A day of painting is bringing summer to two ice fishing enthusiasts.

During the seventh annual Fish House Festival in New York Mills, artists painted scenes centered on fishing on two ice fishing houses for a raffle and auction. The artists included Aryn Lill, Jacob Sazama and Kim Sazama of Perham, John Peeters and Noah Nofsinger of New York Mills, Nancy X. Valentine of Fergus Falls, Dawn Rossbach of Menahga, Cheryl Bannes of Wadena and Mati Turonen of Vienna, Va.

The festival connects area artists with the public on a widely popular activity: fishing, as it is held in conjunction with the Lund Boats fishing tournament.

“It’s good for people to see the arts alive and well and thriving,” Bannes said. She is also the programs director at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center.

Jacob Sazama references a picture on his phone for his fish house scene of rainbow trout ice fishing on July 9, 2021.
Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal
Jacob Sazama references a picture on his phone for his fish house scene of rainbow trout ice fishing on July 9, 2021. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

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In his third festival, Jacob said the experience is hard. His scene depicted rainbow trout based on an online picture.

“It’s usually kind of hard because of the wind and the sun drying it out but could have been windier today,” Jacob said. “I think a couple of years ago it was windier . . . it was blowing everything constantly.”

Another challenge is the rough wood texture that is far different from the carving and painting of fish decoys that Jacob has been creating for the last 20 years. He also has a taxidermy business.

While making lots of signs for her family members, Kim is familiar with wood and created a sign-like scene of paddles on the fish house. She enjoys crafts in her time off, including fish carvings.

“I was a little intimidated but now I’m kind of like, ‘Oh I like it, it’s not bad,’” Kim said about her first time painting a fish house. She is also a manager at Big Pine Lodge.

Kim Sazama adds lettering to the top of her fish house painting on July 9, 2021.
Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal
Kim Sazama adds lettering to the top of her fish house painting on July 9, 2021. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

Families, along with their summer smiles, visited with artists as they painted outside the Cultural Center in the street. As eight painters were needed for the fish houses, Bannes worked on a large canvas that showed a muskie coming up toward a person fishing along with the words, ‘Minnesota, you’re going to need a bigger Lund boat’ playing off a famous line from the movie “Jaws.”

Bannes is trained as a traditional metalsmith, creates small sculptures from kitchen items and mixed media projects and teaches art at the Cultural Center.

Cheryl Bannes, New York Mills Regional Cultural Center programs director, paints a muskogee on her canvas during the Fish House Festival on July 9, 2021. Bannes considered the experience stretching as she doesn't paint with acrylics or a brush often.
Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal
Cheryl Bannes, New York Mills Regional Cultural Center programs director, paints a muskogee on her canvas during the Fish House Festival on July 9, 2021. Bannes considered the experience stretching as she doesn't paint with acrylics or a brush often. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

While painting with acrylics and brushes are not her favorite aspects, Bannes said the sometimes frustrating experience is good for her. She also encourages artists to stretch themselves, such as trying a different medium or skill.

“When I paint, I like to paint clean air anyways, I like to be out and paint so being here where you get to talk to people and people get to see you paint, it’s nice,” Bannes said. “I think it’s inspiring for kids when they see people paint. That to me is the important thing is that kids see the artists out here painting. There’s a lot of really good painters and just artists in general … in this part of Minnesota and … people need to realize the talent that’s in this local area, it’s really amazing.”