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!