Artists of the Year

Ben Olson and Emma Berg

By Taylor Carik

It was another great year for the Twin Cities visual arts community. Anna Lee made a triumphant return with Voltage: Fashion Amplified; GQ named Rogue Buddha's Nicholas Harper an artist to watch; the Minneapoline beat out blogs from much bigger cities like New York and Monaco to enter the online street fashion finals; Gawker named 27 "the new king of New York street art"...the list goes on.

At nearly all the gallery openings, the dance nights, and the fashion shows stood husband-and-wife power duo Ben Olson and Emma Berg, two of the scene's biggest successes and coolest cheerleaders.

This year Olson was featured in several local galleries, had a successful solo show at Rogue Buddha, shared the "5" show at Gallery Co with four other Twin Cities veteran visual artists, and just recently showed at the celebrity-fest Art Basel festival in Miami. Anyone who's seen Olson's colorful, animated, and emotional paintings has also seen his wife, Emma, who's his accomplice, inspiration, and subject. Along with running the indispensable, she's a ubiquitous socialite who often pops up in street fashion spreads for her creative clothing constructions.

While that kind of success can lead to bigger egos and moving on to bigger ponds, Olson and Berg have kept their feet planted on local ground and are some of the most cheerful and approachable people at local shows. At the 27 solo at the Soo Vac late last year, for example, as Berg and I chatted in the middle of a steady stream of art school kids trying to get a peek at the paintings, she took time to introduce a woman standing nearby: "Oh, by the way," she said, "this is the artist's grandma..."

That's about as grounded as it gets.

Taylor Carik is a freelance writer in the Twin Cities, co-host of the Flak Radio podcast, and author of the blog Mediation.

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