Minnesota State Fair Art Show honors 100 years of Minnesota artists

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“The seventh time is the charm,” declared sculptor James Freid to a group gathered around his piece, Spinn Cycle, at the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Preview Aug. 23. “It’s the simplest, but the funnest, thing I have done.”

Freid made six previous attempts to be included in the annual juried art competition. This year, the 100th anniversary of the show, proved to be the magic number for his whimsical hubcap and spring sculpture.

Freid’s business card describes him as CEO (Chief Eating Officer) of the Big Bell Ice Cream Company on Snelling Avenue in Minneapolis, where he works when not sculpting. He said his piece took two months to create.

Freid’s company shares an area with Leder Brothers Metal scrap yard where he gets most of his materials. “I give them free ice cream so they give me what I want,” he said.

Nearly all of Spinn Cycle was found at the scrap yard, except the wood propeller placed on top of an iron rod and a flywheel from an ice cream truck. “It’s a reflection of what’s around you,” Freid said.

Showcasing 100 years of Minnesota artists

Being rejected and accepted for the same Art Show seems an oxymoron, but that’s what happened to artist Fred Cogelow and his wood carving A Penny Saved…?

To honor the 100th anniversary of the Art Show, the fine arts department of the fair is showcasing an invited exhibition titled: Marking Time: The Fair Looks Back at Minnesota Artists and the Juried Exhibition in conjuction with the art show.

This ingenious display highlights the rich history of the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition. Since the Art Show features only Minnesota artists, the Marking Time exhibit reflects the diversity of a century of producing art. The fine arts department reached out to other local collectors, galleries, and artists to create a look-back at the wide range of talent in the state.

Cogelow, 61, had a wood carving in the 1990 art show titled: Gust—with thoughts of Mabel, which turned out to be one of the most popular pieces of that year’s exhibit, earning the People’s Choice Award. This year, he submitted A Penny Saved…? but the piece was not accepted. Remembering the popularity of Mabel, and the intent of Marking Time, the art department invited Cogelow to include A Penny Saved in their 100th anniversary exhibit, although technically it was not a juried winner.

A Penny Saved was carved from a 500-pound, single piece of butternut wood hollowed out to 62 and a half pounds. Cogelow, of Willmar, worked on his sculpture from August 2010 until March. He carved the piece while the wood was still green and he needed to drill from the top through her head.The butternut came from land that was clear-cut near Brainerd. “My friend said ‘save this log for Fred,'” said Cogelow.

The title of the sculpture has viewers guessing whether Penny is the subject’s name or, as Cogelow puts it, “is her mortal soul in jeopardy because of her pecuniary pursuits?”

Entries slightly down this year

Out of 2,081 total entries received, 356 pieces were chosen to be presented in the 2011 Fine Arts Exhibition. In 2010, a total of 2,330 pieces were submitted, and 413 works were accepted.

Participation is open to all living residents of Minnesota and the deadline for entering was July. There are eight class categories and eight judges go through all submissions in each category to select the entries for the exhibition. They also select the various prizes awarded in each category and in honor of the 100th year celebration, they increased the premiums for each placing by $100.

1st place – $600
2nd Place – $475
3rd Place – $350
4th Place – $200
Adult People’s Choice – $250 (awarded at the end of the fair)
Kids People’s Choice Award – $200 (awarded at the end of the fair)

Additional prizes totaling $4,950 were also awarded.

The 2011 judges were Jil Evans in Oil, Acrylic, and Mixed Media, Perci Cester in Sculpture, Terry Genesen Becker in Watercolor, Gouache, Casein, and Tempera, John Gaunt in Drawings and Pastels, Ruthann Godollei in Prints, Ernest Miller in Ceramics and Glass, Nancy MacKenzie in Textiles and Fibers, and Sean Smuda in Photography.

The State Fair Art Show is located at the Fine Arts Center on Cosgrove Street, near the Eco Building, is free with fair admission, and is open state fair hours. An expected 400,000 viewers stop by during the fair’s run. The fair is open through Sept. 5.


(Above) Fred Cogelow’s wood carving, A Penny Saved …?, has the image of Andrew Mellon on the cane.

James Freid’s Spinn Cycle is “a reflection of what’s around you.” His materials came from a scrap yard in his neighborhood.

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