Tag Archives: Of the Year Awards

Northwest Star Award Winner is Joe Wavra

The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council is pleased to announce that Joe Wavra of Red Lake Falls has been selected as the 2020 Northwest Minnesota Star Artist of the Year for his lifetime achievement in wood carving. Wavra received his award at a program in Red Lake Falls.

Wavra is a self-taught chainsaw carver and owner of Klondike Carvings. His carvings include life-sized Vikings, trolls, Voyageurs, Wind Spirits, walleyes, and eagles. He has had no formal training. Fifteen years ago, he started with small hand tools and then progressed into chainsaws. He has been a full-time carver for 5 years. 

A prolific artist and community-minded, Wavra has created many carvings for communities in our region, including benches on trails in Red Lake Falls, sculptures, and trolls throughout Thief River Falls. He’s also been one of the organizers of Summerfest. Northwest Minnesota Arts Council Board Chair Briana Ingraham said, “he’s always willing to donate carvings to fundraising events for families in need or community events.”

Asked about his creative process, Wavra said, “Practice, practice, repetition, muscle memory. Shut the critical part of your mind off and let the creative part go.” Wavra doesn’t draw the design beforehand. He just starts. “It was a natural for me. I take out the parts that are in the way – it’s already in there. I just need to reveal it.”

Red Lake Falls Summerfest Chair Janet Wiskow explained, “Joe has shown over his many years here that he is an avid artist who is always willing to let others see how he creates his masterpieces, always willing to ensure his art is accessible to others, and is always willing to help our community thrive. He has been instrumental in the success of Summerfest.”

Red Lake Falls Mayor Allen Bertilrud shared that Wavra’s “artwork has added a unique beauty to our little town… Making art accessible to the young, the old, and everyone in between. He draws on our cultural history and memorializes it for the next generation. He has done so much over his long career to bring our past, our heritage, and our northwest Minnesota wildlife to life in his sculptures.”

The Northwest Star Artist Award is given each year to recognize artists within our seven-county region who stand out in terms of artistry. Of the Year Award winners are nominated by area residents. This award comes with $5,000. Artists can only receive our Northwest Star Award once, as a lifetime achievement award. Funding for the Northwest Star comes from the McKnight Foundation.  

Congratulations Joe Wavra on winning the Northwest Star Award!

Northwest Artist of the Year Award Given to Rob Burkel

The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council is pleased to announce that Rob Burkel of Thief River Falls has been awarded the Northwest Artist of the Year Award. Burkel is a talented actor in our area. 

Artist of the Year Rob Burkel

Rob Burkel has served as Thief River Falls Area Community Theater’s (TRFACT) board President, and directed, produced, acted in numerous theatrical productions in Thief River Falls and the area. He’s also been a TRFACT Radio Readers Theater cast member and a Lincoln High School Speech Team Coach and One Act Play Director. He sits on the Northwest Regional Library Board and has been the force behind bringing the Fargo-Moorhead Opera to Thief River Falls the past 2 years.

According to TRFACT Director Jane Anderson, Burkel is “the backbone of our local theater. His decades of hard work, phenomenal talent and dedication to theater arts, make him truly deserving of this award. In every capacity, Rob is an asset to the theater. Rob’s greatest contribution to the theater is his ability to act and bring characters to life.”

Director Teresa McGriff described Burkel as “one of the most prepared actors I have ever worked with. He’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and pitch in. He’s a real team player — upstanding but kind and fun as well. People want to be in shows with him because he is fun to work with. Audiences want to come and see him in shows, as well, because he is well-liked and respected. When auditions are held, he is one of the ones I hope to see walking into the room and that is one of the highest compliments a director can give.”

Fellow actor Scott Pream said,” Rob’s insight into his character portrayal is only topped by his willingness to help his fellow actors become the best they can be. He is a great leader willing to help in any way he can.”

When asked about the impact of the arts on individuals or society, Burkel explained that “theater and art are at their best when they force you to think. If forcing you to think makes you uncomfortable, even better. Art should change who you are going forward and make you a better person. There should be a balance between that and fun and silly. There’s a role for humor, too.”

The Northwest Artist of the Year Award is given each year to recognize artists within our seven-county region who stand out in terms of artistry. This award can be given to any discipline artist including visual, performing, or creative writing who are emerging or at a mid-way point in their artistic endeavors. “Of the Year” Award winners were nominated by area residents and comes with a cash award of $500.00. Funding for the Northwest Artist of the Year comes from the McKnight Foundation. 

Congratulations, Rob Burkel on being named the Artist of the Year!

Bruce Piersol is NW Arts Advocate of the Year

Bruce Piersol is Northwest Arts Advocate of the Year

The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council is pleased to announce this year’s recipient for the Arts Advocate of the Year Award is Bruce Piersol of Red Lake Falls.

Bruce Piersol Arts Advocate of the Year

Piersol was the long-time school band director in Red Lake Falls and is now retired. His bands have marched on the street and football fields, as well as performed concert, jazz, and ensemble music in school and public settings. As a teacher, he was dedicated to connecting his students to the community as much as possible. He arranged for his students to play around town at the senior center, upstairs at the courthouse, and at community events, including Summerfest. 

Piersol continues to be involved in music in the area by playing in the University of Minnesota Crookston Community Band, coordinating and singing in a Red Lake Falls community choir, and organizing and playing in a brass quintet called Windblown

According to Northwest Minnesota Arts Council Board Chair Briana Ingraham, “Bruce brings music to people who otherwise might not be able to get out and enjoy it. He has done so much to ensure people of all ages are exposed to and enjoy music.” 

Red Lake Falls resident JoAnn Zutz explained, “Bruce has always been a promoter of the arts. He was instrumental in organizing, finding appropriate music, and then conducting a community choir to sing a Christmas or Easter cantata.”

In addition to teaching band, Piersol also taught photography at the high school. His wife Ann was the art teacher. When his students performed a band concert, the couple collaborated by putting up an art show next to it.

Our Arts Advocate of the Year award is given each year to recognize arts advocates within our seven-county region who stand out in terms of volunteerism in the arts. “Of the Year” award winners were nominated by area residents. This award comes with a cash award of $500.00. Funding for the Northwest Arts Advocate of the Year comes from the Minnesota State Legislature.

Of the Year Award Winners Honored

The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council held a program to honor the 2020 Of the Year Award Winners

Three awards are given each year to recognize artists and arts advocates within our seven county region who stand out in terms of artistry or volunteerism in the arts. Many times people serve in both roles. Of the Year Award winners were nominated by area residents. The NWMAC recently held a reception to honor this year’s awardees.

Director Mara Hanel presenting the Of the Year Awards

2020 Of the Year Award Winners include:

Rob Burkel of Thief River Falls was awarded the Northwest Artist of the Year Award for theater arts. Rob has been involved in theater in the Thief River Falls area for 30 years. His dedication and talent is well known and admired. Our Artist of the Year award can be given to any discipline artist including visual, performing, or creative writing who are emerging or at a mid-way point in their artistic endeavors. It is a cash award of $500.00. To learn more about Rob, click here.

Artist of the Year Rob Burkel

Bruce Piersol of Red Lake Falls was awarded the Northwest Arts Advocate of the Year Award. Mr. Piersol is a musician and a strong advocate for the arts. He has performed and organized numerous musical groups bringing music to people who otherwise might not be able to experience it. Our Arts Advocate of the Year award is $500 and includes arts from all disciplines. To read more about Bruce click here.

NW Arts Advocate of the Year Bruce Piersol

Joe Wavra of Red Lake Falls received the Northwest Star Award. Mr. Wavra is a self-taught wood carver, creating life-size animals, Vikings, and trolls with a chainsaw. His carvings can be found throughout the area. This award comes with $5,000. Artists can only receive our Northwest Star Award once as a lifetime achievement award. To learn more about Joe click here.

NW Star Award Winner Joe Wavra

These awards were presented on Tuesday, August 18 in Red Lake Falls. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, our celebration of these wonderful artists and leaders in our area was limited to close friends and family.

NWMAC Board Chair Briana Ingraham and Director Mara Hanel
NWMAC Promotions Specialist Kristin Eggerling and Director Mara Hanel

Funding for Northwest Star and Northwest Artist of the Year comes from The McKnight Foundation. Funding for Northwest Arts Advocate of the Year comes from the Minnesota State Legislature.

Of the Year Award Winners Announced

The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council is Pleased to Announce
Of the Year Award Winners

Three awards are given each year to recognize artists and arts advocates within our seven county region who stand out in terms of artistry or volunteerism in the arts. Many times people serve in both roles. Of the Year Award winners were nominated by area residents.

2020 Of the Year Award Winners include:

Rob Burkel of Thief River Falls will be awarded the Northwest Artist of the Year Award for theater arts. Rob has been involved in theater in the Thief River Falls area for 30 years. His dedication and talent is well known and admired. Our Artist of the Year award can be given to any discipline artist including visual, performing, or creative writing who are emerging or at a mid-way point in their artistic endeavors. It is a cash award of $500.00.

NW Artist of the Year Rob Burkel in The Boys Next Door

Bruce Piersol of Red Lake Falls will be awarded the Northwest Arts Advocate of the Year Award. Mr. Piersol is a musician and a strong advocate for the arts. He has performed and organized numerous musical groups bringing music to people who otherwise might not be able to experience it. Our Arts Advocate of the Year award is $500 and includes arts from all disciplines.

NW Arts Advocate of the Year Bruce Piersol

Joe Wavra of Red Lake Falls will receive the Northwest Star Award. Mr. Wavra is a self-taught wood carver, creating life-size animals, Vikings, and trolls with a chainsaw. His carvings can be found throughout the area. This award comes with $5,000. Artists can only receive our Northwest Star Award once as a lifetime achievement award.

NW Star Award Winner Joe Wavra

These awards will be presented on Tuesday, August 18 in Red Lake Falls. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, our celebration of these wonderful artists and leaders in our area will be limited to close friends and family.

Funding for Northwest Star and Northwest Artist of the Year comes from The McKnight Foundation. Funding for Northwest Arts Advocate of the Year comes from the Minnesota State Legislature.