Belwin’s wild spaces spark passion, both for art and nature. Our robust Arts, Culture, and Ecology program links people to the natural world in immersive ways, and gives audiences new ways to experience the arts. When we hear music inspired by the woods, in the woods, or make art with the natural elements around us, the experience grows more profound, and connections become deeper. By exploring the intersection of art and nature, we can inspire new avenues of perception, understanding, engagement, and environmental stewardship.

Artists in Residence

Belwin’s Artist in Residence program was founded in 2016 to provide artists space to focus on their creative process and give them the opportunity 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 that allows the artists to share their love of nature with audiences.

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, Tomás Alvarez (middle left), and multimedia artist, Whitney Terrill (middle right). They are joined by Belwin’s Susan Haugh and MAAHMG’s Tina Burnside.

“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, 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 (pictured left), 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, 2016

Belwin’s Artist in Residence program started in 2016 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. To help visitors have transformative experiences in nature, Belwin hosts several arts events throughout the year. Three flagship events anchor our arts programming calendar:

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, explore our blog posts from 2023 and 2022.

I’ve been coming to Belwin for years and never sat within this forest. It’s beautiful!
– Guest, Music in the Trees

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 welcome and celebration of the solstice 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:

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

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

Minnesota Nature Photography Club
Belwin partners with the Minnesota Nature Photography Club (MNPC) for photographs which are displayed at Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Field.

The Phipps Center for the Arts
Belwin partnered with The Phipps to create arts and nature activities to take out into the community.

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.

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. It was filmed and edited by Caitlin Hammel.

Film Image Credit: Sequoia Hauck

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

We are grateful to all individuals and organizations who have supported the arts, culture, and ecology at Belwin. This includes the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, whose support was made possible thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. This work is also made possible in part by the St. Croix Valley Foundation.


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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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