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Visit Italy via artwork

WORTHINGTON -- The artwork currently lining the walls in the Fine Arts Building at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus, is a visual travelogue of Italy. The pieces reflect the sites in and around Sorano, Italy, as interpreted by five artists, who spent a couple weeks there -- together -- last summer.

"We are old, old friends, all of us, who go way back to our youth," explained Minnesota West art instructor Bobbie Alsgaard-Lien about her fellow travelers.

After leading a student trip to Ireland last summer, Alsgaard-Lien traveled on to Rome, Italy, where she joined up with Fred and Karen Gage and Kevin and Diane Dumdei, friends and fellow artists from Sioux Falls, S.D. The Gages are acquainted with people who own an apartment in Sorano, and the quintet made that their home base for a time of relaxation, renewal and artistic exploration.

"It's a two-room flat in one of these old 15th-century buildings," explained Karen about their lodging.

The artwork that resulted from their two-week stay encompasses several mediums -- drawings, acrylic, watercolor and oil paintings, photography and even jewelry. When she travels, Karen works primarily in watercolor because it's easily transportable, although she also managed to do a piece or two in oils. Fred captured his impressions of the region through the lens of a camera. Kevin Dumdei mostly works in oils, but also experimented with acrylic and watercolor, while Diane is a jewelry artist.

"We would sit on the porch just about every morning and do a piece of artwork," said Alsgaard-Lien. "My drawings and paintings are really a combination of impressions from all my trips to Italy."

Some of the pieces are of the same views in and around Sorano, but each has the different perspective as interpreted by the individual artist. One of Fred's photographs of the fortress-like buildings stacked up on a hillside, for instance, is echoed in several paintings.

As they pursued their individual endeavors, the artists fed off each other's enthusiasm, according to Karen.

"That part of it is a great experience," she said. "Someone does something, and it just inspires you, helps you to see things differently than you normally would."

Besides being highly picturesque, the atmosphere of Sorano, which lies in Tuscany on the border of the Umbrian region, was also conducive to artistic expression.

"It's possibly one of the most welcoming places I've ever been," Karen explained. "The pace is so different -- it's very slow. You don't feel rushed after about the third day. ... You slow down so you're part of the pace of the place."

An opening reception for the exhibit will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Friday in the Fine Arts Building. The exhibit continues through May.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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