Arts Meander highlights 45 artists from the region

The 10th annual Meander Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl opens on Friday evening in the Granite Falls riverfront district featuring music, food, street theater and walking tours around downtown.

Art lovers will have a whole weekend to visit 33 sites featuring the works of 45 local artists in and around Ortonville, Appleton, Madison, Milan, Dawson, Montevideo and Granite Falls. The Meander will be from noon to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

A Meander Passport can be picked up at any of the 33 sites. At each site, passport holders are to have their passport stamped or initialed. Anyone who collects at least eight stamps, fills out a short survey and returns the survey is eligible to enter a drawing for more than $1,000 worth of art donated by the Meander artists.

“For many tourists, it is like coming into a new country,” Meander coordinator Kristi Fernholz of the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission said in a news release. “So we decided to create a special ‘passport’ for the event that has become extremely popular with the Meander-touring public.”

Jo Pederson and her husband Dale make rustic willow furniture in their studio in the rural Granite Falls area. The Pedersons were among the original founders of the art crawl.

“The whole concept was to have a studio tour,” Pederson said. “It was a concept that had been floating around for a long time, a collaboration of local artists, especially those making a living creating art.”

The area represented by the Meander artists are spread around Yellow Medicine, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Big Stone and Swift counties. Granite Falls currently hosts the grand opening night and on Saturday, Memorial Auditorium in Dawson will feature Robin and Linda Williams in concert with their blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic music.

During the three-day course of the weekend, it is estimated that each tourist spends an average of $49 at local gas stations, restaurants and hotels. Additionally, it is estimated that more than $90,000 of art is sold during the course of the three-day weekend, and the exposure from the event helps to generate sales for local artists the whole year round, Fernholz said in a news release.

Featured art includes photography, graphic and fiber arts, pottery, metalwork, fused glass, mixed media and perhaps something unexpected.

“After 10 years there’s been a lot of discussion about whether to do something special,” Pederson said. “Some said, ‘Who knew it would last this long?’ and to do it as usual. Some said, ‘Let’s do something special for the 10th anniversary,’ so we left it up to each studio. It’s going to be a surprise.”