Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Remembering the Indian Boarding schools


The “First They Cut Your Hair: Remembering the Indian Boarding Schools” in Bigfork shines a light on this period in our history with visual art and poetry depicting the relocation, reeducation, and cultural indoctrination of Native American children attending these  boarding schools.  The period was late 19th and early 20th centuries when Native American boarding schools were established throughout the United States and Canada in an attempt to assimilate Native American children into European-American standards. The exhibit will be on display September 7 through 30 during normal Gallery hours from 10AM to 4PM and during events at the Edge Center. Admission is free and open to the public. There is an opening reception for the exhibit on Friday, September 8 from 5PM to 7PM, which will include a poetry reading by Denise Lajimodiere from her book "Bitter Tears". The reception provides an opportunity to visit with several of the artists.

Author Denise will be reading at the Bigfork Art Gallery Reception is from her book "Bitter Tears" (above). The book of poems is a result of Denise spending years interviewing boarding school students.


The photograph below shows the Carisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania about 1900.  The schools separated children from their parents and placed undue hardships the entire families. Native American students were immersed in European-American culture. They had to get their hair cut, give up their traditional clothing, give up their meaningful Native names for English ones, were forbidden to speak their Native languages, and other personal hardships. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) founded the schools based on the Carisle School (below).

Since the boarding school years, the Tribal Nations have increasingly insisted on local educational opportunities and have established many tribal colleges and universities. One example is the Ilisaqvik College in Barrow Alaska (below with Bowhead Whale skull in front of the college). With at least 32 fully accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) in the United States, they are controlled and operated by Native Americans and are part of the Native American “institution building in order to pass on their own cultures.”

Interestingly the use of many bilingual Native American “Code Talkers” by the armed forces during WWII was one of the most successful ways the US military had in communicating without fear of the messages being translated. Code talking was actually pioneered by Choctaw Indians in the U.S. Army in WWI.  The later deployment of Code Talkers during WWII were in more significant numbers with Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Lakota, Meskwaki and Comanche GIs using thier unbreakable languages. Some of these service personnel had attended Indian boarding schools but did not loose their native language. It was puzzling for them that the government which had tried to take away their language in school, later gave them a critical role in speaking their language in military operations.


Regarding the exhibit, its Director, Karen Ferlaak, says,  "I was drawn to the subject many years ago but wasn't quite sure how to proceed with an exhibit at first. I decided to let visual art and poetry tell part of the story. Hopefully, it will encourage visitors to explore that part of our history." 

"The artwork featured is bold, provocative, and encompasses themes of pain, alienation, and... healing.The group exhibit showcases work from these Native American artists Laura Youngbird, Felix Youngbird, Steve Premo, Chholing Taha, Bobby Martin, and boarding school survivor Sam Hill..." WATTS News, Yas Scrivner.

"First They Cut Your Hair" will be on display at the Edge Gallery from September 7–30 Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10AM to 4PM. Admission is free and open to the public. There is a reception for the exhibit on Friday, September 7th from 5PM to 7PM.  Exhibit artist, Chholing Taha, said of the reception in a Facebook post, “Great people, art, and entertainment. The art openings are a great time to meet new friends and visit with a lot of artistic talent.”


Monday, September 4, 2017

Gable and MacDonald Team up for “San Francisco” the September Film Classic in Bigfork

Take two stars like Gable and MacDonald then add Spencer Tracy to the mix for creating the "first" disaster film about of the San Francisco earthquake and you have a super 1930's movie.  It is titled "San Francisco" and is one of MGM’s best movies of 1936. It had seven Oscar nominations, and one win for sound recording.  The movie made $5 million total, with over $2 million in profits. That’s a blockbuster in star-power, money-power, and quality. It had lots of singing, a great love story, and action. I can’t figure anything more a movie “goer” of the period could want or need. This movie was before computerized effects, so they had to make some of the sets that would shake, rattle, and roll just like an earthquake. There was also a great ending in the original release that later releases unfortunately omitted because management thought it dated the film. The movie will be shown Thursday, September 14th in Bigfork on the big screen of the Edge Center by Jack Nachbar.  It will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film and the time period of the picture's release.

The plot doesn’t need much description except to say Clark Gable was the bad guy, Spencer Tracy is a priest (sound familiar), and MacDonald an aspiring and very talented young singer. There is a lot between the beginning and end of the film that you’ll just have to come and see it to appreciate. It will be great to just see how much Hollywood could do with a “disaster film” and not have computer effects to help the action.

William Clark Gable (1901-1960) was a heart-breaker with the ladies on and off the sets of movies. But he did not like his leading lady in this film Jeanette MacDonald very much. Regardless, the film got made with great results and a few pranks by Gable at MacDonald’s expense. And in fact, it was MacDonald that wanted Gable for the part in the first place.

Gable started his career in silent films as an extra and his good looks and “bad-guy” persona did him well in the “talkies.” He had three Oscar nominations and won once for “It Happened One Night”.  He was a success on and off the stage. He is considered one of the most consistently good investments in films. Off stage he was loved by his fans and has the distinction of being the last star to play opposite Marilyn Monroe.  In Quigley's publishing annual Top Ten Money Makers Poll he appeared 16 times and was named seventh-greatest male star of American Classic cinema by the American Film Institute.

Jeanette Anna Macdonald (1903-1965) was an American singer and actress who is best remembered for her musicals of the 1930's singing opposite the likes of Maurice Chevalier and Nelson Eddy.  She stared in 29 feature films in the 30's and 40's and recorded numerous songs. Her films were nominated four times for best picture Oscars.

Nelson Eddy is most often thought of singing opposite Jeanette in movies, but was not available for “San Francisco” so she picked Gable as her choice for leading man in this disaster movie.

Jeanette is credited with introducing opera to the movies and was one of the most influential sopranos of her time inspiring a generation of singers in that era.

Spencer Bonaventure Tracy (1900-1967) was known for his natural style and versatility on the screen. He won two Oscars from a list of nine nominations. Spencer was a good friend of Clark Gable and enjoyed working with him His only problem with the work was that he never got equal billing with Gable. That eventually took its toll of their working together and ended the two appearing in films together.

Tracy acted in 75 films in his career and gained the respect of his peers for his performances. In 1999 the American Film Institute ranked Tracy as the 9th greatest male star of Classic Hollywood Cinema. 

The critics as well as audiences liked the results that MGM got in producing this movie. A reviewer of that period, Frank S. Nugent, writing for the New York Times titled his June 27, 1936 column: ‘San Francisco’ at the Capitol, Is a stirring Film of the Barbary Coast.  

The review says, “Out of the gusty, brawling, catastrophic history of the Barbary Coast early in the century, Metro-Goldwin-Mayer has fashioned a prodigally generous and completely satisfying photoplay. "San Francisco" is less a single motion picture than an anthology. During its two-hour course on the Capitol's screen it manages to encompass most of the virtues of the operatic film, the romantic, the biographical, the dramatic and the documentary. Astonishingly, it serves all of them abundantly well, truly meriting commendation as a near-perfect illustration of the cinema's inherent and acquired ability to absorb and digest other art forms and convert them into its own sinews.”

You can see this movie free of charge. An appropriate snack will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday September 14 at 6:30PM. It will be worth going to Bigfork, because Jack will give you lots of background about the movie and a cartoon of the period will give you some laughs.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Minnesota 13 was the Key to Moonshine in Minnesota

With John Perkins’ ninth benefit concert for the Edge Center in August, we will learn a lot about some little known facts concerning this “neck-of-the-woods”.  One of the more colorful facts is that there was a lot more “moonshine” being produced here than one might expect. In fact, the state of Minnesota was one of the centers of making illegal liquor during those years. It had its own preferred “brand” of the product taking “Minnesota 13” moonshine way beyond the region. John Perkins brings his “brand” of music to his annual Edge benefit concert this month. All the music he sings and plays is his own. John is a very talented musician, singer, and songwriter from the Sand Lake area of our state. You can sit back and enjoy his songs about the history, people, and way of life here in the Chippewa forest plus something about his other “home” in the “smoky mountains” where he spends half of the year enjoying life a little south of Asheville North Carolina. John will be joined by his “better-half” Sandy with her, spoons, Cajon and wonderful energy.  The show will be on stage at the Edge Center in Bigfork Saturday August 26 at 7PM. Prices $10 adults and $5 children.

Above, is a picture of John with his "Moonshine" prop that he made for this performance.

First a little bit about “Minnesota 13” moonshine.  Back in the 1800's it was thought that corn would not grow as far north as Minnesota until some University of Minnesota researchers developed a corn strain they called Minnesota 13. Sterns County was a production center for lots of Minnesota 13 during prohibition. But, there were more than just a few moonshine stills back in the woods this far north too. Here, other ingredients were used such as wheat and potatoes because there was so much of those available.

But that is getting a little ahead of the story. With Minnesota 13 corn being growing well down state, production rose and WWI provided ample market opportunities. The war ended, depression hit and so did Prohibition. All that did not stop the corn from growing, and with the silos filling, jobs disappearing and people needing money, the moonshine industry was born in Minnesota with Minnesota 13 being a preferred brand well beyond it boarders.

The production of  illegal booze including Minnesota 13 flourished until prohibition was repealed.

But let us go back to Northern Minnesota Moonshine for a bit. Back then in the early part of the 20th century and still today there is no federal law exemption distilling spirits for family or personal use and every state has its own set of laws regarding same.  You just couldn’t and still can’t do it legally. Now, there is a growing “craft distilleries” industry happening that is following up the “Craft Breweries” industry, but back in the 1920's and 30's no such thing existed, so everyone who made alcohol for drinking purposes was doing it to make illegal moonshine. Also back then the roads in northern Minnesota were not the best in the country, so getting around on them was not always easy, and then there was the winter with which to deal. So why not wait for a good snow storm to make sure you’d have no “visitors” on those snowy roads and fire up the still to make some spirits?  And if you needed more volume you could always hide it in some ingenious place like under a chicken coop.  That is enough about moonshine, and it is enough to just says it will be one of the topics in the John Perkins concert.  

You will be amazed at the amount of music John creates. Some of the songs you may have heard in his past concerts, but there is always so much more that will be new. He keeps finding new ways to be amazed by our world and passes that onto his audiences with his songs. There will be songs about homesteading at Max, the Zen of fishing, making maple syrup, a talking shed (that is a new one), and a “Box of Time” with a hole in the bottom. There will also be some of his other favorites that tell stories like “A Plow and a Friend” and “Whitewater Slim”, a 1928 logger who tried to ride the logs through Dead Man’s rapids on the Little Fork river. And don’t forget Chief Busticogan’s buried gold.

Audiences learn about both places John lives, laugh a little, and maybe shed a tear. But anyway it is strummed, it will be entertaining. To see an example of John's singing and song writing abilities, you can go to the following link: 

John plays a large variety of instruments including six, eight and 12 string guitars, a Resonator Steel Slide, and even a six-string banjo. Don’t forget there might also be a tambourine, jug, washboard, and Cajone on stage. For more information about John Perkins go to: And for some great Perkin’s music come to the concert on stage at the Edge Center in Bigfork Saturday August 26 at 7PM. Prices $10 adults and $5 children.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

“Shrek, The Musical” Comes to Bigfork

Every July in Bigfork it is time for an annual visit from our friends at the Stages Theatre Company from Hopkins.  Each year they bring a whole cast and stage set for one of their special productions. This year it is “Shrek The Musical,” a fairy tale about an unlikely hero in the form of a Ogre who solves the problems in his world with an adventure that will give you a very enjoyable experience no matter what your age. The play is on the Edge Center stage Friday through Sunday July 14 to 16. Performances are at 7PM on Friday and Saturday and at 2PM on Sunday. Prices are $12 Adults, $5 children.

It includes a wise-cracking donkey, a fairy princess, a mean villain, a cookie with an attitude and a bunch more fairy-tale misfits that somehow save the day with mayhem, great music and lots of fun. The play is for the whole family and will leave you happy and in a good mood.   

This is 32 seasons for the Stages company doing young peoples productions. It has grown “to become the third largest nonprofit threatre in Minnesota and one of the largest professional threatres for young audiences and those young at heart in the country.

From their website, “ when you see Shrek the green ogre find out that his “Swamp” is “…swamped with all sort of  fairy-tale creatures by the screaming Lord Farquaad, Shrek sets out with a very loud Donkey by his side to ‘persuade’ Farquaad to give Shrek back his swamp.” That is not too big of a job for an Ogre and Donkey, but something always gets in the way called “love” but all ends as it should… come and see for yourself.

Sandy Boren-Barrett (below) is the Artistic Director of Stages and the Director of this play. She says, “this spring I was in Bigfork School doing a musical threatre residency with the students in grades 3-6 and the all student finale number for the residency was ‘This is our Story’ the finale number from Shrek, the musical. To have the voices of 75 Bigfork students singing a song that they will later hear the actors in Stages Theatre Company  summer production touring of Shrek singing, was so inspiring.  I told the students that when they come to see the show in July, I hope to hear them singing along with the cast!”

This “Shrek The Musical” is one of the adaptations evolved from the 2008 Tony Award Winning Broadway musical. It is the young people’s version of the production.  It is based on the same story and features many of the same songs. It is all based on a Tony Award-winning musical that is, in turn, based on the Oscar-winning Dreamworks Animation film. Shrek book and lyrics by David Lidsay-Abaire. Music by Jeanie Tesori. Originally produced on Broadway by DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions. Presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre Internationl (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI Shows.  And, all photos shown here are by Steve Fischer for Stages Theatre Company 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Thirteenth Annual Juried Exhibit at the Edge Center Gallery in Bigfork

This will be the thirteenth time the Edge Center Art Gallery in Bigfork invited artists to submit their work for judging by a juror. Sarah Brooke, MFA Assistant Professor and Director of the Art Department at the College of St. Scholastica is this year’s juror. The results will be 17 artists’ work on display in this annual Juried Exhibit which is on display from June 29 to July 29.  The opening day reception is on June 30th from 5 to 7PM. There is also a special “People’s Choice Award” selected by viewers. That award will be part of the reception and can be voted on June 29th and up until 6PM June 30th. There is no charge for the gallery and reception. The Edge Center Gallery is next to the Bigfork School and is open from 10AM to 4PM on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  

Sarah Brooke, this year’s juror and Assistant Professor of Art at the College of St. Scholastica, selected a wide range of entries that should be enjoyable to all who see the exhibit.  She received her BFA from the University of Minnesota and her MFA through a joint program between Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy and Bowling Green State in Ohio. She has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally and recently published a book of her paintings called “Portrait of and Artist.”  

Of the seventeen artists selected for this year’s exhibit four are new to the event. They are painters James Bzura and Tyler Evin, fiber artist Patricia Lovegreen, and sculptor Sherry Hoffman. The remaining artists chosen by Professor Brooke have previously exhibited in past shows. Among these are painters Sandra Thompson, Nikki Besser, and Jan Stenson; photographers Donna Rae Anderson, Audrey Johnson, Jill Johnson, Tim Lamey, and David Swanson; mixed media artist Sandra Boreen; print-maker David Nyssen; quilter Pamela Burns; basket weaver Cathryn Peters; and blown glass artist Jon Offutt. Altogether, 23 works of art by the 17 artists make up this year's 13th Annual Juried Exhibit.

The awards ceremony starts the evening of the opening reception at 6:15. A special thanks to the sponsors of the awards. This year they are: Best of Award by Kocian’s Family Market and two Awards of Excellence sponsored by Arvig Communications and First State Bank of Bigfork.  For the audience, the People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Bigfork Valley Hospital, is always special. It gives visitors a chance to see how their opinions compare to the juror. 

The Yellow Float photo (above) by Donna Rae Anderson from Deer River is an example of her work which she started at the age of ten using a Kodak Brownie. Her “…goal is to capture those moments when I am struck by the ‘WOW-ness’ of a scene…My greatest compliment is when told that my photograph looks like a painting…”

Northern Minnesota Artist Nikki S. Besser “…uses oil and mixed media as a means of capturing and recreating life’s most captivating moments on canvas…” (above)

From Crosby Minnesota, artist James Bzura shows his “…intent to birth art objects that declaim their existence as subjects experiencing history…” (above)

Fargo’s Jon Offutt “…continues to represent the prairie landscape in glass...” (above)

Sandra Thompson from Bigfork says “I am an abstract artist…I’m very excited to find different mediums to explore. Encaustics attracted me for its glossy wax texture…” (above).

The Gallery invites you to come and see this Thirteenth Juried show and pick your favorite while enjoying a snack and seeing a variety of exceptional art. For more information go to  Or come and visit Edge Center gallery which is next to the Bigfork School. The Gallery is open from 10:00 to 4:00 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.