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Area Voices: New home leads to new inspiration for watercolor artist

Amelia Kaiser sitting on some rocks with water in the background while painting.
Amelia Kaiser/Isaac Gautschi
Amelia Kaiser creating a new piece of artwork in 2022.

Having just moved to the Bemidji area, Amelia Kaiser has found a new home and new sources of inspiration for art.

BEMIDJI — Going from living in a city like Tacoma, Wash. to living in the northwoods of Minnesota can be a huge change in one’s life, and artist Amelia Kaiser has found it rewarding. “I've been enjoying getting connected.”

Artist beginnings

Kaiser may be new to the Bemidji area, but she is not new to the art world. “I've been an artist all my life. We can go back to home movies of me being in diapers, like growling with a crayon in my hand and if you come across me while doing studio work currently, you'll also still hear sound effects.”

Water color painting of Olympic Mountains with a large boat in the water.
Amelia Kaiser
Amelia Kaiser's painting of the Olympic Mountains.

Kaiser’s mother is a landscape designer, so she was introduced to things like color theory and drafting practices and perspective at an early age. Her parents were very supportive of her artistic pursuits. “I still use the same easel today that they bought me when I was 9 years old."

Kaiser got her start in commissioned artwork by creating murals. When she was in high school, she did a mural at a preschool for her Girl Scout Silver project. Then word spread about her work and soon she was painting kids’ bedrooms, more preschools, and church nurseries. Her 20s, she started doing bigger projects like a warehouse mural for an REI facility, Simmons Mattress Factory, and an outdoor piece for the city of Tacoma.

Now most of Kaiser’s artwork is in water coloring. She was introduced to it in high school and her early days in college. She really appreciated the flexibility that comes with working in watercolors. She enjoys hiking and painting outdoors and it was easy to bring a small watercolor kit with her on her travels.

She really likes painting plein air because it helps her slow down and look closely at the world around her. She finds it very valuable for her physical and mental health. “Essentially, my art making is a method that helps me connect to the gifts of nature.”

There was some time during her travels that Kaiser stepped away from doing commissions. However, during her recent travels, she found herself missing it.

Amelia Kaiser standing in front of her mural of buildings and creatures with her arms wide open.
Amelia Kaiser
Amelia Kaiser standing in front of her mural on 6th Ave in Tacoma, Wash.

“My two big giftings are to serve and to create, and commissioned work is something that brings those two together because I get to put my art skills to use to bring somebody else's vision to life or to help them capture a really special experience or transition in life, and it's very satisfying for me.”

Moving to Bemidji

Kaiser had her eyes on Bemidji as a possible home for the better part of 10 years. Her husband Josh is an aircraft mechanic who has a deep passion for aviation history and a specific interest in aircraft restoration. There aren’t many places that have careers restoring airplanes as an available option. However, AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji is somewhere you can.

He applied for a position there after he finished his mechanics degree. He unfortunately did not get it because he didn’t have much experience yet, but Kaiser had already started doing research on the Bemidji community.

“I was really impressed with the size of the community and the amount of arts [that] was happening here... between theater and visual arts and festivals, and that was very exciting to me because I knew that was something that I wanted to continue to have in my life and pursue,” said Kaiser.

A painting of Zion national Park on a trail with a mountain in the background.
Amelia Kaiser
Amelia Kaiser's painting of Zion National Park.

Despite not getting the job on the first attempt, Kaiser would still encourage her husband to consider applying again throughout the years.

Then Kaiser and her husband decided to convert a Sprinter van and travel across the country, leaving their home in Washington with Kaiser working remotely. They got a chance to see and experience so much of the country. Unfortunately, during their travels, she was laid off from her job. “We went, ’Well, writings on the wall. It's time to change and settle back down somewhere again.’”

Josh applied again at AirCorps Aviation again and got the job. Kaiser also found a job at the Mississippi Headwaters Audubon Society chapter. She applied sitting in a parking lot in Taos, NM. They both feel it’s been a great fit and they’ve been in Bemidji since Sept. 2023.

Finding community

Living in the Bemidji area has been very artistically inspiring for Kaiser. With her role with the Mississippi Headwaters Audubon Society, she gets to live on site at the Nielsen Spearhead Center nature preserve southwest of Bemidji as a resident caretaker. She’s getting to know Minnesota nature in her front and backyard with 466 acres and five miles of trails.

“I love going, experiencing a new place, whether it be a new natural ecosystem or a new culture or a new arts community, just getting new input that's inspiring for me, for my creativity and just how it's been overall has been really good.”

Kaiser also says Bemidji has been very welcoming. She says it was harder to make connections in her old home in Tacoma because people were more physically spread out. “I'm really excited to learn more about what's going on in the arts community and meet other artists.”

Kaiser also has some potential ideas for her new home. “I don't see anybody doing any shared studio space in this community yet,” said Kaiser “I'm looking at maybe doing some classes locally. I have done hike and paint type classes before, taking people out and doing that plein air capturing the outdoors.”

She’s also seeing a chance to return to her early artistic endeavors. “There's also a lot of really beautiful walls in this city that I'm like some good potential for murals.”

You can find more of Kaiser's artwork on her website.

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

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