What a year, eh? The RiverTown newsroom looked back on 2020 to compile lists of the most important news and sports stories covered by the Star-Observer and Republican Eagle. Check back to Top 10 Stories of 2020 over the next few days to see what made the cut.

“Change” is probably the best word to describe the Red Wing arts scene in 2020.

The first major change of the year was Bonnie Schock’s departure from the Sheldon Theatre. Schock was the theatre’s executive director for about five years. During her tenure in Red Wing, Schock oversaw numerous changes to the theatre including the Sheldon's reopened in 2018 after a summer focused on revitalization and renewal.

Bonnie Schock left the Sheldon Theatre after five years in February for a job in Arizona. File photo.
Bonnie Schock left the Sheldon Theatre after five years in February for a job in Arizona. File photo.

Schock also worked to bring a wide variety of talent to Red Wing. Sheldon Theatre Development and Community Relations Coordinator Jennifer Staley told the Republican Eagle in February, “Bonnie challenged us to bring a little more than expected to our audiences. She has shown us all what is possible for a rural performing arts organization and the impact the Sheldon has on our community. I have no doubt about the positive future of this breathtaking place and look forward to continuing to watch it thrive.”

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Schock moved to Tucson, Ariz. to direct the Fox Theatre, where she was able to escape the cold Minnesota winters.

The transition for Schock took a couple of months because she did not want to leave the Sheldon until an interim director was in place and capable of taking over the operation.

“For me professionally and personally, the work that we’ve done here is really important and making sure that we set the circumstances in place that allow all of that good work to continue without major interruption was very, very important to me,” said Schock.

Jeff Larson, interim Sheldon Theatre executive director (photographed by Craig VanDerSchagen)
Jeff Larson, interim Sheldon Theatre executive director (photographed by Craig VanDerSchagen)

Jeff Larson stepped in as interim director. During his time with the Sheldon, Larson has worked to help find the next executive director.

In May, the Sheldon Theatre Board announced that due to the pandemic the search for the next director would be paused and Larson’s contract would be extended for another year.

The Sheldon closed its doors in March and has yet to hold any events in the theatre.

Outside of the Sheldon other arts organizations changed programing and plans because of the pandemic.

In May, Red Wing Arts created a virtual exhibit to host the annual show dedicated to student art. Originally the event was canceled but Red Wing Arts Director Emily Guida Foos explained, “we have figured out a way to pivot where we can pivot. Red Wing Schools has a strong art department in all grades. We are fortunate and want to highlight it and provide a platform for the student’s work.”

Through June visitors were able to explore the virtual gallery and choose which pieces to view up close.

Red Wing High School AP art students showed their work in an online gallery.
Red Wing High School AP art students showed their work in an online gallery.

A virtual gallery exhibit was also used to display the art created during Red Wing Plein Air in June and in the fall. Art was also exhibited at the Depot Gallery, which was open with limited hours and restrictions for the number of people allowed into the space at a time.

The Red Wing Plein Air Autumn Invitational included an online exhibit.
The Red Wing Plein Air Autumn Invitational included an online exhibit.

Other changes to Red Wing Plein Air included expanding the event from the normal five days to two and a half weeks. Participants also met via virtual meetings and awards were presented via Zoom.

A proverbial silver lining for the local arts world in 2020 was the creation of the Red Wing Arts and Culture Commission, which met for the first time in August. During the first meeting, which was held via Zoom, Mayor Sean Dowse told the commissioners, “I really appreciate the community input and all of the hours that were put in and resulted in this commission, and the great work it is going to do. So, I am really excited by this day and the process that is going to go forward.”

The Arts and Culture Commission members were sworn in by Red Wing Mayor Sean Dowse in August. From top to bottom: Dowse, Staff Liaison Laura Blair Johnson, Adam Wiltgen, Council Liaison Becky Norton, Burke Murphy, Becky Poss, Brian Peterson, Emily Guida Foos, and Antonio Nonthe.
The Arts and Culture Commission members were sworn in by Red Wing Mayor Sean Dowse in August. From top to bottom: Dowse, Staff Liaison Laura Blair Johnson, Adam Wiltgen, Council Liaison Becky Norton, Burke Murphy, Becky Poss, Brian Peterson, Emily Guida Foos, and Antonio Nonthe.

Since the commission’s commencement areas of focus have included a sculpture walk, the installation of public art and the commission’s participation in city projects to include public art in project plans. Currently the commission is working with the city in planning the Old West Main Street project scheduled to begin in 2021.