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Art in the open

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Allison Eklund found a spot near the Vermillion Falls to work on her painting of the mill. 2 / 6
Andy Evansen joined the artists during the day, painting a view of downtown Hastings from the north end of the Highway 61 bridge.3 / 6
Brian Stewart works on a scene of the open railroad bridge.4 / 6
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Allison Eklund works on her scene of the upper portion of the Vermillion Falls and the mill beside it.6 / 6

Hastings artist Andy Evansen spent good amount of time last week worrying about the weather. He had planned a plein air event in Hastings, bringing 15 of the state’s best plein air painters into the city to record local scenes on canvas.

As it turned out, the weather couldn’t have been better. The artists gathered at Evansen’s downtown Hastings studio Saturday morning before spreading out around Hastings and Prescott.

The day was part of a fundraising attempt Evansen threw together for the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council (HPAAC) and it’s annual gala, which is coming up on Nov. 4. Evansen reached out to several of his artist friends and invited them to participate in the day. Each artist would have from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to find a spot and paint a scene, start to finish. By 4 p.m., the freshly painted works were brought back to Evansen’s studio and hung in his gallery for a public reception. At the reception, more than 100 visitors got to meet the artists and look over the work, as well as purchase any of the pieces available for sale.

The roster of attending artists impressed even HPAAC.

Plein air artists took their paints and brushes outdoors Saturday to paint local scenes. “I am just amazed that Andy was able to bring the best talent in Minnesota to paint Hastings and Prescott,” said Dick Graham, HPAAC president.

Artists attending were Jim Turner, Joshua Cunningham, Kami Mendlik, Evansen, Mike Rada, Bob Upton, Allison Eklund, Richard Abraham, Robert Bonawitz, Brian Stewart, Dan Mondloch, Hannah Heyer, Bridget Ertelt and Christopher Copeland. Dan Wiemer wasn’t able to attend the Saturday event but came to Hastings earlier to produce a piece for the fundraiser.

“We’ve got a really strong lineup of artists,” Evansen said.

Each painter brought with them a long list of professional accomplishments in the art world, including appearances in national and international art shows and memberships in elite art organizations. For every one, art is more than a passion; it’s a career.

“It’s what they do for a living,” Evansen said. “This is their job.”

The event was received well by the artists. They all are friends, Evansen said, but their careers often keep them busy. On Saturday, they got to get together and just paint, he said.

For Eklund, the day was a chance to help out with the fundraiser as well as returning to her roots. Although she doesn’t live in Hastings, her grandparents, Jeff and Margaret Livingston, lived here more than 50 years, she said.

Stewart said that he agreed to participate first because it sounded like “a fun thing to do.” He also saw it as a chance to get to know Hastings better since he hadn’t been in the city much before.

Evansen said there was a total of 21 paintings turned in at the end of the day, a mix of watercolor and oil paintings. One of them was purchased at the reception.

Through the month of October, the remaining paintings will remain on display at Evansen’s art studio (located at 202 E. Second St.), along with short biographies of each artist. The next chance people will have to purchase the pieces will be on Nov. 4 at the HPAAC gala. Proceeds from the sales will be split between the artists and HPAAC.

“I just hope folks in Hastings realize what a nice opportunity this is,” Evansen said.

The gala

The Fifth Annual Gala, sponsored by HPAAC, features food, music and a live and silent auction alongside the chance to meet local artists while supporting the arts.

It will be held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish Hall, 2035 W. 15th St. in Hastings on Nov. 4, starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at BreakAway Arts, the Hastings YMCA and Orange Dragon Art Gallery in Prescott, Wisconsin. Tickets may also be purchased online; go to

HPAAC has been working to support the arts in the communities of Hastings and Prescott for the past nine years. It funds activities like Black Dirt Theater, a monthly writers’ workshop, music programs in the schools and free weekly art lessons for adults. It has also been instrumental in bringing the new Artspace building to Hastings, which is expected to begin construction soon.

Graham expressed his appreciation for the effort Evansen made to support the gala and HPAAC’s mission.

“Andy Evansen is a community treasure,” Graham said. “No one else could have assembled this group of first tier artists to capture some of the beauty of where we live.”