Artist Mary Opatz-Herges

Entertainment Briefs — June 18 | Brainerd Dispatch



AITKIN — Sisters Mary Opatz-Herges and Margaret Dittrich are joining forces to display their art creations through July 12 at Ripple River Gallery near Bay Lake.

Opatz-Herges will submit her oil paintings and Dittrich will submit her jewelry.

“I paint landscapes for many reasons, but most importantly, I feel the landscape is the perfect vehicle for expressing human emotion,” Opatz-Herges stated in a news release. “Light is my most important ally. I use it to create environments that are inexplicable, withdrawn, unknowable. When things cannot clearly be seen they can often best be felt.”

Artist Mary Opatz-Herges' created this oil painting on canvas and titled it "Little Brook." Submitted Photo

Artist Mary Opatz-Herges’ created this oil painting on canvas and titled it “Little Brook.” Submitted Photo

While Opatz-Herges finds inspiration in the landscape, her sister is inspired by the materials she uses. Dittrich recalls walking into Bernie’s Rock Shop in Madison, Wisconsin, and being fascinated by the drawers full of mineral specimens and gemstones.

“Making jewelry became imperative,” she stated. “I started off making beaded jewelry on the kitchen table, but gradually morphed into metalsmithing.”

For the last 14 years Opatz-Herges’ studio has been in a 130-year-old flat iron building in downtown St. Cloud.

“Oil painting allows me to achieve depth by layering with glazes and building color surfaces,” Opatz-Herges, who works with six or seven basic colors she can mix a full range of colors, stated. “I often have at least a little of each of these colors in every color I mix, which creates harmony.”

While Opatz-Herges’ landscapes often start from her photographs, her finished painting rarely looks anything like the original image.

“Once the painting is off and running, the photo is discarded,” she stated.

Dittrich, who lives and works in St. Paul, enjoys the process and problem solving that goes into each piece of jewelry.

Artist Margaret Dittrich created this sterling silver pendant with Priday Polka Dot jasper and pink and blue sapphires. Submitted Photo

Artist Margaret Dittrich created this sterling silver pendant with Priday Polka Dot jasper and pink and blue sapphires. Submitted Photo

“I may know what I will do with a stone or it may sit on my bench for ages before I work with it,” Dittrich stated. “Rather than sketching out ideas I rely most often on playing with the actual components until I’m satisfied. This frequently leads to unexpected pairings.”

All of Dittrich’s pieces are hand-fabricated from a flat sheet of metal. Working primarily in sterling silver with gold embellishments, she most often starts with a unique central stone — honey opal, raw lapis, boulder opal or meteorite, for example. ���I don’t find diamonds very interesting except as sparkly little accents,” she stated.

Ripple River Gallery is open with health and safety measures in place; masks required.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. The gallery is located five miles south of Deerwood on Highway 6, then three miles east of Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge on County Road 14 to Partridge Avenue; or south of Aitkin on Highway 169 to Bennettville, then 3.2 miles west on County Road 11 to Partridge Avenue.

For more information call 218-678-2575 or e-mail

True Crime novelist Frank Weber will sign copies of his award winning series: “Murder Book,” “The I-94 Murders” and “Last Call” from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday, June 23, on the sidewalk at CatTale’s Books & Gifts in downtown Brainerd.

As a 25 year veteran of the forensic psychology profession, Weber has spent a large portion of his life in service to those in need, a news release stated. As the clinic director at CORE Professional Services, Weber’s work has ranged from assessing murderers chained to the cement floor in the basement of a prison to providing therapy for wealthy professionals who’ve engaged in multiple affairs. Weber has testified as an expert witness in numerous sexual assault and homicide cases and has received the President’s Award from the Minnesota Correctional Association for his forensic work.

Frank Weber

Frank Weber

Weber has presented at state and national psychological conventions and teaches college courses in psychology and social problems, including training law enforcement agencies at Central Lakes College and as a speaker for the Criminal Justice programs at Inver Hills Community College. He was recently featured on the Oxygen Channel in an interview filmed at the Inver Hills forensics laboratory.

To relieve some of the stress that he encountered during his forensic career, Weber turned to fiction writing as a way of detaching from the human tragedies that are routinely part of his caseload, the news release stated. Using his unique understanding of how predator’s think, knowledge of victim traum, and actual court cases, Weber penned three true crime novels and his fourth “Lying Close” is set to be released this fall. True crime novels revolve around actual crimes with fictionalized characters and stories to draw in the reader. In these books, the facts surrounding the crimes are accurate. Weber’s thrillers involve actual Minnesota communities and businesses, and authentic historical information on Minnesota.

“I fill my stories with hometown characters that every rural Minnesotan can identify with,” Weber stated. “My books have a broader appeal that fans of fiction thrillers and true-crime novels can connect with and enjoy.”

The event is free and open to the public.

Minnesota author Fredrick Soukup’s debut novel, “Bliss,” launched March 2, merely weeks before the state’s stay-at-home order began. Despite a postponed Minnesota book tour, the author’s novel had made a name for itself in the independent literary community, a news release stated.

The book cover of "Bliss" written by Fredrick Soukup. Submitted Photo

The book cover of “Bliss” written by Fredrick Soukup. Submitted Photo

“Bliss” was recognized with a 2020 Independent Publisher Book Award and named a finalist in the 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award.

The work of fiction, partially set in Minnesota, paints a picture of love complicated by a young couple’s socioeconomic and racial differences. In addition to earning an IPPY bronze medal for Best Regional Fiction of Great Lakes, “Bliss” was named a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book award, an honor that goes to thought-provoking books that illuminate, redirect, or progress thought.

“The outpouring of support for ‘Bliss’ from the Minnesota community has been overwhelming,” Soukup stated of launching his first novel during a pandemic. “I feel especially grateful to readers in my home state.”

Soukup will donate all author proceeds from sales through September 2020 to Second Harvest Heartland, one of the nation’s largest hunger relief programs in Minnesota.

Soukup was due to receive his IPPY in New York City last month; however, the event was cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Interested readers can order the book in paperback from Regal House Publishing, bookstores, and major outlets.

Soukup is a St. Paul-based literary fiction author and a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School and St. John’s University. He has published works in Fluent Magazine and Sou’wester. He was a semifinalist for the 2017 American Short Fiction Prize and shortlisted by C&R Press for their 2019 Book Award.

Youth on Stage Open Mic event will be live from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday, June 22, at the Brainerd Eagles Club.

Brainerd Elks Lodge 615 sponsors the event through an Elks National Foundation grant and by the Brainerd Eagles Club No. 215. This monthly youth-oriented event is geared for those age 25 and younger who have a family-friendly talent to share on a year-round basis.

Talent may include singing, playing an instrument, storytelling, essay reading, poetry, tap dancing, comedy, magic, a band or ensemble to perform to live audiences. Each performer will be able to sign up for a 15-minute time slots — open on a first come basis. Those wishing to sign up should go to or may do so at the venue, the Eagles Club, on the night of a performance.

The event typically is hosted every fourth Monday of the month.

Organizers in a news release stated: “We understand that we all want to be safe during these unusual times and we expect the Eagles Club and all in attendance to exercise our safe distancing guidelines. Masks are not required but are welcomed. As we’ve seen in the past, most families sit together and we will have tables setup for distancing guidelines.”


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