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Inspiration at the corner of literature and art

Artist Dawn Zero Erickson poses alongside her textile piece, "Precious Distractions," on display through June 28 at the Red Wing Public Library. The piece is part of the easel art exhibit, ending after more than a year of touring around southeastern Minnesota. -- photo by Michael Brun/Republican Eagle

For Red Wing artist Dawn Zero Erickson, the library has always been a jumping-off point for travels into the imagination.

Be it conducting research for a journey abroad or getting lost in an adventure story, Erickson said she enjoys spending time in the library regularly.

"It's all about distractions," she said.

The library was the inspiration behind Erickson's textile piece "Precious Distractions," which is part of an exhibit celebrating all things literary on display through June 28 at the Red Wing Public Library. More than 30 artists from around the region contributed to the show.

The exhibit is called easel, short for Experience Art in Southeastern Libraries. Now in its second iteration, this biennial touring art show was organized by SELCO, a coalition of libraries across southeastern Minnesota.

The theme for the exhibit is "promoting books, a letter or letters, reading, authors or the library," according to the Easel website.

Besides this initial premise -- and a requirement to be suitable for display to the general public -- artists were encouraged to be as imaginative and cutting-edge as they liked, SELCO executive director Ann Hutton said.

"The pieces just needed to have some type of literary correlation," she said.

Two years in the making

The call to submit work for the 2012-2013 easel exhibit went out in August and September 2011, giving artists around two months to complete their pieces before three jurors selected the top submissions in December of that year.

In total, SELCO sent out more than 3,000 postcards to artists and art organizations around southeastern Minnesota, Hutton said.

Although Hutton admitted to not being very artistic herself, she said she was impressed by the work that was submitted. "Not only the quantity of submissions, but also the quality as well," she said.

After finalists were chosen, the exhibit started its tour Jan. 26, 2012, at the Rochester Art Walk before moving on every few weeks to nearly a dozen schools and libraries.. The last stop on the tour is the Red Wing Public Library.

"Every place it has gone, it has been well received," said Hutton, adding that she has already heard from artists around the area pledging support for the tour be put on a third time.

Public reception

There will be a free reception for the exhibit 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at the Red Wing Public Library. Speakers include Erickson, who will talk further about her work, and Richard Hutton, one of the exhibit jurors and member of Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists.

The reception also will include the presentation of a portrait of former library director James Lund to interim director Janet Brandt by artist Art Kenyon.

Catalogs featuring color photographs of exhibit pieces alongside biographies and artist statements will be available for free at the event, paid for by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

The catalog is a way to document the art for future enjoyment, Hutton said. "We wanted to make sure it would be a legacy, something durable."

If you go ...

What: 2012-2013 easel art exhibit reception

Where: Red Wing Public Library

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Monday May 20; exhibit goes through June 28

More info:

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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