Lakes exhibit at art center has brought in curious folks

Published 6:09 am Sunday, July 21, 2013

Column: Art Is, by Bev Jackson Cotter

When we first learned that Broadway was to be torn up this summer and access to the Albert Lea Art Center, as well as other downtown businesses, was to be limited, we were concerned about how that would affect our activities. While we know that it will cause a blip in our attendance, we are pleased to note that so far, all is well.

Bev Jackson Cotter

Bev Jackson Cotter

We’ve had a great summer. Our special exhibit, “Celebrating the Lakes of Freeborn County” has brought in many visitors who are curious about our local environment, people who are not on the list of regular Art Center visitors. The reception for our special star Marion Ross was hugely successful, the Unique Junque Sale was profitable and the Art & Garden Tour was also a great money maker for the Art Center. We’ve had a couple of fun and well attended classes and the store (operating in Prairie Wind Coffee during the construction) is also doing well.

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Our worries were all for naught, and we are looking forward to a beautiful and inviting downtown when the construction is completed.

Speaking of the lakes exhibit, it has been extended through Aug. 23. Sometimes the calendar needs to be adjusted a bit due to extenuating circumstances and this is one of those times. If you haven’t stopped at the Art Center to see this show, you have plenty of time. As far as I know, this is the first time that an exhibit of this kind has been shown in Freeborn County. The photos, paintings, fishing lures and sculptures all remind us how beautiful our part of Minnesota really is.

While enjoying this exhibit I have been reading the “1882 History of Freeborn County.” I’d like to share a few of these tidbits of history with you. Keep in mind, this book was written 131 years ago. Did you know….

“A great many of the marshes of the county are surrounded with tracts of oak openings, a fact which indicates that the marshes serve as barriers to the prairie fires.”

Regarding our elevation – “The greater portion of the state, however, lies several hundred feet lower than Freeborn County.”

“The streams have not much fall, but afford some waterpower, which has been improved in the construction of flouring mills. Such are found at Albert Lea and Twin Lakes… There is also an available water-power at Shell Rock Village (present day Glenville), but its use would cause the flooding of a large body of land adjoining the river.”

When serving with the U.S. Dragoons, Lt. Albert Miller Lea passed through this area in late July 1835. In a letter written in 1857 he states, “…we came out upon an elevated promontory descending rather abruptly to the edge of the most beautiful sheet of water that we had ever seen. We stopped for an hour on that exquisite spot and took a sketch of the lake as I could from that point. In making out my map, the form I gave the lake, but which the lithographer did not preserve, suggested to me the idea of a military chapeau and I gave it that name.”

In the summer of 1842 a Mr. R states, “he saw over 300 elk in one day, while making his peregrinations around these lakes.”

“Col. S.A. Hatch… reports that the duck and geese shooting was never better than this fall. Quite a party of gentlemen from New York gathered at Albert Lea in the last days of September and remained until the lakes closed on the 20th of October. The majority of them were Wall Street magnates who had shot ducks in various parts of the country, not excepting Maryland and Virginia and the Carolina coast. After a thorough experience they were unanimous in expressing the opinion that they never saw ducks in greater abundance and of such delicate flavor as in the bracing altitudes of Minnesota. They voted Albert Lea the center of the sportsman’s paradise.”

Back to 2013 because of the downtown construction you will have to park a little further away from the Art Center. However, viewing the beautiful lakes exhibit and finding the art in our natural environment is well worth the trip.


Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center where the exhibit “Celebrating the Lakes of Freeborn County” will be on display through Aug. 23. The hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.