Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Community art program available at Nett Lake

Marcus White
Posted 4/17/19

NETT LAKE - The paint brushes were out at the school here last Monday for a community art program designed to bring more education to locals on various art and art techniques.

“There is no art …

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Community art program available at Nett Lake


NETT LAKE - The paint brushes were out at the school here last Monday for a community art program designed to bring more education to locals on various art and art techniques.

“There is no art program at the Nett Lake School,” said Bois Forte Legacy Coordinator Chaz Wagner, who organized the event. “When I put these events on, it shows how important art is to the community. When kids go to school, they’re not exposed to it. It’s important to their minds and their creativity.”

To bring more art to the community, Wagner has been working for the past four years to bring in artists from Native American communities across the region as part of the tribe’s Native Artist Festival.

“Art is engrained in our culture,” he said. “Depictions of spiritual beings and animals that were hunted, and berries that were collected. It’s an important part of our history.”

Wagner added that Native Americans would also paint their bodies and their horses to have an outward showing of who they were.

“It’s a living art, it’s what you see at a powwow, on our regalia,” Wagner said. “Art is prominent in our culture.”

To keep art as part of the culture, Wagner said today’s youth need to know they have options in how they can lead a fulfilled life.

“I had art when I was in school. I thought it was important,” he said. “I feel like it is my duty to bring those artists into the school and show them to the young kids;*+--- to show them you don’t need to be a doctor or lawyer to make it in the world. You can be anything that you put your mind to. It’s important for these kids to see.”

For last week’s program, Wagner turned to artist Steven Premo from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Premo has worked in graphic design for over 40 years and once owned a gallery in the Mille Lacs area.

“I’ve been painting for a long while,” Premo said. “I just retired last year. Now I am getting back into it.”

He added that to those who want to make art, it’s a way of life.

“It’s what I have to do,” he said. “It’s how I speak and how I communicate with the rest of the world.”

The program saw attendees create a painting of a wood block print in what Premo called the “craftsman” style.

Premo has a long history making art inspired not only by his own life, but by Native American traditions as well.

Premo said he hopes the class will help students develop a lifelong appreciation of art.

“Hopefully they can take away something they can do for themselves at home,” he said.

Aside from classical art styles, Wagner said he said he plans on having more artists visit the community who specialize in digital art as well. He’s also searching for sculptors and ceramic artists to come to the community.

The biggest draw to the program so far has been regalia workshops, but Wagner said the number of attendees doesn’t matter in the long run.

“As long as people show up and at least one person gets something out of it, I feel like I’ve done my job,” he said. “That one person can go out and show 100 other people.”

Aside from the artist series, there is also an art contest being run through the Nett Lake radio station, KBFT. Cash prizes, including a $500 first prize, are up for grabs. Submissions are due by June 17. More information on the contest as well as past and future artist workshops can be found on the radio station’s website,


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