CLC students, staff showcase art in student-run literary journal

The Bent Pine is a literary and visual arts journal published by students and staff at Central Lakes College.

Mariia Kharytonova speaks at a podium next to a screen.
Central Lakes College student Mariia Kharytonova speaks Monday, May 1, 2023, about the artwork she submitted to "The Bent Pine," the school's literary and arts journal. Kharytonova is a Ukrainian refugee and uses art as an outlet during the ongoing war in her home country.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — A few years ago, Brandy Lindquist happened upon a 1969 edition of "The Bent Pine" at CatTales Books and Gifts in downtown Brainerd.

The Bent Pine 1969
The 1969 edition of "The Bent Pine."

It was a publication from the Brainerd Junior College, which is now Central Lakes College, where Lindquist works as an English instructor.

“We had always talked about doing a literary and arts journal, but we didn’t know that that had existed,” Lindquist said of the old journal she found.

A search of the school’s archives turned up more editions of the publication and served as the inspiration for a revival.

Headline News from the Brainerd Dispatch

Filled with visual art and written works from students, staff and faculty at CLC and printed by the graphic design department, the fourth edition of the new “Bent Pine” came out Monday, May 1, accompanied by a launch party at the Brainerd campus.


“It really is about those who are submitting and about all of those who collaborate on this, and I’m just honored to be a part of it,” Lindquist said to the crowd gathered in the cafeteria.

Students and CLC staff members who worked for the journal this year shared their art at the party, with pictures of paintings, sculptures and photographs displayed on a slideshow, and read excerpts from poems and short stories aloud.

First up was Mariia Kharytonova, a Ukrainian refugee and first-year CLC student. Her work, “Unbreakable Ukraine: Kindness,” depicts a woman petting a dog, accompanied by the word “kindness.”

Kharytonova fled to Poland with her mom shortly after war broke out in her country last year. She has now been in the U.S. for about eight months but still uses the conflict to inspire her art.

“War multiplies your emotions and feelings like a hundred, thousand times,” she said — feelings of pain and grief, but also those of bravery, caring and hope.

Just last week, Kharytonova’s hometown of Uman was hit with a missile strike, killing at least 23 people, according to CNN.

But art is one way she copes.

“It’s really hard grief in my heart, and I need to put all of this emotion somewhere,” she said after the event. “... For me, it’s a huge chance to remember — to remind people of something important. We are here safe, but some people go through hard times, and we need to appreciate it. We need to appreciate peace.”


Student Alyssa Neistadt spoke about her painting, “Exploitation Is Not Empowerment.” A take on the iconic Rolling Stones logo, Neistadt’s work serves as a commentary on the exploitation of women in society.

“This painting represents a girl who’s been manipulated to be pleasing to the male gaze,” she said. “And she’s only shown here for what she wants to be used for.”

A 2017 Brainerd High School graduate, Neistadt had a piece of artwork in the “Bent Pine” back in 2020 — a painting of a heron — but now that she has returned to CLC, she’s glad she can contribute work that means a little bit more.

Bent Pine 2023
The 2023 edition of "Bent Pine."

“Years later, I finally came back with a purpose — I’m graduating this summer — and something to say,” she said. “And so this time … I got to leave a message behind in a school that’s been a home base for me as I’ve traveled and left and been able to come back, so I’m honored to be featured.”

Tabitha Kibwaa, who will graduate from both Pequot Lakes High School and CLC this year, had a poem titled, “Sometimes the Funeral Comes” published in the journal.

“It’s really validating,” Kibwaa said of seeing her work in print. “Last year, when I got my poetry published, it was the first time that I could have a large audience in front of me in person hear my writing. And it is amazing.”

She also sees the journal as a positive way to connect with those around her and learn more about her community.

“It’s cool to get to know the artistic community here in a way that often you don’t get to,” Kibwaa said.


And it’s an artistic community that clearly has talent, as all three previous editions of the “Bent Pine” since 2020 placed in the literary magazine competition through the Central Division of the Community College Humanities Association. The publication won second place in 2020, first place in 2021 and third place in 2022, competing with community colleges in 11 states.

Lindquist will submit the journal again this year and hopes to someday earn national recognition.

With a limited printing budget, the “Bent Pine” is not available for sale, but Lindquist hopes to offer a fully accessible PDF version in the future.

Anyone who has questions about the “Bent Pine” can contact Lindquist at .

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
What To Read Next
Get Local