Wabasso Painter Due Honor HIS ADMIRERS CALL HIM ‘GRANDPA MOSES' By Don Spavin, Staff Writer St. Paul Pioneer Press, Aug. 1, 1971
Reprinted with Permission from the St. Paul Pioneer Press
WABASSO – A decision not to accompany his wife on a shopping trip transformed Arnold Kramer from a retired farmer with nothing to do into a recognized artist with dozens shows and awards to his credit. “Must have been about 20 years ago,” Kramer said. “We were visiting a daughter in the East and she and her mother decided to go shopping. I decided to stay home, and my daughter suggested I try my hand at painting to pass the time away. I did and I’ve not stopped much since. When I sit down to paint I can even forget my cup of coffee and let it get cold. Time just seems to fly.” Now 88 years old, Kramer still owns the first painting he made – a scene of geese coming in for a water landing. “I copied a calendar picture” – but it is one of a few he is able to keep because his work is in demand. Some might call it “candy box art” but to most, the Kramer paintings are a sweet breath of the past. “I TRY TO PAINT the events of the years when I was young and working a farm,” he said. “They are my recollections of a past in farming that I feel needs to be recorded.” Aug. 22, friends, neighbors and fellow artists will honor Kramer at a celebration in the Wabasso Town Hall. The celebration will be used to kick off the sale of a collection of five Kramer paintings reproduced on note cards and Christmas cards. Sale of these cards is being sponsored by the Southwestern Women’s Association for Fine Arts, an art organization involving 19 counties in southwestern Minnesota. The organization had its founding through Southwestern Minnesota State College at Marshall and it was at this new Minnesota college that Kramer had one of his many one-man shows. Kramer will do more though than just stand around when the celebration day arrives. Before he turned artist at the age of 68 – an event that brought him the tag of “Grandpa Moses” – he was a musician, baseball pitcher and farmer. “I doubt I could do much pitching now,” he said, “but the plan is for me to lead a band of golden age musicians if we can find some. We’re trying to interest the Gaylord Old Timers into coming. They’re pretty good. I directed them at the State Fair a year ago and I know they play real well.” THE THIRD of 12 children born in the Kramer family, Arnold has spent his life in the Wabasso-Seaforth area. Since the death of his wife “a couple years ago,” he has made his home on a farm midway between Wabasso and Lucan in Redwood County. The elderly artist works in a corner in the living room and said that “I try to paint some every day.” He works in oils on canvas and to date has painted more than 300 works. Almost all depict remembered scenes of his childhood or his early years as a farmer. A remembered country bridge, the threshing rig set up on a neighbor’s farm: a portrait of himself and his wife: a sweeping panorama of spring planting, these and dozens more sit about or hang on the walls of the home. Others are on exhibit or as in the case of the art group on the process of being turned into cards, A small painting shows a young man and woman in a buggy outside a farm home. It is titled, “Me and My Gal.” The artist made it from the memories he has of the days when he courted his wife. It represents the two on a Sunday buggy ride. Kramer has led an active life. He learned to play a musical instrument., as did most of his brothers and sister, at an early age. In turn the older ones in the family taught the younger. At one time the Kramer Brothers Band and the Kramer Family Orchestra had all they could do to keep up with playing dates. “There wasn’t a heck of a lot to do on a farm in the winter years ago, he said, “and to entertain ourselves we learned to play musical instruments. We joined a club sponsored by a music publishing house and each month we got a package of music. I played the trumpet and the violin, my brothers played such instruments as drum, clarinet, alto horn and trombone, a sister played piano.” The Kramer Band consisting of all nine of the Kramer boys, played out of Seaforth and appeared at community picnics and celebrations. The orchestra, seven brothers and a sister, played for dances, social functions and other entertainments. “IN THOSE DAYS they used to dance all night,” Kramer said, “and I remember many times of going home by buggy as the sun rose. It was hard work but fun.” He also found time for other things, such as pitching for the Lucan baseball team or other towns in the surrounding area. It was a full life and when retirement came it could have been a real letdown without his art. While he considers his painting a hobby, his fans are loud in praise for his “sharp, clean lines and bright colors.” Two scrapbooks are filled with ribbons and awards that have come his way. They show he has exhibited and won at the rural art show sponsored by the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota State Fair, where he has won both red and purple ribbons: at the American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis, Dayton’s Art Fair, and as part of the University of Minnesota’s traveling art exhibit. In addition to this his works have been shown at countless small shows around the area, appeared in The Farmer Magazine, and at Southwest Minnesota State College in Marshall.