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Kent Nerburn

3 questions for ... Kent Nerburn, author

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Q:Tell me something that most people do not know about you.

A:I was trained as a sculptor and when I first came to Bemidji some 30 years ago, I was a sculptor who worked in wood and did large figurative pieces, some taking almost a year to complete. The power of the tree gradually began to dominate over the power of the idea. I wasn't a natural at sculpture; there were times when I was really good and others when I just didn't have the basic chops. It drove me crazy when I saw someone who had lesser insight than I but had it "in the hands." The economics of sculpture became untenable and an opportunity came along to work at Red Lake because I found out that to provide for my family, I had to find other employment.

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Q:Your latest book, "The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder's Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows," received the Minnesota Book Award Reader's Choice Award for 2010. When did you start to write?

A:I was always writing and became very skilled because I had no emotional investment in the copy. Unbeknownst to me, I became a competent writer and was also a natural writer. My earlier works are more homiletic in nature. The switch to the Native American is natural because they are comfortable with prayer and spirituality. I have always been fascinated with native culture; it is part of an ongoing personal search in spirituality.

Q:In the past 30 years, you have seen many changes in Bemidji. Where do you see the arts going?

A:I think there is a quiet cultural revolution in this town and it's time for the next generation to step up and take the leadership. Al Belleveau has done an outstanding job in bringing public art to the streets of Bemidji. Jim Bensen led the way in new technology and I can say my proudest accomplishment was being on the committee that brought charter schools to Bemidji. I am calling on those who have been around to nourish the up and coming young talent in this town.

3 questions is a Q&A feature by Patt Rall that will be published one Sunday each month to give readers a chance to meet artists from the Bemidji area. Feedback is welcomed via email at prall@bemidjipioneer.com.

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