Marian Alstad

February 2017 - Since 1977, the Edina Art Center (EAC) has served as the community's principal hub for creative expression. Hometown Hero Marian Alstad, the Center's longest-serving instructor, has taught watercolor classes there for three of those past four decades.

Marian's tenure at the EAC stretches back a full 32 years, to be precise. She still recalls with great clarity how she first fell into this position in 1985. "Kay Sharkey, the main watercolor teacher, was about to retire ... I'd taken classes with her, and she asked, out of the blue, if I might like to take over."

While she confesses misgivings about taking the reins from her teacher and friend, Marian was undoubtedly a worthy successor.
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At various points in her career, she has studied under several nationally renowned watercolorists. Standouts include Zoltan Szabo, one of the world's foremost landscape painters in the watercolor medium, and Barbara Nechis, one-time director of the American Watercolor Society and author of several excellent instructional resources.

Forty years into her own watercolor career, Marian's own curriculum vita is equally impressive. Among other exotic locales, she has taught and toured through Central America, the Caribbean and France. She has also worked with students in Scandinavia and Italy. Closer to home - and in addition to her regular classes at Edina Art Center - Marian has led classes and workshops in Bloomington and Burnsville.

While the setting may change, Marian's approach does not. "Above all else, I endeavor to nurture the student's creative spirit ... A supportive, encouraging environment is the most important thing." Marian consistently sees high marks in post-class evaluations, and has more than her fair share of repeat students - proof positive that this approach is appreciated.

Edina Art Center students are doubly fortunate in that they also enjoy opportunities to showcase what they have learned, notes Marian.

As a case in point, the Minnesota Artist Association holds regular juried exhibitions in the EAC Margaret Foss Gallery. Seeing your pupils earn praise from objective observers "is something you come to enjoy as a teacher," she added.

Observant, veteran jurors may even be able to see Marian's influence in some of these student pieces. She herself regularly contributes watercolors to exhibitions, and has won a number of awards over the years. (EAC visitors are also likely to spot examples of Marian's exemplary work outside of juried showcases - including on sale in the gift shop.)

In addition to the Minnesota Artist Association partnership, Marian has seen the Edina arts scene grow and mature in a number of other ways: expanded Art Center class offerings, the annual Edina Art Fair, and the creation of an Arts and Culture Commission, to name just a few.

Now more than ever, Marian is proud of her long association with the EAC, and is thrilled to have played some small part in this ongoing art scene renaissance.