Canby Area Arts Council wants community to create and connect through art

This summer, the Canby Area Arts Council is offering an arts series that provides a chance for people to learn about painting and pottery. It is just the latest example of the council's mission to provide arts opportunities to the western Minnesota community.

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A pair of hands forms a small pot during an August 2022 handbuilding clay workshop taught by Sarah Bednarek and held by the Canby Area Arts Council. The council has been supporting and providing arts events in the Canby area for more than 10 years.
Contributed / Sarah Bednarek

CANBY β€” For the past 11 years the Canby Area Arts Council has brought the fine arts to rural western Minnesota in the form of art classes, music concerts, author talks and stage performances. That mission to support and promote the arts continues with programs such as Connect and Create, a series of art classes that will take place throughout the summer, and the ongoing Music on Mondays at Central Park.

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Sarah Bednarek teaches a boy how to shape clay on a pottery wheel during a wheel throwing class last summer, put on by the Canby Area Arts Council.
Contributed / Sarah Bednarek

"We feel a duty to step up and provide these things for the community. We sure enjoy it," said Sarah Bednarek, chair of the council.

The council was formed back in October 2012, first as a committee underneath the Canby City Council. A group of like-minded residents felt there was a lack of fine arts in the area and they wanted to change that.

"It was to bring the arts to the community," said Joyce Meyer, past chair of the council, adding that arts access in a community is an important part of good quality of life.

On July 19, 2019, the committee became a 501(c)(3) and became an independent council that covered not only Canby, but the surrounding area. Meyer said the decision to become a nonprofit gave the council more funding through grants, donations and fundraising.


"It gave an independence and fulfilling what the mission is," Meyer said.

The first event the council created was Music on Mondays, which brings live music to Central Park in Canby during the summer months. Those concerts continue today, and have been joined by a variety of different programs, events and classes.

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The Canby Area Arts Council puts on events, classes and programs that cover many different types of art, such as this intergenerational field and farmland mixed media workshop held in September 2021, taught by Mary Welke.
Contributed / Sarah Bednarek

Starting in June, Connect and Create will provide a chance for the public to take part in painting and pottery classes. The first class, Intro to Watercolor Painting taught by Angie Guptill, will take place at 2 p.m. June 8 at the Canby Community Center. Registration opens May 8, and the class is limited to 10 students. Other classes to be offered include Plein Air Painting Workshop with John Sterner, Advanced Functional Pottery with Guptill and pottery classes led by Bednarek.

More information on the classes can be found on the council's Facebook page.

"I really enjoy getting clay in people's hands," Bednarek said.

Connect and Create used to be Art in the Park, which was created during the COVID-19 years as a way to still bring art and community to residents even when gathering together inside was difficult. The council also gave out inspiration kits to kids during the pandemic and held online events as well.

"We found ways to reach people," Meyer said.

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The Sidewalk Art Gallery, part of Canby Hat Daze, is a chance for people to display their own art creations for the community to see. The Canby Area Arts Council has sponsored the gallery for several years.
Contributed / Sarah Bednarek

The Canby Area Arts Council also supports area artists. One such way is the Sidewalk Art Gallery every year during Canby Hat Daze in June. The council pairs up an artist and a Main Street business where the artist is able to showcase their creations. Last year more than 20 artists participated.


"That is a passion project for us," Bednarek said.

Helping make all of the council's programs and events possible and a success have been the board members, volunteers, community members and the Southwestern Minnesota Arts Council. SMAC has provided many grants β€” funded by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment β€” along with other types of support.

"They have been very helpful, supporting small councils like ours," Meyer said. "We are very grateful for that resource."

As a former art therapist, Bednarek knows how important art can be, not only for quality of life, but quality of mind. She has seen how therapy has given patients a chance to express themselves without words, to process trauma or just have a chance to be creative and imaginative.

"This does take a little bit of courage," Bednarek said. "It doesn't have to look like anything, we can let go of expectations. It can just be fun to put paint on your brush."

The arts council has given Bednarek the chance to keep art in her life, after a serious car crash last year required her to step away from her home day care business in Canby. It also have her the opportunity to share her love of art β€” and pottery specifically β€” with others.

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A young girl glazes her pot during the Play with Clay class as part of the Canby Area Arts Council workshop last year.
Contributed / Sarah Bednarek

"It is such a passion of mine, to build confidence in others," Bednarek said. "I really enjoy watching their faces light up when they've successfully completed something."

The council hopes to give the community a chance to not only see the fine arts within rural Minnesota, but to also participate and experience the benefits of art.


"There is so much richness that can be gained just in participating in art, taking a risk and trying something new," Bednarek said. "There can be personal growth and enjoyment from that experience."

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A woman works on a bowl during a pottery class held by the Canby Area Arts Council.
Contributed / Sarah Bednarek

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email or direct 320-214-4373.

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