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WINTER, it is PLEIN to see, is in the AIRE!

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Winter is upon us! The wind is howling, the mukluks are out, and the cars are taking a little bit more time to warm up in the morning. It’s that time of year when I can’t wait to head up the Gunflint Trail, where the winter is always magical. That’s not to say that winter is not FABULOUS in Grand Marais right now. No, in fact it’s beautiful here by the harbor. We had a gorgeous draping of snow this week that has finally set the tone of winter, Neil Sherman is shoveling our parking lot as I type (THANKS NEIL!!!)

Neil Sherman, our oil painting, shoveling and skiing expert on staff!

. None the less, I’m in the mood for a winter wonderland! I want to start driving up the Gunflint Trail, past the water tower, past Pincushion Mountain, and then further on past the Hedstrom Mill and George Washington Pines.  I want to look up at the snow covered Pines with my dog Olive, bursting with joy, as she chases my cross country skis. In my opinion, that is the area, and those are the memories, where winter fantasies are made from. This is the time and the place we all want our favorite artists to capture in their work.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the Gunflint Trail is the location chosen by the Grand Marais Art Colony to host their annual Winter Plein Aire Event. The Plein Aire event is an artist retreat 30 miles up the Gunflint on beautiful West Bearskin Lake. It is a retreat that encourages artist to “Share the story of winter, celebrate the color of white and delve deeper into the creative spirit.”

Aaron Jacobs Painting During the 2012 Retreat

This winter, Sivertson Gallery is partnering up with the Art Colony for their annual event, by hosting a Fireside Chat Saturday, February 2nd titled “Winter Plein Aire  Panel: Hot Art for Cold Nights.” This is a fun chat not to be missed, as the panel includes three of some of the gallery’s most loved artists: Neil Sherman (oil), Dave Gilsvik (oil) and Mark Tessier (photography). I decided it would be fun for the Sivertson Blog readers to hear a little bit more about this event. I scheduled an interview with Kjersti Vick, the Events and Communication Coordinator at the Grand Marais Art Colony, to find out more about the Winter Arts Festival and Plein Aire event.

On Tuesday afternoon, I met Kjersti Vick at the beautiful and historic Art Colony building in Grand Marais, MN. Kjersti is a local gal, her mother is Kari Vick who many of you know from the gallery. She has a warm and fun presence, and her enthusiasm for the Art Colony and their events is contagious.

Time To Paint!

Could you tell me a little bit about the Winter Plein Aire event?

Well, the festival is compromised of two main events, the ‘Winter Plein Aire Painting and Photography’ and also the ‘Snow Carving Symposium.’  The Winter Plein Aire event is mainly an artist retreat.  It is open to artists of photography, drawing, and painting of all varieties, oil, pastel, acrylic, watercolor, etc. Most of the painting and creating takes place outdoors, we encourage that. Some artists do choose to sit inside near the fireplace to paint and others just do touch up indoors. It is a fun challenge with new elements to paint outdoors in the winter.  We invite the artists to stay with us at Camp Menogyn from January 25th through February 1st. They can stay as many or as few days as they prefer. It is a time they can set aside for art, inspiration, and a space to create.

Kjersti Vick Working On An Ice Carving in 2012

How many artists are expected to participate in the event?

We have 12 artists committed so far. There are some new participants but mostly a lot of returns. You have to be quite the “adventurous soul” to ski half a mile across a frozen lake with all of your supplies for a week. Laughter. The artists also have to live without a cell phone, internet, running water and power for their entire stay.

What is the difference between the Art Colony’s Winter Plein Aire and September Plein Aire events?

The winter event is NOT a competition, it is an artist retreat. It has more of a community spirit feel than the September competition has.  In the September event, the painters are working alone. In the winter, after spending a week in the woods with other artists, there is a comradery there. You can see that at the opening ceremony.  Both events however, have the artists’ work displayed and available for purchase after the event.

Has Sivertson Gallery ever partnered up with the Art Colony for this event before?

Kjersti and Jan Sivertson – Sept. Plein Aire 2012

Not for the winter event, but the gallery has been a part of the September Plein Aire competition.  Jan Sivertson was a judge this past year, and the winner of the competition was featured in the gallery for the month of October.* This year, Sivertson Gallery will be hosting a fireside chat with Plein Aire artists on Saturday February 2nd.

*The work of the 2012 Plein Aire competition winner, Susan Novak, is still available at the gallery!  

Bearskin Blues by Dave Gilsvik

How can the public get involved with the Festival?

Come to the Fireside Chat at Sivertson Gallery on Saturday February 2nd at 6pm, and also the Opening Reception at the Art Colony the night before, Friday February 1st at 6pm. The opening reception party is a very festive gathering, it’s fun to see what everyone has created and where their favorite spots to work were. You can also take a tour of the snow carvings along the shore on your own. The snow carvers will be finished with their work by Feburary 1st. We have carvers working at Bluefin Bay, Caribou Highlands, Lusten Mountains, and Joyne’s Ben Franklin. Bearskin Lodge and Gunflint Lodge will most likely have carvings as well.

How can folks outside of Cook County get involved?

Here at the Art Colony we will be posting pictures throughout the week on our Facebook and website. There was also a feature of the event and the Art Colony on “The Playlist” this past week on PBS. It is currently available to view on their website.

I hope you can join Kjersti and I, along with the whole Sivertson Gallery crew on Saturday, February 2nd at the first Fireside Chat of the 2013 season. Remember to stop and check out the snow carvings in Tofte and Lutsen on your way up north to the gallery (or add a few miles south to your trip from Canada!). Feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email with any questions, we look forward to seeing you here soon!

Blog Written by Abby Tofte

All Photography by Mark Tessier

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