MARSHALL — Andy Kahmann of Montevideo has won the 2017 Prairie Disciple Award. The Southwest Minnesota Arts Council award acknowledges a person who has been instrumental in promoting the arts in the 18-county area of southwestern Minnesota.
Kahmann was nominated by Patrick Moore, who praised his collaboration with and promotion of artists: "He loves the process of collaboration, and for Andy, every collaboration is a joy. There are dozens of artists, poets and photographers who will attest to this. Many of these artists have gained confidence to print, sell and display their work as a result of working with Andy."
Kahmann grew up in Bird Island and started working at the Bird Island Union newspaper while in high school. He says, "I was fortunate enough to get in on the tail end of letterpress printing and the beginning of offset printing. So I've been in some kind of printing for almost 50 years."
Kahmann is currently the production manager at the West Central Tribune in Willmar. Most people know Kahmann best through his print shop, A to Z Letterpress, which he launched in 2000, and where he creates specialty cards, letters, stationery and posters with hand-set type. Kahmann says: "if the project is really important to the artist, and needs to be done, we can work together to find a way to pay for paper and plates and maybe down the road we can sell enough to pay for some of our time."
His knowledge in the area of printing has allowed him to collaborate with 14 area artists to create the limited edition posters for the Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl, the Meander. Kahmann said he insists the artist get paid for their image, " I think this is a huge part of Meander's success that each artist takes a lot of ownership in their image." Kahmann works with each artist to explain the letterpress process and reproduce the image to their satisfaction.
Moore credits Kahmann for much of the current success of the Upper Minnesota River Valley Art Crawl, explaining that he provided the bookkeeping structure to get it started, including creative ways to sustain finances and donors. Kahmann has been a volunteer leader on the steering committee for the Meander for the last 14 years. Kristi Fernholz, fine art photographer and a fellow coordinator of the Meander Art Crawl, praised the "enormous amount of time and effort" Kahmann has lent to the planning of the event, saying "but more than that, he has found a way to work with artists that pushes the artists in this region to great work ... he encourages people to work together."
Jo Pederson of Stony Run Woods in Granite Falls supported Moore's nomination of Kahmann, saying that through his skills for teaching and printing "he continues to offer new ideas and opportunities to the community." Pederson stops by the shop that's "always open" to "be inspired by his enthusiasm and giving spirit." Lucy Tokheim of Tokheim Stoneware in Dawson agreed, saying, "Andy's print shop on Main Street is always open, even when he isn't in it. This is an ongoing invitation to people to stop in and see a craftsman at work ... it is another effective way that Andy is a true Prairie Disciple for the arts in southwest Minnesota." Kahmann himself describes his letterpress shop as a "working museum."
Moore summed up his support for Kahmann as Prairie Disciple by saying "you would have to look very hard to find a more dedicated servant to the promotion of art and its appreciation in everyday life."
The award will be officially presented to Kahmann at the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council annual celebration Saturday at the River City Eatery in Windom.