The Blondeau Arts Festival, which began at Kennedy Secondary School in 1998, was on the verge of missing its 22nd year this year due to COVID-19. “During the two week planning period that Gov. Tim Walz granted educators before distance learning began with students, the art department was really just trying to figure out how distance learning would look for visual art classes,” says KSS art instructor Sara Delaney. “At that time, we very briefly came to the consensus that we would not have enough time or resources to host the Blondeau Art Festival.”
However, as art teachers kept going with their classes, it became clear that canceling the Blondeau Art Festival wasn’t an option. “As I was grading paintings online one day, I just realized that we still had to conduct the show this year--there is too much talent and hard work in our Fergus Falls students to not showcase,” Delaney says. Delaney and her fellow art teachers, Kassy Arntson, Carrie Sikkink and Jacqueline Ness-Ludwig, brainstormed what their options were for the festival. Knowing it would probably have to be a digital show, they started returning to the school building one at a time to take photos of student work that had been saved for the show before distance learning began. They also started sharing photos with each other online of artwork from their courses.
The curated gallery of work is being hosted online instead of the school hallways and, as in years past, is divided into different categories: Drawing, digital design, digital photography, functional pottery, mixed media painting and sculpture, as well as a category for seventh and eighth grade work and an unjuried category for fifth and sixth grade work. “Functional pottery” was in previous years called “ceramics,” but the new name was chosen to better represent what the category contains.
There are five winners per category with Best in Show being the top prize, followed by three runner ups and an honorable mention. Winners will be announced on the website on Thursday, May 21, and the awards will be shipped to students. “In past years we have invited local artists to judge the categories at the festival,” says Delaney. “We thought that would be too difficult with the online format, so all four instructors involved held a virtual conference to narrow down the top pieces per category. We then sent out a voting form to all secondary teachers in the district so that they could be involved in the judging process.”
The Blondeau Arts Festival was started by Diane Prischman to honor the visual and fine arts seniors. In 2006, the show was named after art teacher Tom Blondeau as a memorial to his contributions to the district through art.
Unfortunately, while the show is usually accompanied with performances from the music department, that simply wasn’t possible this year.
The website to view the Blondeau Art Festival gallery can be found on the Fergus Falls Public Schools Facebook page. “The decision to continue the show-- regardless of the different format-- came down to the need to get student work to the public,” says Delaney. “We have some really talented, dedicated students that deserved to have a show.”