Sun Sailor photos by Jason Jenkins

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By Jason Jenkins

Sun Sailor Newspapers

From paintings and photography to sculptures and textiles, spectators and local artists gathered to admire the work on display for the Student Show at Minnetonka Center for the Arts.

The exhibit, which opened Feb. 4 in the center’s Laura H. Miles Gallery, is held annually as a way to reveal the imagination and skill developed within the art center’s studios. Any student who was enrolled in classes at the art center was invited to submit work for the show.

As the gallery welcomed guests to an opening reception, Orono resident Denise Leskinen, who sits on the board of directors at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, said that for many artists, the Student Show offers an exciting introduction to being able to present their work in a professional gallery setting.

“For a student, it’s huge. … This is super cool to be able to exhibit in an actual gallery as a student, and to be surrounded by so much talent,” said Leskinen, who has a small porcelain jar in this year’s show – a first for the artist.

A board member of the art center since 2012, Leskinen said she’s been able to take a variety of classes over the years and has recently become drawn to pottery.

“What’s unique about the Minnetonka Center for the Arts is the quality of classes that are offered are outstanding. We have working artists both taking classes and teaching classes,” she said. “ And the opportunity for the student to try such a wide variety of mediums that we offer is something that you don’t find too often.”

Plymouth artist Jim Geisinger, whose oil painting “Belly Button Boys” is in this year’s Student Show, said that while he’s been painting for the past 20 years, he began attending classes at the center seven years ago.

“The main reason why I come here is because I actually paint. I know what to do, but unless I’m with a bunch of other people doing the same thing, I tend to just not do it,” Geisinger said. “So every Tuesday morning, that’s my ritual. I’m here and I’m painting.”

Over the years, Geisinger said he’s had many paintings shown in exhibits at the arts center and along the way has discovered new techniques, including painting with melted crayons.

“I just kind of discovered that a crayon fits in a hot glue gun and started painting with that, and those paintings have been selling really well. ... I love trying new things,” Geisinger said.

Looking over her sculpture, “Emerging from the Baths,” artist and a ninth-year student of the art center, Louise Turkula said this was the first time she had tried working with plaster for a piece.

“It was a big learning experience, but [instructor] Foster [Willey] was a great deal of help,” Turkula said. “He was the reason I took sculpting.”

The Orono artist, who is also a donor to the nonprofit arts center, said the faculty and studio time have proven very helpful in tuning her skills as a sculptor.

“They have everything here that a budding artist might want. … The faculty is very helpful. They really take time with you,” she said.

Jon Maakestad, an artist who lives in Tonka Bay, said it was four years ago that he began taking pottery classes at the arts center – a first since his college years.

“It came back fast,” Maakestad said. “It was a little bit like riding a bike, and I’m better now than I was in college.”

A regular of local art shows like Excelsior’s Art on the Lake festival, Maakestad said he would also be joining in on this spring’s Lake Minnetonka Studio Tour, which invites guests to the home studios of eight different artists to view work from more than 20 artists.

Standing near his stoneware fountain, a recent work that’s on display in this year’s Student Show, Maakestad said he typically tries to craft pieces that are functional, from jars and vases to plates and mugs. He said he credits the openness of the arts studio for the amount of work that he’s able to create.

“You can come in almost in any time. ... As long as you ask the teacher’s permission, it’s pretty much open studio,” Maakestad said. “It’s a big advantage.”

The Student Show is free and open to the public and runs through Saturday, March 5.

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