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Meet Winnie Conger, 94-year-old artist

Amy Weiss | May 4, 2021

Winnie-1Winnie Conger’s dining room table in her apartment at Walker Methodist Plaza is crowdedjust how she likes it. Two vases of flowers are at the center, surrounded by pencils, papers, and erasers. With a pencil and a light hand, Winnie has sketched detailed bouquets on each page. Her drawings, waiting to be outlined in fine-tipped marker, show the talent of an artist who’s had more than 90 years to perfect her skill.

Winnie’s art career started in 1930, early in the Great Depression. At three years old, she drew a picture of one of the most popular figures at the time: Mickey Mouse. Mickey ended up with long, skinny arms and legs, but Winnie’s mother saved the drawing because she saw something special in her daughter. In high school, Winnie’s art teacher, Sister Rosarilia, captivated the class with artwork from a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Sister Rosarilia taught her students different techniques, and that day in the classroom Winnie knew that she wanted to be an art teacher. And, after earning her bachelor’s degree from St. Catherine’s University and her master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, her dream came true. Winnie taught her own art class for 25 years.

Winnie-5During the coronavirus pandemic, Winnie picked up a hobby, something she’d stopped a while ago… watercolor painting. At 94 years old, she’s recently completed more than 40 paintings. Winnie’s teaching days may be behind her, but her passion for art is as strong as ever. Though she does some portraits, flowers are clearly her favorite subject. “Each bouquet is a new challenge with different kinds of flowers and decorations. And I like challenges,” she grinned. “I never get bored. Sometimes I’m so focused on my art that I’m late for other things.”


After a lifetime as an artist, Winnie is trying something new this spring. Her family is helping Winnie put on an art show on May 13 (which just so happens to be her late husband’s birthday). The art show will take place at Plaza in Anoka, where Winnie has lived since 2019. “Plaza has been very gracious to allow us to have the art show here,” she said. “They’re even providing cheese, crackers, and wine for guests. I’m so excited!”

“I just want to reproduce beauty the way I see it, where and how I see it,” she explained. Winnie does thisbeautifullyeach time her pencil meets paper.


Update: Winnie's art exhibit on May 13, 2021, was a great success! Residents, family, and friends came to Plaza to see the artwork, enjoy wine and appetizers, and hear a brief word from Winnie. She sold 60 pieces of art during the silent auction. And, thanks to her and her family's generosity, the proceeds of more than $1,600 were donated to the Walker Methodist Foundation.

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