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Region 2 Arts Council: Artist Mentor Grant Program revived

The Artist Mentor Program for students in the Region 2 area was revived by the passage of Minnesota's Land and Legacy Amendment.

On Saturday, May 15, a panel of judges sat for the first time in about 15 years to listen to the dreams and aspirations of local high school students. Under the guidance of Katie Carter, program assistant for the Region 2 Arts Council, the Artist Mentor Grant Program allows young artists an opportunity to learn from an expert in their chosen field. Carter visited high schools to talk about the opportunity for students who have a passion for an art form to apply for grant money to cover the costs of one-on-one mentorships.

"I am proud to be part of something that has the potential to be so inspiring for young people," Carter said. "The future is bright. The dedication and raw talent these students have is a breath of fresh air. The awardees realize that art is an integral part of their existence that they will carry throughout their lives on a professional level."

This year, 10 area students from the eighth grade to high school juniors applied for the mentor grants. Because there was only money available for five $500 mentorships, the grant round was very competitive. The judges were aware of some performance anxiety, but the applicants rose to the occasion and were able to present their talent competently.

The students were asked to describe when they first discovered their interest in their art forms and almost all of them could not recall a time when they were not involved with it. Commitment in terms of hours spent each week in practicing their art forms and what they hope to learn from the mentorship was also scored by the judges on a scale of one to five, with five being excellent. Skills proficiency in terms of creativity was demonstrated by a portfolio, presentation of sculptural pieces, samples of their past ability to complete a project directly related to the mentorship being sought and live performance of instruments. "Arts samples" was the one category in which the applicant could score the most points with weight given to proficiency, creativity and commitment. The students were also asked to respond to previously unknown interview questions by the panel, and they all were able to speak to their goal with clarity and youthful enthusiasm.

E One of this year's winners is Carl Graefe, a 10th grader at Bemidji High School who began playing the ukulele at age 3. He said he has been playing stringed instruments for as long as he can remember. His family has many of them around the house including a violin built by his grandfather on his family farm in southern Minnesota. Carl has also been improving his talents in woodworking and created a number of items. He brought a chess board and box with inlay to the grant round and played the ukulele. Carl will be studying with local ukulele builder Jeff Burger this summer and expects to build an instrument he can play and pass on to future generations of his family.

E Eric Haugen, who is going into his senior year at Bemidji High School, was given the grant to assist in the costs of attending Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick, Maine, this summer. Eric, a cellist, plays with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra regularly and appeared with the Bismarck and Duluth symphony orchestras. He will study with a number of professional cellists and audition with representatives from colleges and universities for scholarships. He also plans to network with professionals in his field for a future in the classical music scene.

E Mitchell Hoffman, a sophomore at Laporte High School, brought in samples of his metal sculptures. He will use his grant to work one-on-one with Guthrie metal artist, Paula Jenson. Mitchell, who is self-taught, has earned both Best in Show and First Place in the Sculpture Category at the Juried Art Exhibition in Park Rapids. Mitchell said he plans to become a professional sculptor and believes that it is time for him to study with a recognized sculptor. Mitchell said he was still a youngster when his father taught him the welding techniques he now uses.

E Gabriela Karam, a sophomore from Nevis, heard someone play the alto saxophone when she was in the fourth Grade and said she knew at that moment, she had to have one and learn to play it well. Gabriela will study with Steve Konecne this summer and focus on playing jazz and improvisation. She is seeking improve her skills in dynamics, articulations and vibrato and sees herself playing the sax at the university level and beyond. Gabriela aspires to know her instrument as well as Dave Brubeck and Charlie Parker do.

E Miranda Rosenquist, who is in the eighth grade at Bemidji Middle School, said she thinks she has been drawing animals and creating her one-of-a-kind pieces based on images in her mind's eye since she was 2 years old. Her work was accepted as part of the juried Mother Art Exhibit at the Mask and Rose Theater in March. Miranda said she will use her grant to study with Nina Lubarski and hopes to fine tune her shading and texturing skills. Her future holds the promise of combining her raw talent in the arts and passion for animals for a career as a zoologist.

"Experiences such as these have the power to change lives in a positive way," Carter said. "The Region 2 Arts Council is fortunate to have the program back up and running. I am so proud to be part of something that has the potential to be so inspiring for young people."