WINTER RETAINS ITS firm grip on Minnesota, even in this official season of spring. We are in a Winter Storm Warning for Friday evening through Saturday morning with some 4-6 inches of snow forecast for my area along with wind gusts to 45 mph. Other parts of Minnesota will see more snow and wind, resulting in blizzard conditions.
Temps have also been unseasonably cold. Think below zero in some areas of our state earlier in the week. We did not reach 50 degrees in March, unusual even by Minnesota averages.
What to do? Endure. Escape. Or embrace.
The definition of endure is obvious. Don warm clothes, crank up the heat and wait.
Escape means traveling to some place warm, like Arizona or Florida or California or Texas. Plenty of Minnesotans do exactly that over spring break. Or, when that’s not an option, envision the summer ahead and a Minnesota northwoods lakeside cabin. I’m picturing that in my mind, in mid-July, warm sand between my toes, water lapping, blue skies, loons calling…
Or, if you’re a south metro first grade teacher, you can embrace, or rather defy, the cold with Beach Day. On a 10-degree morning, my almost 7-year-old granddaughter headed off to school in a tank top and shorts, prepared to celebrate a day at the beach. An oversized sun and waves graphic defined her defiant, colorful shirt. Per her mom’s care, Izzy layered her snowpants and winter coat over her summer attire and packed a sweatshirt.
The wise teacher advised students they could wear shorts, “if you want to be cold.” Apparently Izzy and a few others wanted to be cold. Ah, the optimism of youth who weren’t about to allow a low morning temp of 10 degrees to spoil their day at the beach.
FROM MILAN TO MINNESOTA, Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” painting continues to leave its imprint. For more than 500 years, this rendition of Jesus’ final meal with his 12 disciples has held a sacred place among those of the Christian faith, including me.
I’ve attended this long-running monologue of each disciple and their relationship with Christ many times. Although the script and music remain the same, the actors change from year to year. Yet, there’s a consistency in that, too, with many of the men switching parts, perhaps taking a year off. I recognize actors’ surnames like Bauer, Keller, Little, Meyer, Wiegrefe and another Keller (Craig) always at the organ.
There’s a sameness to St. John’s presentation of “The Last Supper.” And that is comforting. The darkening of this 1800s limestone church. The mood-setting music. The disciples processing in to sit at a long table set before the altar. The statue-like poses. The spotlight focus on each disciple. The bold, sometimes heart-wrenching, monologues. The emotion. The pain. Then the spotlight shifting to the empty chair representing Christ.
Even after seeing this drama many times, I pick up something I haven’t in prior viewings. I always exit the sanctuary feeling reflective, emotional, even a bit sad. The tone is set for the beginning of Holy Week, transitioning to Jesus’ crucifixion and then, on Easter, his joyful resurrection.
This tradition at St. John’s is part of this congregation’s history. Part of their faith heritage. And a gift to the greater community. To settle into a pew in this country church and watch the drama unfold is to appreciate da Vinci’s art in a way that touches the soul.
WHAT DO YOU NOTICE first in a human face? Perhaps it’s eyes or a smile, or the lack thereof. Or maybe you see the whole without attention to the details that comprise a face. However you view someone on the exterior, it is the interior which holds the essence of a person.
If I could, I would sit down with these young artists and ask: “What do you notice first in a human face? Is the essence of this person in the portrait you created? What process did you use to make this portrait?” I am assuredly an inquisitive writer of many questions. I am a listener, an observer, a gatherer of information. I expect answers to my inquiries would vary.
But one thing is certain. The artists behind the portraits saw a face—whether in a mirror, a photo, his/her imagination, etc. Then their individual perspectives, interpretations, skills factored into creating these portraitures.
If I study each work of art, I see personality traits emerging in the subjects. Reserved. Joyful. Tentative. Compassionate. Inquisitive. Even especially creative. I could be right. Or I could be wrong in my observations. Faces can reveal a lot, but can also hide a lot.
I recognize that for these young artists, such deep thoughts may not have presented themselves. And that’s OK. Perhaps just the challenge of creating a portrait was enough without the added distraction of introspection.
I admire the talent of these student artists ranging from kindergartners to seniors in high school. While I don’t hold any art training, portraits seem particularly difficult to create. They would be for me, unless I captured a portrait with my camera. And even then I don’t claim to be a portrait photographer, except in the journalistic style.
When the youth artists in the Faribault art show look at their work and look in the mirror, I hope they see beautiful, creative faces. I hope they see the talent they hold. I hope they understand that they are unique and valued and supported. I hope, too, that creativity continues to be an important part of their lives, a lens through which they can see the world and then share it with others.
Art matters. And so do each and every one of these developing young artists. They are our future, wherever their talents take them in this world.
FYI: Paradise gallery hours are noon – 5 pm Wednesday – Friday and 10 am – 2 pm Saturday. This exhibit runs until April 8.Photos were taken with permission of the Paradise. Original copyrights to the art are owned by the individual artists.
WHEN I READ A RECENT POST on the City of Vesta Facebook page, I knew I needed to share this story with you. It is a heartwarming story of kindness and gratitude that renews my faith in the goodness of humanity. And it is, too, a moment in which I feel overwhelming pride in my hometown.
Before I get to the referenced post, I expect many of you are wondering, “Where is Vesta?” I’ve found in my 41 years of living in southeastern Minnesota that most people have no clue. Vesta is west of Mankato, west of New Ulm, west of Redwood Falls. The small Redwood County farming community of around 320 sits along Minnesota State Highway 19 half way between Redwood and Marshall. It is the only town directly aside that highway for the 40 miles between the two larger cities.
Vesta is in the middle of the prairie, the windswept prairie. If a winter storm sweeps in with strong winds, then conditions quickly deteriorate to blizzard status. You don’t want to be caught on the road if that happens. It’s dangerous.
Recently, a motorist found herself in such dire conditions while driving Highway 19 toward Watertown, South Dakota, to visit grandchildren. Forty mph winds, blowing snow and zero visibility—to the point where she had to stop to see if she was still on the road some two miles from Vesta—resulted in a life-saving decision. She got off the highway at Vesta.
And that’s where this story begins to unfold into a story of generosity and kindness in my hometown. The first person she encountered was Dave and his buddy, out on four-wheelers. I knew exactly who she meant. Dave owns an auto body and repair shop in Vesta. He also plows snow for locals. When my mom was alive and still living in Vesta, it was Dave who cleared her snow. It was Dave who answered Mom’s calls for help with car issues. I always felt reassured that he was, in some ways, looking after her and so many other seniors.
I digress. Dave directed the recently-diverted motorist two blocks east to the community center, a designated shelter for stranded travelers. Upon arrival at the former Vesta Elementary School, the grateful traveler found the doors locked. So off she went to find someone, anyone, to let her inside. She noticed two trucks parked outside the grain elevator, which led her inside and directly to Vesta’s emergency coordinator. Jeremy drove home and got the key to open the shelter.
Now if that was the end of the story, that would be a nice ending. But there’s more. The out-of-town guest got a tour of the community center and was also advised she could help herself to the spaghetti and chicken noodle soup in the fridge, watch TV in the work-out room and then sleep on a cot, pillows provided. She was also given the Wi-Fi password. Later the city clerk’s husband brought an extra blanket after the clerk stopped to ask if the shelter guest needed anything.
Now if that was the end of the story, that would be a nice ending. But there’s more. Soon town kids showed up, per a text sent by Jeremy that they could hang out in the community center during the blizzard. The way-laid motorist soon found herself in rousing games of dodge ball and kickball inside the gym where I played as a grade-schooler.
Now if that was the end of the story, that would be a nice ending. But there’s more. Jeremy kept in touch, texting that the local bar was open if she wanted pizza. She was happy with the soup. The next morning the emergency coordinator texted again, notifying the overnight guest that roads had been plowed. He’d also reached out to the Marshall Police Department to assure that roads were open to motorists. Drive on a “closed” road and you risk a $750 fine. Jeremy went that extra mile to assure the woman could resume her journey to Watertown.
Her lengthy post to the City of Vesta Facebook page shows deep gratitude for all those who made her feel welcomed and safe in my hometown. She wrote: It was quite a night in the Vesta Community Center. Everyone’s kindness in this town was so timely and heartfelt that, rather than feeling like a stranded traveler, I felt like a VIP walking down a red carpet.
I am not surprised by the goodness of the folks in Vesta. This is small town southwestern Minnesota at its best. Caring, kind, compassionate, loving, welcoming. I’ve always felt embraced by the place of my roots, even decades after leaving. I understand this place. These will always be my people. My prairie people.
I APPRECIATE ART. All of it. From performing to literary to visual, art inspires me, uplifts me, causes me to pause and think. Art makes me feel joyful. I am so thankful I live in a Minnesota community where art is valued.
The Paradise Center for the Arts centers the arts in Faribault. From theatrical performances to concerts to gallery shows and more, the opportunity to embrace the arts awaits me inside this historic venue. How grateful I am for that.
Recently I toured the All Area Student Art Show, an annual exhibit featuring the art of students from area schools—this year eight. From kindergartners to high school seniors, the talent of these students is beyond impressive. Even more, I love that they are given this opportunity to share their work with the public. I often think how this builds self-confidence and encourages these kids to perhaps pursue art, or, at the least, to value it.
As I slowly walked three hallways where student art lines walls and then entered a room exhibiting more artwork, I pondered what I would photograph. I knew I needed to choose samples from each school. I also wanted a range of ages and art mediums, and also to showcase what spoke to me. Art is, in many ways, deeply personal, whether in creating or viewing.
Granted, this art was mostly guided by teacher assignments. But still, that leaves space for each artist to infuse his/her style into a piece. Copying art is different than creating art. These students create art.
Showing you the art I photographed requires more than one post. I took an excess of images, which tells you something about how much I enjoyed this second floor exhibit. Like an editor edits an author’s writing, I had to go through my photos frame by frame and edit. And then I grouped the photos by theme to make this all manageable.
Today’s post is nature-themed. From vivid butterfly to sun-splashed landscape to subdued bird of prey drawn in charcoal, these artistic renditions of our natural world create a sense of wonderment. What a beautiful world we live in, from garden flower to mountain grandeur. These student artists see that, imagine that, create it.
Being in nature takes me to a place that quiets my spirit, feeds my soul, calms me. It doesn’t take much—the rush of water, a vivid blue sky, the silhouette of a tree branch, a blazing sunset. This nature-themed art offers escape, restoration, a momentary respite from our busy lives. I hope these student artists realize the impact of their creativity.
I hope, too, that these teachers realize how much I value their work in guiding and inspiring their students. Art is as important as any subject in school. I think how art provides not only a way to express creativity but how it also factors into mental health. Just the physical act of using one’s hands can diminish anxiety, ground thoughts, perhaps even spark joy. The benefits are endless from both personal and educational perspectives.
My appreciation for this student art show stretches across a spectrum of gratitude. How thankful I feel for these young artists, for the educators who guide them and for the arts center that values their artwork.
FYI: The All Area Student Art Show will run until April 8 at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North, Faribault. Gallery hours are noon – 5pm Wednesday-Friday and 10 am-2 pm Saturday.
Art was photographed with permission from the Paradise. Individual artists hold original copyrights to their art. Please check back for more posts on this student art show.
OF ALL THE PHOTOGRAPHY—from general to portrait to sports to nature and wildlife—it is wildlife photography that most impresses me as particularly challenging. And now one of the best wildlife and nature photographers in the world, who happens to be a native of my beloved southwestern Minnesota prairie, has received National Geographic’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Luverne-born and raised Jim Brandenburg, today based in Ely in northern Minnesota, won that top honor. He’s so deserving. His photos are beyond any star rating.
Brandenburg joins only five other National Geographic photographers who’ve received this award. That he hails from the prairie, my homeland, makes me especially proud.
I have no ambition to pursue wildlife photography. I don’t have the interest, talent, knowledge of the natural world or patience required for the craft. But I appreciate those who excel in this specialized photography and I can learn from them. Brandenburg has been honing his craft for some 50 years with National Geographic. He’s won countless awards, produced many books filled with his images.
In all of this, this world travel, this move from southern to northern Minnesota, from prairie to northwoods, he’s remained rooted to his roots. He established the Luverne-based Brandenburg Prairie Foundation with a mission “to educate, preserve and expand native prairie in southwest Minnesota.” Brandenburg’s Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bought 800 acres of untilled prairie in Rock County some eight miles northwest of Luverne, where visitors can immerse themselves in tallgrass prairie. I regret not walking the Touch the Sky Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge during my 2013 visit to this area. I need to return.
I recognize that to many, this region of Minnesota seems desolate, lacking in beauty, just a place to get through when traveling. But for prairie natives like me, beauty is everywhere. In the wide sky. In sunsets so profoundly beautiful that they almost defy description. In farm sites set like islands among endless fields. In small towns and acres of corn. In prairie grasses swaying in the breeze. I can forever sing the praises of the prairie in refrains of howling wind and songbird and the silence of quiet.
Brandenburg, I expect, experienced all of these, even if his native Rock County differs from my home county of Redwood a bit farther to the north and east. Even on the prairie, landscapes vary. Near Luverne, at Blue Mounds State Park, cliffs of Sioux quartzite rise 100 feet above the plains. It’s amazing, unexpected in this place where prickly pear cacti also grow, where bison graze, where wildflowers bloom.
I encourage you, if you’ve never spent time in southwestern Minnesota, to do so this spring or summer. View the landscape through an appreciative lens that takes in every nuance, every detail. Notice the light. Feel the wind. Hear the quiet. Settle into the simplicity of this place that renews the spirit, that a world-class photographer called home. That I, too, once called home.
THEY’VE HAD A 16-YEAR RUN, “they” being the recycled seats filling the Paradise Center for the Arts theater in historic downtown Faribault. Now it’s time for those seats to take a bow, exit and make way for new seating.
The aged chairs landed here as a donation from Albert Lea High School. The Merlin Players theatrical troupe then recovered and repaired the chairs before the PCA opened in 2007. It was the right decision at the time, financially and otherwise.
Since then, thousands have settled into those orangish chairs, including me. I’ve enjoyed plays, musicals, concerts, comedy shows, speakers and even a viewing of the Kentucky Derby while sitting on those chairs. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried while seated here. After years of use, an upgrade to more comfortable seating for 278 is definitely needed.
When I stopped at the Paradise recently to see the current gallery exhibits, I noticed a model of the new seats in the lobby. Days later, I received a news release from the PCA with more info and then followed up with a few questions.
I like the plan to install chairs with more comfort, strength and durability, but also with an appreciation for the past. The current ornate ends and the numbered arm rests will be kept. That’s important to me given the historic charm of the auditorium and also as someone who believes strongly in reusing/recycling/upcycling.
One especially nice addition will be cup holders, placed between the two seats in front of each guest. That will certainly cut down on accidental spillage which can occur when drinks are set on the floor.
Now efforts are underway to fund this $460/chair or $128,000 project via donations. If you would like to donate, go to the Paradise website and click on “Donate,” then “Support,” then specify “chairs” in designating your donation. Or call 507-332-7372. Donors will be listed on a plaque.
I look forward to settling into one of these comfortable new maroon chairs to enjoy the performing arts in my community, inside the Paradise.
I COLLECTED MY CARD, then settled onto a chair around the large round table, eldest daughter and son-in-law to my left, granddaughter, grandson and husband to the right. An instruction sheet and popcorn heaped in paper boats were already on the table. Centering the tabletop were orange, white and green tissue paper flowers, green beads and more, remnants from St. Patrick’s Day only days prior.
This was a much-anticipated evening for families packing a massive room at a Lutheran church in a south metro suburb. This was BINGO Night at Isaac’s preschool, an event Randy and I were delighted to attend. Isaac, 4, and his big sister, Isabelle, 6, like to play BINGO when they stay overnight with us.
But this preschool BINGO is not your grandma’s BINGO, I soon discovered. The game we play in our dining room involves balls rolling, rattling in a cage. The game we play in our home also involves placing physical markers on BINGO squares. And the BINGO we play on our dining room table offers coinage as prizes, not toys filling a prize table.
I could see the kids’ excitement when they eyed the loot laid out before them. Izzy focused on plastic dinosaurs. And Isaac, well, I expected he wanted something with which he could create. The desire to win ran strong. The pressure was on for two winning games, minimum, at our table.
And then the games began, not with the rattling of balls spun in a metal cage, but rather with a teacher announcing numbers popping onto a computer and then projected onto overhead screens. This was high-tech BINGO. And this grandma was amazed. The game moved at a faster pace than rotating a cage and pulling balls.
I appreciated the absence of distracting noise that accompanies the manual way of playing BINGO. I still struggled to hear, though. I’m deaf in my right ear, the result of sudden sensory hearing loss in 2011. That affects my overall hearing and processing of speech and conversation. Thankfully, my daughter patiently repeated numbers when needed or I turned to the screen behind my back to view the too-small numbers. (And, no, a hearing aid will not help with this type of hearing loss; I would have one if it did.)
Two games in, Grandpa scored a BINGO on the cards with pull-across, see-through red squares to cover numbers. I joked initially that I needed corn kernels to play. When I attended the annual American Legion BINGO Night while growing up in rural southwestern Minnesota, I covered squares with kernels of corn. Totally appropriate and accessible in farm country. But we were not in rural Minnesota and this was six decades later. There was not a kernel of corn to be found.
Upon Grandpa’s BINGO win, he and Isaac scooted to the prize table. As I predicted, our grandson chose an art-related prize—a mini painting book. I could see Izzy coveting her brother’s prize, anxious to claim a dinosaur.
Game after game after game we played with no winners at our table, but everywhere else. Isaac soon tired of playing and Grandpa grabbed his card. Yes, playing more than one card was allowed. At one point I joked that Isaac should have hacked into the computer while at preschool earlier that day and rigged the games.
Finally, the dad won and Marc and Izzy raced to get a prize. All the while I was repeating silently, “Please let there be a dinosaur still on the table. Please, please, please.” The first grader returned clutching a dinosaur, broad smile lighting her face. I breathed a sigh of relief and gratitude that Izzy got a dinosaur, one of three still on that prize table.
About 1.5 hours in, we were down to the last game, a BINGO cover-all. As the game progressed, Izzy was getting more and more excited. She had one number left to cover. I could feel, see and hear her anticipation, her mind likely focused on grabbing a second dinosaur. But she didn’t win and then the tears came. And Grandma tried to work her grandma magic. “Look at how lucky you were to get that dinosaur!” And so on and so forth until her dad said, as we were walking across the parking lot, that he really won the dinosaur and he would be taking it to work. Marc roared and joked until all of us were laughing, even the previously-disappointed dinosaur-loving six-year-old.
TUESDAY EVENING, MARCH 21, and we are kicked back, relaxing, watching “Will Trent.” And then it happens. BOOM! The undeniable sound of a crash. But we hear no screeching tires that would indicate slamming of brakes.
We pop from our comfy spots to peer out the windows. In the 9:30 pm dark of March, we see a vehicle parked in front of our house, then people walking down the middle of the street, busy Willow Street. Our eyes follow their path to a neighbor’s driveway and a smashed car. Demolished. We see no second vehicle near the crash scene.
Randy grabs his cellphone, steps outside in his slippers, phones the police. We have no idea what’s just happened, whether anyone has been injured. We know law enforcement needs to be summoned. Soon multiple squad cars arrive. We remain clueless and begin speculating as to what unfolded.
Wednesday morning I spoke with the owner of the totaled car. She was sleeping when an unknown vehicle slammed into her unoccupied car parked curbside by her house in the 400 block of Willow Street. I breathed a sigh of relief, told her how thankful I was that she was not in her car. Despite the loss of what she said was her “best” car, she also said she felt blessed.
My neighbor was remarkably calm. But also determined. She’d already begun phoning auto body repair shops and auto salvage yards in an attempt to locate the vehicle that destroyed her early 2000 Toyota Corolla. Yes, the driver left without stopping. How any vehicle managed to remain operable after totaling my neighbor’s car is beyond my comprehension. And how anyone in good conscience could leave the scene is also incomprehensible. But, hey, a driver drove away (never to be found) after striking my son as he crossed Willow Street to his bus stop in 2006.
On behalf of my neighbor, who asked if I am on Facebook (I’m not), I’m posting this information here in hopes that someone can help find the person responsible. State law requires drivers to stop following a crash. The person who parked her vehicle outside our house Tuesday evening was driving on Willow at the time of the incident and did the right thing by immediately stopping upon hearing the BOOM.
The hit-and-run vehicle is likely a large pick-up (or other) truck, probably with significant front end damage, my neighbor shared. Willow Street is a heavily-traveled arterial street in Faribault. I have to think that someone saw something that may be helpful. Perhaps a doorbell or surveillance camera will show a suspect vehicle.
Please, if you have any information, contact Faribault police at 507-334-4305. That plea goes to possible witnesses, garages, auto body repair shops, salvage yards, Willow Street residents. If someone you know is suddenly no longer driving their pick-up truck and your gut is telling you something, then do something.
My neighbor doesn’t seem the revengeful type. She just wants her losses covered. Then maybe she can sleep at night. It was disheartening to watch her Wednesday morning removing debris from the street, sweeping glass, emptying her car. She deserves justice.
FROM WILD ANIMALS to wildly vivid abstracts, the art of creatives fills four first floor galleries at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault. What an array of artwork to infuse color, joy and more into these lingering, colorless days of winter in the season of spring here in southern Minnesota.
The incredible talent showcased in these galleries impresses me. Whether created with a camera, a brush, or with a pencil in a sketchbook, this art shows a passion for the craft.
Only a few days remain to view the current exhibits, which close on Saturday, March 25.
When I stepped inside the main gallery at the Paradise to view the bold acrylic paintings of Twin Cities artist Amanda Webster, I simply stopped. Wow! Her large-scale colorful abstracts jolted me into a happy place.
That I saw Webster’s nature-inspired work on a cold January-like afternoon with a strong, biting wind likely enhanced my reaction. I wanted to walk right into those magical settings and leave this Minnesota winter behind. For an artist’s work to inspire that type of immersive response says something.
I envisioned Webster’s work in a corporate space, filling a business with energy. I envisioned her art in a medical setting, creating a positive, healing energy. I envisioned her art in my home, if only I had higher ceilings and a more modern, than traditional, house.
His abstracts are decidedly different than Webster’s. While still colorful, they are more subdued, more geometric, more defined. At least to my eyes. Everyone views art differently. Nagel’s “Sea Glass” oil painting, especially, felt calming to me. Perhaps it was the mostly blue and green hues. Or maybe the very thought of being seaside was enough to carry me into a tranquil setting of warmth and water lapping against shoreline.
It is the eyes which pulled me in close to view a mini gallery exhibit of art by students in the Paradise’s After School Art Club. The club meets a total of six hours in six sessions with local teaching artists. And what they create impresses. I know I never could have made art like this at their age. Not that I ever had the opportunity to learn. I didn’t.
But these students, oh, how fortunate they are to pursue their creativity alongside professionals. To learn technique, to be encouraged, to create art is such a gift.
Another gift awaits visitors to the Paradise Center for the Arts in the annual second floor All Area Student Art Show, which runs until April 8. That is one of my favorite exhibits because I love seeing what our young people are creating. Their work is remarkable. They inspire me. That show deserves a solo focus, which will be forthcoming.
For now, head to the Paradise by Saturday, March 25, to take in the current art in the first floor galleries. The Paradise, 321 Central Avenue North, is open from noon to 5 pm Wednesday – Friday and from 10 am – 2 pm Saturday.
NOTE: All art was photographed with permission from the Paradise Center for the Arts.This post includes only a sampling of the art featured in the gallery exhibits.