Brian Frink – A “Just Outside The Driftless” personality like no one else’s!

By: Jenna Thomas

Oh sh!#,” a man who faintly reminded me of Santa with a short beard said as he glanced at the clock, “I forgot to put money in the parking meter, I’ll be right back.” And he left the classroom. This happened on the third floor of the Armstrong building during art 240, or better known as painting 01. The man who left the room is my art professor Brian Frink here at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Brian was born in 1956 and is 63 years old but his bright personality makes him seem as though he’s still in his prime. He would probably argue with you and say he’s always in his prime. When he was younger, at the age of 18, Brian Frink believes he was visited by aliens. He says his parents went to their cabin up in Wisconsin for the weekend and had left him at home. While he was laying in bed he remembers seeing a bright light from the window and at first, he thought it was his friends just messing with him. Brian said that the light got brighter and brighter and was just hovering over him, then just quickly left. To this day he still can’t explain what had happened other than it was aliens.

Teaching seems to be a trait of the Frink gene. His dad taught science and his mom taught what Brian describes as “Typing and junk.” His parents are now in their 80’s and are in great shape. He has a wife named Wilbur who inspires him in life and two children which he’s proud of raising. His son is 35 years old and teaches geography whereas his daughter is 31 years old and is a Special Education teacher at Dakota Meadows Middle School.

Brian used to own a loft that he lived in for 5 years, in New York City. It was in a creepy part of Brooklyn. At the time, he did electrical work for a concept artist named Jack Goldstein who lived in an even creepier part of Brooklyn. Brian was super excited because his son was just born and it was one of the happiest moments in his life. He told Jack about his new son and after hearing the news Jack told Brian that his career would now be over because he has a kid. While saying this, Jack did a line of “whatsthatnow” in front of Brian. Mind you … it was the 1980’s.

This was a major turning point for Brian because he realized that people’s perception of life was wrong, and he ended up moving out of the city. He was then drawn to Mankato because of the job offer he received as an art professor.

While he was in the area driving around he saw this house for sale which was called The Poor Farm. The building there is very large because it was built to be quarters for farmers and then it became an elderly home. Brian wanted to buy it but his wife had doubts especially because previous owners weren’t able to upkeep the structure. The couple then visited France and Italy and the beautiful old chateaus there reminded them of The Poor Farm. Wilbur now loved the idea and they bought the house. They renovated it and made an art studio and workshop for Brian on the first and lower levels, and a study for Wilbur on the upper level. They hosted the Starving Artist at their home and over 300 people showed up for the event.

Brian’s latest work at the house includes him building and finishing a big outdoor stone fire pizza oven. He loves to host and even invited our painting class out to the Poor Farm to try some homemade pizza.
Brian Frink has many artistic achievements. One of those includes him being named “Artist of the Year” in the Twin Cities Arts and Culture Weekly City Pages. One of the reasons he received this award was because he started an organization, by accident, called Rural American Contemporary Artists (RACA). He has also received many fellowships including the 1995 National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship (NEA). He was also named a Distinguished Faculty Scholar At Minnesota State University, Mankato, and serves as the chair of the art department.

His personality is like no one else’s. One day in class, some students asked for help, and so, Brian sat down and assisted them with their paintings. As he was doing so, all of a sudden you hear “I’m fu@king Bob Ross” as he looks at the painting in awe of his own work.  

All around, Brian has a genuinely happy soul and looks at the world in a different light. I feel blessed for being able to meet a person as cool as Brian Frink and hope to see many more artworks created by him.