They are also appreciative of the arts community in the FM area.
A potter by trade, Adam Helenske has partnered with Holly & Co. to make local art more accessible to the public. In December of 2017, he and his wife displayed their artwork in a model home designed and built by Holly & Co Classic Homes. They want to continue hosting these events to show how quality art and handmade goods enhance the character of any home.
“We hope to build this event to include fine artists from the region and create a means for working artists to engage the community in new and exciting ways,” Adam Helenske said. To show how meaningful art can help homeowners to create a more personal aesthetic for themselves in their living space, we met with the Helenske family in their home.
Madaak Helenske loves to make art and proudly displays his pieces alongside his parents’ work next to the front entrance of their home.
Above the fireplace is a painting by Kayla Helenske. In addition to being a registered art therapist, licensed mental health counselor and licensed art teacher, Kayla Helenske is an expressive painter who uses her fingers and hands to make art.
“My mother is a cake decorator, and I grew up on the other side of our kitchen island watching her mix colors,” Kayla Helenske described how creativity was modeled for her at an early age.
Most of the pottery throughout the home was made by Adam Helenske, but the Helenskes also collect pieces made by former mentors and professors as well as artists whose work they admire.
Kayla Helenske titles all of her paintings. The piece in their dining room is called “Transformative Growth.”
Adam Helenske uses a soda firing process to create contrasting effects on the surface of his pottery. “The kiln is the tool and the fire is able to crate the surface,” he said.
The Helenskes don’t just collect pottery. They also use handmade pieces as eating and drinking vessels every day.
The master bedroom features another of Kayla Helenske’s pieces, “Dancing in the Garden.”
Madaak Helenske has more of his own art on display in his room. Amarie Helenske has lots of art in her room as well.
The Helenske’s have transformed their unfinished lower-level into an art studio. It houses some of the equipment from their community art studio as well as Madaak and Amarie’s art supplies. It also features a seating area and a space where Kayla Helenske can take staged photos of her paintings for her website.
Adam Helenske has an electric kiln in their garage for bisque firing, but has plans to build an additional kiln in the backyard where he can do his soda firing. “This spring, I’m going to build a hard-brick gas kiln in the backyard,” Adam Helenske said. He is currently working with the city to get the proper permits before he can move forward.