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Students hone skills at Fine Arts Festival

WORTHINGTON -- It didn't take long for Nancy Losacker's students to get into the swing of a mirror mosaic project. Shortly after her workshop started on Tuesday afternoon, they were swinging hammers at pieces of tile encased in paper plates, creating the raw material for their individual creations as well as a loud racket that echoed throughout the halls of the Fine Arts Building at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

Losacker, of Vermillion, S.D., was one of 10 professional artists conducting workshops this week for the Minnesota Community and Technical Colleges Fine Arts Festival, an event that brought about 100 students from around the state to the Worthington campus. The festival, which is hosted on a rotating basis by the community colleges, began on Monday and will conclude today.

"We don't have much time, so one day we glue, the next day we grout," explained Losacker about her workshop.

Kylie Rardin and Brandy Blowers, both from Central Lakes Community College in Brainerd, drove six hours to participate in the arts festival. They'd already attended workshops in Photoshop and the Adirondack Share Chair project, which took place at Worthington High School, and were intently gluing pieces of tile to plywood for the mosaic workshop on Tuesday afternoon. It would be their last class, since they had to head home a day early because of other obligations.

"We didn't get in all the (workshops) we hoped we would," Rardin lamented.

"But we're happy with our choices," Blowers added.

Away from the sounds of breaking tile, much quieter workshops were taking place. Just down the hall, Ruth and Joel McKinney from Walnut Grove peered over shoulders and dispensed advice as needed to students in their sculptural metal casting workshop.

"They're making the mold blocks tonight," Joel explained. "They'll have all night to work on it if they want to finesse it, then we'll pour the metal in the morning."

The McKinneys, who formerly taught at Northern State College in Aberdeen, S.D., now operate a studio in rural Walnut Grove.

"We do jewelry, sculpture, architectural accents, also hand-building of tile -- a lot of ceramic work," Joel said.

Ruth said their first batch of students appeared to be excited about the metal work, especially when it came time to don the protective leather gear necessary for pouring the molten aluminum.

"So few schools get into metal casting," she said. "They're doing something that's the opposite of painting or sculpture. It's probably most like printmaking. This just gives them the process, an idea of what it entails. Hopefully, some of them will like it and go into it in more detail."

Fiber art -- wool felting in particular -- was another new avenue for students to explore in the workshop led by Grete Bodogaard, a fiber artist from Rapid City, S.D., who learned her craft in Norway. Amy Cloutier, of Zimmerman and a student at North Hennepin Community College, was particularly enthused about the small ball of wool she created early in the Tuesday afternoon session.

"I'm going to make a hat and have my felt ball hang off the top," she exclaimed. "I just got a loom, and I'm going to learn how to weave."

While the workshops were developed to benefit the students, some of their instructors were also learning new skills.

"They seem excited about what they're doing," observed Tim Jones, one of two art instructors at Riverland Community College in Austin, who sat in on several classes. "No matter how long you do art, there's always stuff to learn. Here, you can go from really traditional things like felting to the high-tech, like Photoshop, and it's interesting how these forms can feed each other."

After breakfast this morning, the students will get a last shot at workshops and completing their projects. The festival concludes with lunch.

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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