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Nobles County Art Center has new director

Kimberly Kooistra took over in July from Tricia Mikle.

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Kimberly Kooistra became the new director of the Nobles County Art Center in July. She hopes to begin having public art shows again in the near future. (Kari Lucin / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — From the outside, the Nobles County Art Center, nestled in the basement of the Nobles County Library, has seemed quiet since the arrival of COVID-19, but in reality, the work never stopped.

“We’ve been working on reframing, restoring and cataloging,” said Kimberly Kooistra, who took over as art director at the center in July from Tricia Mikle.

Now the Art Center is open by appointment from noon to 3 p.m., and though visitors are limited to four at a time, Kooistra is looking forward to showing the area’s art in a physical space again after a long time showing it only on Facebook.

Kooistra, who has been selling her artwork since 1975, took art classes, belonged to an art club and graduated from Worthington High School. She also took art classes every summer at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa, for five years.

Kooistra specializes in an unusual art form — miniature art, meaning the image size cannot be more than 25 square inches, but also that no subject can be more than one-sixth of its actual size. Kooistra paints quite a few very, very small subjects.

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“I like to paint hummingbirds, but they end up being 3/16th of an inch,” she said.

Her specialty is colored pencil, a medium she’s given classes in before, but she also uses acrylic paints and other media, sometimes on surfaces people might not expect, such as antique ivory piano keys.

“I paint acrylic pictures on pieces of ostrich eggshell,” she said, noting that working with the rugged shells can get a bit messy.

Back in the early 1990s when she was working as a nail technician, one of her customers who knew Kooistra could paint tiny images on fingernails asked if she could make ornaments and jewelry on pieces of ostrich eggshell so that she would have something unusual in her booth at the next state ostrich association show. Kooistra has also painted images of birds on eggshell for the Audubon Society of Iowa.

She has shown her work in six countries and in shows at the Smithsonian Institute, and she has been a signature member of the Miniature Artists of America since 2006.

Now Kooistra is showing other people’s works from the Art Center’s permanent collection — pastels, oils, batik, woven cloth, prints, sculptures and more, whether beautiful, quirky or thought-provoking.

“We normally have a different show every two months,” she said. “And we haven’t had classes, and I think that’s one of the most fun things in the Arts Center.”

In order to continue fostering local artists and their work despite the pandemic, the Art Center moved its art club onto Facebook. Someone picks a theme — typically a word or two — everyone in the group creates a piece of art with that theme and then shares it among the group.

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“It’s really fun looking at the stuff people coming up with. It’s amazing how different people can interpret one word or one sentence… there’s no charge. It’s free, it’s fun. It’s a way for people to be able to do some artwork without being judged,” Kooistra said, emphasizing that art is a way for people to express their personalities.

She hopes the Art Center will get to have its annual holiday show again this year — a show at which she herself has often made and sold ornaments.

“I really think that’s a fun one,” she said.

To make an appointment to visit the Art Center, call 372-8245. Additional pieces from the permanent collection can be viewed at the Nobles County Administration Building and the Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.

For more information on the Nobles County Art Center, visit its Facebook page.

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