Arts and Culture

‘It’s a loss’: The State Fair Foundation sunsets the Commemorative Art program

A large crop art poster in a gallery
The original crop art version of Liz Schreiber’s commemorative State Fair poster is displayed in the Fine Arts Building at the Minnesota State Fair on Aug. 24, 2023.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Liz Schreiber first heard about the end of the Minnesota State Fair’s Commemorative Art program in a crop art Facebook group earlier this year.

“I was really bummed out,” Schreiber said. “It was such a great experience for me.”

Schreiber is the last artist to make the official art for the State Fair Commemorative Art program, which began in 2004. Her 2023 artwork was an intricate seed mosaic featuring a cow head, corn, tractors, corn dogs and a Ferris wheel.

Woman stands next to artwork
Minneapolis seed artist Liz Schreiber with the official art she created for the State Fair in 2023.
Courtesy Liz Schreiber

“It was, I thought, a really great idea and super helpful to local artists, and it’s a great way to get your art out there,” Schreiber said.

State Fair spokesperson Maria Hayden confirmed that the Commemorative Art program is no more.

“When the Commemorative Art program was created 20 years ago, our original goals were to expand our connection to visual artists in the arts community, and to explore a revenue stream for the Minnesota State Fair Foundation,” Hayden said. “So, we have achieved those goals.”

In the past two decades, the program has featured the work of 19 artists (skipping 2020 due to the pandemic) including Schreiber, Lesie Barlow, Ta-coumba Aiken, Adam Turman and Michael Birawer. The fair would sell posters and limited edition prints of the artworks each year, and the original artwork would go on view at the Fine Art Exhibition.

Hayden said one of the factors that led to the end of the program was “coordinating the process of selling posters” and “storing and displaying 19 pieces of original art throughout the fair buildings.”

In place of an annual commemorative artist, the fair will use in-house designers to create a design that “can be showcased as a whole or pulled apart for use on various merchandise items and communication pieces. This will allow us to provide input into the subject and style of the design and how it can be used on fair merchandise available online and at our State FairWear gift shops during the fair.”

This design will be revealed in late July.

The State Fair's official artwork created by Minneapolis painter Leslie Barlow.
Minnesota State Fair

Minneapolis artist Barlow said making the official art for the State Fair was something she always aspired to. She achieved that goal in 2022 when she painted a group of friends at night on the Midway, bathed in pink light.

“It’s really exciting thing to be a part of, so I’m sad that that’s not going to be something that other artists can participate in moving forward,” Barlow said. “The Minnesota State Fair obviously has a huge audience, a very diverse audience, and so it just created that platform for me to connect my work with more people that maybe hadn’t seen my work before.”

Schreiber did not know she would be the last commemorative fair artist. 

“I just feel like it’s a loss,” Schreiber said

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.