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Fred Peterson 


Fred Peterson’s career as an artist began in a south Chicago blue ­collar community where becoming an artist was not considered a sensible choice for one’s life.  Artists had neither a labor union to support their work and wages nor evaluate their responsibilities and contributions to folks in the neighborhood who were just working to pay the rent and grocery bills. These were the Depression years when most families barely got by.


Despite these circumstances, Peterson continued to cultivate my own aesthetic ambitions. He read biographies of artists, frequently visited the Chicago Art Institute, and began to make drawings and paintings on his own. This is when he inwardly sensed that becoming an artist was the one true goal he could set for his life. He knew even then that fame and fortune in the arts was a fantasy for my future so with a practical set of values I set out to earn a bachelor’s degree with a major in studio art and philosophy and then a doctorate’s degree in art history that would enable him to teach and practice art at a college or university. These degrees would act as his union card to enter a profession that would ordinarily have been closed to one without a proper social/economic pedigree.


Peterson joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota - Morris in 1961 when the art program was only one year old. He initiated the studio art and art history curricula and taught courses in both disciplines until additional faculty were hired.  He then assumed the role of the art gallery director/curator by presenting a series of exhibits representing regional and national artists. After the first few years at the Morris campus, when the curriculum and faculty were securely established, he began to devote more of his time and energy to making art.


More than forty years ago he began to create drawings and watercolors directly from particular Minnesota locations.  Eventually, he added oil pastels as a medium that allowed him to represent and interpret what he discovered to be essential qualities of the place,­ an expansive space, brilliant clear light, intricate woven textures, and complex colors that enrich the land.

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