Watertown, SD, is the perfect canvas for Terry Redlin’s art center


Watertown SD
Terry Redlin captured small town America in his paintings. Each tells a story. The dog watches as military representatives meet a soldier’s mom. The news isn’t good. Redlin’s painting brings you into the picture – you fear the news the mother is about to receive.

Watertown sits in rural northeast South Dakota. It’s a prime location for nature viewing. So, it seems fitting that Watertown should be the home for the Redlin Art Center. Terry Redlin was a nationally-known nature artist. The Watertown native created some of the most beautiful oil paintings featuring wildlife or Americana settings.

Watertown SD
Several of Redlin’s original works hang from from walls in beautiful galleries.

The Redlin Art Center, located just off Interstate 29, displays about 150 of the artist’s works. We’d been interested in visiting the center for a long while. We finally made it a priority to visit the art center. And, are we ever glad we did. We viewed several pieces of his art, including his original oil painting – Apple River Mallards. The 1977 work is on loan from its current owner.

Watertown SD
Redlin’s first oil painting, completed in 1977.

The entire Redlin Art Center campus is a work of art. The center is located on a slight hill, overlooking a pond and a well-manicured trail. You can see ducks and geese wandering around the area.

Watertown SD
Geese, ducks and other animals can be seen along campus trails.

The exhibit building is impressive. Built in 1997, Charles Redlin (Terry’s son) used the Egyptian Revival period as the base. He incorporated 38-foot tall Rockville granite columns to accent the exterior. The brick building is 52,000 square feet.

Watertown SD
The center is located inside a beautifully designed facility.

The interior is just as beautiful. Black, white and Impala granite are located around the building. Beautiful crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling.

Watertown SD
Chandeliers accent staircases between exhibits.

The paintings are the point of interest. They are amazing! Redlin was a talented artist. His paintings were used for magazine covers. His artwork truly captured small town America. From a small child heading off to his first day of school to the sad return of a man who died while serving his country in time of war, Redlin captured the American spirit. I felt emotional soaking in the stories he told through his paintings.

Watertown SD
A mother coaxes her young son as he is hesitant about heading off to school.

While each painting tells its own tale, some are combined to provide a series, such as “America, the Beautiful.” Each piece told a story related to the lines of the patriotic song.

Watertown SD
One of the paintings featured in the “American the Beautiful” series.

Redlin, himself, had an interesting path to success. He always considered himself an average person who enjoyed painting. He married his high school sweetheart – Helene Langenfeld – shortly after graduating high school.

Following art school in Minnesota, Redlin climbed the corporate ladder, eventually serving as a magazine director for Webb Publishing. In 1975, he set out to fulfill a dream of being a nature artist. His five-year plan started with taking daily photos of cornfields to study lighting.

Watertown SD
Sculpture of Redlin.

He sold his first print in 1977 for $10. He became a fulltime painter in 1979. His original paintings ended up selling for up to $75,000 at one point. He worked until 2007, when he retired due to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  Redlin passed away in April 2016 at the age of 79.

The center also features a tribute to Langenfeld Perfection Ice Cream. Redlin’s in-laws owned the business. He featured the name in some of his works. Helene’s cousin donated his personal collection to be part of the exhibit. Charles Redlin donated a soda fountain.

Watertown SD
The art center features a small museum dedicated to Helene (Langenfedl) Redlin’s family’s ice cream shop.

Terry Redlin created beautiful stories through the paintings he created. A visit to the Redlin Art Center should be a must when visiting or passing through Watertown. The Redlin Art Center is open year round. Admission is free, because the family believes art should be shared.

For more information on the Redlin Art Center, visit its website at www.redlinart.com.