Frozen River Film Festival Executive Director Sara Enzenauer thumbs through student entries for the festival’s annual art competition. The winning artwork, which will be announced in July, will be featured on the festival’s 2020 passes.

Artists compete for FRFF badge art



This year, FRFF is running an art competition for its 15th anniversary festival, running from February 5 through February 9, 2020. The competition began last year, explained executive director Sara Enzenauer, as a way to get more people engaged in the festival and feature more local art.

“It’s for the actual badges that people wear during the festival,” Enzenauer said. “It encourages kids to be creative, working and designing pieces, and then be able to see their work being worn by other people.”

Local artists are invited to submit works based on three themes –– impressions of Winona, winter, and film –– and the works will then be judged based on the artist’s age. Elementary and middle school students will be judged together, along with high schoolers as the second category and college students and adults rounding out the set.

In each category, at least one piece of art will be selected and featured on a festival pass, with winners and runners-up receiving both cash awards and passes to the festival.

“My thought was to try new ways to show different Winona art and different Winona artists,” Enzenauer explained. “We’ve started using local art on our passes, posters, and booklets, and we want to support artists financially on top of letting people know they are there.”

Seven-year-old Olive Carlson created one of the selected pieces last year, and she was the youngest winner of the competition. Her work, which depicts the Princess Wenonah fountain, was featured on the Saturday day pass.

“It was interesting, and I was excited to show my friends,” Carlson said of seeing her work on the badge for the first time.

Her mother Kate, who works at Visit Winona, shared office space with FRFF and heard about the competition from Enzenauer. After learning about it, she brought it up with Olive, who had always been interested in art and drawing.

“Olive is a true artist. She already surpassed my drawing skill as an adult. So I passed it on to her, and said she could draw whatever she wanted related to Winona, and that’s what she came up with,” Kate said.

For winning, Olive received prize money which she split, putting some into savings and some toward buying an Easy Bake oven. She also brought the pass to school for show-and-tell, Kate explained.

Last year, there were roughly 20 submissions, but after last year’s badge debut, more people realized what the festival was doing and decided to take part, Enzenauer explained.

“We had a variety of things students and adults sent in, and this year, we have 30 pieces with more trickling in,” she said.

The entries vary greatly from one to the next, with drawings and paintings of everything from trains to ice skaters, snowmen to snowflakes, film reels to Bloedow’s donuts, and everything in between. One of Enzenauer’s favorite parts of the process is looking through all of the works and seeing how people visualize Winona.

“It’s fun to see people’s different perspectives of Winona, winter, and film,” she said. “For me, when I think of Winona, Sugar Loaf is the first thing that comes to mind. Seeing the different illustrations of it and different styles is always really fun.”

The competition is one of several ways that FRFF is honing in on local art, which kicked off several years ago with the 30-second Film Festival. That event, which is a local competition enticing individuals to create micro-films based on a number of different topics, helped get more people involved in film and the filmmaking process, which eventually led to more Winonans getting their feet wet behind the camera.

Last year, the festival introduced the first local film set in it’s history, featuring works from students, new filmmakers and established creators throughout Minnesota. While the festival had featured local works before, like Mary Farrell’s “John Latsch: The Man & His River,” this was the first time the festival presented multiple pieces in a single back-to-back set.

On top of the local film set, Enzenauer explained that FRFF is hoping to expand both off-season programming and special events this year, while expanding support for artists of all kinds –– filmmakers, musicians, and illustrators alike.

“A good mark of a festival is you have the main thing that you do, but you support what else is going on in the community,” Enzenauer said. “We want to find ways to continue to support artists in the community.”

Submissions for the Frozen River Film Festival 2020 Art Competition may be submitted by mailing or delivering in person to the FRFF office in the Winona County History Center at 160 Johnson Street, in Winona, or digitally submitted to All mediums are eligible, but artwork must be a minimum of five-inches by seven-inches in size. For more information, visit or contact Daniel Munson at 507-459-4322.


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