Meritage announces art contest for 2nd annual Oysterfest


Meritage is beefing up its bivalve bash.

This week, the French Brasserie and Oyster Bar kicked off an art contest to accompany its second annual oyster-o-rama. Between now and May 1, artists are invited to submit original works for Oysterfest 2012.

The winning design will be used online, printed on postcards, and incorporated into other marketing materials to promote the September 30 event.

In addition to full artistic credit (which we like to refer to as "bragging rights"), the winner will receive $1,000 in cash, as well as two free VIP passes and the opportunity to peddle their wares at Oysterfest.

On the surface, art and oysters may be odd bedfellows. But the addition of this year's competition is a logical follow-up to last year's festivities.

After opening the Meritage Oyster Bar in late 2010, owners Desta and Russell Klein were searching for the perfect piece of art to grace their new space--something that felt modern yet had a timeless quality to it.

They shopped up and down both coasts and ducked in and out of art galleries in Paris. "We just couldn't find what we were looking for," Desta explains. "But when we started to put together Oysterfest, the topic came up. And we thought, 'Let's find a local artist.'" They reached out to St. Paul painter Gary Korlin and were thrilled with the results, using his work as the centerpiece of last year's campaign.

Although the first Oysterfest was a rousing success, it began as a risky proposition. "When we went out to visit the oyster farmers, they thought we were crazy putting together an Oysterfest in landlocked Minnesota," says Klein. "It was a big gamble for us, but we believed in it."

Their hunch paid off. On October 9, 750 people crowded St. Peter Street and downed a whopping 15,000 bivalves. The oyster faithful attended seminars and tasted Lift Bridge Brewery's new Oyster Stout (made with shells from Meritage), while munching away on lobster rolls, fried clams, and po' boys.

Oyster farmers flew in from the Atlantic (Blue Island, N.Y., and Island Creek, Mass.) and the Pacific (Hama Hama, Ore., and Penn Cove, Wash.). And Vincent Francoual of Vincent-A Restaurant became Vincent-An Oyster King, beating out local food luminaries in a shucking battle for shell supremacy.

But for Klein, Oysterfest is more than just a great block party. "We really feel that owning a restaurant gives us a unique opportunity to offer something besides simply a place to consume," she says.

"We attempt to build community by offering educational opportunities, social outlets, and events, and a sense of being part of something. The festival brings together oyster farmers from both coasts, all sorts of food aficionados, the curious, and ocean-lovers.  We're all in T-shirts and jeans, shucking away and having a damn good time doing it."

Even though Oysterfest 2 is still an entire summer away, plans are already in the works for a bigger, better, bivalvapalooza. Klein hints at more live music, an epic sequel to last year's celebrity shuck-off, and maybe even a special appearance from one of their most prized oyster partners.

To learn more about the art contest, visit

As the event nears, updates about Oysterfest 2012 will be posted at

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410 Saint Peter St.
St. Paul, MN 55102


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