Artist-instructor’s abstract photography among the many works currently on display at Minnetonka Center for the Arts

Carl Beihl is sitting in the café at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts in Wayzata. Finished with his teaching duties for the day, he relaxes behind his MacBook and laughs when asked about how he became involved with the nonprofit Lake Minnetonka arts center.

“How much time do you have?” Beihl smiles, explaining how he began taking classes at the center in the late ‘70s.

Working primarily as a strategic business planner for several large companies in the Twin Cities, Beihl said having a place where he could come and create art is what helped him survive in the business world for 20 years.

“I kind of fell it love with (the arts center) for that reason,” the Minnetonka resident said. “The processes of learning about and making art helps you get rid of stress. It gives you a different view of planning things. It’s good therapy actually, and it’s self-induced.”

Beihl found creative outlets in pottery, painting and photography. Over the years, the artist said he studied in most of the studios at the arts center, both in the old location and after the center’s new building opened in 2002.

Back when he was still working, Beihl said he also held several stints on the center’s board of directors. When he retired at 50, Beihl said art became a fulltime pursuit.

These days, Beihl is an instructor at the arts center and teaches two photography classes weekly – one an intermediate class and the other for advanced photographers. He’s also enrolled in two classes in abstract painting.

One of the artist’s most recent interests has been in the practice of abstract photography. Working with digital cameras, Beihl said he’s enjoyed crossing over two of his biggest artistic interests: abstract painting and photography.

Standing in the Laura H. Miles Gallery, Beihl discusses the photographs he chose for the Minnetonka Center for the Arts Faculty Show, an annual exhibit that offers a glimpse into the passion and artistic vision behind the teachings of the center’s instructors.

The Faculty Show asks for three pieces from the center’s artist-instructors to be displayed. Beihl’s pieces in the show are “Fire in the Valley,” “Cinnamon Rose” and “Down Draft,” all abstract photographs printed on glass.

Employing techniques in macrophotography and smearing colors with camera movement, the artist creates dreamy, not-quite-placeable imagery from shots of nature.

Beihl said he hopes to teach an abstract photography class this winter, a topic that can be difficult to communicate in the classroom.

“You take somebody’s who’s gone their whole life always making sharp pictures, and then you tell them it’s OK if it’s not, and that not only is it OK, it’s a good idea if it’s not,” Beihl said.

The artist-instructor said he also enjoys practicing landscape and street photography.

“I pretty much enjoy taking anything. For a long time, I did a lot of travel photography,” he said.

When he’s not behind his lens lining up his next shot, Beihl is thinking up ways to inspire others to create their own art.

“What I would like to do is to teach people how much art can benefit them personally by helping them learn about what’s really important to them. Because in order to do this, you have to always have your eyes open,” Beihl said. “You always have to be looking and asking yourself questions.”

Beihl’s work, and art from other instructors, is on display in the Minnetonka Center for the Arts Faculty Show. The Faculty Show runs through Thursday, Sept. 24, in the Laura H. Miles Gallery at the arts center, 2240 North Shore Dr., Wayzata.

An opening reception for the show is 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, which is open to the public with no cost for admission. All artwork on display will be available for sale.

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