From abstract art to sculpting to painting rocks, the first event of the grant-funded West End Flourish project showcased a variety of art-based activities, all with one central focus: Cloquet's West End.

“I’ve always had a heart for the West End," event organizer and artist Phyllis Ducey said. “There’s just something special about it.”

West End Art Day was held Saturday, July 17, with a goal of bringing artists of all levels and styles together to spotlight the West End. The event offered a place for artwork to be created and showcased, as well as art projects for children, live music, lunch from Holy Smokes food truck and a sidewalk venue for plein air art.

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Plein air art are works created outside of a studio. Ducey's vision was for artists to set up along the sidewalks of Avenue C and create images inspired by the West End. While there were not as many people participating in this art as Ducey would have liked, she still felt the event was going well.

“It’s great," artist Kitty Sabelman said. “I just think it’s such a nice day to sit out and do this and create some art.”

Throughout the day, Sabelman was working to sculpt a clay model of her vision for the West End, including some new building decor and rooftop dining.

“There’s too many empty storefronts," she said.

Sabelman currently runs a garage pottery studio in Wrenshall and hopes to bring her model before the Cloquet City Council to pitch some of her ideas, such as closing Avenue C to vehicle traffic. She and her husband, Dave Sabelman, both said they would love to have more local options for weekend activities, such as a brewery in Cloquet.

Elizabeth Peterson, 14, paints a depiction of one of the West End businesses during West End Art Day in Cloquet on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Event organizer Phyllis Ducey is Peterson's grandmother and has been teaching her to paint since she was around 6 years old (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)
Elizabeth Peterson, 14, paints a depiction of one of the West End businesses during West End Art Day in Cloquet on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Event organizer Phyllis Ducey is Peterson's grandmother and has been teaching her to paint since she was around 6 years old (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)

West End resident Kathy Lund was attending Saturday's event and expressed a similar vision for the area. She said the prospect of revitalization brought her excitement.

“It’d be great to get more restaurants and people down here," she said.

Also similar to Sabelman, artist Kimberly Johnson was hard at work sculpting a clay model, but hers was a model replica of a train on display near her pottery stand. Johnson loved the ideas behind the day's event and especially liked that everything was tied to the Common Ground Coffee Bar & Deli, she said.

Ducey partnered with Common Ground for West End Art Day, and even centered the date of the event around the availability of their Holey Smokes food truck. She said she also plans to use Common Ground as a venue for an art contest— to display the art created during West End Art Day inside of the shop for a couple of weeks and award gift certificates from West End businesses to the piece that garners the most votes from Common Ground patrons.

Kim Buskala works on an abstract oil pastel piece at West End Art Day on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Buskala said she channels her emotions into her painting, writing and dancing. She will host a movement dancing and writing class as a part of the West End Flourish project in August. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)
Kim Buskala works on an abstract oil pastel piece at West End Art Day on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Buskala said she channels her emotions into her painting, writing and dancing. She will host a movement dancing and writing class as a part of the West End Flourish project in August. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)

While there were some challenges planning the event, such as a short timeline, a $1,000 budget and the uncertainty of what to expect, Ducey said she hopes to do something similar in the future to showcase young artists.

The West End Flourish project has many events planned for the remainder of the summer, all aimed at bringing more traffic to the West End. One proposal currently underway is Julia Jaakola's idea to plant a Monarch pollinator garden outside the Smokey's Meat Shop building.

For more information on the West End Flourish project, visit oacc.us/programs/west-end-flourish/.