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Annie Hejny

As Artist in Residence with Lanesboro Arts August 6 - September 3, 2017, St. Paul-based abstract painter, Annie Hejny, invited the community to join in creating ceremonies and paintings with water and sediment from the Root River to reveal the stories of our relationship to local water.

Visual artist Annie Hejny believes that collaborative art making and storytelling around the river creates an opportunity for the community to make informed choices about daily water usage. Through local stewardship activities, poetic storytelling and community river painting, her project in Lanesboro contributed to ongoing community efforts to expand awareness of our essential relationship with water and the Root River. “I’m trying to bring the earth’s voice forward,” she states.

Based in Saint Paul, MN Annie ceremoniously harvests local river water and sediment to create textured abstract paintings. Her process begins the moment she steps into nature, leading to the river. She is passionate about how intentional exploration of the earth can lay the groundwork for informed painting in her studio. Annie’s blended painting technique, in which she pours water and sediment over a flat canvas, allowing it to emulate natural flow and erosion before layering it with traditional brushwork, aims to honor the water’s sacred and historical importance. Lanesboro area community members were invited to participate in a Root River Water Harvest & Painting Event in Gateway Park from 10am – Noon on Saturday, August 12, in which Annie will shared her gathering rituals and painting technique. Materials and supplies were be provided.

Painting with collected river water and sediment is how Annie lives out her responsibility to the earth. Fully saturated with elements of the river itself, her paintings reflect the changing current and the luminosity of the water’s surface, as well as the foreboding shift in our relationship to these waters. The process has taught her that spending time with our waters and building a sense of ownership creates a deep care for the human impact on the wild ecology.

Annie feels that Lanesboro is an ideal location to inspire water awareness because of it’s connection to the Upper Mississippi River. The Mississippi River, which is the main stream channel to the Root River running through Lanesboro, is integral to our lives as Minnesotans by providing necessary recreation, beautiful wildlife and fresh drinking water. Her major goal for this residency includes three main components — storytelling, stewardship, and community art making — ultimately intertwines her artistic development with a communal appreciation for the Root River.

Annie joined community members for morning river walks, every Wednesday through Friday. She believes that repetitively spending time with nature opens up our awareness to the healing powers and the rich stories that nature offers. Annie walked and talked with the Root River and cultivated relationships with Lanesboro area residents during that time. Each week had a focus: 1) story-telling 2) poetry in nature 3) developing rituals 4) reflection. Depending on the participants, the walks were about 30-60min and may have included some sort of documentation / writing component.

Public Events

  • A Welcome Discussion & Potluck dinner took place in the upper level studio space of the St. Mane Theatre 6pm – 8pm on Monday, August 7.
  • Annie led an intentional Community River Water Harvest & Painting & Event at Gateway Park from 10am – Noon on Saturday, August 12.
    • Come Early! Annie also participated in a Root River Clean-Up with the Root River Rod Co and the Lanesboro Landscape Improvers from 7am-10am on Saturday, August 12 — meet at the Coffee Street Walking Bridge!
  • A reflective Workshop: The Spirit of the Root River in Words and Color took place in the upper level studio space of the St. Mane Theatre 5pm – 7pm on Thursday, August 17.
  • Annie held meet & greet Open Studio hours in the upper level studio space of the St. Mane Theatre from 4pm-6pm on Thurs. Aug. 24 & Thurs. Aug. 31.
  • A Capstone Art & Poetry Presentation happened on the Lanesboro Museum’s outdoor porch on Saturday, August 26 from 6pm – 8pm (Rain site tba). Musician and cyclist Ben Weaver will also be performed and shared stories!
    • Annie will be attending the Lanesboro Landscape Improvers Monday evening improvement event at 7pm on Aug. 28, Engstrom garden, 301 Ashburn St. E.
  • An Artist Demonstration and Farewell Discussion was scheduled for Saturday, September 2 from 1pm – 4pm at Lanesboro Arts Gallery.
  • Annie also shared a poem on the August 11 Over the Back Fence Community Variety Show.

“I was raised with simple but consistent values of stewardship: guided to care for a garden in order to eat beautiful food, inspired to dig my hands in the earth to expand my imagination and taught to turn off a faucet so to swim in deep lakes,” Annie shares. While merging those early lessons of conservation and connection to the earth with my current art practice and activism, Annie has saught guidance from women who simultaneously nurture the feminine body and the wild body of Mother Earth. In order to bring ourselves and the planet to health, Annie believes must reconnect with the wilderness. She notes that American poet, Jungian psychoanalyst and post-trauma specialist Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, encourages women to “Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.” Annie walks through the woods to get to the Mississippi River, and give thanks to the water as the source of all life.

As she strives to more closely aligns her art practice and lifestyle with the cycles of our natural world, Annie has become more deeply concerned about the need for water stewardship. Professor Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, writes “Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.” Kimmerer’s parameters for honorable harvesting guides Annie’s collection process at the river and deepens her bond with the land. Annie listens to the waters and paints with the soils in true defense for the earth.

Annie believes that interrupting the patterns of abuse towards the earth is the first step to healing the planet and that when water is respected and honored, we concurrently respect and nourish ourselves. In her small practice, she is modeling a response to the concern for human and planet health by cleaning litter from the shoreline, speaking out against the threatening infiltration of foreign oil companies and painting with the colors and light of each season. Annie hopes her work can, “inspire future generations to get close with the beautiful earth and advocate for our precious water.”

About Annie Hejny

Annie Hejny is a Minnesota-born emerging visual artist, intentionally exploring Minnesota’s waters to create abstract paintings with collected river water. She studied at the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine University, earning a double-major B.A. in Elementary Education and Studio Art with Summa Cum Laude honors (2012).

Over the past four years, she has successfully completed over 20 commissioned projects for galleries, private collections, and public institutions, locally and nationwide. In 2015 and 2016, her paintings were selected and sold at the annual Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition, receiving the ArtReach St. Croix award (2016). In June 2015, she participated in the Women’s Art Institute (WAI) studio intensive at St. Catherine University. Simultaneously, she converted her single-stall garage into gallery three, a pop-up exhibition space for local artists and has curated five collaborative events. In June 2016, she returned as a Teaching Assistant for WAI.

She completed a two-year professional mentorship/protégée program through Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota (WARM) and continues to paint at the Casket Arts Building in Northeast Minneapolis.

For more on Annie and her process, please read “Take Me To The River: A Profile of Artist Annie Hejny” by Andrew Ellis on

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