Writer, journalist, photographer, artist ... Anna Palmquist has been all of these at various times in her life. So it's not surprising that the Minneapolis-based mixed media artist would incorporate all of those elements into her "150 Sails Up in DL" sailboat project.
Titled "Then and Now: A Mapping Project," Palmquist's sailboat design is literally a map of the city's 150-year history, past and present.
"It’s like an old time explorer/traveler’s journal, with notes and drawings and diagrams along with hand drawn maps," says '150 Sails Up' organizer Mary Beth Gilsdorf. "It is chock full of information and stories and things to discover or explore on our own."
"My goal with this project was to create two maps, one showing the now of Detroit Lakes and the other showing the then," said Palmquist in her artist's statement for the project. "I wanted to include lots of facts and figures on the smaller sails as well as compare and contrast sections. But as I began my interviews with local residents and research librarians at the Becker County Museum, I quickly discovered that my goal was impossible because the city holds too much history, stories, people, organizations, and businesses to ever fit on one artwork.
"Therefore, these maps are not meant to be an exhaustive source or even summary of information about Detroit Lakes. Instead, the project morphed into a series of hat tips, winks, and nods toward the stories I learned about the city. The new goal became to stir questions within the viewer and to invite curiosity about a town you thought you knew or you are just discovering for the first time.
"If you look at this piece and it sparks a story about Detroit Lakes, my hope is that you share it. And if you have questions, my hope is that you seek out the answer and through the process, talk to someone you would have never encountered otherwise."
Though the City of Detroit Lakes is the sponsor for Palmquist's sailboat, it will be displayed outside Lakes Liquor, the city's municipal liquor store, Gilsdorf said.
- Related: Learn more about the 150 Sails Up in DL public art project, the April 30 Sailboat Regatta Party and other Detroit Lakes Sesquicentennial festivities at dl-online.com.
Palmquist assembled her final design through a combination of extensive personal research and interviews with longtime area residents. Unfortunately, due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic safety restrictions that spanned the entirety of the four-month project, Palmquist's research had to be done almost exclusively online, over the telephone or through other remote means.
"I really love research and talking to people and interviewing them," Palmquist said. "I thought this project would be a cool mish mash of all that — and a fun opportunity to take a trip (to Detroit Lakes).
"At that point I didn't think it would be a big deal," she added. "I didn't think about how the pandemic would make it be really hard to travel and meet with people in person."
But she did it — albeit with a lot of help from Detroit Lakes-area residents, particularly the staff of the Becker County Museum.
'Emily was my cheerleader'
"Emily (Buermann, the museum's programming director) was my cheerleader," said Palmquist. "She helped shape what this project became, to narrow down what kind of defined the town; a lot of this stuff came from her and the hard work she did to help me."
Still, as Gilsdorf pointed out, it was Palmquist's talent that made the whole thing come together: "The work and research and creative energy she put into her sailboat piece is incredible," Gilsdorf said.
"I’m first and always, a storyteller," says Palmquist. "The writing and the art, it feels very connected for me. It’s impossible for me to make an art piece without telling a story."
A native of Wisconsin, Anna Palmquist still spends a lot of time there when she's not working on her art.
"I live in Minneapolis, and also part-time in Wisconsin — especially this past year," she said. "My parents are getting older ... I just wanted to be with them during the pandemic."
Working with her parents at the family's small resort farm in rural Wisconsin is "the thing I do that provides the most consistent income," she says. "It's been a family business since the 1940s. I do all of their social media marketing, website design, business development — I’m pretty involved.
"I’m also still pursuing writing and working on that — and then the other part is my art business. I work in a gallery and I'm trying to open up this studio. I have my art for sale online in a couple of places, and I also do some home remodeling."
In fact, her new art studio in the Northrup King Building is a bit of a fixer-upper, Palmquist says, which is why she "got a really good deal on it."
'I could have worked on it for months'
While she really enjoyed the opportunity to work on the "150 Sails Up in DL" project, it ended up being a much more time-consuming project than Palmquist had originally envisioned.
Though the artist recently completed her sailboat, she says, "I could have worked on it for months — I never made anything this big before."
"I actually had to draw everything on small pieces of paper, all of which had to be (digitally) scanned and layered on top of each other," she explained. "It was a bigger undertaking than I had originally planned, but I'm really happy with the way it turned out.
"For me the best experience of this project was doing interviews and talking to local residents — that was the most fun part."
Palmquist plans to be in Detroit Lakes later this month for the "150 Sails Up" Sailboat Regatta Party, which is set for Friday, April 30 at Kent Freeman Arena, so she can meet all the people who helped her with her project along the way.
"Everyone was just so welcoming and excited about what I was doing," she said, adding that she was never made to feel like a "big city artist" who shouldn't have been working on a project that had such an intensely local focus.
"My biggest problem was the people who I talked to that were so humble and said, 'I don't have anything to say'," Palmquist said. "When I got them to talk, they had this wealth of information that was a big gift to me. The generosity of the community in helping me complete this project ... that was something I didn't expect. I couldn't have done this without it."
If you go
What: Sailboat Regatta Party for '150 Sails Up in DL'
When: Friday, April 30, 4-7 p.m.
Where: Kent Freeman Arena, 1310 Rossman Ave., Detroit Lakes
Tickets: $5 for adults, free for children and students