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NWMAC: Wavra, Burkel, Piersol art award winners

Times Report
Crookston Times

JOE WAVRA 

   The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council is pleased to announce that Joe Wavra of Red Lake Falls has been selected as the 2020 Northwest Minnesota Star Artist of the Year for his lifetime achievement in wood carving. Wavra received his award at a program in Red Lake Falls earlier this week.

    Wavra is a self-taught chainsaw carver and owner of Klondike Carvings. His carvings include life-sized Vikings, trolls, Voyageurs, Wind Spirits, walleyes, and eagles. He has had no formal training. Fifteen years ago, he started with small hand tools and then progressed into chainsaws. He has been a full-time carver for 5 years.

    A prolific artist and community-minded, Wavra has created many carvings for communities in our region, including benches on trails in Red Lake Falls, sculptures, and trolls throughout Thief River Falls. He’s also been one of the organizers of Summerfest.

    Asked about his creative process, Wavra said, “Practice, practice, repetition, muscle memory. Shut the critical part of your mind off and let the creative part go.” Wavra doesn’t draw the design beforehand. He just starts. “It was a natural for me. I take out the parts that are in the way – it’s already in there. I just need to reveal it.”

    The Northwest Star Artist Award is given each year to recognize artists within the seven-county region who stand out in terms of artistry. Of the Year Award winners are nominated by area residents. This award comes with $5,000. Artists can only receive our Northwest Star Award once, as a lifetime achievement award. Funding for the Northwest Star comes from the McKnight Foundation.  

ROB BURKEL

    The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council is pleased to announce that Rob Burkel of Thief River Falls has been awarded the Northwest Artist of the Year Award. Burkel is a talented actor in our area.

    Rob Burkel has served as Thief River Falls Area Community Theater’s (TRFACT) board President, and directed, produced, acted in numerous theatrical productions in Thief River Falls and the area. He’s also been a TRFACT Radio Readers Theater cast member and a Lincoln High School Speech Team Coach and One Act Play Director. He sits on the Northwest Regional Library Board and has been the force behind bringing the Fargo-Moorhead Opera to Thief River Falls the past 2 years.

    When asked about the impact of the arts on individuals or society, Burkel explained that “theater and art are at their best when they force you to think. If forcing you to think makes you uncomfortable, even better. Art should change who you are going forward and make you a better person. There should be a balance between that and fun and silly. There’s a role for humor, too.”

    The Northwest Artist of the Year Award is given each year to recognize artists within the seven-county region who stand out in terms of artistry. “Of the Year” Award winners were nominated by area residents and comes with a cash award of $500.00.

BRUCE PIERSOL

    The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council is pleased to announce this year’s recipient for the Arts Advocate of the Year Award is Bruce Piersol of Red Lake Falls. Piersol received the award at a program in Red Lake Falls earlier this week.

    Piersol was the long-time school band director in Red Lake Falls and is now retired. His bands have marched on the street and football fields, as well as performed concert, jazz, and ensemble music in school and public settings. As a teacher, he was dedicated to connecting his students to the community as much as possible. He arranged for his students to play around town at the senior center, upstairs at the courthouse, and at community events, including Summerfest.

    Piersol continues to be involved in music in the area by playing in the University of Minnesota Crookston Community Band, coordinating and singing in a Red Lake Falls community choir, and organizing and playing in a brass quintet called Windblown. In addition to teaching band, Piersol also taught photography at the high school. His wife Ann was the art teacher. When his students performed a band concert, the couple collaborated by putting up an art show next to it.

    The Arts Advocate of the Year award comes with a cash award of $500.00 and is funded by state legislature.

Bruce Piersol
Joe Wavra
Rob Burkel