For Immediate Release
Contact: Krystl Louwagie
Southwest MN Arts Council
800-622-5284, 507-537-1471
114 North 3rd Street, Marshall
Photo of Rosemary Glesener looking off-camera while a closed mouth smile. She is in the Bird Island Cultural center gallery.
Photo taken by Erica Dischino for the West Central Tribune. June 9, 2021, at the Bird Island Cultural Centre; see article here.
Southwest Minnesota Arts Council Awards Local Arts Advocate $1,000
Rosemary setting up pottery exhibit at the Bird Island Cultural Centre.
The Southwest Minnesota Arts Council is pleased to announce Rosemary Glesener of Bird Island (Renville County) as the recipient of the 2021 Prairie Disciple Award

The Prairie Disciple Award provides awareness and recognition of one individual per year from southwest Minnesota, whose activities and involvement have substantially contributed to the arts over an extended period of time. The accomplishments of arts advocates working in the region are often not widely known or appreciated. In recognizing these individuals publicly, SMAC believes theses awards raise the profile of the arts in their community and throughout the 18-county SMAC region. The public is invited to join SMAC in publicly honoring Rosemary at our Annual Celebration of the arts and artists in our southwest Minnesota region. The celebration will be held in Jackson, MN this fall on Saturday September 18th. Please watch our website and other media channels, like Facebook and Instagram, for more details!

Photograph courtesy of Leta Jacobs, Design by Leta.
Rosemary was nominated and had letters of support from many community members! Paul Heyl, Rosemary's nominator, said that Rosemary, a Minnesota native, has resided in Renville County for forty years. During this time, she has organized art shows in various venues, ranging from a National Guard Armory to an abandoned convent and more. As a Cum Laude graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Superior, she designed her own major entitled Integrative Community Wellness which encompassed her belief that art, psychology and health are interconnected. Heyl said that she has been instrumental in the management of the Bird Island Cultural Centre since its inception in November of 2016.

Pictured right: Rosemary Glesener and her husband, Mark Glesener. Photograph courtesy of Leta Jacobs, Design by Leta.

Heyl went on to say that "Rosemary’s largest impact on the Arts in SW Minnesota is her teaching and mentoring of artists. She has taught numerous art classes for everyone from preschoolers to senior citizens." Rosemary has shared her personal studio to people living with disabilities and assisted in their exhibiting shows. She has discovered numerous young artists and helped them to exhibit, as well as made connections to artistic mentors for them. "Rosemary has made the Cultural Centre in Bird Island an integral part of the SW artistic community, but more importantly, Rosemary exemplifies the need for a broader sense of community, not just geographically and artistically, but for all the essential things that should be a central part of a good community and a good society."
Lets hear what some of Rosemary’s letters of support said:

Abigal Davisson, an artist who had her first solo show as an artist at the Bird Island Cultural Centre, explained that the night before her show there was a bad storm in Bird Island which resulted in a tree coming down in the front lawn of the Centre. Davisson said, “What I remember is how the community came together in support for Rosemary by coming to take care of the debris and to cut up the tree so that the show could go on…Rosemary puts her whole self into giving art to her community. You can feel that by seeing the way the community gives back. Rosemary bestowed her bright spirit, love and creativity to provide me with a positive and successful show.”

Photograph courtesy of Leta Jacobs, Design by Leta.

Chuck Brown, Olivia resident and published author, said of Rosemary: “She’s a talented artist and writer in her own right, but it is her long history of work in service to the arts community that so abundantly qualifies her for this award…Rosemary is especially attuned to the needs of the young artist, and many of her programs and classes are designed to be seeds of discovery and awakening for future artists. She is a true disciple for the arts. Her many efforts have long worked to the benefit of Renville County and beyond.”

Kylie Rieke, a ceramic artist and muralist living in Fairfax wrote, “From the moment I met Rosemary I knew she was a champion for the arts community.” Rieke explained how Rosemary helped with her first solo show at the Centre, “Not only did she create an incredibly positive experience, but she continues to support me to this day: attending my art shows, sending me handwritten notes and emails, and greeting me like a celebrity when we happen to cross paths. She makes me feel like a superhero. What impresses me the most is that I am only one of many, many artists that has come through the Cultural Centre in Bird Island. I cannot begin to imagine how many artists’ lives she has touched and made better.”
Photo: Mark & Rosemary Glesener at the Bird Island Cultural Centre, photo from Tom Cherveny/ West Central Tribune

Laura Posl, a realtor in the area, spoke about how valuable Rosemary is to the town: “Our community has benefited enormously from Rosemary’s efforts in creating and growing the Cultural Centre in our town. Potential buyers are excited to hear that our little town of Bird Island has the ability to offer art classes, musical offerings and many opportunities from them to attend events to meet and mingle with community members.”

Leta Jacobs, artist and business owner of Design by Leta, said of Rosemary: “Her ability to inspire, develop skills, give space for creativity, and encourage artists young and old is endless.” Jacobs went on to say, “A natural teacher and storyteller, I find myself just as enthralled by her teaching as my young children.”

Artist Richard Krogstad wrote that “Rosemary has contributed to the arts in southwest Minnesota in ways that go far beyond ordinary…What is important is that Rosemary has an eye for talent and can identify significant work. She doesn’t let that she never heard of you before or something like that influence her decision. She can see talent and trusts her own intuition, which is right on.”

Ron Kahler (potter) and Sue Happel (jeweler) agreed, saying “Rosemary provides a wonderful service to this rural area, affording residents and visitors alike a unique artistic experience without traveling to a large city. Everyone who steps into The Bird Island Cultural Centre reaps the benefits of Rosemary’s vision and tireless efforts, and counts themselves fortunate for the experience.”

Sharon Hagford, a photographer that recently moved from Minneapolis to Sacred Heart, remembers The Bird Island Cultural Centre and Rosemary being a welcoming sign. Hagford, like many of the artists to write in support of Rosemary, had her first solo exhibit at the Centre. “I can’t tell you how much Rosemary’s hard work and encouragement meant to me and the success of my show. She is a true gem whose accomplishments should be recognized as she works tirelessly to bring art and culture to Renville County and surrounding areas.”
Trisch Beilke, a basketry and sculptural weaving artist, and Jim Beilke of Jim’s Boatworks, spoke of their support for Rosemary’s nomination: “We have known and worked with Rosemary for a few years now and have seen firsthand the energy, dedication, and passion she pours into supporting and promoting the arts in rural Minnesota. She has a true passion for what she does and for rural artists and communities.”

Right image: Cropped photograph from Tom Cherveny/West Central Tribune.

Michele Steffen, artist and educator, said: “What strikes me the most, anytime I work with Rosemary, is her authenticity, dedication and enthusiasm when advocating for the arts and artists in her community and beyond. One quite quickly realizes that for her it is not enough that the arts and the Centre be an interesting diversion for community and passers-by. Her deepest desire, and what she works tirelessly towards, is that the arts play a central and vital role in the lives of as many people as she can possibly reach.” Steffen explains how when she had her own show at the gallery, Rosemary extended personal invitations to several young local artists and specifically introduced them to Steffen when she was showing her work because Rosemary felt that Steffen could have an impact on their artistic lives. Steffens remembers: “This was remarkable to me and I remember wondering how far the artistic ripple effects of her kindness, encouragement and personal attention, would eventually reach.”

Letters of support wrapped up with one from Scott Tedrick, who explained that he was asked to write several letters of support for SMAC’s Prairie Disciple Award: “I am blessed to know a lot of amazing artists who are doing great things in the region. In the end, it didn’t seem right to do more than one letter. I decided I needed to choose who I recognized as the most deserving and act accordingly. As it is, I do not know, and cannot imagine, anyone more deserving of this recognition than one amazing woman: The matriarch and spirit behind the revival of arts in Renville County, Rosemary Glesener, of the Cultural Centre in Bird Island. I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to know Rosemary over the past five years while serving as Editor of the Renville County Register. Both my job and personal passions have brought me continually into her sphere of influence, and every time I depart, I feel revived and uplifted.” He went on to write that “As an active actor, producer and director and the former President of the Yellowstone Trail Alliance of Western Minnesota, I have often come to Rosemary for support. Every request has been met with a response that has gone over and beyond what I’ve asked, and I have been greatly humbled by her gifts...I have seen the impact Rosemary has had on the arts in our region. I believe the spark in art comes from the heart, and everything Rosemary Glesener does is heart. Yes, heart drives and draws all true artists. Rosemary sets the tone. She is a focal point of the vibration. She is my pick for SMAC’s 2021 Prairie Disciple. Thank you to the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council for having this program.”
Photograph courtesy of Leta Jacobs, Design by Leta.

To learn more about the Prairie Disciple Award and past recipients, click here. If you know of an arts educator you'd like to nominate for 2022, applications will be due April 15, 2022! In 2022 we will also be taking nominations for a Prairie Star, which you can learn more about here. We thank all the nominators and individuals who wrote letters of support, including for the nominees that were not able to be awarded this year; we had many exceptional and deserving candidates. We encourage nominators to try again in future rounds-the Prairie Disciple award will be awarded to an educator in 2022 as well as our Prairie Star award for an exceptional artist who has impacted our region. To learn more, please visit

Rosemary will be publicly awarded and celebrated at Southwest Minnesota Arts Council’s Annual Celebration this fall on Saturday, September 18th in Jackson County. Keep your eyes open for details from us on this event!
Big Stone - Janine Teske
Jackson - Kristen Kuipers
Lincoln - Mark Wilmes
Meeker - Darlene Kotelnicki
Pipestone - Erica Volkir
Rock - Shawn Kinsinger &
Louella Voigt
Chippewa - Georgette Jones
Kandiyohi - Cheri Buzzeo
Lyon - Michele Knife Sterner
Murray - Jessica Welu
Redwood - David KelseyBassett
Swift - Alison Nelson
Cottonwood - Anna Johannsen
Lac qui Parle - OPEN
McLeod - OPEN
Nobles - Cheryl Avenel-Navara
Renville-Anne O'Keefe-Jackson
Yellow Medicine-Betsy Pardick & Michele Huggins
SW MN Arts Council STAFF
Executive Director - Nicole DeBoer
Grants & Financial Administrator - Caroline Koska
Marketing & Accessibility Coordinator - Krystl Louwagie