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Connecting artists

Willmar woodcarver Fred Cogelow, right, shows photos of his artwork to Colleen Sheehy, executive director of Plains Art Museum in Fargo, N.D., Monday at ARTmeyerson, an art studio and display space in Atwater. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)1 / 2
Sue Meyerson sits in ARTmeyerson, an artists' "space" she owns in Atwater where she hosted area artists Monday, along with Colleen Sheehy, executive director of Plains Art Museum in Fargo, N.D. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)2 / 2

Sue Meyerson has a passion for art and her community. She also has a unique family tie with a famous American pop artist, which all led to an interesting lunch affair Monday in Atwater with several local artists and the executive director of Fargo's Plains Art Museum, who also has ties to Meyerson's famous artistic relative.

Over lunch in a former car repair garage that's being transformed into a community "art space," Meyerson brought together a handful of local artists and Colleen Sheehy, from the Plains Art Museum.

Her goal was to serve as a conduit that could expose Sheehy -- who also has a long history in the Twin Cities art community -- to the depth and breadth of art that's being produced in rural Minnesota.

She's also hoping the connection will help local artists obtain new opportunities to show and market their work.

"I wanted her to get an idea of what's out here," said Meyerson, who hosted the event in an old garage that she and her husband, Bob, and daughter, Ella, purchased with the intent of using the space for artists to show their work and to spark "imagination and creativity" for her small hometown's residents.

It's called ARTmeyerson.

Along with the rough edges of the original repair shop, there's a large antique bar that had been a fixture in an Atwater business, a space for live music, a kitchen to prepare food, large pots of live geraniums and light streaming in through windows.

On the walls there's a collection of modern art work representing the 45-year career of Willmar native and former Ridgewater art instructor, Robert Mattson. His display, "Avant Garage: A Retrospective" has been on display since Oct. 23. It's being dismantled this week to make way for the next exhibition featuring Willmar wood sculptor Fred Cogelow.

The combination of new art in an old garage is a perfect blend of rural and metro Minnesota meeting up in Atwater.

Sheehy said she has a "long-standing love and appreciation" for small-town art communities. "This is a marvelous place," she said, gesturing to the spacious gallery.

She said it's important for people to make art a "focal point" of their communities. "I think it's a great thing you're doing this and that artists can have a venue," said Sheehy, in a nod of acknowledgment to Meyerson.

Sheehy spoke about options the Fargo museum has available for regional artists. The Plains Art Museum expands well beyond the city limits of Fargo and displays -- and supports -- artists from a wide geographical area.

But, like most enterprises now days, the museum is struggling financially and has limited space to display and store art collections.

Yet she invited the artists to seek ways to participate in the programs offered there, including an annual art auction, as a way to expand their own art audience.

Sheehy said the museum is proud to have the recently completed "North Dakota Mural" as part of its permanent collection.

The 13-by-24-foot painting was done by James Rosenquist, an internationally-known artistic heavyweight whose work is frequently linked with pop artist Andy Warhol. His work is a constant fixture in galleries in New York and he's completed commissioned works that are in display around the world, including the Guggenheim in Berlin, Germany.

Rosenquist, who is a cousin of Meyerson, was born in North Dakota but studied in Minneapolis and spent time in the Atwater area as a child.

Meyerson was at the Plains Art Museum last fall when Rosenquist attended a celebration of the mural's installation. That's where she met Sheehy and convinced her she needed to come to Atwater and meet more home-grown artists.

That could include Meyerson's own son. Jin Meyerson, an accomplished and acclaimed artist who currently lives abroad, and has work displayed in U.S. and international galleries.