Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


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Winona celebrates famous “Moby Dick” artist

Brent Quam/Winonan

Winona will host the Rockwell Kent Centennial Celebration Festival Feb. 6-10 to mark the 100-year anniversary of the artist’s stay in town.

Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) was an American artist, writer, printmaker and painter perhaps best known for his woodcut illustrations for the Herman Melville novel “Moby Dick.”

Kent is also famous for being a suspected Soviet sympathizer. During the “Red Scare” of the 1950s, his passport was briefly revoked by the United States government. Later, the government’s actions were found to be unconstitutional.

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As part of the festival, Watkins Gallery at Winona State University will host an exhibit featuring Kent prints from throughout his career.  The grand opening of the exhibit will be on Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. in the gallery.

Art department Chair Anne Plummer was excited about the event. “I’ll be everywhere,” she said.

“At none of the shows I’ve attended before,” said Ralf Nemec, the contributor of the prints that will be on display at Watkins, “was there available as many Kent prints as will be on display in Watkins Gallery.”

Nemec said it takes time and hard work to gather and organize such a collection as will be on display at Watkins Gallery. “It took me 25 years,” Nemec said.

“I bought them from collectors and individuals from San Francisco to Australia. It’s been a really long and difficult journey involving a lot of detective work and being in touch with the right person at the right time.”

And Nemec is always on the hunt for more. “You don’t know anyone who has one, do you?” he asked.

The Kent prints on display in the Watkins Gallery may not be originals, but Nemec was very clear that every one of the prints is the work of Kent himself.

“He had his hands on every one,” Nemec said. “Sometimes he only made one or two or three prints of a work, sometimes he did 150.  But you’re going to see a rarer collection of his prints than have ever been seen in one place before.”

Rockwell Kent briefly stayed in Winona in 1912 to oversee the construction of Briarcombe Farm, a pair of Georgian Revival-style mansions built in view of the Mississippi River.

As part of the festival, a bus tour on Feb. 9 will take sightseers to the mansions, as well as other locations Kent visited.

Saint Mary’s University will open its own Kent exhibit immediately after the opening in Watkins Gallery, as will the Marine Art Museum, at 5 p.m.

Other events planned for the Festival include a presentation by Kent Gernander on the legal ramifications of Kent’s passport turmoil, a play based on Kent’s time in Winona, “Angels in the Trees: Rockwell Kent in Winona” and a showing of the Frederick Lewis film “Rockwell Kent.”

Taff Roberts, the festival coordinator, has worked closely for over a year with Nemec and representatives from Winona State, Saint Mary’s University, the Marine Art Museum, the Winona County Historical Society and others to see the festival made a reality.

A longtime admirer of Kent’s work, Roberts moved to Winona from Wales several years ago and was elated when he heard Kent had visited the town, providing the perfect pretext for an art festival in honor of the late artist’s work.

Allison Schultz, a graphic design student responsible for creation of a street map of Winona with the locations for all the Festival’s events, was excited for the Festival. “I’ll definitely attend the event in Watkins,” she said, “and possibly the one at the public library.”

Contact Brent at [email protected]

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