Instituted in 1989, this event honors a local individual or couple who has given generously of their time to promote the arts in the Bemidji area. These individuals have made significant and sustained contributions to the linguistic, performance, and visual arts of the greater Bemidji area. They are nominated by Bemidji area citizens and then selected by a community panel.

To honor their legacy, a photo of the current recipient is displayed at Watermark, with previous winners included in a display catalog. Recipients are also recognized at our annual banquet and award ceremony held in their honor in the spring.

Friend of the Arts nomination forms are available here or by contacting Watermark at (218) 444-7570 or

Watermark would like to recognize Keith Johanneson of Marketplace Foods, photographer Monte Draper and potter Butch Holden for their assistance in recognizing our Friends of the Arts honorees.

2018 Friends of the Arts honorees

Kellys Photo

Bill & Pat Kelly, 2018 Friends of the Arts honorees, stand in front of artwork by Hillary Kempenich at Watermark Art Center. Photo by Monte Draper

Watermark Art Center & Keith Johanneson of Marketplace Foods announce the 2018 Friends of the Arts honorees, William and Patricia Kelly.

Bill Kelly taught visual art at Bemidji State University for 31 years. Throughout his career, Bill helped expand BSU’s art department. In the mid-1970s, he lead the conversation about the design of the new Talley Gallery. He also began Bemidji State University’s Graphic Design program in the 1990s.

Pat Kelly spent her career at North Country Health Services, retiring as Vice President of Development in 1999. Pat’s artistic interests include the literary arts, visual arts, theater and music. She has done work in writing, photography and design through the marketing side of her career and was also Chair of the Art Acquisition Committee at North Country Health, which selected and acquired art to display in the hospital. Pat has been heavily involved in community service throughout her life; in 1999, she was awarded the BSU Outstanding Alumni Award.

The Kelly’s both serve on the Board of Directors at Watermark Art Center. They were instrumental in leading Watermark through its recent transition to a new, state-of-the-art facility. They also support many other arts organizations in the area, including the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra and Paul Bunyan Playhouse.

Previous Friends of the Arts winners:

2014 Ernie and Patt Rall, Arts Patron and Theater
2014 H.B. and Ina T. Roholt, Arts Patron
2013 Al and Cate Belleveau, All arts
2012 Patricia Mason, Music
2011 Jim and Marilyn Heltzer, Arts Patron
2010 Janet Brademan, All Arts
2009 Greg Gasman, Theatre
2008 Dr Beverly Everett, Music
2007 Marie Luoma, Music
2006 Karen Bradley, All arts
2005 Wayne Hoff, Music
2004 Ann Hayes, Music
2003 Roberta Sellon, Music
2002 Becky Lueben, Theatre
2001 Sandy Kaul, Visual Arts
2000 Ken Wold, Music
1999 Marlon Davidson, All Arts
1998 Pluma Kenfield,
1997 Ione McIntyre, Music
1996 Sally James Lehman, Visual Arts
1995 Mary Lou and Lou Marchand, Arts Patron
1994 Nancy and Fulton Gallagher, Music
1993 Paul Brandvick, Music
1992 Betty Rossi, Literature
1991 Roewna Deweese,
1990 Phil and Betty Sauer, Arts Patron
1989 Helen Gill, Arts Patron

MP logo PhotoshopWatermark is grateful to Marketplace Foods, our 2018 Friends of the Arts sponsor.