Celebrating career of ‘hometown’ Otter Tail County’s most widely known artist: The late Charles Beck

Winter Oaks – Charles Beck woodcut – 1977

Few have profoundly influenced people’s impressions of their natural surroundings as Charles Beck. 

As an artist, educator, and community leader, Beck left a rich visual legacy to Fergus Falls and West Central Minnesota.

In an instance of life imitating art, a wooded sunset or other picturesque view in West Central Minnesota is often seen and described as a “Charles Beck moment” by those who know his work.

Entering the new year, the Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls and partner organizations invite the community to celebrate ‘A Year of Beck.’ Organizers have planned a full calendar of exhibitions and events to explore and celebrate the career of artist Charles Beck. He would have turned 100 in January 2023.

Shows Chronicle Beck’s Career

Charles Beck at Kaddatz Galleries, 2009.

The year’s highlights include five differently-themed shows within the Kaddatz’s Studio K and Main Gallery starting in January and continuing through December. The centerpiece exhibition, happening next summer, will feature select woodcut prints paired with their blocks, illustrating the process Beck used to create them. Other showcases will present unique collections and illustrate specific periods in his career. By attending each show, viewers will gain a deeper perspective of Beck’s artistic career and see some works rarely or never shown in public before now.

M State to Feature Former Students 

The M State campus in Fergus Falls will host an art exhibit featuring its entire collection of Beck works, the most extensive in the area, next summer. Additionally, M State and the Fergus Falls Public Library will display works from five of Beck’s former students who continue as actively producing artists, including Chuck Christianson, Jim Fletcher, Scott Gunvaldson, Mary Erickson, and Bruce Thompson.

Shows in Moorhead and Across North Dakota

The Rourke Art Gallery + Museum in Moorhead will hold two exhibitions during the year: one drawing from its permanent collection and another showing some of Beck’s early works as well as a sampling from Beck’s mentors while he attended Concordia College for his undergraduate degree. The Rourke will also send a touring exhibit to select North Dakota communities in 2023.  

“Passion project” for Kaddatz Gallery 

“This is definitely a passion project for us, as Beck was the original inspiration for the creation of the Kaddatz Galleries, and has remained a featured artist throughout our years,” says Linda MacFarlane, chairperson for the Kaddatz Galleries board of directors. “We’re confident that the community will embrace the celebration and join us enthusiastically as we honor his legacy.”

True to Beck’s identity as an educator, organizers have planned a collection of workshops, community art tables, popup mural displays, and other events to help participants explore various aspects of creating, experiencing, and collecting art. Hands-on classes will teach participants basic techniques of printmaking.

Artist spent nearly entire career in area

Growing up in Fergus Falls, Beck began drawing as a teenager and continued his pursuits as an artist through his years in college.

Apart from his college education and years in military service, he spent nearly his entire professional career in Fergus Falls.
The subject matter of Beck’s oil paintings, watercolors, wood carvings, and iconic woodcut prints almost always reflected the natural beauty of the world around him.

Through this year-long commemoration, organizers hope to bring the full scope of Charles Beck’s artistic career to the forefront and celebrate his contributions to West Central Minnesota. More details and updates can be found by visiting www.kaddatzgalleries.org and by following the Kaddatz Galleries on social media.

Charles Beck sketching – 1958. Photo by Cy Running