Painting among the pines: Art classes in FinlandCall her Finland’s muse. With paint, charcoal enthusiasm and a lifetime of experience in a variety of media, Joi Electa is inspiring young and old to try their hands at art at the Clair Nelson Center.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Call her Finland’s muse. With paint, charcoal enthusiasm and a lifetime of experience in a variety of media, Joi Electa is inspiring young and old to try their hands at art at the Clair Nelson Center.
Electa attended art school at the University of South Dakota and the Studio Academy of Art and Design in Omaha, Neb. But 12 years ago, with a son in tow, she left the Great Plains for the northwoods of Minnesota. There, she says she found her niche.
“We picked up and moved here … that’s a South Dakota girl. Once you get ’em in the trees, you can’t get ’em out,” she quipped.
Now living in Silver Bay, she says she has a bit of a reputation in the area as a plein air painter and something of a daredevil.
“I eat, sleep and drink paint. I paint continually. I don’t own clothes that don’t have paint on them,” she said. “You can ask anyone around here. I’m the crazy lady painting out on the side of the road trying not to get hit by a car.”
Electa’s work, both her photography and her paintings, are exhibited in galleries on the North Shore — currently at the Coho Café in Tofte — and on her website, joielecta.com. Her classes in Finland are a new undertaking.
“I never thought I’d be a teacher, but I was amazed the first time (I taught a class). I just loved it,” she said.
On Tuesdays she has a class of kids who range in age from 5 to 15 — all from homeschooling families in the area. On Thursdays, the Clair Nelson Center hosts a community night when folks gather for a meal and then choose an activity for the evening. Electa says there are several options.
“There are ping-pong tables, a gym, a place where kids can practice dance routines, and in a separate room we do a craft project for all ages.”
Last week they made hovercraft using CDs, a balloon and the pull-up top from bottles of water or dishwashing liquid.
“We had a ball just watching them scoot across the floor,” she recalled.
The programs at the Clair Nelson Center are part of an ongoing effort to connect people with resources and activities in the community. The activities for kids have been a priority and grant funding helped the center make numerous activities possible, with more under consideration.
“We have lots of plans for the future. We want to see the building used by the community and we really want kids in the area to have something to do,” said Nancy Olson, Treasurer of Friends of the Finland Community.
Finland residents have embraced the idea and been eager to donate time and skills, too.
“We’ve been talking about making snow sculptures and people have offered to pile the snow. Others have offered to bring tools,” Electa said while acknowledging that the weather hasn’t cooperated with their plans.
The lack of snow, however, hasn’t hindered the community’s enthusiasm.
“I think people have wanted something like this for so long that now everyone wants to be a part of it,” she said.
Olson says that’s been the goal.
“To me, one of the most important things is to have kids who get involved and have a sense of community — to know that they belong to us, and we belong to them.”
To ensure that the kids aren’t the only ones who have a chance to put brush to canvas, the center will also be offering some classes to adults. Starting Jan. 20, at 1 p.m. every other Sunday, Electa will teach an adult painting class. The cost is $10 for the first class and $5 for each one thereafter, with all supplies furnished. Once artists have had a chance to channel their inner Rembrandt at the introductory rate, the classes will cost $25 for the first and $10 for each class thereafter. Again, paint, easel, canvas and other supplies are provided.
For more information call the Clair Nelson Center at 353-0300 or like their Facebook page, “Clair Nelson Center in Finland, MN”