SHTA Artist of the Year: Betsy Bowen

May 25, 2023
Grand Marais artist Betsy Bowen loves hiking on the SHT during warm months. Her woodblock prints capture the diversity of experiences the Trail offers. “That’s what I really appreciate about it; It’s not one little trail. It’s that whole expanse of the North Shore. You get a full range of terrain from the rocky places where you have to make sure you’re still on the trail to the small opening in the trees to the beaver ponds. The variety of it intrigues me,” Betsy said.
Betsy Bowen in her Grand Marais studio. Photo courtesy of Betsy Bowen.

When Trail Store Manager Jody Nonnemacher was dreaming of our next artist partnership, she thought of award-winning Grand Marais artist Betsy Bowen and her famous woodblock prints.

Jody read Betsy’s children’s book Antler, Bear, Canoe to her children when they were growing up. “Betsy perfectly captures the essence of living in the Northwoods, the feeling of living in harmony with changing seasons, in the trees, with the animals,” Jody said.

This winter, Betsy created a beautiful series of prints inspired by her favorite SHT hikes on the Cascade River and Pincushion Mountain. The prints are “composites of my experiences on Trail,” she said, “the dramatic vistas and the quiet trail through the woods.”

Betsy’s design is featured on our new unisex Raglan Style Hooded Sweatshirt, (left) and our Women’s Lightweight Tunic Sweatshirt, (right).

Betsy’s SHT prints are featured on a range of products in our Trail Store this year, which generate revenue for management and maintenance. Using Betsy’s art, we’ve created two hooded sweatshirts featuring her woodblock print in black and white: our unisex Raglan Style Hooded Sweatshirt and a Women’s Lightweight Tunic Sweatshirt. In full color, we have two really comfortable T-shirts, short- and long-sleeved. And we have four-packs of notecards featuring Betsy’s individual designs.

About the artist

Betsy is a long-time resident of the North Shore and one of the most well-known Grand Marais artists, a town famous for its artists and art colony.

She grew up in Hinsdale, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and was introduced to Minnesota’s North Shore when her parents bought a homestead west of Grand Marais in the 1960s. After attending art school in Florida where she discovered her love of and talent for woodblock carving and printing, she moved to the family homestead in the late 1960s.

Trail Store Manager Jody Nonnemacher poses next to our new T-shirts, available in short- and long-sleeved styles.

Betsy is most well-known for authoring and illustrating children’s books for which she’s won many awards, including the Minnesota Book Award, the John Burroughs Riverby Award given to Outstanding Nature Books for Young Readers, and more. “I have a gallery where I make my work, woodcuts, and those woodcuts are used in book illustrations. The woodcuts are the core of my time,” Betsy said.

She also creates paintings, and has spent more than twenty years involved in making large scale street theater puppets for Grand Marais’ annual solstice celebrations. Her work is primarily about the natural world of the North Shore, but she also loves traditional and folk topics like Scandinavian troll stories.

Throughout the Association’s 37 years, we’ve been fortunate to partner with many regional artists to produce SHT-inspired art and Trail Store products. Last year, our Artist of the Year was Matt Kania, who produced a series of art posters that are still available. Images from his artwork were also used to create apparel – T-shirts and sweatshirts.

Betsy’s designs are individually featured on a set of four greeting cards.

Bowen said she loves the Superior Hiking Trail and appreciates the people who “have held that vision and kept it up,” she said. “I’m not the beefy person with the chainsaw. To be able to help by contributing artwork is a nice way for me to support the effort.”

“We’re so excited to work with Betsy Bowen this year. She has perfectly captured the Superior Hiking Trail from its majestic overlooks to its quiet, tree-lined footpath,” Jody said.

To learn more about Betsy Bowen, visit her website at www.woodcut.com or her gallery at 301 First Avenue West in Grand Marais.

– SHTA staff

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