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SMAC’s 2022 Prairie Star Award goes to John Sterner!

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The Southwest Minnesota Arts Council is pleased to announce John Sterner of Marshall (Lyon County) as the recipient of the 2022 Prairie Star Award

Pictured from left to right: John Sterner accepting the Prairie Star check from SMAC Executive Director, Nicole DeBoer and SMAC Lyon County Board Representative Michele Knife Sterner.

Pictured from left to right: John Sterner accepting the Prairie Star check from SMAC Executive Director, Nicole DeBoer and SMAC Lyon County Board Representative Michele Knife Sterner.

The Prairie Star Award is given out every other year and it recognizes an individual artist whose body of work has made a significant contribution to the arts over an extended period of time, who has been recognized by their artistic peers, and who has best exemplified the highest quality of work in the SMAC region. In recognizing these individuals publicly, the awards will raise the profile of the arts in their communities and throughout the SMAC region. The public is invited to join SMAC in publicly honoring John Sterner at our Annual Celebration of the arts and artists in our southwest Minnesota region. This Fall the celebration will be held in Swift County on Saturday, September 24th. Please watch the SMAC Website, SMAC Facebook and SMAC Instagram, for more details!

This was a competitive year with many worthy applications submitted for SMAC’s Prairie Star Award. After all the nominations were evaluated and scored by the SMAC Board of Directors, it was determined that John Sterner had the highest score. SMAC Executive Director, Nicole DeBoer, then planned a surprise presentation, with the help of John’s sister Michele Knife Sterner and the Lakeview Principal, Scott Hanson. John is the art teach for Lakeview Schools. On April 28th, John was surprised to receive the award with an audience of students and staff during the lunch hour at Lakeview.

Plein Air painting by John.

Plein Air painting by John.

John Sterner was was nominated by SMAC’s Redwood County Board representative, David KelseyBassett. David said, “John has been making personal and public art for decades and works in a variety of mediums. He sculpts in bronze, iron and fabricated steel with many of these pieces featured in private homes, high school, colleges, universities, hospitals and public parks. His recent interest has been in Plein Air painting and he has participated in numerous Plein Air art festivals. John has exhibited his Plein Air paintings and sculptures in galleries of the SMAC region including SMAC, Marshall Area Fine Arts Council, Jackson Center for the Arts, Hutchinson Center for the Arts and Ridgewater College. In addition, John is a licensed K-12 art teacher at Lakview Public Schools and teaches art at Southwest Minnesota State University. In 2020, he was featured in Pioneer TV’s Postcards program, which discussed his creative process and passion for creating art.

One of his largest accomplishments is having a piece go on permanent collection at the Minnesota Arboretum in Chanhassen Minnesota. John’s ability to share art with the community speaks for itself, by the amount of public art pieces he has on display. Not only does he regularly create, but he loves to share and teach how to make art with others. He could easily focus his time working on his own projects, but he chooses to host classes for children and adults teaching them about different mediums through community education classes.”

John doing a plein air demonstration for a SMAC arts class last spring.

John doing a plein air demonstration for a SMAC arts class last spring.

John received many letters of recommendations from community members along with the main nomination by David. One letter was from his sister and SMAC Lyon County Board Representative, Michele Knife Sterner. Michele said, “When he was young our Unchee (Grandmother) told him that he would be an artist and she supplied him with art supplies to drive his passion.” Michele said John’s life revolves around art and teaching art. “He loves connecting and collaborating with people around art. There have been occasions when people will say that they are not artistic or creative and he assures them that they are, while reminding them it takes practice. John loves being a part of the art community. He loves to sit and talk about art and explore ideas with other artists.” Michele added that John not only promotes art through education, but he consistently creates and is willing to take risks and create pieces outside of his comfort zone, “It has been wonderful to watch his art evolve as he explores other mediums.”

Mustang horse sculpture created for Southwest Minnesota State University.

Mustang horse sculpture created for Southwest Minnesota State University.

Another letter came from Clayton Hubert, an Art Teacher and Coach from Lamberton, MN. Clayton said of john: “He is an incredibly talented sculptor and painter. His hard work has afforded him excellent opportunities in the form of multiple sculptures that are an integral part of the Marshall and Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) landscape…over the years the town of Marshall has benefited from his talent, displaying sculptures such as the SMSU Mustang sculpture welcoming visitors to town, the Mrs. Whitney stature near the center of town, multiple sculptures at SMSU, and a magnificent bronze tiger in the commons of the Marshall High School. John’s influence is not only that of public sculpture; he is an enthusiastic educator, teaching not only his high school students at Lakeview Public School but the next generation of art teachers at SMSU. He has left a positive impression on his students and is an advocate for art in their lives.”

Minnesota artist and writer Dan Wahl wrote in his recommendation letter: “Rather than focus on the quality of John’s artwork (high) or his technical expertise in drawing, painting, and sculpture (vast), I’d like to draw attention to how he strengthens the artwork of others. He does this by resolutely studying his Lakota heritage, developing the study via daily creative practice, and sharing his results with communities. Because of his daily study and practice, John’s artwork almost always shows his Lakota heritage, directly and subtly. The effect is positive for artists within and outside of Lakota/Dakota communities…John’s artwork does not just include or feature his heritage, it is his heritage, still living, running in a direct line through his heart and hands into the body of artwork which supports and strengthens other artists. Lakota and Dakota communities and non-indigenous communities, artistic and otherwise, benefit as a result.”

Pictured: Wanbli Tiyospe Han Bleceyapi! Eagle family Vision Cry, oil on canvas, 2020 60X72

Pictured: Wanbli Tiyospe Han Bleceyapi! Eagle family Vision Cry, oil on canvas, 2020 60X72

We thank all the nominators and individuals who wrote letters of support, including for the nominees that were not able to be awarded this year; we had many exceptional and deserving candidates. We encourage nominators to try again in future rounds-the Prairie Star award will be awarded again in 2024 as it is given out every other year. Learn more about SMAC’s Prairie Star Award. John will be publicly awarded and celebrated at Southwest Minnesota Arts Council’s Annual Celebration in the fall. Keep your eyes open for details from us on this event!

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  1. Enjoyed looking at all programs and pictures.

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