The longest-lived art colony in Minnesota, the Grand Marais Art Colony, began in 1947 as a summer refuge for artists seeking study in the wilderness. Birney Quick, one of the region's acclaimed artists and a faculty member from the Minneapolis School of Art (now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design), came to this remote town of Grand Marais, located along Lake Superior, 40 miles from the Canadian border, to create the Outdoor School of Painting. With support from MSA, Birney became the first director and instructor, developing a strong artistic vision which has allowed the Colony to evolve and flourish even after his death in 1981.
The Art Colony has hosted concerts, lectures, and weekly fish fries, leaving its mark on both the community and its students. Byron Bradley, Harvey Turner, Frank Gillis, Doc Evans, George Morrison, Betsy Bowen, and Hazel Belvo are a few who have shared their talents along the way, contributing to the Colony's transformation. Inspired by the North Shore since 1960, Hazel Belvo -
a painter and past judge for Plein Air Competition - has been teaching at the Art Colony since 1981. She describes plein air as, "The artist's response to what she or he is seeing...Part of the experience it to be in tune with nature. What happens on canvas is the artist's documentation of that experience...it includes all the senses, and the more present one is with that experience, the more descriptive the painting." Hazel adds, "Wonderful paintings are done by artists who are not classically trained - those who just love to paint."
People come from all over the US and Canada to participate in the Plein Air Competition,and the Art Colony's workshops in print-making, book arts, sculpture, drawing, and watercolor, acrylic, oil, and sumi-e painting.
Emerging artists, and instructors alike experience these North Shore retreats with life-changing results. Jeanne Larson, a mixed media painter from Lake Elmo, Minnesota, comes to Grand Marais for one month every year to paint. A winner in the 2003 Plein Air Competition, Jeanne notes, "It was a challenging windy day, but it forced me to paint fast...and it gave my painting an immediacy that isn't usually there." It was this painting of Hollow Rock and the surrounding cliffs that garnered her award - the place where 35 years earlier, she and her husband had celebrated their honeymoon! Enthusiastic about the creative energy of the Art Colony, Jeanne exclaims, "Every time I come up there to visit, something new is happening. It FEELS like an exciting place to be!"
Every year the Art Colony hosts the Grand Marais Arts Festival and the Plein Air Competition. The Arts Festival features a juried show of original art work, showcased in booths on the Grand Marais harbor. Artists participating in the Plein Air Competition can paint for one or more days and participate in the closing award ceremony and sale.
Copyright 2005 Christine Buss. All rights reserved.
Written by Christine Buss, an avid supporter of the arts and the editor of Transforming Boundaries, and International Journal of Creativity and Connection.
Grand Marais Art Colony Staff:
Amy Demmer, Executive Director
Kjersti Vick, Events & Communications Coordinator
Kristin Blomberg, Program Assistant
Grand Marais Art Colony - Board of Directors
Lake Superior Magazine article 2011
MN History Article : Summer 1997
2013 Course Catalog
"Apollo Pursuing Daphne" by Birney Quick