By Sean Miner
Each October for the last six years, a group of area artists and artisans have banded together to hold the Long Lake Area Art Show. The event has steadily grown in scale and involvement since its creation, but an exciting change is coming to the art scene in the area.
Local artists Lonnie Broden and Shakun Maheshwari, along with a number of other artists that have participated in the art show, recently created the Westside Art Guild. The guild will serve as a support structure for the annual art show, as well as artistic pursuits in the area year-round.
“We decided we needed some structure,” said Broden. “We met in November, and then we decided we were going to start meeting regularly.”
The guild’s inaugural meeting as such is slated for 7 p.m. on March 7 at the Orono Discovery Center in Maple Plain. According to the artists, anyone interested in becoming more involved in the art scene is welcome to attend.
“Our guild will be more made up of a loose organization of people who are interested,” said Broden. “We have a feeling, just from knowing people around here, that there are a lot of people who do not participate so much in the show, but are really artists.”
Like the art show that spawned it, the guild will focus primarily on artists in the west metro area, but Maheshwari and Broden indicated that they did not intend to turn anyone away based on location. Broden pointed out that artists from as far away as South Dakota had occasionally been included in the art show.
Various clubs exist in the area and beyond, often focused on one medium or another, but the guild is intended for creative types of all stripes. Both artists indicated that they intended the guild to be inclusive, with respect to medium, skill level and more.
“Everyone will be welcome,” said Maheshwari.
“I think it’s pretty open-ended at this point,” said Broden. “I believe that people will pretty much sort themselves out if they want to participate in something like this. Why would we discourage that? We wouldn’t.”
Especially as the annual art show draws nearer, the guild would focus on readying artists and their portfolios for exhibition. Broden and Maheshwari are seeking to expand the guild’s influence past just the shows, however.
“We were thinking there might be a series of workshops, beyond just preparing for the art show,” said Broden. “It might be sharing techniques, there might be paintouts — groups of people who like to go painting — or groups of people who want to do other things together.”
“It’s also a good place to have a group critique,” added Broden. “I think that a relaxed kind of show-and-tell, responses from people there, could be very helpful for a lot of people, particularly those just getting into it.”
The guild will also create opportunities for local artists to receive funding through grants. Broden explained that the guild has been created in collaboration with the Discovery Arts Council, a non-profit community arts organization based at the Orono Discovery Center.
At some point, a cost will likely be associated with guild membership, but the Broden and Maheshwari said that these dues wouldn’t be burdensome.
“We are going to bring that up when we have our first meeting, and discuss what people think makes sense,” said Broden.
Past funding, the guild will also provide a collective voice for artists in west-side cities. Broden pointed out that an individual artist may not have such a strong voice in the community, but the group could.
“As a group, as a guild, I think there might be a better chance that we can be recognized as a real important part of the community,” said Broden.
A number of the details have yet to be worked out, but Maheshwari and Broden indicated that the scope and purpose of the guild would be largely decided by the artists it is made up of.
“There are a lot of things we’d like their input on,” said Broden. “I think it has great promise. It’s sort of the beginning of a good structure, and a kind of anchor.”
Maheshwari said that, while she and Broden have a rough idea of what the guild will look like as it comes to fruition, that idea will change and adapt to whatever the collective of artists needs and wants.
“We can change it as we go along,” said Maheshwari. “We can improve on it.”
With such a fluid plan going forward, Broden and Maheshwari encouraged artists in the area to check out the fledgling organization. Attendees of the first meeting are encouraged to bring a work of art to show the group during introductions.
“Everyone is welcome,” said Broden. “If you would like to just come and take a look and see if it’s something for you…just come and see.”
Contact Sean Miner at [email protected]