Big Read in the St. Croix Valley: Visual Arts Exhibition Call for Artists

Dates to know:

  • Intent to participate: February 29
  • Artwork drop-off: March 28, 10am-4pm
  • Exhibition on view: March 31-May 15
  • Opening reception at ArtReach St. Croix: April 3, 2-4pm

As part of The Big Read in the St. Croix Valley, ArtReach will be presenting a visual arts exhibition reflecting the themes of environmental and world changes found in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The exhibition will be on view concurrently at ArtReach St. Croix in Stillwater and The Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center in Prescott.

In the novel The Grapes of Wrath, the effect of the seven year long drought on the land is explicit. When combined with unsustainable farming practices, families across the country were dramatically impacted from the dust bowl of Oklahoma and Texas to the cut-over farms of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Images of that era depict the stark reality of broken land, human migration and survival. Below, ArtReach is sharing an image of the St. Croix River from the Washington County Historical society as well as several images from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information collection at the Library of Congress as inspiration for artist response.

All forms of creative work are encouraged. All media, subjects and styles are welcome including–but not limited to–painting, fiber art, printmaking, sculpture, glass, pottery, jewelry, mixed media and photography. All applications will be reviewed by the Visual Arts Committee of ArtReach St. Croix to ensure an appropriate mix of work for both locations of the exhibition.

Artists living and/or working in the St. Croix Valley of Minnesota and Wisconsin between Hastings and Prescott, and St. Croix Falls and Taylors Falls including the cities of Stillwater, Afton, Marine on St. Croix, River Falls, Hudson and New Richmond are especially encouraged to submit applications. Artists are encouraged to submit up to three pieces.

All artwork submissions should be accompanied by a completed submission form that can include a statement of how the piece reflects the themes of The Grapes of Wrath. Application Form

The exhibition will be on view at the ArtReach St. Croix Galleries in Stillwater from March 31 through May 14 and at the Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center in Prescott from April 1 through May 15.

Washington County Historical Society Photograph

St Croix River 1934

St. Croix River and Lift bridge, September 1934. From the collections of the Washington County Historical Society.

 Library of Congress Prints & Photographs

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Historic American Buildings Survey, Joseph McCoy, Photographer, March 6, 1934. View from East – Stone Highway Bridge, Stillwater, Washington County, MN. From the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey Collection (Library of Congress)

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Daughters of Daisy Heath, near Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Mrs. Heath lives alone on two acres of land. Russell Lee, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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Untitled photo, possibly related to: Henry Holt, Negro farmer near Black River Falls, Wisconsin, who is being moved off submarginal land by Resettlement Administration. Russell Lee, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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Dust bowl farmer raising fences to keep it from being buried under drifting sand. Cimarron County, Oklahoma.  Arthur Rothstein, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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Abandoned farm and snow fences, Wisconsin. John Vachon, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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Dust bowl farmer with tractor and young son near Cland, New Mexico. Dorothea Lange, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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Children of Indian blueberry pickers in truck. Note boxes for blueberries and clothes. Near Littlefork, Minnesota. Russell Lee, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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Transient laborer. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Russell Lee, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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Squatter camp on county road near Calipatria. Forty families from the dust bowl have been camped here for months on the edge of the pea fields. There has been no work because the crop was frozen. Dorothea Lange, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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Four families, three of them related with fifteen children, from the Dust Bowl in Texas in an overnight roadside camp near Calipatria, California. Dorothea Lange, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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Mrs. Smallwood and her baby in the shack which they share with another family near Alvin, Wisconsin. Russell Lee, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) working with Soil Conservation Service making diversion terrace to prevent gullying, Vernon County, Wisconsin. John Vachon, photographer. From the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

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This Illinois WPA Art Project conservation poster was created by artist Joseph Dusek between 1936 and 1940: ‘Plains farms need trees. Trees prevent wind erosion, save moisture … protect crops, contribute to human comfort and happiness.’ From the Works Progress Administration Poster Collection (Library of Congress)