BEMIDJI – It only took a couple of years from the initial idea of Gayle Quistgard and Cindy Habedank of VisitBemidji to become reality because the right person at the right time retired to Bemidji.
“Gayle and I were at a tourism conference in southern Minnesota,” said Habedank. “We heard about an arts tour through a bunch of little towns, I think it was called a meander. We looked at each other and thought what a great idea for Bemidji.”
The VisitBemidji ladies talked up the idea around town but it was a lead from Lori Forshee-Donnay that got some interested people together. David Towley and his wife, Kathy, had recently moved to their summer home on Lake Plantagenet year round.
“In the cities, we had the opportunity to go on art crawls and I thought it was pretty cool, although most of them were gallery experiences,” Towley said. “There wasn’t a lot of demonstrating going on.”
Towley went on to talk about his idea of hybridizing the art crawls and getting people to recognize the tremendous arts scene we have here: the orchestra, theater, fine arts and fine crafts. Art is on every street corner downtown with the Bemidji Sculpture Walk.
“We have public art here, 24/7, 365 days a year,” Towley added. “Any part of the day one can find something to represent art in the public view here.”
Although Towley was returning to his hometown of Bemidji after living in the Twin Cities, he knew that people down there did not look at Bemidji as an arts destination and he was looking to change that.
To that end, an initial steering committee was established for the First City of the Arts Studio Cruise in 2008. Five years later, the cruise is bigger and better than ever.
The steering committee of the Towleys, Forshee-Donnay and Habedank were joined by Al Belleveau, Cindy Burger, Cindy Stenberg, Melissa Burness and Monica Hansmeyer, and the group set specific goals for the cruise.
Education is the first goal in that it allows the public to visit artists in their working environment and witness the creative process. Artists and arts consumers can interface and learn each other’s interests and concerns.
Economic stimulus is the second goal in that the cruise offers artists a “greater level of exposure to potential patrons … and add to the economic diversity of the region as well.”
The third and final goal is promoting Bemidji and the surrounding area as a destination for the arts.
The studio cruise is celebrating its fifth anniversary starting today. Some of the original artists are still with the cruise while others are not and more artists apply each year for this juried show.
The artists themselves have to pay a jury fee and then a $100 participation fee, which goes toward the cruise’s expenses, including printing the color brochure, road signs directing visitors to the different locations and advertising in monthly magazines (Explore Minnesota and Midwest Living), the Pioneer, television and radio.
Towley said he is personally gratified for the tremendous support the community, at large, has had for the cruise, and the sponsors who have provided the financial and in-kind support including the granting organizations (Bemidji Area Arts Endowment and Region 2 Arts Council).
One of the original artists, Al Belleveau, said he could not believe that this was the fifth year for the cruise.
“I can’t believe it’s been that long,” said Belleveau. “Time sure flies when you’re having fun.”
And that comment leads to another observation by Towley.
“The cruise is becoming firmly entrenched in the community,” said Towley. “People come here, they talk about it, we hear about it and there’s been a financial impact in the community.”
If You Go:
What: Studio Cruise ’12: A self-guided tour of some of the Bemidji area’s best-known artisans in their studios.
When: Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
More information: 877-250-5959 or www.visitbemidji.com
Unless noted, all studios are in Bemidji. Look for Studio Cruise road signs along the routes
Red Tour travels through the Mississippi State Forest:
-- Chasing the Wind Photography, 323 Beltrami Ave. NW
-- Evergreen Farm Studio, acrylics and murals. 4006 Centerline Road NW, Solway.
-- Ruth Ann’s Art, Oils, Still Life. 30635 243rd Ave. Shevlin
-- Wildwood Rustic, wood furniture. 29175 243rd Ave., Shevlin
-- Bird of Paradise, Wearable Fiber and Alice’s Animals, fabric sculptures. 23229 Boreal Road NW, Pinewood
-- Al Belleveau, metal/stone sculptures. 24011 Minnesota Highway 89 NW
Orange Tour winds around Lake Bemidji:
-- Tumbled Glass Studio, mosaics. 2007 Island View Drive NE
-- Don Houseman, woodcuts. 21849 Erdahl Court, Tenstrike
-- Jeff Burger, ceramics. 8959 Turtle River Lake Road NE
-- Cindy Burger, metal jewelry. 7883 Island View Drive NE
-- Seven Sister Design, jewelry. 410 Main St., Turtle River
-- Animal Art Plus, acrylics, mixed media and metal sculpture. 6763 Maple Beach Court NE
-- Melbe Creations, kaleidoscope photography. 9544 Hensel Drive NE
-- Sillimandi Art Studio, watercolor and acrylics, with guest artist BE Jolly, pen and ink/watercolor. 4202 Pintail Lane NE
-- Terry Honstead’s Art, watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, glass. 2520 Carol Drive NE
-- Kaul Studio, egg tempera and acrylics. 4111 Mill St. NE
Purple Tour in the countryside of the Bemidji area:
-- Fern Lake Studio, fine art painter on silk, cotton and nylon. 3592 Fern Lake Road SW
-- Kathy and David Towley, woodturner/woodworker. 50088 County Road 29
-- My Inspirations in Wood, segmented wooden bowls and urns. 50193 279th Ave.
-- Squeaky Wheel Pottery, stoneware, jewelry and leather wallets. 9035 N. Grace Lake Road SE
-- River of Time Studio, contemporary acrylic and mixed media paintings. 1017 N. Plantagenet Road SE
Maps of all studios, lodging, dining, galleries and retail stores are available at numerous locations downtown Bemidji and the Visitor’s Center. For online map access VisitBemidji.com.