An art lover’s day at the Fair


One of the winning entries at the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Building.

The Minnesota State Fair has a reputation for being about fried food, farming, big bands, and rides, in pretty much that order. But there’s a lot of art to be had, in all shapes and sizes, for an enthusiast such as myself. Yesterday I spent the better part of the day at the fair, first at the MPR booth, and then wandering the grounds checking out this year’s offerings. Here’s just some of what I took in…

The Fine Arts Building:

This of course, was my first stop. The FAB brings together paintings, mosaics, sculpture, photography, ceramics, glass and dolls all under one cool roof. While much of the artwork as you first enter is dedicated to state fair themes, from there it branches into landscapes, portraits, abstraction, and everything inbetween. I recognized local artists in the show that I’ve covered in the past – Teresa Cox and Deb Foutch among others – and took note of some new names.


And you thought State Fair art was just about seeds and animals…

I noted the Star Tribune’s Mary Abbe panned this year’s exhibition, saying it was “overrun with cute critters and clichéd imagery.” That made me curious as to who was curating the show this year, so I took a look at the panel. Among them: the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ photo curator David Little, and Weisman Art Museum Director Lyndel King. Interested in finding out more about the judging process? Check out this comprehensive piece by Thomas O’Sullivan on


Brenna Busse demonstrates how she molds heads for her dolls.

One of the great things about the state fair is that you don’t just see the art, but you see people making it, too. At the Fine Arts Building, Brenna Busse demonstrated doll making, and kids could play with wooden blocks to create their own sculptures. This is something I love about the fair – the number of people who take time to demonstrate their craft or art with thousands of strangers.

Cosgrove street really is home to the arts at the fair, so after exiting the Fine Arts exhibition, I just strolled down the street to the Education building. This is where all the student art is on display. This includes everything from pencil drawings to woodworking to stained glass. The entries are so numerous that they are crammed in display booths several feet deep that line the walls. My favorite: a study of Paul Klee done by a group of 2nd graders!


I guess this gives credance to the old adage “my kid could draw that.”

Next, on to the Creative Activities building. Wait, cue the parade! That’s right, any day at the fair deserves a parade, and so as I left the Education building I was greeted by the blaring of horns and beating of drums. As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage…”

A few steps down the street I found myself at the Creative Arts building, home to quilting, weaving, knitting, sewing, crocheting, embroidery and cross-stitch, just to name a few. Check out this quilt that won the “Rosebud’s Cottage” award for being the “first quilt ever made” by the entrant:”



It was while rounding the corner that I stumbled across one of my favorite performers at the fair, Larry Scheidt.

Scheidt is a performer of the truest kind; that is, he’s a salesman. About every 15 minutes, hour after hour, Scheidt gives his spiel for the “Swiss Quality Peeler.” He touts the blade (“never goes dull”) and its ergonomic design (“doesn’t matter if you’re right handed or left”) all the while churning out roses carved from radishes, birds sliced from apples, and other edible decorations to tempt the eyes. I first saw him probably six years ago, and dutifully bought a peeler because I felt I’d just been treated to a great act (I still have it, and yes it works great, but no I have not made any roses out of radishes lately).


My favorite work of art at the Minnesota State Fair, Larry Scheidt.

Happy to see that Scheidt is still going strong, I headed off to the Agriculture/Horticulture building for some honey ice cream, a tour of the beeswax carvings and of course to check out the seed art (I was talking to artist Linda Paulson – daughter to “seed queen” Lillian Colton – about her work when the power went out, putting a crimp in her demonstration style). There craftsmen of the culinary sort were showing off their finest apples, wines, squash…

By this time I was ready to call it a day; I hadn’t yet made it to the talent show stage, nor had I paid my respects to the butter sculpture (the Dairy Barn was shut due to the power outage), but I’d seen an eyeful of art, been treated to live music at the MPR booth, and observed the theater of the fair in full swing. Indeed, the Minnesota State Fair offers a little something for everyone.