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Robin Cunningham's Smoky Hills Art studio dazzles the eye and imagination. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Smoky Hills Art on Main Avenue in Park Rapids is a reflection of area artisans' creativity

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"Artisans wanted."

Robin Cunningham tacked a notice on the front door of her soon-to-be gallery on the third block of Main April 1.

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By May's arrival, 40 artisans had responded.

"It showed me, 'build it and they will come,'" Cunningham, the "sole juror," said of her studio.

Cunningham, a silversmith jeweler and teacher; Bernie Cunningham, husband and a cabinetmaker, and Gerry Galster, her brother and woodcraftsman, collaborated on the construction of Smoky Hills Art studio.

The studio transcends the ordinary. Sublime, unique pieces capture the eye and imagination.

Dinosaur bones, fossilized sharks' teeth and prehistoric whale vertebrae are among the finds in the "fossil zone."

And the "rock hounds'" (the Cunninghams) penchant for stones adds a distinctive dimension to the gallery.

Girls' dresses, created from repurposed vintage table clothes by Janice Yliniemi, are a fanciful find.

Hand-turned burls evolve to become bowls, and spoons, Don Wattenhofer the artisan.

In addition to the handcrafted products, Robin and Bernie travel to markets where vendors from around the globe bring their works. Moroccan fossils, for example, and Indonesian carvings are among the finds. Three arrowhead collections from the Dakotas catch the eye.

But the majority of the works are those of local artisans, including Ponsford Prairie's Jan Campbell whose copper flame paintings have earned national recognition.

"I wanted artisans to turn their works into cash," Cunningham explained. "To share them with the world."

She charges 30 percent commission, with no charge for custom orders.

While the artwork is cosmopolitan, she strives to maintain an "up north feeling" at the shop. In keeping with the tradition of the Village of the Smoky Hills, Cunningham invites clientele to sip a cup of coffee while watching her create jewelry.

This summer's artisan in residence is Jim Kropp.

The store, which includes a cabinet display, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 302 Main Ave. South.

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Jean Ruzicka
(218) 732-3364
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