Bemidji Area Arts Endowment to benefit from July 2 Kelley Hunt concert

The organization has awarded $150,970 to area artists and groups in the past 24 years.

Kelley Hunt.jpeg
Kelley Hunt
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BEMIDJI — The Bemidji Area Arts Endowment has put on some popular fundraising events over the years, from Oompah for the Arts, to Ooh La La for the Arts, and Speakeasy for the Arts.

Those have helped the organization raise some of the $150,970 that it has awarded to area artists and groups in the past 24 years.

Now that the COVID pandemic has waned, the BAAE is back at it with a concert by acclaimed singer-songwriter and recording artist Kelley Hunt at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 2, at the Rail River Folk School. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Headwaters Music and Arts or Re/Max in Bemidji.

“Since Covid, we couldn’t bring people together,” said former BAAE board member Bev Erickson, who is organizing Saturday’s concert with Mike Tangen and Lisa Bruns. “So this is kind of a new ‘Hello we’re still here’ event. The BAAE is still alive and well.”

Former board member Sandy Kaul was one of the people who got the Bemidji Area Arts Endowment started in 1998.


“I went to a meeting at the Bemidji Middle School that the Northwest Minnesota Foundation put on,” Kaul said. “Some of us who were in the Blandin Leadership Program were invited, and I just happened to be in the arts. We ended up at a little round table with four of us. We had this conversation. We looked around town and said there’s nobody local that funds the arts. Why don’t we start an endowment fund?”

The BAAE was established with a $30,000 McKnight Foundation grant. It is under the Northwest Minnesota Foundation umbrella.

Since that time, the BAAE has made 144 grants to organizations like the Bemidji Community Theater, Paul Bunyan Playhouse, Bemidji Symphony Orchestra and Headwaters Music and Arts.

In addition, a number of people have established component funds. The Everett Wilimek Fund for Orchestral String Studies was established in 2001. Carolyn Jacobs established the Fred Marshall Fund for Headwaters Music and Arts in honor of her late husband. The H.B. and Ina T. Roholt Family Fund for the Arts was started. There are several more, including one honoring Sandy Kaul.

“I am very proud of this organization,” Kaul said. “It’s one of my favorite things I’ve done in my art career.”

On Saturday, the BAAE will welcome Kelley Hunt back to Bemidji, where she has played to full houses in her prior appearances. Her career includes many Minnesota performances, including four appearances at Duluth’s Bayfront Blues Festival, The Iron Range Festival and regular packed shows at The Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis.

This special benefit show will be in an intimate solo singer-songwriter format, with a selection of songs from her extensive original catalog delivered in their purest form with no barriers between artist and audience. She also plans to preview new material projected for her upcoming seventh studio album.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who walks away from a Kelley Hunt event without being in awe of the talent and the enthusiasm she shows,” Erickson said.


If you are unable to attend but would like to make a gift to the BAAE Fund, visit and click the gold "Give Now” button, then proceed through the dropdown.

Dennis Doeden, former publisher of the Bemidji Pioneer, is a feature reporter. He is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a degree in Communications Management.
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