College's Alumni Art Show features works from near and far

Torrential rains, heavy fog and nearly 2,000 miles were not enough to keep Brian Baltzer from participating in Minnesota State Community and Technical College's upcoming Alumni Art Show.

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Baltzer, a native of Pelican Rapids who lives in California, read about the art show earlier this summer in the M State alumni newsletter. He contacted Fergus Area College Foundation Director Carolyn Glesne, who discouraged him from shipping his artwork because she feared it could be damaged.

So Baltzer decided to deliver it himself, wrapping his art securely in plastic and cardboard and loading it in the back of his pick-up truck for a three-day trip from his home in Yucca Valley in mid August. He encountered heavy rains in Colorado and dense fog in Minnesota, but he said it was worth it to see Minnesota again for the first time in nearly two decades.

Baltzer is one of about two dozen former art students and teachers on the Fergus Falls campus who will exhibit their work as part of the M State 50th anniversary celebration's Alumni Art Show. The show runs from Sept. 12 to Dec. 15, with an Art Show Reception from 2-4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, in the Charles Beck Gallery in Legacy Hall.

The public is invited to the reception, and the gallery is also open for viewing from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Although art was his passion even as a child, Baltzer followed a more traditional career path after high school and enrolled in a culinary arts program. After 10 years in the food industry, he studied art for two years at Fergus Falls Community College in the 1980s.

"That was my first college experience," Baltzer said. "I took every art class that I could from Charles Beck. He was my first and most important mentor and influence on me as an artist. I still have a very soft spot in my heart for that college and community."

After FFCC, he earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts and design from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and then worked in Hawaii for 14 years as a designer before moving to Yucca Valley in the late 1990s to care for his parents. He has his own studio and displays his work in Los Angeles-area juried shows and galleries. Baltzer's current interest is using collected and recycled objects in his art.

The four pieces he delivered for display in the Alumni Art Show are from two series that he created for art shows in Pomona and Long Beach, Calif. Aside from his thesis show at the College of Art and Design, Baltzer said he's never shown his work in Minnesota.

"I feel it's a privilege to come back to this little college that is doing such big things in art," he said. "It's an honor for me."

Other alumni artists with work on display will include Scott Gunvaldson, Sam Norman, Mark Sundberg, Dar Eckert, Jacqueline Ness-Ludwig, Adam Priebnow, Karl Beck, Marlene Noack and David Messenger of Fergus Falls; Joe Hjelmstad and Alyssa Hodnefield of Battle Lake; Mary Carol Peterson and Jim Fletcher of Pelican Rapids; Haley Frost of Vergas; Millie Conard of Alexandria; Nancy A. Olson of Glenwood; Crystal Marks of Fargo; Jan Wendell of Grand Forks; Benjamin Hedtke of Marshall; Gail Onstad of Minnetonka; Christine Olson of St. Paul; Bruce Thompson of Mora; Kay Strand of New London; Fr. James Zotalis of Faribault; Paul Beck of Superior, Colo.; and David Waage of New York City.

Following the reception at 4 p.m., there will be a presentation of a portrait of Wesley Waage, who was dean of Fergus Falls Junior College when it began in 1960 and later served as the college's president. The portrait was painted by Fergus Falls alumnus Scott Gunvaldson and is a gift from members of the college's first graduating class.