The search for Burns Lake’s Centennial Artist is over.
Kara Palmer, a Burns Lake resident who specializes in fantasy art, won the event in a timed paint-off held Aug. 26 at the Lakes District Museum. As the winner, she will be commissioned to create a two-dimensional work of art representing or reflecting Burns Lake’s first century. It will be unveiled in council chambers on Dec. 6, 2023 – exactly a century after the village was incorporated.
“(It feels) pretty good,” Palmer said after learning she’d won. “I am pretty excited to do the commission. I have no idea what I am going to do, but I am excited to do it.”
Palmer’s body of work during the competition, including her rendering of the Bucket of Blood, a log home and speakeasy that now sits on the Lakes District Museum, narrowly earned her the title of Centennial Artist over two other talented competitors, Susan Chretien and Annamarie Douglas.
Douglas, a graphic designer and outdoor enthusiast who has been creating eye-catching advertisements for the Lakes District News and Houston Today for more than 25 years, was selected as the runner-up. Placing second earned her $1,000 in addition to the $300 prize package she won with her wildcard entry.
Chretien, meanwhile, took home $750 and something far more valuable: confidence.
“It’s fun, and I am excited that I can paint again,” said Chretien, who suffered an injury that sidelined her for a while. “I didn’t know if I would be able to paint again, but now I know I can, and I am enthusiastic about it.”
Palmer’s win marks the end of a plein-air painting competition that began in early July. Nearly two dozen artists with close ties to the Lakes District participated in the two-month event organized by the Lakes District Museum.
“It’s been great fun,” said Museum Curator Michael Riis-Christianson. “We got to celebrate Burns Lake’s Centennial and see a lot of amazing artists at work.”
Riis-Christianson noted that thanks to the generosity of funders, the museum was able to put more than $11,000 into the pockets of local artists, some of whom were young people just starting their creative journeys. He stressed, though, that the competition was never about money for most people.
“Most participants in The Search for Burns Lake’s Centennial Artist didn’t care if they got paid or won a prize,” he said. “For them, this was about showcasing their talents, connecting with other artists, and doing something they love in idyllic settings.”
According to organizers, the competition was a success. “The Search for Burns Lake’s Centennial Artist was designed to celebrate Burns Lake’s first hundred years, foster the arts in this region, and build community among creative people,” Riis-Christianson noted. “Judging from the comments we received from participants and spectators alike, it achieved those goals and more.”
Many participants and spectators have indicated they hope the museum society will organize a similar event next year. Several artists, including Palmer, have already donated their artwork for the purpose of raising funds for other arts-related initiatives here.
Riis-Christianson said that while a large-scale competition is probably out of the question, he and his staff already have a few ideas for next year.
“The Search for Burns Lake’s Centennial Artist was a once-a-century event,” he said. “Our little society doesn’t have the resources to undertake something this large on an annual basis. However, we hope to host at least one plein air paint-out next year, and perhaps a much smaller competition that will encourage other artists to showcase their talents.”
The art created by Palmer, Douglas, and Chretien will be on display in the museum gallery at 520 Highway 16 West in Burns Lake until the end of September.