Welcome to the
Willmar Area Arts Council

In 1997, a group of citizens responded to an incentive from a COM-PAS and Blandin Foundation partnership to build stronger support and appreciation for creative arts in the Willmar area. Along with financial support from the Minnesota Rural Arts Initiative (RAI), the City of Willmar, Willmar Public Schools, a development grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council (SMAC), and membership fees, the Willmar Area Arts Council officially came into existence in the fall of 1997 and became a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity in 1998.

Since its inception, the Willmar Area Arts Council has been a visible advocate for the arts in West Central Minnesota. Besides providing the rotating exhibits in the Willmar Education and Arts Center, administering the Arts in the Schools project for the Willmar Public Schools and hosting themed, invitational exhibits in the Barn Theatre’s mezzanine gallery that run in conjunction with the current production, it is the force behind two popular events: Studio Hop and Celebrate Art! Celebrate Coffee!

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Council Happenings

Bill Gossman

The art scene in our area lost a great artist, musician  and arts supporter last week.  Bill Gossman died at home  from cancer May 26, 2020.  Potter, musician, and friend, Bill will be missed by all of us.  A memorial gathering is planned for June 7 at 1:30 at the New London Fire Department with a memorial service at 6:00 on the High School grounds.  The service  will be aired on KWLM radio and on the Johnson Funeral Home website.  In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred.

The ARTS today!

I hope everyone is staying safe and sane!  I know staying sane is a real challenge, but we can do it – especially now that we have such beautiful spring weather!

We have postponed the 2020 Studio Hop which usually takes place in June.  We are unsure at the present time when we can reschedule it, but we’ll let you know as soon as we decide.  We had 23 artists signed up to take part in this year’s Hop and we have decided to feature all of them here in our “Spotlight on the Artists”  section.  We will feature different artists periodically so be sure to check in often!!

Janet Olney ~ Executive Director

Spotlight on Elaine Hagen

Nature’s beauty and patterns are the inspiration and primary focus of my work.   I enjoy photography, watercolor painting, and most recently, using embroidery to embellish photographs printed on fabric.  Art works include several sizes of matted, framed, canvas, and metal items in addition to cards.   Stop and take a moment to notice the beauty, examine a flower more closely, or perhaps see something in nature that you have never noticed before.

Spotlight on Jillayne Hanson

Jillayne Goulet Hanson is primarily a self-taught artist. Having always had a passion for art, she took classes in St Paul, where she grew up, both at the McKnight Center for the Arts and the St. Paul Art Center on Summit Ave.  Her post secondary education was a degree in Commercial Art at St Paul College where she was trained in the foundational studies of life drawing, composition, perspective, color, art history, and others.

Throughout adult life, Jillayne continued to develop techniques in mediums of pastels, acrylics, oils and pencil, among others, producing more than 300 works.  The works have been shown and sold through local galleries, art fairs across Minnesota, and through commissioned pieces.  The works reveal a variety of subject matter, from skyscapes, landscapes, still lifes, wildlife and portraits as well as spiritual themes.  To see a good representation of the works she has produced, along with what inspires and motivates her creativity, or to contact Jillayne, see her website at www.artbyjillayne.com.


Spotlight on Phyllis Joos

Phyllis Joos is a printmaker from Hancock, Minnesota.  Phyllis was born and raised and has lived all her life in rural West Central Minnesota.  All formal studio  art education was received at the University of Minnesota Morris as an “adult special” with an emphasis on printmaking.  Phyllis has and continues to exhibit in numerous group and solo shows and galleries in Minnesota.

“I am a story teller and I welcome you to join me on a visual journey.”


Our bench project is moving right along!  Four benches are finished – one in front of the Barn Theatre, one in front of Rositta’s,  one in front of Midtown Market and the fourth in front of the Health and Human Services Building.

We received a lot of press about this project – a nice article in the West Central Tribune on June 26 and a feature in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Sunday, July 7.  Watch for more benches to pop up!  And have your creation on one of them!



Donate while shopping!

Did you know that while you’re shopping at Amazon you can make a donation to the Arts Council?   Simply shop at www.smile.amazon.com, find the Willmar Area Arts Council in the list of organizations, and they’ll give a percentage of your purchase to us.  It’s simple, it’s quick, and we’ll be very appreciative!