No one planted a sign in Stockholm, Wis., to proclaim that an art colony was coming.
It just happened.
Or, more to the point: Artists started showing up. Somewhere in the late 1960s, in response to race riots, Kent State, Vietnam and the general sense of turmoil engulfing the country, a trickle of artists began to settle in and around Pepin County. They were drawn by the prospect of a simpler life, the opportunity to live off the grid, the beauty of the Coulee region and the low rent.
And it began to grow.
“They could rent a big ol’ farm house for cheap, and then they were doing their art,” said painter Jean Accola.
Those early settlers and the artists who followed them will host the colony’s 18th annual Fresh Art Tour, Oct. 7-9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. With Stockholm as its epicenter, the art colony includes villages and towns in and around Pepin County. Potters, painters, sculptors, photographers, fiber artists and others will be exhibiting their work in their homes and studios.
Art Gannett and Barb Andersen, a husband-and-wife pottery team, were among the first artists to settle in the area. Art had no idea that he was meant to be a potter. He started taking lessons at the local YWCA. He made his first pot there and suddenly, his future was set. Art throws the pots and Barb does the glazing. “They’re a really creative team working in their studio,” said Accola.
Gannett and Andersen’s work is heavily influenced by the German potter Wendelin Stahl. At the time, Gannett had viewed himself as a functional potter. But under Stahl’s influence, Gannett’s work became more artistic, one-of-a-kind, less about how many pots he could make in a given time. “He really changed my thought about making a living as a potter. Whereas I had always tried to see how many pots I could make inexpensively, he made one of kids works that were fine collectibles,” Gannett said.
Painter Bruce Dunlap, a Rochester native, went to a Minneapolis art college with some of the early art settlers. His painting Corncob Trike (featured above) reflects his Rochester upbringing and roots. The tricycle harkens back to his childhood days. And the corncob handlebars, whether consciously or not, were likely inspired by the corncob water tower that is Rochester’s most noticeable rural landmark.
Soren Svedvik, one of the early settlers and art colony founders, is also part of the Fresh Art Tour. The fact that Svedvik, a Swedish native, made hishome in Stockholm, Wis., must have seemed like destiny. He will be exhibiting his photography at his newly built home above Stockholm. Svedvik was informally apprenticed as a graphic designer by his father and grandfather. But artist friends and influences such as Ansel Adams and M.C. Escher inspired him to pursue art-based silkscreen prints.
The Fresh Art tour is one of two major annual events — the other is the Stockholm Art Fair — in which nearly 40 artists open up their galleries and studios to the general public.
You’ll need a tour map to get around. A downloadable map can be found at www.freshart.org.