First Friday Art Walk – July 3

A celebration of art and community in downtown Grand Rapids. 4 – 8 pm. Free and open to all!

  1. MACROSTIE ART CENTER Presenting The Big Trees of Calaveras County by Josh Winkler and sculpture by Alonso Sierralta, music by Marina Whight from 5 – 7 pm, food by The Forest Lake Restaurant, and artist talks at 6 pm.


    Aaron Squadroni

  1. THE YARN GALLERY Visit with local artist Aaron Squadroni and view selections from his recent works in printmaking, drawing, photography, and more.
  1. STAINED GLASS WITH CLASS Welcoming Mary Ann Soular with her handmade greeting cards on display and for sale. 4 – 7 pm.
  1. CENTRAL SQUARE MALL Hosting Bev’s Art Bar in front of Infinite Games, Inc. Make and take art for children and adults.  Come and join in the fun of this nationwide craze!
  1. CENTRAL SCHOOL ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE Artists in Residence include the Uncommon Loons theater group and painter Leah Yellowbird.
  1. POP-UP PARK PLAZA Stop the pop-up park on the corner of Hwy 2 and 1st Ave NW for food by Log Home Wood Fired Pizza, Up North Kettle Corn, and live music by Joseph Baird.
  1. VFW POST 1720 Live music by Brent and Kaz from 7 – 10 pm.

    Kara Hallie

  1. JENNY & COMPANY Welcoming jewelry designer Kara Hallie with one-of-a-kind pieces and her latest collection “Forage North” which explores how happiness, memories & wonder are connected to nature.
  1. WINGS ‘N WILLOWS ART GALLERY & CUSTOM FRAMING Introducing the Wood Wedge photography of Adam and Janell Hecimovich. This creative couple uses wildlife and landscape imagery in a “photo to wood” transfer technique to create decorative pieces perfect for any home or cabin.
  1. FRAME UP Showcasing bicycle inspired art! With work by Adam Swanson of Duluth and Minneapolis artist Adam Turman. Paintings, screenprints and canvases of bicycles. Pedal on down to see it!

    Adam Swanson

    Adam Swanson

  1. DRAMATIC RELAXATION MASSAGE Featuring artwork by local artist and photographer John Sarich, a $2 raffle for a half hour massage, and 5 minute chair massages for $5. Located above VidCom and next to Brewed Awakenings.
  1. BREWED AWAKENINGS July’s featured artist is Aaron Wenger with pairings of poetry and photos. Music by singer-songwriter Jonathan Shields from 4 – 6 pm, complimentary coffee and cookies, and a dinner special until 6:30 pm.

Boredom not an issue

Never claim to be bored in Grand Rapids. Last weekend was a perfect example. We breezed up north to the Edge Center to enjoy storyteller Kevin Kling, who never fails to please, with singer-songwriter Aaron Gabriel. Gabriel is a Bigfork native who has made it big in the music world. The two have large hearts. Much of their work has been with Interact Theater in Minneapolis. Interact welcomes all and is dedicated to talented performers with disabilities. As a result, the duo’s songs and stories are funny and also message acceptance and love.

Next at the Edge: Violinist Tim Kliphuis and guitarist Sam Miltich on July 2. This will be all fantastic jazz. Kliphuis is here from the Netherlands and puts on a stunning show. Think Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt

Picking and bowing under the pines.

Picking and bowing under the pines.

We have never taken in one of the area’s informal arts happenings, the Bluegrass Festival at the Itasca County Fairgrounds. Last Saturday we checked it off our list. For the past 26 years on the third weekend in June passionate players arrive from all over to jam under the pines. It is totally informal. RVs come with their pop up mosquito tents, and as we strolled through the campgrounds, we could enjoy one jam session after another. This whole idea began with Grand Rapids’ world-renowned guitar and mandolin maker Lloyd LaPlant. When he stopped to chat with us for a few minutes, my knowledge of Bluegrass increased sevenfold.

Alissi Stiles was a big and pleasant surprise at Wine and Pizza on the river

Alissi Styles was a big and pleasant surprise at Wine and Pizza on the river

Showboat Landing held their second Wine on the Mississippi on Wednesday at the Showboat site. You can’t beat Log Home Wood Fired Pizza let alone the view. We knew we were in store for a preview of Ziibi. Some of you may know Alissi Styles, who is seen around the area filming with partner Benjamin Braff. Who knew she could sing? I am talking about professional quality belt-it-out, often soulful singing. She will be part of Ziibi when it is performed at the Showboat landing on July 30 and 31, and August 1, 6, 7 and 8 at 8:30 pm. Thanks to the Grand Rapids Players for sponsoring the event.

The Grand Rapids Players’ performance of Peter Pan this weekend  at Grace Bible Chapel while the Reif Center is being remodeled. Friday, June 26 at 7 pm and Saturday at 2 pm.

Also coming up at the Showboat landing will be the first of the Reif Series Independent Films at 9:15, June 30. For A Woman will be shown under the stars. In case of rain, we will all swim over to the Grand Rapids Area Library.

Painted pop up park pavement.

Painted pop up park pavement in Minneapolis.

Finally, more on the Pop-Up Park in the northeast corner of what is known as the Kremer’s parking lot downtown. Artist Aaron Squadroni will begin an art installation very soon, thanks to a grant to Grand Rapids Arts from Arrowhead Regional Arts Council. In case you think we are being silly about the park, you need to know that we stumbled across a similar park in downtown Minneapolis at Orchestra Hall. Minneapolis is faced with a similar space that needs revitalization. Until that happens, the Pop Up will do. On First Friday July 3 our park will have the same fabulous pizza for sale and music by Joseph Baird. Come by.

Sign outside Peavy Plaza Pop Up Park.

Sign outside Peavy Plaza Pop Up Park.

Also get your tickets for Forest Jam on July 3 at the Forest History Center. You can never be bored in this town.

Kathy Dodge


Rural arts abound

It’s been two weeks since the Rural Arts and Culture Summit at the University of Minnesota Morris. The ideas presented still linger and brighten my days. I learned rural Minnesota is in a “sweet spot,” thanks mostly to us creative rurals backed by Legacy funding. One of the more moving presentations was a chunk of time devoted to 7 people taking 8 minutes and a PowerPoint to tell their stories. Sam Miltich did us proud with his story of love for rural living, his challenges with mental illness and the story of the VFW becoming a great jazz club.

Poetry grows along with grass at the Rural Arts and Culture Summit.

Poetry grows along with grass at the Rural Arts and Culture Summit.

Speaking of Sam, he in collaboration with the Itasca Orchestra and Strings Program held the second annual Jazz Camp last week. We took in the final concert featuring Sam, jazz violinist Tim Kliphuis and jazz cellist Martha Larson along with all the camp attendees. This is an annual event not to be missed. Sam and Tim did an amazing duet exchanging riffs. Fabulous!

Leah Yellowbird, the present artist in residence on the third floor of Old Central School, is extending her residency. She is getting much done and loves the space. If you haven’t, stop by and look at her amazing intricate paintings.

Leah Yellowbird discusses one of her works with Holly Downing.

Leah Yellowbird discusses one of her works with a visitor to the third floor of Old Central School.

June’s First Friday was a beautiful night and many were downtown taking in the art openings and other events. It was also the launch of Grand Rapids Arts’ Pop-up Park. Many are wondering why a picnic table, 3 benches, hay bales and potted plants are in the northwest corner of the downtown parking lot. That’s the point. We have piqued your curiosity. We want to improve on an empty parking lot. On First Friday, Log Home Wood Fired Pizza and Up North Kettle Corn were on hand for eager customers. Eighty people stopped by to sit on benches and hay bales to rest and nosh. Watch as the park evolves over the summer.

Believe it or not this is a park.

Believe it or not this is a park.

Speaking of pizza, don’t forget Wine and Pizza at the Showboat site beginning at 5pmon June 24. Enjoy a toast, great pizza and a view that speaks rural Minnesota big time!

A beautiful summer night on the MIssissippi.

A beautiful summer night on the MIssissippi.

Kevin Kling and Aaron Gabriel will be at the Edge Center at 7 pm on Friday, July 19. If you have never heard Kevin Kling, then you have missed some great laughs at our rural Minnesota expense. Aaron Gabriel is another hometown boy who made good in the big cities as an award-winning composer and musician. They have both collaborated near and far. How about Thailand? Now Bigfork!


Kathy Dodge 6/17/2015





Tuesday Concert at Zion today

Don’t miss the wonderful concert at noon today at St. Andrews Lutheran Church. This one features Olivia Skaja in Violin Showpieces.  She’ll be playing with Kaitlyn and Deena Skaja on guitar and piano.  You don’t want to miss this highly talented group.  Olivia is a show of her own.  This young lady has a fantastic future in front of her.   Free will donation is accepted for the concert.  At 12:45, St. Andrews will serve a great luncheon, at $6.00, the best deal in town.

Reflections on the Mississippi @ MacRostie Art Center

RiverProjectThe MacRostie Gallery at MacRostie Art Center is hosting The River Project by three Minnesota-based artists for the month of June.

MACROSTIE GALLERY | THE RIVER PROJECT: James Boyd Brent, Rick Love, and Daryn Lowman

Rick Love and James Boyd Brent have been working for more than a year on developing bodies of work that focus on the Mississippi river between Franklin and Fort Snelling, consisting of drawings, screen prints, mixed media prints, watercolors, and intaglios. Daryn Lowman has been making ceramic forms that related to barges, grain elevators, and vessels that represent the working and moving river.

Together, they have explored the river below and above the dam in Grand Rapids as well. Above the dam is expansive, lake-like; while below, the river is unbridled, flowing.

The River Project focuses on the artists’ experience of two specific local areas on the Mississippi to draw attention to the diverse qualities of the river and to its overriding importance in our lives and in the economic and cultural life of Minnesota. The exhibit is primarily about three artists striving to immerse themselves in the being of the river. The river is so obvious and magnificent in our landscape and yet it is often taken for granted. Amidst its natural beauty also exists a pollution problem on a grand scale. There is a misconception that the river can always heal itself because it flows downstream, so quickly out of site.


Also in the month of June, the Minnesota Gallery features artist Carey Dean.  Dean has created a series of glass on panel works, inspired by the common elements of the Midwestern landscape. She uses tress and bodies of water to metaphorically express the human experience of nature and of the passing of time. Dean communicates her ideas by inventing landscapes informed by memories, observations, photography and sketches. The variety of colored glass captures the atmospheric conditions and lighting effects on the landscape at different times of day and season. These landscapes are used as a mirror to evoke and express nostalgia for the unique vistas.

Carey Dean’s work combines traditional glass-working methods with exploration and experimentation with the medium. She works in a variety of mediums such as drawing, painting, and glass. But, it is her glass on panel mosaics that have been her most sought-after work – purchased by private collectors, the University of Minnesota, Morris, and several hospitals in the region.

MacRostie Art Center is a nonprofit art center dedicated to community growth through the arts in northern Minnesota. Located at 405 NW 1st Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids right across from Old Central School and online at Their June exhibitions are sponsored by Paul Bunyan Communications.


The IOSP Summer Jazz Camp winds up on Friday.   The week will culminate in a showcase concert at the Itasca Community College Davies Theater that will be open to the public. Students will perform on stage with the highly talented teaching artists: internationally acclaimed jazz violinist, Tim Kiphuis, Grand Rapids’ jazz guitarist, Sam Miltich, and cellist Martha Larson. The Showcase Concert will also feature the Clearwater Hot Club.  The Itasca Orchestra and Strings Jazz Camp  is a day camp designed for strings players who have at least three years prior experience with a stringed instrument.  Students will explore the subjects of jazz and improvisation and will learn new techniques and theory that will not only expand their repertoire but also enhance their understanding and ability in their primary area of study – whether it is classical, folk, or bluegrass.   The show last year got rave reviews.  Start time is 7 pm.



If you weren’t at First Lutheran Church today to hear the awesome singing of Lisa Johnson and Kathy Kysne, who were accompanied by pianist Stuart Boehr, you missed a great experience.  The program was a combination of secular music and show tunes.  It was a fantastic 45 minute program.  The audience went more than a little wild with whooping, hollering, whistles and a standing ovation.  Afterwards, 90 attendees enjoyed the lunch served by the women’s group at First.  Don’t miss next week’s fantastic program at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church.  Kaitlyn and Deena Skaja will join the wonderfully talented Olivia Skaja in Violin Showpieces.  The ladies of the church will provide a lunch at the incredible price of $6.00.

2015 Summer Concert Series

Don’t miss the great concert at noon at First Lutheran Church Tuesday, June 9th.  This is the second concert of the summer series.   Sacred and Secular music will be played, from Church & Stage. This is a vocal with piano program featuring Lisa Johnson, Kathy Lysne, Stuart Boehr and Alice Sarkela. The concert starts at 12:00. There is no charge, but a free will offering is encouraged. The First Lutheran Church ladies will be serving a delicious luncheon immediately following at 12:45. The menu looks enticing.

First Friday – June 5

A celebration of art and community in downtown Grand Rapids. 4 – 8 pm. Free and open to all! A Google map is available here.

  1. MACROSTIE ART CENTER Printmaking and ceramics in “The Mississippi River Project”, stained glass panels by Carey Dean. Food by Toivo’s, music by Simeon Aitken from 5 – 7 pm, and artist talks at 6 pm.
  1. Jim Pagel rocking chair

    Jim Pagel rocking chair

    BENDERS SHOES Visit with Cohasset craftsman Jim Pagel who makes beautiful handcrafted rocking chairs from walnut or cherry wood with hand fitted joints, modeled in style after the late Sam Maloof. 4 – 7 pm

  1. THE YARN GALLERY Anita Provinzino of Joyful Originals of Chisholm uses machine embroidery to create original art using just about any medium: clothing, fabric, paper, mylar, and even toilet paper!
  1. STAINED GLASS WITH CLASS Welcoming Twisted Metals with a showcase of their metal sculpture and artwork. 4 – 7 pm.
  1. OLD CENTRAL SCHOOL Come play dress-up the Grand Rapids Players and Grand Rapids Arts! Favorite costumes from past productions will be available to try on, and strike a pose at our selfie station.
  1. TRUE NORTH AVEDA SALON AND SPA Showcasing jewelry artist Claire Olson with her line of “C is for Charming” jewelry. A mix of upcycled vintage accessories! From 4 – 7 pm in Old Central School.
  1. LAKE LOVER VINTAGE Hosting Mike Weedman with his turned flower vases. As a special treat Mike will have his lathe with him and will be demonstrating his art! 4-7 pm
  1. CENTRAL SCHOOL ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE Artists in Residence include the Uncommon Loons theater group and painter Leah Yellowbird.

    Log Home Wood Fired Pizza

    Log Home Wood Fired Pizza

  1. POP-UP PARK PLAZA Stop the old Kremer’s parking lot for food by Log Home Wood Fired Pizza and Up North Kettle Korn and live music by Erik George on guitar.
  1. GRAND RAPIDS AREA COMMUNITY FOUNDATION Welcoming KAXE with samplings of music for this year’s Mississippi River Festival with a display of the stage backdrop painted by a local artist.
  1. VFW POST 1720 Live jazz music with Sam Miltich & Friends 7-10 pm.
  1. Chiqui's Chocolates

    Chiqui’s Chocolates

    JENNY & COMPANY Welcoming Catalina Berg with Chiqui’s Chocolates – homestyle creamy caramels, toffee, and more proudly made in Pengilly, MN.

  1. FRAME UP Showcasing John and Carol Risberg’s beautiful blown glass bird feeders in a rainbow of different colors!  Glass garden art and fused glass earrings and pendants with music by Olivia Skaja and company.
  1. DRAMATIC RELAXATION MASSAGE Featuring the original skit “Frankenstein Gets a Massage” with Josh Cagle and Rachel Randle at 5, 5:30, and 6:30; 5 minute chair massages for $5; a raffle, and snacks. Located next to Brewed Awakenings above VidCom.
  1. BREWED AWAKENINGS June’s featured artist is Stephanie Stevens with watercolors. Music by singer-songwriter Jesse W. Johnson from 4 – 6 pm, complimentary coffee and cookies, and a dinner special until 6:30 pm.
  1. GRAND RAPIDS AREA LIBRARY Presenting the opening of the Mosaic Project fundraiser from 4 – 6 pm. Refreshments and a chance to meet local celebrity artist Spike Carlson.
  2. ITASCA COUNTY YMCA Featuring the artwork of emerging artists from the Y’s childcare program in the new Active Living Center. 10% off hot beverages at Bixby’s at the Y.

#MNnature Photo Contest

Visit Grand Rapids announces a 15 week #MNnature Photo Contest that will  run Memorial Day (May 25, 2015) to Labor Day (September 7, 2015).  This contest was created as a marketing collaborative that encourages people to share why they love living, working, raising a family and vacationing in Minnesota’s Nature or otherwise known as the Grand Rapids/Itasca County area.  This contest is being underwritten by Visit Grand Rapids,, Grand Rapids Herald Review, and KOZY/KMFY.

#MNNature Photo Contest Graphic

Everyone can enter for a chance to WIN weekly prizes and a $2800 Grand Prize.  This contest is for residents, seasonal residents and visitors.  A $50 weekly area business gift certificate will be awarded every week to the winner of the photo of the week.  All people need to do is to TAKE A PICTURE, SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA, and TAG #MNnature in their post.  The Visit Grand Rapids staff will select the photo of the week that was shared on social media every week from a site called  This site allows users to search any hashtag and it pulls all of the comments and images that are associated with it. There is no age limitation for the weekly prize.

The second way for people to enter for a chance to win is to log onto complete the entry form, and upload a photo that they took somewhere in the Grand Rapids/Itasca area.  People must be 18 years or older to enter for a chance to win the grand prize. The Grand Prize is a $2800 package that includes a week long stay at Hidden Haven Resort and a pontoon rental, and a wonderful package of other gifts.

“We know that the Grand Rapids/Itasca area is a wonderful place, and we want to have people share their images with us of how they love this area too,” states Megan Christianson, Executive Director, Visit Grand Rapids.  The marketing collaborative contest was created as a photo share, promote the Itasca Area Attractions, and the Grand Rapids area events that happen over the next 15 weeks.

The grand prize sponsors are: Hidden Haven Resort, Anderson Dental, Children’s Discovery Museum, Judy Garland Museum, Forest History Center, Grand Itasca, Janna Salmela Photography, Paddle Hoppers, Timberlake Lodge Hotel, True North Salon & Spa, and Wings and Willows.  The weekly prize business sponsors are: Annabelle’s Antique Mall, Baby Steps, Birds of a Feather, Brewed Awakenings, Bridgman Embers, Club Mesabi, Inc., Frame Up, Itasca Trail Sports, Kindred House Co, Lake Lover Vintage, Nana Chelle’s Cafe, Pokegama Golf Course, Salmela Jewelers, Shaw Florist Amish & Antiques, and Yarn Gallery. Each week one business will be featured as the weekly prize sponsor of the $50 gift certificate to their business.

“Take pictures of you enjoying a Grand Rapids/Itasca area shop, restaurant, area attraction, hotel/motel, B&B or resort, at an event or just enjoying the Minnesota’s nature beauty that surrounds the area,” shares Christianson.  “We have placed selfie signs at approximately 15 photo worthy locations in the Grand Rapids/Itasca area to encourage people to take a picture with the selfie sign and just to take a picture and share.”

For more information about the contest visit the website: or you can call the Visit Grand Rapids office at 218-326-9607.

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