Northern Wilds Magazine
Artwork by Ron Dietman. | SUBMITTED
Along the Shore

Honoring a North Shore artist

Driving along the North Shore is always a highlight of the summer season. However, as travelers begin to venture out again on the old Scenic 61 this year, an obvious vacancy on the route will be noticed. The North Shore lost a one-of-a-kind artist and special human this winter: Ron Dietman, owner and operator of the Hidden in the Rocks Gallery, passed away unexpectedly in February. Visitors to his gallery, located on the shores of Lake Superior just a couple miles out of Knife River, were welcomed with a variety of unique works of art each summer season.

Ron was inspired by the abundant natural materials found along the beaches of the big lake and the nearby woods. His sculptures and windchimes were inspirational pieces of driftwood, rocks, moss, and shells. His signature paintings were vibrant acrylics featuring loons, moose, and other wildlife set in beautiful landscapes. The outdoor gallery was filled with hand-cut granite plant holders, whimsical wall hangings, and miniature and infamous life-sized sculptures. The paintings were produced from a variety of old metal objects, driftwood, and salvaged vintage barn lumber. Each visit to this roadside gallery would ensure something new to be discovered, and it was worth stopping often.

Ron was a granite designer by trade and owned AHE Granite in a small community outside of St. Cloud before retiring in the Northland. The business focused primarily on memorials and headstones, which he eventually passed on to his sons. Art had always been a big part of his life and his brother, Steve Dietman, remembers even as a child he would often be found drawing and sketching. “He would use any loose paper, cardboard, or other materials to capture his ideas down in detail, and trust me, there were many of them,” says Steve.

Artist Ron Dietman. | SUBMITTED

Ron’s love of art and creativity spilled into how he lived his life. Anyone who encountered him would be welcomed with a smile and a joyous laugh. His friends nicknamed him “Rock’n Ron,” as he was always up for checking out a fun outdoor music festival. He was quick to invite you to join him in his studio for a sneak peak of his latest creation, and to talk about art and look through his newest treasures collected during his adventures up and down the shore. Chances are, if time was spent with Ron, even brief, engaging in the joy of creation, a gift was given and the recipient was now considered his friend. His generous spirit was contagious, and friends would often share their unique finds with him, knowing he would be thrilled to turn it into a special piece of art. His art style could be called ingenious.

In addition to being multi-talented in the fine arts, Ron had a mechanical background, which added an innovative edge to his work. He once rescued an old Ford Mustang V-8 engine and converted it into an air compressor to sandblast rocks. No surface or material was off limits for his creativity. Utilizing his granite etching experience, he designed and etched a breathtaking scene into the back window of his truck and was known to create amazing, stained granite-top patio furniture.

Ron was born in St. Cloud, Minn., and graduated from Rocori High School. He was an avid hunter and fisherman, being most at home in nature. These passions are highlighted in much of his art. Ron was a loving family man with three sons and seven grandchildren, whom he adored. He was a Vietnam veteran and was proud to say he had served his country in the navy, stationed on the US Okinawa.

Wherever he went, Ron made an impression and more than likely, at least one new friend. He will be dearly missed.

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