By Tanner Kent
The Free Press
Psst. Don’t tell the folks in San Francisco, New York or Minneapolis -- but Brian Frink believes you may not have to travel outside your own backyard to find innovative contemporary art.
“There is this model of thinking that new styles migrate outward from the city to the rest of the world,” said the Minnesota State University art instructor. “I just think that’s totally on its head now, and I don’t think people realize it.
“I think there are artists living in places like Mankato that are cutting edge.”
With that notion, Frink began conceiving the idea behind Rural America Contemporary Art.
During a blizzard two winters ago, Frink started the Rural America Contemporary Art organization on Facebook. Artists in the region began joining almost instantly. Soon, word of Frink’s radical new idea began proliferating in social media circles and artists from Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa and elsewhere began joining. Now, membership numbers more than 850 artists from across the country.
Seeing that others believed in the artistic paradigm he was theorizing, Frink created a website -- www.racart.org -- and started a blog. Last December, he curated an impressive exhibition of works created by RACA members at the Arts Center of St. Peter.
Now, he’s launching a twice-yearly online magazine to showcase the work of rural artists as well as discuss the wider implications of a traditional artistic hierarchy that has been turned on its rural ears.
The first issue debuts in the next week.
“Now, there is no hierarchy,” said Frink, who has hosted art parties at his rural Mankato home (which is also the former site of the Blue Earth County poor farm) with the intent of bringing together area writers, musicians, artists and creators to share and discuss their work.
“With the Internet, there is this constant flow of information. É There is a whole lot going on out there and a lot of it is happening right here.”
The website’s gallery -- which rotates about every six weeks -- features a mix of artists local and national. Among them are Gregory Euclide, an area artist whose work was featured on the cover of Bon Iver’s recent Grammy-winning album and has held several exhibitions across the country of his ephemeral, fantastic landscapes that combine sculpture and painting. Also featured are husband-wife pair David Hamlow and Liz Miller of Good Thunder. The former creates large-scale, three-dimensional sculptures out of discarded items while the latter utilizes felt and foam to create similarly large-scale installations of repeating patterns that disintegrate perceptions of shape.
But the site also showcases artists like Erik Waterkotte, a rural North Carolina artist whose stunning mixed media prints and collages blur the distinctions between reality and fantasy.
Frink said both the website and the magazine will be geared toward a national audience. Content, he said, will be aimed at causal readers rather than academicians. The first issue will include contributors from around the country as well as local art thinkers like Curt Germundson, and MSU art instructor who’s writing a piece about a Mankato sculptor.
“A lot of sites tend to be too scholarly and boring,” Frink said. “We want to have stuff that is accessible and entertaining.”