'150 Sails Up' artist gets grant to help area seniors learn to paint

Artist Anna Lassonde just recently completed her two sailboat creations for the "150 Sails Up in DL" public art project, which wrapped up at the end of April — but she's already hard at work on her latest project: Bringing senior citizen-oriented acrylic painting classes to the residents of assisted living facilities in Detroit Lakes and Perham, as well as offering a public class at the Holmes Art Cellar.

Detroit Lakes artist Anna Lassonde will soon be teaching senior citizens in Detroit Lakes and Perham how to produce acrylic paintings like this one, through a series of free classes funded by a Lake Region Arts Council Legacy grant. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

Detroit Lakes artist Anna Lassonde, who recently wrapped up not just one, but two contributions to the "150 Sails Up in DL" public art project, will soon be hard at work teaching local senior citizens how to develop their painting skills.

Through a $9,600 grant from the Lake Region Arts Council, Lassonde will be offering free painting classes to senior citizens in the Detroit Lakes and Perham area.
"I will be offering classes at (assisted living facilities) Diamond Willow and Pelican Landing in Detroit Lakes, as well as Briarwood in Perham," Lassonde said. "I will also be doing a public class, open to all senior citizens in the community, at the Holmes Art Cellar in Detroit Lakes."

The grant was made possible by the voters of Minnesota, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

The assisted living classes will start the first week in June and continue through the end of September, according to the following schedule:

  • Pelican Landing: First and third Mondays (except Labor Day-class will be held Tuesday instead);
  • Diamond Willow: First and third Wednesdays;
  • Briarwood: Second and fourth Mondays.

The Holmes Art Cellar classes, located in the basement of the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes, will also run from June through September. Called "Art through the Sages," the two-hour classes will begin at 9:30 a.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.
Lassonde said that while the class is targeted toward beginners, it is open to all skill levels.


"You can explore your own painting style and paint your own masterpieces," she said. "There will be guided lessons, and you will also be encouraged to come up with your own subject to paint (with assistance if requested)."

Participants will each be given a sketchbook to fill with drawings and/or creative journaling, and encouraged to complete paintings outside of class. They will also learn how to clean and care for their art supplies.

During class, participants will have the option of sharing their work, both with the instructor and class participants, for critiques and suggestions on furthering their creative growth. Participants will be expected to show up for as many classes as possible.

A public art show will be scheduled after the classes are complete, so the artists can showcase their work — and a web page is also in the process of being created so that loved ones unable to attend the art show can view the finished works from wherever they may be located.

Because her LRAC Legacy grant was fully funded, Lassonde does not plan to charge participants for the classes or supplies, which participants can take home with them and work on projects in between classes.

She added that she chose to offer the classes to senior citizens because she has a particular affinity for that age group, having worked at long-term care facilities in the area since she was a teenager.

"I've always loved working with senior citizens," she said. "I've made so many good friendships."

One of the residents' favorite activities while she was working at Ecumen Detroit Lakes was her painting classes, Lassonde noted.


"I love sharing art with others — it's something I'm very passionate about," she said, adding that through her business, Jollybird Studio , she has also offered painting classes for all ages and experience at locations around the community including Beautiful Junque, La Barista and Community Alliance Church, to name a few.

She added that she hopes to "spark some memories" through these classes, and wants her senior students to use their sketch books for jotting down ideas to inspire future projects and discussions during class.

"The elders in our community have so much to share with us," she said. "I just love to hear their stories."

For more information about how and where to sign up for these classes, please contact Anna Lassonde at 701-261-4023 or email .

Public art project was 'fun experience'

Lassonde was the featured artist on two separate sailboat creations for the "150 Sails Up in DL" public art project.


Anna Lassonde and son.jpg
Anna Lassonde and her son Silas checked out one of her sailboat designs, "54,750 Days on Lake Detroit," during the Sailboat Regatta Party for the 150 Sails Up in DL public art project, held Friday, April 30 at Kent Freeman Arena. (Submitted photo)

The first was a large, 4-foot sailboat sponsored by the John and Brenda Berglund family. In an homage to Detroit Lakes' 150th birthday, Lassonde's creation was titled "54,750 Days on Lake Detroit." The two sides of the sculpture depicted a sailboat on the lake during the day, and moonlight reflecting on the water at night.

Lassonde Sailboat City Park.jpeg
The nighttime side of Anna Lassonde's "54,750 Days on Lake Detroit" sailboat creation for the "150 Sails Up in DL" public art project. The sailboat's title references Detroit Lakes' 150th birthday, which will be celebrated this summer, and the sculpture has found a home in Detroit Lakes' City Park through the end of the year. (Submitted photo)

This sailboat has found a home at the Detroit Lakes City Park , as Lassonde gleefully noted on her Jollybird Studio Facebook page when she found it while on a walk earlier this week.

Her second creation was a smaller, 20-inch sailboat sponsored by the engineering firm Mead & Hunt , titled "Seagulls of Summer." It is currently on display at the Detroit Lakes-Becker County Airport . Mead & Hunt were the engineers behind the recent airport expansion project , which is expected to be completed this summer.


Seagulls of Summer.jpg
Anna Lassonde's second creation for the "150 Sails Up in DL" public art project, which was titled simply, "Seagulls of Summer," is sponsored by Mead & Hunt. (Submitted photo)

Lassonde said she really enjoyed the experience of being part of the "150 Sails Up in DL" project.

"I loved it," she said. "Going from the designs I did and putting them onto a curved surface was a little challenging, but it was a really fun experience."

Visit the "150 Sails Up in DL" Facebook page at for updates on the project, as well as some photos and video clips of the works in progress. There are also some of the smaller sculptures still available for purchase at the Detroit Lakes Sesquicentennial website, (check out the online store for specific information in the "Retail Sails").

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