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Swenson, Russell receive Artist Fellowship honors

Carol Ann Russell1 / 2
Paula Swenson2 / 2

BEMIDJI—Painter Paula J. Swenson and poet Carol Ann Russell of Bemidji have been chosen as recipients of the 2018-2019 Artist Fellowship by the Region 2 Arts Council.

The Artist Fellows were selected by a committee consisting of established community artists and Region 2 Arts Council board members. The award is intended for dedicated artists who have created a substantial independent body of work, have received recognition for their work, and whose work has been selected for solo exhibitions, commissions, presentations, readings or performances.

After graduating from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Swenson struggled to find her own artistic voice. It took her many years, many workshops and many teachers. Around 1991, Swenson found her way to the Women's Art Registry of Minnesota. There she found support and fellowship and discovered not how to paint but how she paints. After finding a subject, Swenson researches that subject, gathers resource materials and meditates on what it all means. By using symbols and colors and shapes Swenson tells stories or portrays a landscape all the while being mindful of unintended "happy accidents." Stars turn into birds, trees into creatures, moons into fishing holes. Swenson calls her style Surrealistic for lack of a better term. In Swenson's words, "Mostly I want my paintings to make people happy, including me."

Russell is the author of four books of poetry, including "The Red Envelope" (Florida 1985), "Silver Dollar" (New Mexico 1995) and "Gypsy Taxi" (Nebraska 2005). Russell was chosen to receive the 1999 Distinguished Alumni Award by St. Cloud State University, and has taught creative writing at BSU since 1988, where she is a professor of English. Russell earned a master's degree in fine arts from the University of Montana, and a doctorate from the University of Nebraska. Russell's poetry has been published in over 100 literary journals. Her poems have been included in more than 13 anthologies representing poets from Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska and the Pacific Northwest. Most recently, Russell's poetry appeared in The Backwaters Press 20th Anniversary Anthology (2017). Russell has received many grants, awards, and residencies including the Jerome Foundation, the American Academy in Rome and Villa Vergiliana, Italy, the Australian Centre at Melbourne University in Australia, Studium Scholar at St. Benedict's Monastery, and the Ragdale Foundation. Poet Carol Ann Russell was elected to P.E.N. International in New York City in 1993.