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Dorset's Heartland Art Studio bolsters regional art

Master woodcarver Paul Albright launched Heartland Art Studio this summer. His artistic friends enthusiastically agreed to display and sell their work in the new space. Wildlife artist Jeff Renner’s work can be seen in the background.

Dorset’s newest attraction features ingenuity by the area’s premier artists.

Heartland Art Studio is owned and operated by Akeley sculptor Paul Albright. He recruited eight other outstanding artists to display their unique, Northwoods craftsmanship, such as quill and birch bark baskets, glass bead jewelry, watercolors, pastels, oil paintings and woven baskets.

Situated behind Lundrigan’s Clothing in a quaint, wooden building, Heartland Art Studio opened at the beginning of June.

Very little remodeling was required to get the studio ready. Albright added one wall for additional exhibition space and to create a back room for his own projects.

A full-time master woodcarver for 25 years, Heartland Art Studio visitors may find Albright whittling away on his original sculptures or offering demonstrations.

“I’m just kind of test marketing, getting a feel for the need, if there is one,” he said. “I’m discovering there is one. There’s an audience.”

Lake home and summer residents seek quality, Up North decor — and they can find it at Heartland Art Studio.

A collection of original wildlife canvas works by Jeff Renner, an award-winning Park Rapids painter, are on hand.

Raymond Wattenhofer’s paintings, ranging from cowboy Westerns to farmscapes, also line the studio walls.

“Even though Wattenhofer was raised in Park Rapids, he was strongly influenced by his time spent in Montana,” Albright said.

Renner’s and Wattenhoffer’s artwork aren’t shown anywhere else, noted Albright.

Bead artist Sandy Fynboh Andress displays her exquisite, handcrafted jewelry.

Terri Young’s favorite medium — pastels — adorns the studio as well. Her paintings frequently feature the Minnesota landscape and flowers.

Colorful, woven baskets are the handiwork of Fargo artist Marcy Blikre. She’ll be demonstrating her craft at Sunday’s Taste of Dorset and offering a class in August.

“Something about basket weaving is like watching a fire — it’s hypnotizing,” Albright said. ‘It’s a great demonstrative opportunity for her.”

Blikre is a retired teacher and school administrator.

“I think she does outstanding work for a serious hobbyist,” Albright said.

Ken Spurlin’s wooden, puzzle boxes are also for sale. The woodworker lives in Nevis. “He has a real good sense of design,” Albright said. “Another thing to appreciate is his attention to detail. He knows his wood and looks for only the best.”

Jim Fletcher is Albright’s former high school art teacher. They have remained friends, even playing in a band together. Fletcher’s work is “really diversified,” including an adventure trilogy and mystical-style paintings. He is fascinated with Native American imagery. Fletcher resides in Pelican Rapids. He’s currently working on a series of wildflower paintings for the University of Minnesota Arboretum. “He has a loose style, not so illustrative as emotional,” Albright said.

Mel Losh is one of the few remaining Ojibwe masters of quill boxes and ornate bead work creations.

Using birchbark and porcupine quills, his intricate work has found its way into museums and private collections around the world.

Patterns are inspired by creatures in the forest and lakes that surround his Bena home.

Losh is searching for students so he may pass on the tradition.

Heartland Art Studio is open Wednesdays through Saturdays.