Our Beginning Story ~~

Artists Form Local Arts Group


In December of 2010 several area artists gathered to network and discuss the possibility of forming an art group in Cook, MN. The group would hopefully include the entire area of northern Minnesota, eventually establishing a gallery where artists would be able to sell their work on a permanent basis and hopefully provide events to further the arts in the broader region.

For the next few months a small core group of artists met monthly at various places around Cook, slowly getting the word out to artists of all disciplines that they were welcome to attend the meetings and offer their advice, suggestions and ideas on forming a group.


Artists ranging from Orr and Crane Lake to the north, Hibbing and Chisholm to the southwest, Ely, Embarrass, Aurora and Babbitt to the east and southeast and Britt, Virginia, Mt. Iron, Gilbert and Eveleth to the south were all included and invited to join the organization.


Name Chosen, Board Elected, Mission Crafted

The name Northwoods Friends of the Arts (NWFA) was chosen at our meeting on February 15, 2011. We feel this name represents our artist network here in northern Minnesota near several large lakes and the Iron Range.


Eventually the by-laws were established, a governing board was elected and mission statement was crafted.


Our mission and purpose is to Inspire, Nurture, and Celebrate the Arts in Our Region.

Bringing together our individual passions and talents, envisioning a place (or a number of them!) that gives energy, and light for all ages and all arts to enrich our lives!


Northwoods Friends of the Arts (NWFA) started in 2011 as an arm of the Cook Chamber of Commerce and appreciates the Chamber for all the help and direction they’ve given to the organization during these formative months. Eventually we will be applying for our 501(c3) non-profit tax exempt arts designation.

2011 First NWFA Spring Art Expo


We’re close to the most beautiful lake in Minnesota—Lake Vermilion—and families and fishing enthusiasts from far and wide will be visiting us for the 2011 Minnesota Fishing Opener on May 14. This is a great opportunity to expose your art to the public and make contacts for commissions in the future!

The idea of holding our first Spring Art Expo in May 2011 quickly materialized and then all heads were focused on getting the event off the ground. This first big event for the newly organized group would feature area artists’ work in participating businesses of Cook, Orr, Crane Lake and several lakeside resorts.

So now we were organizing, contacting artists of all genre (music, drama, literary, and visual artists), and arranging to have artwork on display for up to two weeks from May 13-29, 2011 in secure participating business establishments, the River Street Yoga Studio and gallery space made available beside Dreamweaver Hair Salon and Day Spa.


The Spring Art Expo had concerts, performance art, dance, painters, weavers, literary readings, art shows, and “meet the artist” opportunities. Artists selected days and hours they’d display and sell their art works in the gallery space, yoga studio and in the businesses in Cook, Orr, Crane Lake and lake resort businesses.

Closing Ceremony for the Spring Art Expo was held during Memorial Day weekend on Sunday, May 29th and featured award winning artist and speaker Charlene Luoma from Britt, MN and an original interpretive dance by a Virginia, MN local dance troupe.


NWFA Opens Visual Arts Gallery June 2011

We are happy to announce that that dream is coming true, our new visual arts Gallery opened on June 1, 2011. Operated completely by artist member volunteers, we are located at 210 S. River Street in Cook, MN next to the Dreamweaver Salon and Day Spa.

The name chosen for the organization and the gallery is Northwoods Friends of the Arts (NWFA), and we’re happy to report that there are already 15 artists displaying their works for sale. The quality is amazing and to think all these local artists were hidden until now!

Our beautiful gallery sign was painted by artist member, Nancy Luloff and the diamond willow frame was made and installed by Vice President, Gary Jacka. Thank you both!

If you’re an artist who lives or summers in the region surrounding Cook, MN and would like to sell your work, feel free to contact Gallery Director Alberta Whitenack for details.

NWFA Organization Looks To Future

We’re already thinking about summer ART FUN ideas, and maybe a Fall Art Event that also helps people discover a new art for themselves, with classes, demos, trainings, and exhibitions and creative meeting space! We hope to have the gallery open over the winter and sponsor arts and cultural events on into the coming years.

JOIN US! Become a Supporting Member

You don’t have to be an “artist”, you can just appreciate and want to support and the spirit of art in all people. We will always need skills you may have. Trust that this group of people will always bring the ART of FUN to the table, for our community, and for all to enjoy. Join the movement, become a member, fill out your Membership Application today!

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Certain activities by NWFA are made possible in part by a grant provided by the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council (ARAC) and is funded, in part, by the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

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