2020 Community Connections Art & Photography - Art in the Community

Jess Bengtson
A banded monarch on a coneflower at the University of Minnesota Crookston's June Shaver Butterfly Garden

Nature’s Art: Spring and summer bring beauty to NW Minnesota

    While most agree that Minnesota is lucky to have all four seasons, sometimes a wet fall and snowy/cold winter can drag a northern down. Thankfully spring and summer usually peek their heads around the corner by May and stay until October-ish leaving us with at least a couple handfuls of beautiful days to soak in the sun, smell the roses and enjoy life.

    Crookston is home to many beautiful places including University of Minnesota Crookston’s June Shaver Butterfly Gardens, the Red Lake River, the city’s many parks and gardens with different amenties, plus our own back yards which might be filled with plants and flowers and well-maintained, or just play host to our children and pets who want to run free in the summer wind. We can go outside without a coat, hat and mittens, we can sit on our porch or deck and sip a glass of lemonade, and we can savor every last moment until snow flies again.

    Spring and summer bring budding trees, flowers, fresh air, and should be enjoyed.

Sign art? Crookston’s got it

    “Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs.” Tesla’s got it right, there are signs everywhere. On buildings, in windows, on doors, on cars, on roads, at parks, at schools, literally everywhere.

    Sign art is even more popular these days with available technology and more and more people are learning how to make their own posters, flyers, banners, yard signs, etc. using computers, paper-cutting machines like the Cricut, special printers, and other available equipment.

    That said, there are some pretty great businesses in Crookston that have made and continue to make signs for all occasions. To name a few: Ye Ole Print Shoppe, Brandner Printing, Fastline Signs, Erickson Embroidery, Walmart, and through some local photographers. You can buy supplies to make your own signs at: True Value Hardware, Hardware Hank, Crookston Building Center, Northern Lumber, Crookston Paint & Glass, and some of the places mentioned above. Need to buy a premade sign more for home decor? Find them at Montague’s Flower Shop, Crookston Floral & Antiques and Willow & Ivy.

    A well-known former sign-maker in Crookston was Noel Rusling of Rusling Signs. Noel Rusling, who passed away in 2015, worked as a newspaper printer and pressman and as a sign painter. “In 1973 he opened his own business, Rusling Signs, which he ran until his last illness in 2015. His sign business began with paint brushes and oils and ended with computers, printers and cutters. Noel's artistic skills were excellent, but he was most proud of the fact that at his age, he had learned to make graphic images on a computer screen,” read his obituary.

Structural Art

    If you remember the Times’ Community Connections special section a couple years ago, you’ll remember all the historic buildings in Crookston that are on the national register. Yes, those buildings are a work of art. So are things like playgrounds, furniture, bridges, and other architectural creations.

    Playgrounds are something Crookston does not lack with upgrades done on a regular basis and new equipment and ideas being discussed all the time. In fact, the Crookston Rotary Club is working on the beginnings of an “all abilities” playground/play area, the first of its kind in the city.

    Crookston is also home to a beautiful structure in the form of the Splash Park. Its fun features are eye-catching and its purpose has captured a ton of attention.

Chalk art, Chalk It Up, and Queen City Art Festival

    Chalk is one of the easier art mediums to use, buy or make at home, and summer time is the perfect time to break it out.

    People of all ages, whether artistic or not, can do something with chalk art. Color a sidewalk square, draw a picture, write your name, or create a masterpiece. Chalk art can be done at home, at school, around town, on buildings, or on paper and canvas.

    One art ability that has taken hold of the art community is 3-D chalk art. A few years ago, the Chalk It Up  event committee hired a professional 3-D chalk artist to come to Crookston and create a piece for all to enjoy.

    Speaking of Chalk It Up, the art event typically held the second Saturday in September alongside the King of Trails city-wide garage sales and next to Sunday’s Pioneer Day at the Polk County Museum and Harvest Festival at the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Museum, 2020 will be Chalk It Up’s fifth annual event now coinciding with the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership’s Queen City Art Festival.

    Chalk It Up is a low-key, but high-energy art event encouraging people to adopt a square or sidewalk, or portion of a blocked-off section of road and create something with chalk. Kids of all ages have participated and some amazing results have transpired. Do a Google search for some photos or find them on the Times or KROX’s websites.

    Queen City Art Festival was created as a sort of “umbrella” for Chalk It Up and to incorporate other types of art like painting, hair chalking, jewelry-making, mosaic-building, dancing, and more. The DCDP art committee came up with “Queen City” as a way to honor Crookston’s first city name. (My opinion? Too bad that coin toss had to happen because Queen City is a great name.)

    One of the Queen City Art Festival featured artists has been Crookston’s own Trey Everett. His chalk art and 3-D chalk art has broken the mold and his weekly cartoon commentary submissions during the school year were some of the Times’ most-viewed/discussed content. Everett’s daughter, Maddie, a two-time Times intern, is also an artist and has won awards, plus created some show-stopping art pieces as well.

Graffiti Art

    When most people hear of fresh graffiti, they think of trouble. Someone’s spray-painted something “bad” under the bridge, on a train car or even on the side of a building. Graffiti doesn’t have to always be bad, it can be used for good. It can be used to redo or “upcycle” a piece of old furniture or it could be part of an art event like it was a couple summers ago in Crookston.

    The Downtown Crookston Development Partnership (DCDP) held summer art “parties” where people got together and created art using a variety of mediums including spray paint. The Times had a vending machine turned into a kid’s library, old fence panels were spray-painted into art that was placed strategically around town, and an alleyway entrance/exit was even “graffiti-ed” to look like a piano on fire.

    Art appears in many forms and if you embrace it the right way it’s not “bad.”

Rock Art in the Community

    Like to paint rocks? Like to make rock formations or decorate with rocks? You’re not alone.

    Crookston has its own “Crookston Rockers” group that paints and hide rocks around town for people to find, and has held kid-friendly events around their initiative.

    Businesses like the Crookston Fire Department and Irishman’s Shanty have rock decor that tie in their outdoor spaces.