The Big River Art Contest goes to Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport!

Three paintings of the river.
Previous winners of the Big River Art Contest

NPS/Abby Olson

The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area has partnered with Art@MSP to create an exhibit showcasing a few pieces from the nearly 25 years’ worth of amazing student art from the Big River Art Contest. The exhibit is called Big River Art: The Mississippi Serves as Habitat and Inspiration. It is located in the South Mall of MSP International Airport, just around the corner from the South security checkpoint and will be on display until the spring of 2023. Only those traveling through the MSP airport can view this special exhibit so we’ve got the sneak peek here. If you find yourself in the airport, please take a photo with your favorite piece and tag us on Instagram @mississippinps.

What is it like to grow up with America’s great river in your backyard? The Big River Art Contest is an annual contest for 3rd through 6th grade students to express their relationship with the Mississippi River. Students are encouraged to learn about, explore, and experience the river. The resulting art shows how the river impacts their lives – they exhault in the river’s wildlife, grapple with themes like pollution, and contemplate the Mississippi’s rich history. Many find inspiration in their experiences during school programs led by rangers from the National Park Service. Every year a handful of pieces are chosen from thousands of submissions and the winning artists’ work is displayed at the Fort Snelling State Park Visitor Center and the Mill City Museum. Enjoy these special pieces from the past 20 years of the Big River Art Contest and learn along with the students what you can see in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Two paintings of the river.
Previous winners of the Big River Art Contest

NPS/Abby Olson

The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is a park run by the National Park Service; it is one of over 400 National Park Sites across the country. The park embraces 72 miles of the Mississippi River as it flows through the Twin Cities area. This river corridor is rich in history and culture. It is the homeland of Dakota people. It is a place shaped early on by its abundance of furs, forests, and fertile prairies. It is also where the river’s unique geography helped turn cities into commercial and industrial powerhouses. Today, the River ecosystem provides habitat for countless species of animals – big river fish, rare freshwater mussels, and playful otters -- it also provides North America’s largest flyway for migrating birds. The combination of cultural history and diverse natural resources in a major metropolitan area invites us to expand our understanding of what a National Park can be and makes the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area a singular and noteworthy National Park.

The artists featured in the exhibit span 16 years of the Big River Art Contest and they used a variety of methods to create their works such as pointillism, paper weaving, wood block prints, and mosaic using materials like paints, oil pastels, colored pencils and more.

The pieces will be on rotation throughout the run of the exhibit, but below is a complete list of the artists and the year they won the Big River Art Contest:

Evelyn Mosby – 2003, Nicholas Ladas – 2004, Sarah Patrick – 2005, Brauntee Peterschick – 2005, La’Quell Kilgore Hodges – , 2007, Kathyrn LeMon – 2008, Lily Boland – 2010, Kou Yang – 2011, Lue Yang – 2011, Laina Behrenbrinker – 2012, Kacey Kim – 2013, Jane Oh - 2013, Isabelle Zeaske – 2013, Emma Strowbridge – 2015, James Corley Sanders – 2016, Sophie Satoskar – 2019.

Congratulations to these amazing artists!If you are, or know, any of these artists, please contact Abby at e-mail us for a proper congratulations and the opportunity to see the exhibit in person.

The Big River Art Contest is coordinated by the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service. Support comes in part from the Mississippi Park Connection, a 501c3 organization with contributions by Ecolab Foundation, the National Park Foundation, and Xcel Energy Foundation.

Mississippi National River & Recreation Area

Last updated: May 24, 2022