Saint Paul visual artist Annie Hejny in her studio with her abstract paintings

Resident artist uses river to paint


Saint Paul visual artist Annie Hejny will live and work in Lanesboro from August 6 to September 3, 2017, as artist in residence with Lanesboro Arts, supported by the Jerome Foundation. Hejny will collaborate with community members to utilize Root River water and sediment to create large-scale textured, abstract paintings that help reveal stories of people’s relationship to local water.

Hejny believes that collaborative art making and storytelling around the river creates an opportunity for the community to make informed choices about daily water usage. Through local stewardship activities, poetic storytelling and community river painting, her project in Lanesboro will contribute to community efforts to expand awareness of our essential relationship with water and the Root River. “I’m trying to bring the earth’s voice forward,” she stated.

Hejny draws more than just inspiration from rivers and lakes — combining water, soil, and ceremony to create her acrylic abstractions. Her process begins the moment she steps into nature, leading to the river. She is passionate about how intentional exploration of the earth can lay the groundwork for informed painting in her studio. Hejny’s blended painting technique, in which she pours water and sediment over a flat canvas, allowing it to emulate natural flow and erosion before layering it with traditional brushwork, aims to honor the water’s sacred and historical importance.

Hejny feels that Lanesboro is an ideal location to inspire water awareness because of its connection to the Upper Mississippi River. The Mississippi River, which is the main stream channel to the Root River running through Lanesboro, is integral to Minnesotans by providing necessary recreation, beautiful wildlife and fresh drinking water.

Anyone interested participating in the project, sharing water stories, or learning more is invited to join the artist at a welcome discussion and potluck dinner on Monday, August 7, in the upper level of the St. Mane Theatre in Lanesboro. Feel free to bring a dish to pass, but a light lunch and refreshments will be provided from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Community members of all ages are invited to join Hejny in Gateway Park, the green space between the Coffee Street Walking Bridge and the County Road 8 underpass, to participate in an honorable Root River painting and harvest on Saturday, August 12, from 10 a.m. to noon. Participants will be invited to write intentional words of gratitude to water on several large blank canvases. Together, you’ll work with Hejny to mix and pour earth, water and paint over these words, in a process that she has developed through years of paintings with river water. There will also be time reflection and storytelling, which will further inform Hejny’s work. Hejny will join community members for a Root River clean up with the Lanesboro Landscape Improvers at the Coffee Street Walking Bridge earlier that same morning, from 7-10 a.m.

Following the river painting and harvest event on August 12, Hejny will complete the paintings separately, working in the studio above the St. Mane Theatre to create a new Root River series. The final paintings will be shown at a capstone art and poetry presentation on the Lanesboro Museum riverside porch on Saturday, August 26, from 6-8 p.m. (rain site tba). Community members will be invited to share poetry reading and stories inspired by water and the themes explored in Hejny’s residency. The artist will also present an artist talk about her work and engage in a dialog with attendees about the river. Light refreshments will be provided.

Community members interested in creating their own work of art using water and sediment from the Root River, and/or diving deeper into the water conversation, are encouraged to participate in a reflective workshop: The Spirit of the Root River in Words and Color in the upper level studio space of the St. Mane Theatre from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, August 17. Pre-stretched canvases, paints and writing materials will be provided. A $10 donation is suggested to cover costs of materials. No one will be denied participation due to this donation but space is limited.

Hejny will be hosting meet and greet open studio hours in the upper level studio space of the St. Mane Theatre from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, August 24, and Thursday August 31. Hejny is also interested in joining community members for morning river walks every Wednesday through Friday that are open to the public. She believes that repetitively spending time with nature opens up people’s awareness to the healing powers and the rich stories that nature offers. Depending on the participants, these walks will be about 30-60 minutes and may include some sort of documentation / writing component.
An artist demonstration and farewell discussion is scheduled for Saturday, September 2, from 1-4 p.m. at Lanesboro Arts Gallery. Participants are welcome to provide feedback and hear first-hand about the themes explored and the stories revealed during four weeks of community engagement that had Lanesboro area participants telling stories about water and collaborating to create unique paintings utilizing water and sediment from the Root River.

Hejny studied at the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine University, earning a double-major B.A. in elementary education and studio art with Summa Cum Laude honors (2012). She completed a two-year professional mentorship/protégée program through Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota (WARM) and continues to paint at the Casket Arts Building in Northeast Minneapolis. Painting with collected river water and sediment is how she lives out her responsibility to the earth. Fully saturated with elements of the river itself, her paintings reflect the changing current and the luminosity of the water’s surface, as well as the foreboding shift in our relationship to these waters.

Hejny comes highly recommended by the Lanesboro Arts Residency panel, from a pool of more than 65 applicants of artists from Minnesota and New York City. Since the Lanesboro Residency Program’s inception in 2001, Lanesboro Arts has brought 44 artists to Lanesboro for artist residencies. Supported by the Jerome Foundation, the Artist Residency Program provides opportunities for emerging artists to create new work and integrate work into the local community. Lanesboro Arts residencies include stipend, lodging and studio space. For more information, visit or call 507-467-2446.


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