I’ve been coming to Belwin for years and never sat within this forest. It’s beautiful!

– Guest, Music in the Trees

Belwin is committed to using our wild spaces to spark passion, both for art and nature. Our robust Arts, Culture, and Ecology program works to links people to the natural world in immersive ways, providing physical, emotional, and intellectual benefits. Education, arts and culture, and research programs at Belwin inspire new avenues of perception, understanding, engagement, and environmental stewardship.

Artists in Residence

Belwin’s Artist in Residence program was founded in 2015 in order to provide artists with space to focus on their creative process and offer them resources to learn from Belwin’s staff about the importance of healthy ecosystems The program has hosted painters, poets, sculptors, and more.

All residencies include a public workshop or lecture.

This year Belwin had two Artists in Residence who were chosen through a partnership with the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery.

The selected artists are photographer, Tomas Alvarez (second from left), and multimedia artist, Whitney Terrill (third from left).

“We believe nature belongs to everyone and we are seeking to change the narrative that Black people ‘don’t do the outdoors,’” states Tina Burnside (far right), co-founder and curator of MAAHMG. “We hope this residency will play a role in Blacks reclaiming outdoor spaces.”

Tomás Alvarez, photographer (2023)
Whitney Terrill, multimedia artist (2023)
Tom Bierlein, sculptor, builder, gardener (2021)
Rory Wakemup, visual artist (2019)
Tamsie Ringler, sculptor (2016-17)
Steve Heitzeg, composer (2016)
Laurie Allmann, poet (2016)

“The beauty of the residency was to  spend extended time observing; standing in one place for a long time. Everything would come to life around  me.”
— Laurie Allmann, 2015

Belwin’s Artist in Residence program started in 2015 with poet, Laurie Allmann. Since its inaugural year, the program has gone on to host sculptors, painters, photographers, and even composers such as Steve Heitzeg (pictured here). Starting in 2023, artists in residence were selected through a partnership with Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery.

Installations at Belwin

When visitors come to Belwin, they don’t only experience nature. They can also experience art. We have had several different installations at Belwin, some permanent and some ephemeral, that spark passion and connection with the natural world.

“Roaming Stone” was installed at Tallgrass Trails in 2022 by Chicago sculptor David Sprecher as part of 4Ground: A Midwest Land Art Biennial. The piece contains hoof prints from Belwin’s very own bison herd.

To learn more, read our blog post here.

Man in front of sculpture

“The Coming Soil” was installed by Tom Bierlein, Artist in Resident (2021), at Savanna Hills. Over time, it will disintegrate and add to the ecology of Belwin.

To learn more, read our blog post here.

“Buckthorn Buffalo” was installed by Rory Wakemup, Artist in Resident (2019), at Savanna Hills. It was made with buckthorn and designed to be burned.

To learn more, read this article from our 2020 newsletter.

Annual Arts Events

One of the best ways to invoke connection to nature and art is through direct experience. In order to help visitors have transformative experiences in nature, Belwin has a robust calendar of annual arts events.

Our biggest arts event of the year is Music in the Trees.

Each year, this two-day music festival celebrates forest ecology and performance by featuring musicians who play from tree stands high up in a four-acre pine grove. Each day ends with a fully accessible performance featuring interactive dance and music from different traditions present in our region. To see past lineups, look at our blog posts here and here.

Each May, we host the Belwin Bison Festival to celebrate release of the Northstar Bison herd onto the prairie. This event features live music and interactive eco-art. Past artisans and performers have included Paper Plains, Imniza Ska Dakota Drum Group, and OneVoice Mixed Chorus.

Each year, Belwin hosts a Winter Solstice Bonfire, a beloved event that always features storytelling from a different culture such as the seasonal Ojibwe stories from Ikidowin Youth Theater.

Last year, the event featured Irish music and storytelling from Minneapolis duo, The Mac and Cheese Band and an opening performance from Imniza Ska Dakota Drum Group.

This event has inspired work from local artists, such as Kelsey King (pictured above).

Arts Partnerships

Art is an opportunity for connection. Over the years, Belwin has partnered with several organizations in order to connect new audiences with art and nature.

Belwin has arts partnerships with the following organizations:

Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG)
Belwin partners with MAAHMG to select artists for our Artist in Residence program.

MN Nature Photography Club
Belwin partners with MN Nature Photography Club for photographs which are displayed at Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Field.

Art Reach St. Croix
Belwin partners with Art Reach St. Croix to promote local art and artists.

Making Art at Belwin

Belwin Conservancy is a community resource. It is a place which inspires creativity and passion. Many visitors to Belwin come to create art. Below are some examples of work by local artists.

In 2022, “The Current” filmed Faith Boblett performing three songs at Belwin Conservancy. This video was later nominated for an Upper Midwest Emmy® award.

Smiling people

Belwin has been the setting for several dance films from local artists.

LÍNEAS de SANGRE, a dance film by choreographer Taja Will and filmmaker Sequoia Hauck, was filmed at Belwin in 2021.

A solo film created for dance artist Erin Thompson, Reckless, blooming., was also filmed at Belwin in 2021.

Many local artists, such as Kelsey King and Amanda Hanlon have made visual art at Belwin Conservancy, inspired by the natural surroundings.


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Why Belwin Matters

We spark passion for wild places through conservation, education, and immersive experiences on more than 1,500 acres in Minnesota’s Saint Croix Valley.


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1553 Stagecoach Trail South
Afton, MN 55001

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