for Our Community – Arrowhead Arts Awards

Help us celebrate the best artists and arts advocates in the region. Many of us know an artist or arts advocate that deserves a little more recognition for all they do. Nominate that special artist for the Arrowhead Arts Awards! Here at ARAC we want to recognize those who contribute to the arts in our region with these two prestigious awards, which include cash awards. The deadline to nominate an individual is JANUARY 5TH.

The George Morrison Artist Award

This award recognizes an individual artist whose body of work has made a significant contribution to the arts over an extended period of time.

The George Morrison Artist Award is named after internationally acclaimed visual artist George Morrison (1919-2000), who was an important member of the second generation of American abstract expressionist artists. Morrison was heralded for successfully synthesizing American Indian themes with abstraction and surrealism. As a life-long member of the Grand Portage Chippewa, he resided and worked for many years in the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota.

Past award recipients have included: Dave Lynas, clay artists and teacher, Duluth; Jeff Savage, traditional artist and sculptor, Fond du Lac; Chris Monroe, visual artist and illustrator, Duluth; Elizabeth Jaakola, composer, songwriter, musician, Cloquet; Gareth Andrews, sculptor, Zim; Jim Northrup, poet, essayist, Sawyer; Cheng-Khee Chee, watercolor artist, Duluth; Mary Casanova, young adult author, Ranier; Connie Wanek, poet, Duluth; and Jim Brandenburg, photographer, Ely.


 The Maddie Simons Advocate Award


This award recognizes an arts administrator, arts educator, volunteer for a nonprofit arts organization, or artist whose involvement in a project or program has substantially contributed to the arts in the Arrowhead Region.

The Maddie Simons Arts Advocate Award is named for Madeline Simons, the first volunteer Chair of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council Board. A long-time resident of Grand Marais, MN, she owned a dance studio, helped start the Grand Marais Playhouse, the Lutsen Art Fair, and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts.

Past award recipients have included: Mary McReynolds, Virginia; Kathy Dodge, Grand Rapids; Amy Demmer, Grand Marais; John Faith, International Falls; Dr. Stanley Wold, Duluth; Cherie and Jerry Holm, Aitkin; Charlene Luoma, Britt; Cheryl Kramer-Milder, Cloquet; Patty Feld, Effie; and Betsy Bowen, Grand Marais.


*To be officially nominated, you or someone else will have to write a formal letter of recommendation for the nominee.*

2019 Arrowhead Arts Awards Winners:


Michael Tonder

Tonder’s work is widely recognizable. Original and yet classic works that once you notice, you’ll realize you’ve admired them before. The sculptures are made of recycled glass and reminiscent of nature and especially Lake Superior. He works from a studio outside of Two Harbors, where his studio is a frequent stop for many art admirers and fellow artists.
Working with plate glass, kilns, and sandblaster, Tonder creates one-of-a-kind glass sculptures. Hand-cut from flat sheets of glass, each creation is carefully assembled, then fired in an electric kiln. After firing, the fused glass forms are then carved and etched to completion.
Within each form, Tonder employs internal lines, altered surface textures, and light reflection, refraction, and diffusion to create tension, stimulate curiosity, and engage the eye. His art reflects the many influences of his experience as a forester and park manager, and excursions into Minnesota’s Boundary Waters and Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park.
“Tonder’s studio is a place full of energy and creativity, clearly respected by the many artists you can see at his studio anytime the doors are open, which is often,” said Drew Digby, the Executive Director of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council.

Katie Marshall

Marshall is widely recognized as a strong advocate for dozens of individual artists as well as the role of art itself in the community. Her creativity and dedication have helped to make Grand Rapids an important destination for people who want to see how art can help a community thrive.
Marshall has run the MacRostie Art Center since 2011. In one of the several nominations she received for the award, she was described “as one of those rare people who sees the ‘big picture,’ is very creative, and also has a head for details. She can come up with innovative art projects for our community, but also can sit down and write grants and guide our area artists in ‘breaking into’ the art world.”
Marshall has played a central role in the evolution of Grand Rapids into one of the most vital small cities in Minnesota for the arts, with its extremely successful First Friday Art Walks and presence of art in many aspects of community life. She’s also nurtured major shows that have started at MacRostie on suicide, mental health, female power in a male-dominated world, homelessness, and the environment. She also currently serves as chair of the Board of Directors of the Itasca Orchestra and Strings program, works with the Grand Rapids School District to help bring arts into the classroom, as well as working with a program to bring arts to those in juvenile detention.
“Her work is clearly a model that any arts advocate would want to emulate if they only had the time, energy, and creativity that Marshall possesses,” said Digby.