by Dennis Dalman
Minnesota Public Arts Projects facilitate up-close and personal contacts between artists and residents throughout the state and in some cases bring people directly into the arts-making projects.
That is what will happen from now (it started Nov. 6) until Saturday, Dec. 17 at Milk & Honey Ciders, with a special event to take place there on Saturday, Nov. 26 in St. Joseph. During any of those days, people can visit that business to feed a penny press to make “itty-bitty pieces of collectible art,” as expressed by the project’s creator, Minneapolis artist Alyssa Baguss, who will be a guest at the Nov. 26 special event. Another special guest will be Mary Bruno, a St. Joseph printer-artist who contributed to the project.
Milk & Honey Ciders is located at 11738 CR 51, just north of St. Joseph. Its hours are from 4-9 p.m. Thursdays, noon-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and noon-6 p.m. Sundays.
The project is called “The Minnesota Artists’ Penny Press Project (Greater Minnesota Edition).” It will be held as a traveling show in four Minnesota cities and feature the art works of four artists (St. Joseph, Mary Bruno; Northfield, Christie Hawkins; Park Rapids, Yunior Rebollar (who lives in Osage); and Duluth, Moira Villiard). The Penny Press project was made possible with a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
The tiny pieces of art produced from the penny press can be worn as earrings, as a key chain or as a zipper pull. Here’s how it works: People bring two quarters and a penny to the penny press. They put the quarters into the machine and then a penny into a slot. Then they turn a crank, which turns some gears that crush the penny and stamp it with an art image. Mary Bruno’s image is a raven.
Baguss said all proceeds from the traveling art project will be used to support future experimental public-art projects.
“I want to make collecting contemporary artwork fun and accessible,” she said. “Art is such a valuable thing in our culture, but a lot of people don’t feel like it’s for them. I want to change that.”
Baguss acquired the penny press last year and then used it to involve the art of four women artists in the Twin Cities. She then decided to expand the penny-press project to greater Minnesota – the current traveling project.
“Artists live and work throughout the state, not just in the Twin Cities,” Baguss said. “I look forward to visiting them and sharing this artwork through a penny press. I don’t think there’s another machine like it in the world.”
Baguss’s own art works have been widely exhibited, including at the Minneapolis Museum of Art.
The St. Joseph contributor to the Penny Press project, Mary Bruno, owner of Bruno Press, learned her love of printing from her father, Don Bruno, who was a professor of design and started the Bruno Press in St. Joseph. After he died in 2003, Mary expanded the small letterpress shop, where she and others create a wide variety of printed products – greeting cards, posters, invitations and much more. To make her art, Bruno carves images into linoleum blocks and often hand-sets wood and lead type to make her works.
Bruno organizes international traveling art exhibitions with other printers and said she loves to collaborate with others, including poets, musicians, designers and children.
The other three artists who created images for the Penny Press Project are the following:
Christie Hawkins of Northfield recently retired from her job as studio art technician at St. Olaf College, where she is visual designer for the college’s annual Christmas Festival. She loves choral music and the environment (especially trees), which inspire her art.
Yunior Rebollar of Osage is a mixed-media artist adept at portrait drawing. He finds his inspiration through music, movies, fashion, dance and pop culture. Other aesthetic influences derive from his being raised in a small village within Havana, Cuba. His works often explore and reveal the many aspects of Black identity.
Moira Villiard of Duluth uses portraiture, illustration and graphic-and-digital design for her large murals. She is also a community organizer, museum curator and arts educator who concentrates on issues of equity and justice. Villiard grew up on the Fond du Lac Reservation in Cloquet, a direct descendent of the Fond du Lac indigenous people.