The best of ‘Arts in Harmony’ gala are announced

Linda Nelson of Arden Hills posed with her Best of Show entry. (Photo by Bruce Strand)


by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

The best collection of art work in this area each year is the Arts In Harmony show at Sherburne County Government Center, and the best of the best were introduced at last Sunday.

Thirty-two states are represented in this 17th annual nationwide juried exhibit. On display are156 works, selected from 570 entrants, by 129 artists. A total of $10,750 in prizes were awarded.

The public is invited to view them weekdays through March 29. Many of the items are for sale.

Best in Show went to Linda Nelson of Arden Hills, for “Wassily Chair,” an oil painting of a female figure in a  chair. She earned a $1,000 prize.

Nelson is a professional artist who concentrates on portraits but is currently exploring the human figure as well.

“And I love mid-century modern furniture,” she said.

She found this particular white chair on Craigslist and thought it was perfect, then went to Target and picked out “some simple clothes” for the model including striped underwear that peek through as “a small detail to the larger composition.”

Fred Cogelow of Willmar won Best Sculpture. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Nelson said she’s a big fan of modern representational painters, Russian impressionists and 1950’s pinups and managed to mix all those influences into this painting.

One of the most striking entrants is Fred Cogelow’s four-foot high woodcarving of an elderly lady on her way to the bank, entitled “A Penny Saved.”

Cogelow, a renowned carver from Willmar, entered Arts in Harmony for the first time (he wasn’t aware of it until last year) and got the prize for best sculpture, with a $250 prize.

A couple years back he spotted a  92-year-old woman walking toward her bank and decided, there’s a good subject!  Cogelow, always ready with a yarn, said he asked that particular woman if she’d model for the sculpture but got rebuffed. “She told me where to go! She said she had plenty of money and didn’t need the paltry 300 bucks I was offering.” So he instead asked a woman he knew who sits behind him in church.

Cogelow added that there was a legacy amendment grant involved “so I hope to see it for enough to repay the legacy arts people.”

Linda Croteau of Elk River earned awards for two paintings — Best Oil or Acrylic ($250) for “Downtime,” a portrait of a pig snoozing, and an Award of Excellence ($200) for an oil of a house and trees called “Winter Grays.”

Croteau painted the pig from a photo she took at Kelley Farm.

“The pig looked so relaxed, content and happy sleeping in the sun,” she said.  “I really liked the colors, as they seemed warm and earthy. It was a natural limited pallet. My family raised pigs when I was a kid and I have a real liking for them so the picture seemed to flow more easily than usual.”

Her other prize-winner depicted a  house she frequently drives past and admires, especially one day when it was shrouded in mist and frost, “like an old-time photo of grays and browns,” which was how she painted it.

Also among the 10 Awards of Excellence recipients was Marilyn Schroeder of Elk River for an oil painting, “Northern Pine.”

Award winners were chosen by Peter Spooner, curator of the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth. Among his remarks in the exhibit’s program were:

Linda Croteau of Elk River got prizes for two paintings including this one called "Downtime." (Photo by Bruce Strand)

“I look for a poetic sense of clarity between the material presence of the work and its ideas, between what it’s made of, and what it’s trying to say … I hope the visitors to the show are inspired to slow down and absorb some of that poetry. You might even be inspired to invest in it for your home, office, or place of business.”

Chosen for corporate purchases were a digital color photo by Robert Marckese of Algonquin, IL, by Great River Energy for $1,000, and a watercolor by Bud Bullivant of Milaca, by the Government Center for $500.

The Star News awards a $250 prize for best photograph. Brian Sjoquist of Maple Grove won with his entry “Antler Wagon.”

Elk River Area Arts Alliance is host of this event. Partial funding comes from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund through a grant from Central Minnesota Arts Board as appropriated by the Legislature, approved by voters in 2008.