On November 2nd, 1889, North Dakota became a state. In the early 1980s planning began for the many celebrations and commemorations that would mark the centennial of statehood. On this date in 1985, Governor George Sinner unveiled the official centennial logo. A contest had been held for the design, and the winner of the $5,000 prize was artist Burdette Calkins of Bismarck.
The centennial logo featured the pioneer family statue that stands on the Capitol grounds. The badlands and prairie appear behind the family, with a winding river and a large blade of prairie grass in front. Calkins noted that his logo “embodies collective strength and integrity” and shows that “North Dakota is a place that nurtures life.”
Burdette Calkins was born in Napoleon in 1939 and attended school in Bismarck. He worked as an artist and draftsman for the North Dakota Highway Department, the State Travel Department, and Basin Electric. He specialized in Western and Wildlife art and worked in watercolor, oil, and pastels. He was also a photographer and wood carver. Calkins was also well known for designing the North Dakota license plate that debuted in 1993 and was in use until 2015. It was based on his painting of a solitary bison, a painting the governor loved. He was also a finalist in a contest to design the crest of the USS North Dakota nuclear submarine.
Calkins traveled widely across the West to paint. He would also teach as an artist-in-residence, and even spent some time in China teaching art to children. He authored articles for outdoors magazines and won many awards during his career. His art can be found throughout the state. Calkins spent the last few years of his life in New Mexico, passing away in 2016 at the age of 26.
Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa
Conrad, Marc, “State’s Centennial Logo Unveiled,” The Bismarck Tribune, April 15, 1985, pg. 1.
Dick, Jeff, “Meet the Artist Who Designed Prize Plate,” The Bismarck Tribune, August 26, 1994, pg. B1.
Associated Press, “Top 5 Designs Selected for Sub Crest,” The Bismarck Tribune, April 22, 2012, pg. 3C.
Author Unknown, “N.D. Artist, Writer Travels to China to Teach about State,” The Bismarck Tribune, July 10, 1998, pg. 2C.
“Burdette Calkins,” The Bismarck Tribune, February 17, 2016 https://bismarcktribune.com/news/obituaries/burdette-calkins/article_cc41a0a8-b911-51ab-be28-f70ca8617197.html
Smith, Frederic, “Artistic License,” The Bismarck Tribune, July 7, 1991, pg., C1.