Frank Big Bear

USA Knight Fellow

  • Visual Arts
  • 2015

    Duluth, MN


    I was born in 1953 in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, a small town nestled in the northwestern part of the state. I grew up on the farms of the Red River Valley and the woods of the White Earth Indian Reservation, the largest in the state, before moving to Minneapolis at age 15.

    When I was very young, my grandparent Big Bears, who spoke Ojibwe, gave me pencil and paper to draw on so I would not miss my father while he was working. My grandparents praised my efforts and I realized I was no longer lonely if I was drawing.  I never stopped.

    High school in Minneapolis was a difficult time, but two art teachers changed my life. I got scholarships to study at Macalester College and the University of Minnesota.  I stayed in college for only one year, mostly due to financial issues, but I had the great fortune to study with George Morrison (1919-2000), who became my mentor. Although college was over, my education did not stop.

    I drove cab in Minneapolis and Saint Paul for 31 years to support my family, and my professional career as an artist. Now, my six children are independent as am I.

    In October of 2010, I moved to Duluth, Minnesota along the shores of Lake Superior. I needed to be alone and work on my art without the distractions of the Twin Cities. It was hard at first but I fell in love with the area and climate.