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Area Voices: Through variety of mediums, Park Rapids artist finds inspiration and community

Portrait photo of artist Dawn Rossbach
Park Rapids artist Dawn Rossbach.

Park Rapids artist joins ‘Area Voices’ to discuss her work and the growth of the Park Rapids art scene.

PARK RAPIDS — Dawn Rossbach has been interested in art since she was a little kid putting pencil to paper.

“Creating something was just always something that I've always kind of had,” she said.

Rossbach’s artwork ranges from oil and acrylic painting, printmaking, mixed media, and even stained glass works. She’s a former art educator, co-owns an art studio in Park Rapids and joined Area Voices to talk about her work and the growth of the art scene in her city.

She became interested in various art forms through classes. Then when she began teaching art, she was doing all sorts of different art styles, including ceramics, printmaking and painting.

Painting of Rudbeckia hirta plants on a yellow and grey background
Dawn Rossbach
"Forget-Me-Not" by Park Rapids artists Dawn Rossbach

Stained glass came about because of her father’s interest. She and her sister bought him a starter kit and he became invested. When he died, Rossbach was the only one with room for the equipment and supplies.

“I seem to have endless ideas,” she said. “ ... I don't have enough lifetime to do all the things I thought."

Don’t wait for inspiration

If Rossbach walks by an art space in her house, she will start working on that project.

She uses different styles at times when she paint, and it’s something she’s noticed.

“Sometimes I get a little bit really frustrated with that.”

A couple of years ago she found out she has aphantasia, described as an inability to visualize, or image-free thinking. Rossbach feels when she is working, she’s reacting. “I pick out some colors. I put the brush to it and then I react to that.”

Sometimes, she will go to an old painting and try to recreate it, but the exercise is almost impossible because of her condition. It will turn out completely differently — but Rossbach has embraced that.

‘Silent Scream’ series

Rossbach has an art project based on her old college drawings. Finding no use for them, she began to paint over her past works. But then, she didn’t like how they were going, so she washed them under water.

Painting of a giant face with the phrase "She's not one of us! Attack!" written on it.
Dawn Rossbach
"Silent Scream No. 2" by Park Rapids artist Dawn Rossbach

“I took some paint and (I) went, ‘Oh my gosh, it looks like, you know, a couple of big eyeballs and some teeth here,’” she said. “And so, I just kind of went with it. And they're these kind of bizarre looking things.”

She then applied pieces of acetate, a transparent plastic, on which she’d written a phrase to the effect of, “Whatever made you think that you could say this about me or that it was OK?”

Rossbach needed five more pieces as a featured artist in an upcoming show and decided to ask for phrase inspirations on Facebook.

She asked what people wanted to say during the COVID-19 pandemic but wouldn’t, because they feared it would risk their job, friends or family. She promised anonymity.

“The result was pretty phenomenal,” she said, adding she received about 60 different responses.

She attached Velcro dots to the acetate phrases, allowing them to be interchangeable on the pieces.

Shared studio space in Park Rapids

Rossbach shares a studio space with Park Rapids photographers Laura Grisamore and Jeremy Simonson called Studio 176. Simonson found the space and asked Rossbach and Grisamore to join him and display art to see what might happen. They’ve been open since August 2019.

The Park Rapids’ art community has been growing for the past couple of years, Rossbach said, noting two recent art gallery openings, plus opera, theater, a sculpture walk and local musicians. The Tin Ceiling Gallery is one of those new spaces, recently featured on Area Voices.

Rossbach believes this organically grew with help from the Nemeth Art Center. The center hosts contemporary artists — some internationally known — and it draws many patrons. Local artists show up, too, possibly becoming a catalyst for more local artwork.

Advice to budding artists

Rossbach said she gives a lot of advice to beginning artists. One thing she recommends is to keep going — and do not expect to draw like Leonardo da Vinci.

“You draw or paint almost like your speaking voice,” she said. “ ... We all don't have the same singing voice or speaking voice. And while I might enjoy singing, people don't necessarily enjoy it, but that doesn't stop me from singing. You need to embrace how you draw and then work with that.”

Another piece of advice? Stay connected to other artists. Sometimes when you’re struggling, talking it out with another artist helps.

“Hearing it from somebody else, sometimes puts you back on the right track. So those connections with other artists are really, really important.”

Tell us about upcoming arts events where you live in Northern Minnesota by emailing

Area Voices is made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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