Year in Review: A look back at the local arts and entertainment stories of 2022

The arts and entertainment scene in west central Minnesota offered much for its communities in 2022. This included celebrations of major anniversaries of arts organizations, new authors, art exhibits, historical milestones and the return of several favorite events following the pandemic.

Paul Linden of Minneapolis teaches a tool sharpening class during the 2022 Spoon Gathering in Milan on Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Paul Linden of Minneapolis teaches a tool sharpening class during the 2022 Spoon Gathering in Milan on Thursday, June 2, 2022. The last year saw the return of not only the Spoon Gathering but also other arts events throughout the region.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — The past 12 months have been full of art exhibits, orchestra and band concerts, plays and stories of artists sharing their talents with their communities. West central Minnesota has a very vibrant arts scene, and 2022 was just another perfect example of all that is on offer.

The curtain rises again

The past year marked a return to normalcy for many arts organizations and events. After nearly two years of pandemic upheaval, residents and visitors were again able to enjoy arts events in a way that hasn't been seen since 2019.

Events such as the Spoon Gathering weekend held by the Milan Village Arts School and the Willmar Area Arts Council's Studio Hop welcomed back artists and art lovers for the first time in two years. The West Central Singers also returned to the stage this year after being forced to cancel its 2020 and 2021 seasons, celebrating that return with a show full of holiday favorites in December.

Whitney Music owners Robert and Jeanne Whitney pose for a portrait in their Willmar-based music store March 7, 2022.
Whitney Music owner Robert Whitney talks about the Mongolian stallion hair his store uses to repair bow strings on March 7, 2022. While Robert and his wife, Jean, decided to close the retail store, the repair shop for instruments of all kinds remains open, to continue to serve the musical community of the region.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune


Whitney Music reaches the end of its song

The musicians of the Willmar Lakes area did have to say goodbye to a important part of its community this year. Whitney Music, owned and operated by Bob and Jean Whitney, offered a one-stop shop to buy, repair and learn to play instruments for 27 years. The couple decided the time had come to close the retail shop. An online auction was held to sell off the remaining stock of nearly 1,900 items — including instruments of all kinds and sizes.

It wasn't all sad news. The Whitneys did decide to keep the repair shop open, continuing to provide the community with a talented team of instrument repairers.

A rag rug in progess on a loom.JPG
Rag rug weaving can be as simple or complex as the weaver wants it to be. Both the warp, vertical lines. and weft, horizontal lines, of the weaving create the pattern of the piece. The Milan Village Art School has opened a textile studio in the old Milan school, which includes six different floor looms for artisans to use and learn on.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Milan Village Arts School opens textile studio

The Milan Village Arts School has an impressive collection of floor looms, and this year decided to open a textile studio in the old Milan school, now owned by the Greater Milan Initiative. In addition to providing a space for weavers to come in and use the looms, the studio will also be a place for other textile art, such as quilting or traditional forms of embroidery, to be practiced. MVAS also hopes to increase the number of textile art classes it will have on offer.

West central Minnesota saw celebrations of major anniversaries of arts organizations, new authors, art exhibits, historical milestones and the return of several favorite events following the pandemic.

New genealogical library opens at Kandiyohi County Historical Society

The Kandiyohi County Heritage Searchers, a genealogical research group, opened a new home this year in a building addition at the Kandiyohi County Historical Society. The Genealogical Resource Library, paid for and outfitted by Harold and Mary Jo Larson, offers family researchers a resource to find information on family histories in Kandiyohi County. The library provides binders and card catalogs full of births, deaths, important events, cemetery records and much more to help genealogists to uncover the branches of their family trees.

Harold and Mary Jo Larson sitting in the Genealogical Resource Library.JPG
Harold and Mary Jo Larson donated the money to build and outfit the new home of the Heritage Searches, the Genealogical Resource Library at the Kandiyohi County Historical Society.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune
Minneapolis artist Gregory Rose in a visit to Willmar shared how art can be a way to confront trauma, build community and look different at the world.
A Netherlands-based business is looking to build a hemp processing facility in Kandiyohi County or the region. There could also be an opportunity for farmers to plant a hemp crop this season for the company.
Willmar artist Ana Serrano's artwork is on display through January at the Willmar Education and Arts Center as part of the Paints and Pots exhibit.
CCT is still dealing with serious challenges from the lack of drivers to literally waiting years for new buses. Without both, the organization has had to scale back operations in its service area of Kandiyohi, Renville and Meeker counties.

International Glitch Art exhibit shown at K.K. Berge Gallery

Creators and fans of the modern art media called glitch art converged on Granite Falls Sept. 2 for the "Glitch Art is Dead" international exhibit. Art and artisans from around the globe exhibited at the Granite Falls Arts Council K.K. Berge Gallery, put on by regional artist Miles Taylor. More than 100 artists had pieces in the exhibit including framed stills, videos and art installations. The pieces illustrated the beauty that can be found in the glitches of technology like static on a television picture or a frozen computer screen. Similar exhibits have been shown in places such as Poland, Croatia, Paris and Minneapolis.


Fairy tale characters sing and dance during a dress rehearsal of Shrek the Musical at the Barn Theatre on Saturday, June 4, 2022.
Fairy tale characters sing and dance during a dress rehearsal of Shrek the Musical at the Barn Theatre on Saturday, June 4, 2022. Shrek was just one of many stage productions that took place across the area in 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

A year on the stage

Theatergoers were presented a wide range of plays in 2022, from musicals to mysteries to dramas. The Barn Theatre of Willmar staged productions of "On Golden Pond," "Clue the Musical," "Shrek the Musical," "Murder on the Orient Express," "The Odd Couple" and "Miracle on 34th Street."

In Renville, Friends of the Arts took a break from its usual fare of musicals and comedy to perform "Trip to Bountiful," a drama loved by long-time actor and FOTA member Bev Raske.

On the school stage there was showings of "Aida" at Willmar High School, "Moana Jr." at Willmar Middle School and "Peter and the Starcatcher" at Willmar Community Christian School.

Lucy O'Laughlin Tokheim enjoyed the quiet setting of her rural studio to create her first comic book. She took on the project during the pandemic with expectations of having lots of time, but she and her husband, Gene, found themselves as busy as ever creating Tokheim Stoneware as online sales boomed.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

Authors celebrate first books

It was a good year for first time authors, with at least three with local ties celebrating the release of their first books.

Mary Seifert, of Willmar, debuted her cozy mysteries series Katie & Maverick Cozy Mysteries in 2022 with the first four books — "Maverick, Movies & Murder", "Rescues, Rogues & Renegade", "Tinsel, Trials & Traitors" and "Santa, Snowflakes, & Strychnine."

Also releasing a mystery series was Zack Thelen-Liebl, a Willmar native now living in Stillwater. He completed and released the first book in a planned trilogy, titled "Chasing Shadows: Genesis," under the pen name Zachariah Jones. It is a murder mystery with the addition of the paranormal and horror.


On the graphic novel front, Lucy O’Laughlin Tokheim of Dawson released “ The Princess and the Boat Boy, Heroes of the Primstav ", a comic book about Saint Sunniva, the first patron saint of Norway.

Renville FOTA 2022 spring play Bev Raske Diane Drager Paul Knapper hand over the check.JPG
Bev Raske, Diane Drager and Paul Knapper take the stage April 30, 2022, during a dress rehearsal of "Trip to Bountiful," presented by the Renville Friends of the Arts. FOTA celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, joining other arts organizations marking milestone birthdays.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

A year of anniversaries

Several arts organizations celebrated milestone anniversaries in 2022 as well.

The Sacred Heart Area Historical Society marked 25 years of telling the stories of the Sacred Heart area in Renville County. Founded in 1996, it is housed in the old Ebenezer Lutheran Church building with exhibits ranging from schools and military along with a research library in the basement.

On the musical front, the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra has been performing orchestral music for the masses for 65 years. Started in the living room of founders Dr. Lawrence and Margaret Opsahl in 1957, it now performs several shows a year at the Willmar Education and Arts Center. It not only plays the classics, but has been known to showcase scores from popular films.

And on the stage, the Friends of the Arts group based in Renville has been bringing stage plays and other arts events to western Renville County for 20 years. Led by a dedicated group of art lovers and performers, FOTA's mission has been to provide community access to all types of art, from visual to stage.

Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra 002.jpg
Audience members listen to the performance of "Animalia Concert," by the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra at the Benson Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. WASO marked its 65th anniversary in 2022.
Macy Moore / 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 or direct 320-214-4373.

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