Sarah Filipi, a photographer who lives in Blaine, tends to hole up during the colder months, but recently she’s felt inspired to get outside and bring her camera.

She owes that to the “Winter in Minnesota” art exhibit at Blaine City Hall, which runs through Dec. 27. The show includes a couple of her photos from previous years.

Looking through her body of work, she found that winter shots were few and far between. “I thought, ‘maybe I should get out more and not limit my opportunities,’ ” she said.

Filipi is among 18 artists who offer 40 different interpretations of the season, from the literal to abstract. Wintry landscapes, hockey, sleigh rides, and birds that stay north are just some of the subjects portrayed. The mediums and styles run the gamut.

“Winter in Minnesota” is open-ended, and anyone was invited to submit work. This week, a judge will choose the exhibit’s “best in show,” along with first-, second- and third-place winners.

Gail Speckmann, a Plymouth resident, is a regular judge for the exhibit. Recently, she led an all-day watercolor class at city hall that centered on winter scenes.

Some of her students are participating in “Winter in Minnesota.” “There’s a wonderful interest in the arts in the Blaine community,” Speckmann said.

For her, judging the seasonal show has become a fun tradition. The various perspectives on winter keep things interesting. Artists are always “looking for new ways of seeing, and to get a chance to see it through other people’s eyes is a good thing,” she said.

Shari Kunza, a program supervisor for the city’s parks and recreation department, echoed that. The annual winter show “reminds us that winter is not a barren, desolate season, but one filled with life, outdoor beauty, and wonder,” she said.

A time and a place to paint

Blaine resident Ellie Pflager, a longtime member of the arts council that organizes the exhibits, said monthly art shows at City Hall shine a light on hidden talent in the community. It’s a familiar story: “You drop off your license application [at city hall] and there’s this painting or photo and you recognize the artist’s name as someone you know, who you had no idea could do this,” she said.

Pflager contributed two color photos to the show. One focuses on an icicle-covered evergreen tree in her yard. The shot brings back memories of a day last winter when the sprinkler had been left on accidentally. Water spilled out all over the tree, freezing in place. In the wee hours that day, the sun shone through the icy branches, making the tree appear to glow. “I ran out in my slippers to hurry up and get a picture of it before work,” she said.

Her second piece pictures a snow-blanketed cornfield in Ham Lake, near a friend’s place, she said.

A number of arts council volunteers submitted work, some of which they created during their weekly meet-ups. The council comes together every Tuesday night to make art, Pflager said. She and a couple of other longtime council volunteers started the art “jam sessions” 15 years ago.

Exposure for local artists

For Mark Hinrichs, a Columbia Heights resident who submitted wildlife images to the exhibit, photography has been a lifelong hobby, but this is his first art show. “I’m curious to see what will happen,” he said, adding that he’s already planning to participate next year.

Likewise, when Filipi came upon the art show, she was looking for opportunities to exhibit her work. Filipi quit her job as a paralegal several months ago to pursue her passion for photography.

For the show, she produced a black-and-white print of a golf course that’s characterized by rows of bare trees. The landscape struck her because “there was no snow on the ground. It had the feeling of things being quiet and peaceful,” she said.

She snapped the other photo on her street. She was struck by a burst of red on a single oak tree amid other snow-covered trees. It created a “cool contrast” reminiscent of the work of the well-known photographer Ansel Adams.

Karen McDermott of Lino Lakes has never been a big winter fan. But the show has prompted her to see the season with an artistic eye. Instead of focusing on the cold or the hassle of shoveling, she finds pleasure in such details as the way the sunlight bounces off the snow at a certain hour of the day. “It’s colorful, sometimes more so than what you find during the other seasons,” she said.

As a result, a sense of warmth comes through in her winter pieces, which include several watercolor-and-ink renderings of a woodpecker, owl and a natural area. For one of the paintings, she got some help from her fellow arts council volunteers at a weekly meeting.

The shadowing on a cluster of birch trees “wasn’t quite right,” she said. Someone suggested adding a purple tint to the trees. “I tried it and it worked great,” she said.

Way to warm up to winter

Cheryl Barr, who lives in Blaine, found herself painting a winter scene one day this past summer in preparation for the show. At the time, she didn’t mind the thought of winter, especially amid the heat. She thought maybe it would cool her down. Barr portrayed a natural area in Fridley’s Manomin Park using watercolors.

At this point, Barr no longer needs to rely on her imagination to conjure winter. But the creative warm-up makes the season easier to bear. “Living in Minnesota, it’s important to be content, to find the good in whatever weather there is,” she said, adding that it ties in to a life lesson.


Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.