Spring is bursting forth in the beautiful hills and valleys of southeast Minnesota and the Driftless Area. The creativity and artistry inspired thereabouts will be featured in the 20th annual Bluff Country Studio Art Tour. The free, self-guided tour will be held the weekend of Friday-Sunday, April 23-25. Hours are 10 a.m. -5 p.m. daily.
“Welcome back, world!” said Joan Finnegan, a painter from Lanesboro, finding it hard to contain her enthusiasm at once again having the opportunity to greet visitors and share her studio space and techniques.
Sue Pariseau of Lanesboro, tour coordinator and a potter herself, added, “The Bluff Country Studio Art Tour is free to the public, so don’t miss this treasure-filled spring adventure to see the places where art is made.”
Artists will be displaying their work, demonstrating their processes, and selling works including pottery, paintings, turned-wood items, jewelry, fiber arts and much more. Set your own pace and rhythm for stopping while driving through the scenic hills and valleys of southeastern Minnesota’s Bluff Country.
After the cancellation of the tour and other arts events in 2020, look for new labors of love produced for 2021 by the area’s accomplished artists. Putting the tour in the palm of the hand is a helpful, new Bluff Country Studio Art Tour app that’s been created, available from the Apple Store or Google Play.
The tour is built around exploring local art, as well as the landscapes and drives that seem to further enhance the studios. Pariseau said extra safety precautions will be in place. “With the assistance of a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, measures have been taken to help assure everyone stays safe while visiting the area’s studios.”
All locations will require properly worn masks. Before handling the art, hand sanitizer is provided. And visitors are reminded to use social distancing – staying 6-plus feet away from others.
For those who aren’t comfortable visiting the locations yet, the group has produced a series of videos featuring several studios available on their social media and YouTube channel.
Ready to host guest in person
Nate and Hallie Evans of Allamakee Wood-Fired Pottery near the Minnesota/Iowa border in the especially scenic and rugged hills and valleys of rural New Albin, look forward to again welcoming guests to their studio and kiln space. Although they won’t be firing pottery during the tour, Hallie says guests can look around the large, wood-fired kiln and get a good idea how it’s stoked and how the long firing process impacts their ceramics.
The couple has been on the tour since it started and looks forward to hosting visitors again. “I especially miss seeing and talking to people,” said Hallie. She explained that pottery is a very tactile form; it’s good for people to pick up a piece, handle it, turn it around.
“They’re excited. They talk to their friends. They’re happy to buy a piece,” noted Hallie. Seeing a buyer’s selection process in person is a joy for the Evans since each piece contains so much of their efforts.
Finnegan, who’s had her studio around 12 years and been on the tour for the last 10 stressed it’s exciting to be back as well. “Every painting comes from my heart and soul. It’s a very personal thing. We work solo… Direct feedback from the customer feeds us… nourishes the soul.”
In some cases, the pandemic time may have given artists new ideas for their works. Finnegan, for example, took long walks across her family’s property – she appreciates that her husband mows lots of paths – and she’s based a new series on those walks – reflecting on pathways.
The artists are excited about the tour app. “It’s great, isn’t it?” said Hallie Evans.
Joan Finnegan agreed, “I love it; it’s amazing. We live our lives on our apps.” As an environmentalist, she also appreciates how its use may reduce paper tour brochures.
The Bluff Country Studio Art Tour app introduces each artist and the stops on the tour with content that may include website, gallery, and/or short videos taken in their studios. It’s a fun way to meet the artists. Plus, it has a mobile map will direct you to each studio location.
Pariseau noted, “We are very excited about the mobile app we have released to help visitors as they travel the area during the tour. Each year we print thousands of tour brochures; we’ve made a decision to be kinder to the environment.”
The app lists participating artists/galleries near the user, provides directions and will also have a directory of sponsors who provide food, beverages and lodging to help users keep up their energy for the weekend adventure.
As the event transitions to the use of the mobile app, tour brochures will still be available in lesser quantities and found at participating locations, along with visitor centers in Winona and Lanesboro, Lanesboro Arts, or by request from the tour’s website, where you can always find further information, https://bluffcountrystudioarttour.org/
“Don’t miss this treasure-filled spring adventure to see the places where art is made,” Pariseau enthused. She noted the tour is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council and Minnesota State Arts Board thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts & cultural heritage fund. Additional support provided by the River Arts Alliance.