The work of local artist Bonnie Folkerts reflects the beauty she observes in the natural world: animals, florals, and landscapes.
Folkerts has always been an artist, even at the age of 6 or 7 when she painted bright lilacs that were found in her mother’s garden. But only after decades and a career in the design business passed did she dedicate herself to her art.
First, she earned a degree in Interior Design from the University of Minnesota and worked a series of design jobs before accepting a position at the Lee Jofa showroom in International Market Square. As a full-time showroom consultant, she was unable to pursue her art as much as she preferred. But she formed a tight network with other interior designers who incorporated her artwork into projects they were working on, which helped her continue to create.
A conversation with a nationally known designer at a seminar at the Hickory Chair showroom gave her the push she needed to pursue her passion. “As we chatted before her presentation, she said to me ‘Your art is fabulous! Why aren’t you doing this full time? You should be following your muse and doing what God intends you to do!’”
Last year, she quit her job to become the full-time artist behind B.J. Folkerts Art & Design, a Minneapolis maker that not only respects the natural world but focuses on supporting and giving back to the local community. The transition was not as easy as she imagined it would be. Even though she began receiving commissions and selling some of her work, at first she struggled to balance her art with other aspects of her life, such as her family, faith, and involvement with the community. This year, she says, she has found her balance and is able to create without sacrificing everything else that is important to her.
Folkerts creates her pieces with a mixture of acrylics and watercolors. Because her work is so simplistic in subject matter, her attention to details is what makes it stand out. She doesn’t focus on making people question or wonder what she’s trying to convey, but rather on appreciating the beauty of the living things she has replicated.
“I feel a profound spiritual connection through nature, and my art gives me a vehicle through which I can share that with others,” she says. “When clients tell me that they smile every time they look at a piece of my art they have placed in their home or office, it makes what I do feel worthwhile.”
Folkerts values giving back to the community that has supported her as an artist. Since her studio is located in the Casket Arts Building, she has joined Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, and become more involved in committee work with the American Society of Interior Designers Minnesota. Recently ASID renovated classrooms for children at People Serving People, and Folkerts donated a “Northwoods” mural to decorate the space.
Currently, she’s working on a “Northwoods ABC” children’s book that combines her nature-inspired artwork with her love for her grandchildren. “Whether I choose to spend time painting, with family, in my gardens, volunteering, or on solitary walks in the North woods—everything I do informs how I approach creating my art!” she says. “It keeps me grounded. It expands my vision. It connects me to a greater purpose.”
by Catherine Guden