Austin ArtWorks Festival featured artist announced; Owatonna native Michael Sweere chosen

Published 8:31 am Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Austin ArtWorks Festival Committee announced the featured artist for the 2018 Austin ArtWorks Festival on Wednesday morning.

“Every year we’ve had a featured artist and this year we’re so excited to announce that our featured artist is Michael Sweere,” said Austin ArtWorks Festival Co-chair Mary Anne Wolesky.

An exhibit of Sweere’s work will be on display in the second floor gallery of the ArtWorks Center during the festival.

“L. Moraine” by Michael Sweere. Photo provided

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Born in Owatonna, Sweere received a degree in commercial and technical art from Mankato Tech Institute. From 1985 to 2005, Sweere worked as an art director, illustrator and graphic designer for several advertising agencies in the Twin Cities. He formed Michael Sweere Mosaic Company, LLC, and currently resides in Minneapolis with his wife Carol.

Sweere’s work incorporates recycled, salvaged and found items, found anywhere from thrift stores to lumber yards, which are then turned into sculptures and mosaic pieces.

“This will be the first time for the festival to have a mosaic artist,” Wolesky said.

Sweere was commissioned to create the 2016 Minnesota State Fair commemorative poster. The poster, titled “Lucky the Llama,” won first place at the International Association of Fairs and Expositions communication contest. His work can be seen in places like the Sioux Falls Regional Airport in South Dakota and Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater.

Michael Sweere. Photo provided

The Austin ArtWorks Festival Committee also announced that Jeff and Kris Baldus are this year’s sponsors for the Austin ArtWorks Festival Purchase Award.

“I am not the artist type, but as I go around the festival, it is so fun and it’s so interesting to see people’s talent, it kind of just sucks you in,” said Jeff. He also said he and Kris felt being the sponsors would be a good way to get involved.

Each year, a sponsor donates $5,000 to the Austin ArtWorks Festival Purchase Award. The sponsor then acts as exhibit judge and chooses one piece of work, worth up to $5,000, as the winner of the Purchase Award. The winning piece is then displayed at a community location.

Any donated money not spent on the winning piece is donated to the Austin ArtWorks Festival.

Artists that are interested in exhibiting during the 2012 Austin ArtWorks Festival may apply at

“Last year we had 55 exhibiting artists and another 90 artists who were involved in some capacity,” said Austin Area Commission for the Arts Executive Director Laura Helle. “The deadline is April 30, so now is the time to get your application in.”

Helle said that so far 22 artists have applied to exhibit art. After the applications are received, they will undergo a blind jury review before invitations are extended.

Along with the exhibiting artists, this year’s festival will include three live music stages, the Author’s Stage, the Trunk Show at the ArtWorks Center and free family art activities.

The Saturday evening Dick Schindler Celebration event will again be held at the Paramount Theatre, though Helle said that the artist will be announced at a later date.

“Around the state there are a lot of festivals and most of them get their funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board,” she said. “We get funding from the Arts Board too, but ours is about 25 percent of our budget, while for many others it’s 75 percent. The difference here is we have so many local donors, usually about $35,000 in small donations. I think that shows how much the community values the event and wants to see it continue.”

Help needed

The Austin ArtWorks Festival Committee is looking for donations of paper towel tubes and left over yarn of any kind for the ArtWorks Festival. Donations may be dropped off at the Austin ArtWorks Center during regular business hours.