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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.