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Halverson's artwork on display at local library

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Gordon Halverson taught art in Ellsworth schools for 30 years and now his art is on display at the local public library.

Watercolors, Halverson's favorite painting media, dominate the display, which went up the middle of this month and will continue through next week, he said Wednesday. The retired teacher was approached about sharing some of his artistry by Janet Helmer of the library staff.

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"It's nice to have something up," he said Helmer indicated when asking him to select some pieces for the display.

He chose 13 of his works featuring a winter theme for the display, Halverson said. The art ranges from views of the Rush River to birds to colorful flowers.

A larger array of similar scenes is found inside a loft atop the garage at his rural home, built three years ago. The retiree said he's had a studio building on his property since 1967, but not enough space to display his finished work until the loft. He invited the public to walk through the loft at his home along CTH DD in the Town of Ellsworth during the warm weather season.

His paintings, which he frames himself often using black walnut from area trees blown down in a storm, include a series showcasing around 20 abandoned farmhouses in this vicinity, for example, he said. His latest topic is a series of three watercolors with a winter storm as the theme, the first as it approaches, the second in its full fury and the third after it passes.

"Clearing and colder" is how he described the last in the series, which took full advantage of his ability to render bright colors. Conversely, spattering was the technique he used in creating the height of the snowstorm.

Several of his paintings were inspired by the many summers he spent in Great Falls, Mont., the artist said. Rugged mountains under a fog-shrouded sky or steam rising from a stream cutting through snowy terrain have been captured at various times by his brush. His desire to paint intensifies or fades in streaks.

"I'll not have anything in mind for weeks, then I'll be so busy I won't have time to eat," he said.

The Strum native said he knew from an early age he wanted to be an artist. Yet, Independence High School, where he graduated, didn't offer art as a subject. It wasn't until he did his undergraduate work at UW-Eau Claire that he was able to take classes in ceramics, woodcutting, sculpture and the like. Two-dimensional art was his preference, however.

Teaching was another of his interests, Halverson said. He had five offers for jobs (in contrast to today's much smaller market for teachers) when former Ellsworth Superintendent Edsel Virgeen asked him to set up the then-new art program here.

"I was a little leery," he said about the prospect of starting a program from scratch.

Nonetheless, he accepted and taught some art in the elementary school, some at the ex-junior high and some at the high school, he said. At times, he had over 100 students involved in such pursuits as ceramics, print-making and painting. Several of his classes were in the old school building that's since been torn down. Eventually, more art teachers were hired as the program expanded; annually, he took the art of a dozen or so of his students to an art exhibit at UW-Stout in Menomonie.

Over a couple of summers, the EHS veteran worked toward a masters degree at UW-Madison, he said. When he received the degree in 1967, oil painting was a focus for him, but he now favors watercolors.

"I like the unpredictability," he said of the latter.

His teaching years didn't afford him much opportunity for producing art himself, he said. Occasionally, he might make a print to show his students the process or demonstrate watercolor for a class. Still, most every school year, he found students with artistic talent and that motivated him to continue.

Halverson's now content to build his portfolio in retirement. He and wife Audrey, a Blair native, have a daughter Keari in Plymouth, Minn., and sons Erik in Eau Claire, Rolf in California and Leif in Hudson.

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