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Grant boosts Austin native’s artwork

Jacob Schlicter, albert lea art center,
Jacob Schlichter narrowed down about 18 months’ worth of photographs to create his exhibit of wildlife at the Albert Lea Art Center. The work was funded in part through a $5,000 SEMAC grant, which allowed him to purchase equipment and other materials needed for a gallery display. The exhibit runs through March 22, and is free and open to the public. Submitted photo
Photography on display until March 22
By
Kay Fate, Staff Writer

Jacob Schlichter has been compared to both a Disney princess and Dr. Dolittle, and he’s just fine with that.

In fact, those very descriptions have allowed him to capture gallery-worthy wildlife photos, now on display at the Albert Lea Art Center.

Schlichter’s talent earned him a $5,000 advancing artist grant from the Southeast Minnesota Art Council (SEMAC) to encourage the development of entirely original work by artists in the region.

His project goal was to document the wildlife of southern Minnesota.

“Animals are so unpredictable, and honestly, fairly goofy,” Schlichter said. “I familiarize myself with the wildlife with repeated exposure; I like to think the animals are cognizant of me, recognize me – whether it’s through scent or sight.

“Some of the deer, after a while, you could almost swear they’re smiling at you,” he said. “Like, ‘Oh, hey. It’s you again. You’re one of the good ones who’s not going to shoot at me.’”

Well, not like that, anyway.

“I’ve had all sorts of animals just walk up to within an arm’s length of me, sniff me, and kind of check me out,” Schlichter said. “Other animals come sit next to me while they’re eating their seeds. There’s definitely more brain power there than just pure reaction, based on instincts.”

Whether it’s a new place or a familiar place, “I always try not to leave empty-handed,” he said of his routine.

Self-taught, Schlichter has been a photographer for nearly a decade.

“I got my start shooting a bunch of my friends at the skate park doing tricks on their bikes and scooters and skateboards,” he said.

He never took a photography class, but the photography teacher at Austin High School “saw something in me and let me use one of their nicer Nikons,” Schlichter said.

His work soon evolved into festival and concert photography, including Burning Man, a week-long, large-scale art event in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

“That was when my photography really started picking up with wildlife and astral photography,” Schlichter said. “I’ve really honed my (shooting) style and my editing style.”

Though he doesn’t do much concert or skate photography anymore, the skills he learned “definitely translated to wildlife photography. It’s all high shutter speed, action-based photography, predicting what’s going to happen next and where they’re going to be.”

Throughout his childhood in Austin, Schlichter said, he was always artistic, high-achieving, and fascinated with astronomy.

“I realized maybe I won’t become a NASA astronomer or work on a spaceship, but I definitely enjoy looking up at the night sky through my lens,” he said. “A lot of the artistic stuff ties into my more nerdy, scientific background and aspirations.”

That nerdy side was accompanied by a generous side.

“I remember when I was really young, asking what the word ‘philanthropist’ meant, and deciding that was what I wanted to direct my life toward,” Schlichter said. “I wanted to focus my entire life around art and serving my community.”

To that end, he narrowed down a year and a half’s worth of photos to a few hundred “really good ones,” then down even further. Schlichter had his friends vote on their favorites to include in his exhibit – which contains more than 40 photos.

“I made the executive decision to veto some, because some have better stories to them, or show more, but for the overall vibe, I like the public’s opinion,” he said. “Sometimes the public appreciates something that an artist or creator might really like; I’ve been proven wrong about some of my favorite photos, because I wasn’t seeing it from a different perspective.”

He used the grant money to purchase a 600 mm lens, a teleconverter to turn it into an 840 mm, a tripod to support the added weight of the new lens, as well as paper, frames, and other equipment.

“The money doesn’t cover everything,” Schlichter said, “but it helps tremendously to help set everything up in the gallery and put on a good event for everyone.”

That ties in with his goal of service to the community.

“All of my art, from the beginning, was capturing the moments that we might miss,” he said. “The wildlife is my desire to catch the day-to-day things because we’re all too busy staring at our phones or driving to and from work… Life is hard, and I have realized that we live in a country that beats us all down.

“We’re not promoting mental health and community; everyone is so quick to rely on the echo chambers, instead of talking to their neighbor,” Schlichter said.

“My favorite phrase is ‘collaboration over competition.’ I say that, because if anyone wants to reach out with ideas … I love working with people, and I’m happy to help people uplift themselves.”
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SEMAC Art Gallery

 

What: Wildlife by Jacob

Where: Albert Lea Art Center

When: Runs through March 22

Artist Reception: 5 to 7 p.m., Feb. 23

 

Both the exhibit and artist reception are free and open to the public. The Art Center hours for the exhibit are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

 

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