Minneapolis artist creates unique historic map of Detroit Lakes for ‘150 Sails Up’ project


Artist Anna Palmquist has a studio, Stargirl Art, in the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis. She is one of more than 80 artists who contributed designs to the 150 Sails up in DL public art project commissioned by the City of Detroit Lakes for its 150th anniversary. (Photo submitted)

Palmquist’s sailboat design, titled “Then and Now: A Mapping Project,” is literally a map of the city’s 150-year history, past and present.

“It’s like an old explorer / travel diary with notes, drawings and diagrams as well as hand-drawn maps,” says Mary Beth Gilsdorf, organizer of ‘150 Sails Up’. “It’s full of information, stories and things that we can discover or explore for ourselves.”

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“My goal with this project was to create two maps, one showing the Detroit Lakes now and the other showing the then,” said Palmquist in her artist’s statement on the project. “I wanted to add lots of facts and figures about the smaller sails, as well as comparison and contrast sections. However, when I began my interviews with residents and research librarians at the Becker County Museum, I quickly realized that my destination was impossible because the City contains too lots of history, stories, people, organizations and companies to ever fit on a work of art.

An example of some of the historical tidbits scattered throughout artist Anna Palmquist

An example of some of the historical tidbits strewn across Anna Palmquist’s 150 Sails Up in DL sailboat design, which depicts Detroit Lakes’ 150 year history. (Photo submitted)

“As such, these maps are not an exhaustive source or summary of information about Detroit Lakes. Instead, the project turned into a series of hat tips, winking, and nodding at the stories I learned about the city. The new goal was to To arouse questions in the viewer and to arouse curiosity about a city that you thought you knew or that you are just discovering for the first time.

“If you look at this piece and it starts a story about Detroit Lakes, I hope you share. And if you have any questions, I hope you seek the answer and speak to someone you would have during the process never met otherwise. “

Although the city of Detroit Lakes is the sponsor of the Palmquist sailboat, it will be on display outside of Lakes Liquor, the city’s municipal liquor store, Gilsdorf said.

Palmquist put their final design together through a combination of extensive personal research and interviews with longtime residents. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing safety restrictions for COVID-19 pandemics that spanned the entire four-month project, Palmquist’s research had to be done almost entirely online, by phone, or through other remote means.

“I really love doing research, talking to people and interviewing them,” said Palmquist. “I thought this project was a cool mix of all of that – and a fun time to take a trip (to Detroit Lakes).

“At the time, I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal,” she added. “I didn’t think about how the pandemic was going to make it really difficult to travel and meet people in person.”

But she did it – albeit with a lot of help from the residents of the Detroit Lakes, especially the staff at the Becker County Museum.

“Emily was my cheerleader”

“Emily (Buermann, museum program director) was my cheerleader,” said Palmquist. “She helped shape what became of this project to narrow down what kind of city was defined. A lot of those things came from her and the hard work she did to help me.”

Still, as Gilsdorf pointed out, it was Palmquist’s talent that brought it all together: “The work, research and creative energy she put into her piece of sailing boat is incredible,” said Gilsdorf.

It’s all part of the artistic process for Palmquist, whose Stargirl Art Studio in the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis is filled with a little bit of everything reflecting her eclectic background.

Anna Palmquist's Stargirl Art Studio in the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis is full of associations of mixed media art and stationery.  (Photo submitted)

Anna Palmquist’s Stargirl Art Studio in the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis is full of associations of mixed media art and stationery. (Photo submitted)

“I’m the first and always a storyteller,” says Palmquist. “Writing and art feel very connected to me. It is impossible for me to make a work of art without telling a story.”

Wisconsin native Anna Palmquist still spends a lot of time there when she’s not working on her art.

“I live in Minneapolis and also part-time in Wisconsin – especially last year,” she said. “My parents are getting older … I just wanted to be with them during the pandemic.”

Working with her parents on the family’s small resort farm in rural Wisconsin is “what I do to make the most consistent income,” she says. “It’s been a family business since the 1940’s. I do all of your social media marketing, website design, business development – I’m pretty involved.

“I still write and work on it – and the other part is my art business. I work in a gallery and am trying to open this studio. I have my art for sale in a couple of online places, and I’m doing some house remodeling as well.”

In fact, her new art studio in the Northrup King Building is a bit of a fixer-upper, says Palmquist, which is why she “got a really good deal”.

“I could have worked on it for months”

While she really enjoyed the opportunity to work on the “150 Sails Up in DL” project, it was a much more time consuming project than Palmquist had originally thought.

Although the artist recently completed her sailboat, she says, “I could have worked on it for months – I’ve never done anything this big.”

“I actually had to draw everything on little pieces of paper, all of which had to be scanned (digitally) and placed on top of one another,” she explained. “It was a bigger undertaking than originally planned, but I am very happy with the result.

“For me, the best experience on this project was doing interviews and speaking to local residents – that was the funniest part.”

Palmquist plans to be in Detroit Lakes later this month for the 150 Sails Up sailboat regatta party taking place at the Kent Freeman Arena on Friday April 30th so she can meet all of the people you know helped with their project along the way.

“Everyone was just so warm and excited about what I was doing,” she said, adding that she never felt like a “big city artist” who shouldn’t have been working on a project that had such an intense local focus.

“My biggest problem was that the people I spoke to were so humble and said, ‘I have nothing to say,” said Palmquist. “When I got them to talk, they had this wealth of information that a were great gift for me. The generosity of the community in helping me finish this project … that was something I wasn’t expecting. I couldn’t have “did this without it.”

When you go

What: Sailboat regatta party for ‘150 Sails Up in DL’

When: Friday, April 30th, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: Kent Freeman Arena, 1310 Rossman Ave., Detroit Lakes

Tickets: USD 5 for adults, free for children and students

Info: or


Dusty Kennedy