Red Wing Arts Festival: Autumn Invitational Recap

Red Wing, Minnesota, which sits at the entrance to the Driftless Region, is a stunning place during Fall. With the seasonal beauty and the golden light of the autumn sun, Red Wing Arts (RWA) determined that a second Plein Air Arts Festival – following its successful 14th Annual Plein Air Festival in the summer — would be warranted in a year that has been like no other.

More from the organizers:

Twenty-one of the region’s most recognized plein air artists answered the call to participate in the first Red Wing Arts Autumn Invitational from October 1-November 15. Nationally-acclaimed artist Mary Pettis (who has been featured on the PleinAir Podcast) of Taylors Falls, Minn., judged the paintings and announced the winners on December 3 at a virtual awards ceremony.

Red Win Arts Plein Air Arts Festival Recap

Best in Show was presented to Joshua Cunningham for his “Morning at the Mill,” Awards of Merit were presented to Paul Bergquist for “Sidelines,” Andy Evansen for “Lazy Circles” and Hannah C. Heyer for “October Blue.” Artists will receive cash awards of $750 for First Place, $250 for Merit Awards and $50 Honorable Mentions.

At the virtual event, Mary described why she made her selections. To hear all of her comments, visit the Awards Event video on YouTube:


Best of Show: “Morning at the Mill,” Joshua Cunningham

There’s so much knowledge in this painting. There are equal amounts of emotion and a really masterful handling of each of the tools, by which I mean, line, shape, color, value, edges, and texture. There’s a warm glow and it speaks to what [Ralph Waldo] Emerson said: “Gleam of light that touches our soul from within.” It’s really a little gem and a complex, soulful masterpiece.

Rural landscape painting
“Morning at the Mill” by Joshua Cunningham, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Award of Merit: “Sidelined,” Paul Bergquist

This painting presents a clear, powerful mood. There’s a masculine materiality of the subjects in this gorgeous low light. The rails really feel like iron and the earth really feels like it’s been pounded upon. The metal feels like metal and rust feels rusty. This is a wonderful composition and a gorgeous painting with strong construction, powerful movement and direction.

Painting of railyard
“Sidelined” by Paul Bergquist, Viroqua, Wisconsin

Award of Merit: “Lazy Circles,” Andy Evansen

This painting is so sophisticated in the spaces and in the space, revealing genius of his mood and his handling. It’s the most powerful watercolor that I’ve ever seen in many ways. It’s utterly exquisite, so beautiful and all the shadows are just perfect. Andy has created forms in space, forms that evoke something more important and on a deeper level – expansiveness, openness, calm, connections – it’s all in there in a panorama that’s rhythmic, musical and effortless. (

Editor’s Note: Learn from Andy Evansen in the upcoming Watercolor Live virtual art conference!

Rural landscape painting
“Lazy Circles” by Andy Evansen, Hastings, Minnesota

Award of Merit: “October Blue,” Hannah C. Heyer

The texture and unity of the piece is the most compelling aspect of it. It has a stunning immediacy. It’s bold and clean, and filled with nuance. It’s really thick paint using both transparent and dancing colors, yet the edges are clean. There’s not a chalky spot in this whole painting, there’s not a muddy spot. It’s clean pieces. If you looked up close you could see that she turned those edges with such nuance that it reminds me of the Russian masters.

Painting of trees
“October Blue” by Hannah C. Heyer, Dakota, Minnesota

Honorable Mentions went to Marc Anderson for “Put Out to Pasture,” Derek Davis for “Light Reflected,” Brock Larson for “Drifting” and Ivan Zassavitski for “Two by the Creek.”

Artists came from Duluth, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Western Wisconsin and Southern Minnesota. They were given six weeks to explore and paint the charming downtown, dramatic bluffs, rolling hills, vistas, and winding rivers that define Red Wing’s historic area.

An exhibition and sale of the scenic artwork is at the RWA Depot Gallery through January 16, 2021. The Depot Gallery is located at 418 Levee St. in downtown Red Wing or online at

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