Monica Ihrke was raised between the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains which smell of sage in the fall and a myriad of interstate highways connecting San Bernardino, CA, to the Greater Los Angeles area. With her immediate and extended family working in the trades, Ihrke grew up noticing and appreciating the industrial landscapes surrounding her life. She received her BA in Art from the University of California, Santa Cruz where she studied printmaking and her MS in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University, Mankato where her studies integrated reflective practice, art, and connection. In 2012, she was awarded a residency at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT. Before a recent cross country move from Vermont to Minnesota, Ihrke was a teacher at LiHigh School in Poultney, VT, from 2010-2019, where she taught a number of subjects including one-on-one art classes for middle and high school students. She was recently awarded an Arrowhead Regional Art Council Artist Access Grant in 2020.
As an artist, Ihrke uses relief-printed linoleum to depict beloved and vulnerable natural and industrial spaces. She develops strong lines and builds depth through the use of colors and textures by layering multiple runs of ink in her prints. Ihrke is also interested in incorporating art into educational experiences and seeks opportunities to create space (often on the back of hand-printed postcards) for individuals to reflect on moments in their lives and learn from that period of time. Over the last year she has created two different reflective postcard projects, capturing individual’s reflections from different moments during the 2020 year and then returning the reflections on her own postcards months later. As an environmentally-focused person, Ihrke intentionally uses her printmaking to further sustainability initiatives. She has printed on up-cycled t-shirts that were turned into personal towels to help mitigate the use of paper towels on a college campus, invested in her community and built social capital by donating hand-printed original postcards for people to connect with seniors and other vulnerable populations during the pandemic, and has created and given away up-cycled “Vote” t-shirts in both Minnesota and Vermont to encourage voter turnout in each state. After being active in her Vermont art community, both teaching and exhibiting work, Ihrke has jumped into the art community in Duluth, connecting with other printmakers and participating in a recent show Culture x Climate: Duluth-Climate, The Creative Arts and Our City.
When not printing, Ihrke may be found running on the Superior Hiking Trail, growing food and flowers in her garden, and riding bikes with her family.