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Olivia artist to share her love of art with community and students

McKenna Lilja, formerly of Olivia, will be the featured artist at the Bird Island Cultural Centre in August. She will be exhibiting many pieces of ceramics, painting and drawings as she looks toward the start of new career as an art teacher in Fargo, North Dakota.

McKenna Lilja, formerly of Olivia and a graduate of BOLD Public Schools, is holding an exhibit of her artwork in August at the Bird Island Cultural Centre.
McKenna Lilja, formerly of Olivia and a graduate of BOLD Public Schools, is exhibiting her artwork in August at the Bird Island Cultural Centre. There will be a mix of ceramics, paintings and drawings on view, as seen in this July 30, 2022, photo.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune
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BIRD ISLAND — Art has been a big part of McKenna Lilja's life since she was a small girl doing art projects with her sister on a table made by their grandfather.

"Since I was little, I loved coloring. My sister and I had our own little art room," said Lilja, formerly of Olivia but now living in Fargo, North Dakota. "We were always making art."

Art and the creative process seemed to come naturally to Lilja, and her passion for it grew as she did.

As she went through middle school and high school at BOLD Public Schools, she continued to take as many art classes as she could, learning how to create different types of art. In college, she decided to study to become a teacher, to spread that love of art on to the next generations.

"Creativity has always been something joyful for me," Lilja said.

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Metallic butterfly with eyes painting by McKenna Lilja.JPG
"Moth," by McKenna Lilja, will be one of the pieces on display at the Bird Island Cultural Centre through August 2022.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Now a recent graduate of North Dakota State University with a degree in art education and a job at Washington Elementary in Fargo lined up, Lilja is getting ready to start the next chapter of her artistic life.

But first, she is holding an exhibit at the Bird Island Cultural Centre to showcase many art pieces she created over the last few years. The exhibit, called "Courageous Creativity," will be open from Aug. 8 through the end of the month, and will showcase various pieces in different artistic mediums.

"It is going to be a lot of my stuff from college," along with some items she produced on the side, Lilja said.

At the exhibit, visitors will be able to see Lilja's ceramics, painting and drawings.

Over her four years at NDSU, Lilja participated in several different shows and was chosen the last three years to take part in the spring juried art show, where only invited artists could exhibit. Her show in Bird Island will include pieces from those various shows.

"It is a good feeling," Lilja said. "It is exciting to get the word out there about what I have done."

Rosemary Glesener and McKenna Lilja discuss pieces of McKenna's art on July 30, 2022.JPG
Rosemary Glesener, executive director of the Bird Island Cultural Centre, left, talks with artist McKenna Lilja on July 30, 2022, about some of her pieces for the upcoming exhibit.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

While Lilja has studied many different art mediums, pottery and ceramics are her favorite type of art. They are hands-on and easy to experiment with, which Lilja really enjoys.

"It's almost like science experiments, where you never know the outcome and you can always try new things with it," Lilja said.

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It is that chance to explore something new that led Lilja to her newest art form — crochet. Moving forward, Lilja would also like to learn more about stained glass and woodworking.

"I like to pick up new mediums," Lilja said. "I think it just looks like fun."

Floral ceramics and painting of North Shore by McKenna Lilja.JPG
A grouping of a trio of floral ceramic pieces and the painting "Lake Superior" by McKenna Lilja will be some of the pieces included in Lilja's exhibit in the Bird Island Cultural Centre through August 2022.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

That drive to keep learning new art and skills should help Lilja as she begins her new career as a teacher. Not only is it the perfect example of continuing to learn throughout one's life, but Lilja herself will have firsthand knowledge of different types of art to show and teach.

"I think it is going to help me be a more successful educator," Lilja said.

Even when she starts teaching, Lilja plans to continue making art during her free time. She especially wants to continue working with ceramics and perhaps create her own line.

Ink drawing of Monarch butterfly by McKenna Lilja.JPG
"Monarch Butterfly," a pen and ink drawing by McKenna Lilja, is one of several pieces that will be on display at the Bird Island Cultural Centre through August 2022.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

"I plan to make my own ceramic studio," once she has her own home, Lilja said.

Lilja has seen firsthand the benefits that come from being creative and constructing works of art with your own hands. She believes it is good to keep a person's brain active.

"Even if it is not something you are good at, there is always something you can do to be creative," Lilja said.

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Sunflowers with faces painting by McKeena Lilja.JPG
"Surrealism Sunflowers," a painting by McKenna Lilja, is one of several pieces that will be on display at the Bird Island Cultural Centre through August 2022.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune
Tall shimmery ceramic piece by McKenna Lilja.JPG
"Handmade Form," a tall, shimmery ceramic piece by McKenna Lilja, is one of several pieces that will be on display at the Bird Island Cultural Centre through August 2022.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune
"Blue Coffee Cup," a bright painting of a coffee cup by McKenna Lilja, is one of several pieces that will be on display at the Bird Island Cultural Centre through August 2022.
"Blue Coffee Cup," a bright painting of a coffee cup by McKenna Lilja, is one of several pieces that will be on display at the Bird Island Cultural Centre through August 2022.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

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 slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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