Eleven years and one month ago Bill Hosko (42) chose his hometown of Saint Paul to open Hosko Gallery. In another month it is planned he will open a second downtown business: Sweet William & Tea, a Scottish themed teahouse located across from Hosko Gallery in the beautiful Endicott Arcade on Fifth. Out on the distant Great Plains in far northeast Montana, Bill is also working on another business: a main street café in a little town called Opheim.
Many years ago, in February of 1968, his kindergarten teacher wrote on a report card: “Billy should be an artist when he grows up”. Bill remembers this teacher vividly, and her praise for his earliest drawings. In life Bill is acutely aware of how the smallest unplanned event, suggestion or chance meeting can lead to significant changes that often will impact the rest of one’s life.
Bill’s childhood in Minnesota, then later in rural Illinois was often difficult. At age one his parents divorced. After his siblings were divided the two families had little contact. Money was short and strife was common-place. Early on, Bill distanced himself from aggression against his spirit at home and at school. His drawing, long solitary walks with his dog Scooter, and especially spending time with his elderly friend Peggy Fry helped him through the months and years until he could leave home.
In July of 1980 Bill gladly returned to his hometown. He held a number of jobs over the next six years: busboy, cook, waiter, lawn maintainer, landscape laborer, janitor, and personal nursing aide. His longest and most enjoyable employment was as a nursing assistant for the elderly.
At 23, he enrolled in a downtown Minneapolis technical school to study commercial art at night while caring for the elderly during the day. A teacher and architect named Eduardo soon encouraged “Billy”, as he would say, to change his studies at the school to architecture. Bill listened. Within two years he was an architectural firm’s one-man art department.
During his third year there he was laid off. While literally standing in an unemployment line, Bill decided this would not happen again. Within months, specifically in June, 1990, Bill became self-employed. He was a freelance architectural illustrator now working directly with the builders he had once worked indirectly with while working for his former employer. Additionally, he soon began completing his first art prints of the Twin City skylines and selling to area galleries.
His finances varied greatly in those years, as did the seven places he called home. For example: an apartment on Saint Paul’s Cathedral Hill, then a 35th floor flat near downtown Minneapolis, then a rundown downtown Minneapolis tenancy building, then back up to a showy 24th floor downtown Minneapolis apartment. In 1988, while looking to buy a small house back in Saint Paul, a friend introduced him to a long-neglected cottage house near Minneapolis’ Lake Harriet. Within three years Bill made it a storybook showplace. By the age 28 Bill had a created a good life for himself. Yet something was missing…
The 1990 movie Dances with Wolves and its grand Great Plains scenery and equally grand music score caused a longing in Bill to seek solitude once again. One evening that winter, Bill decided he would leave his comfortable Twin City home for another a friend had offered to sell...
In April of 1991,Bill moved to a house in the woods of northwest Minnesota. Here he made arrangements to work with his builder, architect and gallery clients long distance. Bill soon realized the beautiful forest would not suffice for the Great Plains. He began taking day trips west to the open country, seeking some long-vacant farmstead. He began crossing further and further into North Dakota. Bill had no success in buying a suitable place, but eventually he secured a long vacant hilltop farmstead further northwest in Minnesota, not far from North Dakota.
For two years many cold winter nights were spent in the house. With his cat “Miss Kitty” by his side, Bill often sat on the front room floor near the only heater where by a low lamp light he would write in his journal or read a book. His art sales and illustration work began to slow considerably. Money became scarce. For a time he had only flour, oil, salt and sugar in the house, and eggs from the chicken coop; pancakes were a staple. He had to do something.
Bill found a job down the road with a dairy farmer. After six months, the elderly father of Bill’s employer remarked that of all the hired hands they had ever employed, Bill was the best. His $5 an hour wage was not increased. The wind blew strong and moaned in the tall lone cottonwood tree’s branches outside his window one fall night; by morning Bill knew what he would do. Within months and with less than $1,000, Bill opened his downtown Saint Paul gallery in early February, 1994. He would work in Saint Paul weekdays and return on weekends to “Lone Prairie”, as he called his old farmstead.
By the fall of 1994 after three years work, Bill had beautifully restored the old farmstead. And he had a “family” now: an amiable group of ten goats, eight geese, three cats, two dogs and numerous chickens. They had a grand view from their high Mahnomen County home, but an even grander view waited in the far northwest corner of North Dakota. The following summer, a ghost town called Alkabo, pop. Five, became their outpost. Trains became Bill’s mode of transportation to Saint Paul. And now since July, 1998, Bill’s outpost has been located in northeast Montana atop a ridge overlooking the Canadian border. He found his Dances with Wolves country. His built himself a rustic 1900 era little house and buildings. The “family” now includes two Percheron horses, the breed known as “gentle giants.” Every other week he travels by Amtrak between two vastly different worlds. He loves them both.