Art Festival Winners in Twelfth Event

There were winners aplenty at the 2016 Driftless Area Art Festival, September 17 – 18 in Soldiers Grove. Art lovers from across the region found beauty for their homes and work spaces, artists were honored for the quality of their work and the way they presented it, and all participants—visual artists, culinary artists and performing artists—experienced great sales and enjoyed interacting with enthusiastic attendees.

Download Press Release

In the annual People’s Choice Award balloting, festival goers selected Ken and Michelle Workowski of Viola. Their company, The Nature of Things, perfectly describes their art, as they create beautiful home furnishings from natural materials such as wood and bark. Sponsored by VIVA Gallery in Viroqua, the People’s Choice Award includes a ribbon, a $100 stipend, and an invitation for a feature exhibit at the gallery.

Another competitive award, Best of Show, selected by judges who included a gallery owner, a fine arts professor and a professional artist, went to Amy Arnold and Kelsey Sauber-Olds of Viroqua. They collaborate on human and animal wood sculptures that are imaginative, colorful and clever. Sponsored by J Gallery Interior Design Studio in La Crosse, the Best of Show award includes a ribbon and a cash prize of $500. State Street Gallery, also in La Crosse, sponsors two $100 Merit Awards, which went this year to Amy and Matt Palmer for their upcycled steampunk jewelry and to John Craig for his collage work, including the always-popular “Lost Treasures of the Driftless” series.

Professional artists also spent several hours in the Youth Art tent and awarded blue ribbons, cash prizes and art supplies in various categories.

In the KidsArt Gallery, there were three grade categories, K – 3, 4 – 5, and 6 – 8. Bret Connolly, a third grader from Iowa Grant Elementary School in Livingston, won a blue ribbon for his pastel drawing, “Gum Balls.” Bret’s parents are Rick and Beth Connolly, and his art teacher is Rachel Schmidt.

In the Grades 4 – 5 category, Makenna Monson of Doudna Elementary School in Richland Center won a blue ribbon for her multi-media piece, “Trumpet Sounds.” Makenna’s parents are Angela and Jeffrey Monson, and her art teacher is Julia Steiner.

The third blue ribbon winner was eighth grader Rachel Gianoli of St. Charles School in Genoa for her charcoal drawing, “Barn Moods.” Rachel’s parents are Cora and Paul Gianoli and her teacher is Meg Buchner.

Each of the three blue ribbon winners will receive a check for $25 and a framed copy of the winning piece. And all three pieces will be sold at live auction next year, with the proceeds going to the art programs in the students’ schools.

Blue ribbon winners in the Teen Art Gallery included a first place to Lane Buchner of DeSoto High School for her Linocut print, “Eye of the Dreamer.” Lane’s parents are Meg and Joe Buchner of Ferryville, and her art teacher is Tom Stingl.

A second place ribbon went to Lancaster High School’s Katie Frommelt for her scratchboard work, “Fallen Angel.” Katie’s parents are Liz Schleicher and Daniel Frommelt. Her art teacher is Gloria Fuller.

Anna Dickman of Richland Center High School won a third place for her oil painting “Imprisoned Angels.” Anna’s art teacher is Craig Rogers and her parents are Robin and Jamie Dickman.

And school art programs were winners when live auction bidders bought the three KidsArt blue ribbon winners from 2015. A total of $575.00 was raised, which will benefit the art programs at Winskill Elementary School in Lancaster, St. Charles Parochial School in Genoa, and Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School in Viroqua. Since its inception, the auction of winning KidsArt has raised $9,810 for school art programs in the area.   The live auction also featured a quilt made of art squares painted by kids in the crafts corner of the KidsArt tent several years ago. The $200 raised will help support Youth Art exhibits at future festivals.

Festival Partners included Community Development Alternatives, Inc; People’s Sate Bank; the Village of Soldiers Grove and the Soldiers Grove Community Development Corporation; and Wisconsin Public Radio. A full list of all financial contributors can be found on the Festival’s website,

Download Press Release