Selective Focus: Ashley Kolka

Ashley Kolka is a collage artist who makes small-scale pieces, mostly about small towns and rural settings.

A.K.: I make miniature cut paper collages from recycled magazines. My best one-line summary of what I do is that I make small works about small places. My logic for working small is both philosophical and practical. Small works create a sense of intimacy with the viewer and can be purchased at an accessible price. Most people in the Duluth art community know me in my role as the grants manager at Arrowhead Regional Arts Council. That job takes most of my time; working small fits the space in my life that I have for art making!

My subjects are regional, and mostly rural. I am a big believer in the importance and power of art in and about small towns. When you take time to make a piece, you are implicitly saying that the subject of that work has contemplative value. My partner, Jeff, and I both travel northern Minnesota extensively in our jobs (he’s a botanist/plant ecologist with the DNR), so I’m never at a loss for subjects. Last summer he did field work in the Northwest Angle, for example, and brought back some great photos.

lostfortyI’m pretty new to exhibiting whole bodies of work, but so far I’ve been intentional about approaching rural venues. The more I think about it, this past election season has deepened that feeling in me — because small town art spaces are on the front lines of bridging and negotiating the confusing and scary urban-rural disconnect we have in our country. In my own small way, I want to help support and empower those spaces. It can be a little tricky, because conflict-of-interest rules in my job (rightly!) prevent me from selling work at venues that apply to ARAC for grants.


I’m currently working on a show for Ripple River Gallery in Deerwood, near Aitkin, in Crow Wing County. That’ll open May 24 and run through June 18. I’m also working on a northern Wisconsin body of work, but I’m probably more than a year away from doing anything with it. My artistic presence in Duluth is currently piecemeal. I submit single pieces to open-call shows sometimes, and I donate to silent auctions and fundraisers. I also do a fair amount of commissions, mostly house portraits. Details about the works pictured can be found on my website,



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