Tag Archives: Northwest Star Award

Northwest Star Award Presented to Donald Kakaygeesick of Warroad

Northwest Star Award Winner is Donald Kakaygeesick

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NW Star Award Winner Donald Kakaygeesick of Warroad

The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council is pleased to announce that Donald Kakaygeesick of Warroad has been selected as the 2021 Northwest Minnesota Star Artist of the Year for his lifetime achievement in art. Kakaygeesick received his award at a program in Warroad on August 26.

Donald has had a long history of representing Warroad and Roseau County in the arts field. He was born in 1959 and comes from a long line of Ojibwe artisans and a well-known family of artists along with his brothers Robert, John and his sister Karen. The Kakaygeesick name is synonymous with Warroad history, culture and art. In high school, Donald designed the Warroad Warrior logo for the public school. He has experience with many mediums including acrylic, oils, watercolor, and carving.

According to Warroad teacher and NWMAC Board Member Jaimie Snowdon, “Not only has Donald contributed to the world of art but he has also been a leader and teacher in the Ojibwe culture and history. These skills were taught to him by his father, mother and elders in the Warroad community. Donald has spent his life passing on the traditions of making wigwams, teepees, how to process wild rice, drumming, dancing and sweat lodge ceremonies to name a few. In all of these activities, art is intertwined. With the passing of his brother Robert last fall, Donald is stepping into that elder role for Warroad and the whole region.”

Donald’s art can be viewed at the Warroad Library and Museum. He paints in the well-known Indigenous style called, “Woodland School of Art.” This visionary style emphasizes outlines and X-ray views of people, animals, and plant life. 

Asked about the impact of art, Kakaygeesick said, “You can make a big impact with your art. Artwork can bring change. If you have the talent, you can make changes in everything.” As for advice for aspiring artists, he shared, “Learn your skills. No one will be perfect. Don’t be afraid to express yourself. You might think it’s trash, but sometimes you find out that everyone else loves it.”

Henry Boucha shared, “I would like to thank the Northwest Minnesota Arts Council for recognizing one of our Indigenous peoples for this outstanding NW Star award. I congratulate my cousin Donald KaKayGeesick with this Lifetime Achievement Award and his dedication to the Anishinaabe/Ojibwa culture and traditions of our people.  As long as I can remember, The KaKayGeesick Family, our Guides and Medicine people, have stood strong traditionally, and culturally through the assimilation of our people. The degradation of the Anishinaabe society, and our way of life on Lake of the Woods. Experiencing racism, prejudice, and discrimination throughout their lifetime, they have maintained our language, culture and traditions whereas most of us assimilated and left our traditions and culture behind. Amazingly, when we were ready to come home, they were there to greet us and teach us what they knew. AHO!

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 Donald Kakaygeesick on winning the Northwest Star Award!

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Arts Advocate Ann Novacek, Artist of the Year Connie Nelson, and NW Star Award Winner Donald Kakaygeesick

Artist Advocate of the Year Ann Novacek, Artist of the Year Connie Nelson, NW Star Award Winner Donald Kakaygeesick at the NWMAC Awards Presentation in Warroad.

Upcoming Grant and other Deadlines

Grants for Public Art — Due May 1

For details visit:

Individual Artist Grants for $1,500 — Due February 10

The NWMAC is has extended our deadline for individuals to ask for $1,500 grants.  The deadline now is February 10! This is the main category that individuals use to support their artistic business or advice their technical skills. This category is for non-hobby artists. Support for Individual Artist Grants comes from the McKnight Foundation.

Public Art Projects — Due February 10

The NWMAC would like to fund some public art projects.  Do you have experience with Public Art? Let us know by February 10 if you are interested in projects in our area.  We will be gathering information from interested artists, including examples of your work and budgets. We plan to share this information with interested organizations like cities and schools.  Let’s create some public art!

Arts Legacy Grants, Arts Project Grants and Arts Equipment for the Schools — Due March 1

There is a March 1 deadline for Arts Legacy Grants and Arts Project Grants, as well as for Arts Equipment for the Schools.

Northwest Minnesota Art Exhibit Sign

This year, the deadline for the NW MN Art Exhibit has been extended until April 15 due to June dates for the showcase.  The exhibit will take place in Warroad.  This allows more time for artists to create work.  The application is open online for you to submit work whenever you are ready.  The Artist of the Year deadline will be extended until April 15, as well. 

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!

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.