Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Praying for the tornado survivors March 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:19 PM
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ON SUNDAY I ATTENDED morning worship services at Peace Lutheran Church in Echo, the sister congregation of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta, the congregation of my youth.

St. John’s members have been worshipping at Peace since a July 1, 2011, series of downbursts with wind speeds of 90 – 100 mph ripped the south roof from the sanctuary.

St. John's, hours after the July 1 storm tore through Vesta. Photo courtesy of Brian Kletscher.

Just to the north, west and east in this region of southwestern Minnesota, EF-1 tornadoes with winds of 95 – 105 mph wreaked havoc on farms and on the neighboring community of Belview.

Eight months later, St. John’s is still in the process of rebuilding.

Eight months after the storm, St. John's is still under construction with a new addition to the right. Congregants had hoped to be back in the church by Easter, but that likely will not happen until May.

The narthex was expanded and a pastor's office and handicapped accessible bathroom were added on the southwest side of the church built in 1974. This photo and the one above were taken on Saturday.

Despite the inconvenience of driving additional miles to worship and the temporary loss of their church home, St. John’s members realize the situation could have been so much worse. No lives were lost in the storms and their church could be salvaged.

This we—visitors and members of the two sister congregations—understood as we bowed our heads to pray for the survivors of the recent deadly tornadoes.

© Copyright 2012 by Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Perspectives on life presented in Saint Peter galleries

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:53 AM
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The Arts Center of Saint Peter, 315 South Minnesota Avenue, St. Peter, Minnesota.

The Arts Center of Saint Peter, 315 South Minnesota Avenue, St. Peter, Minnesota.

LIKE BLACK AND WHITE, night and day, the artwork of Pamela Bidelman and Kay Herbst Helms, at first glance, holds no comparison.

Pam, of St. Peter, is a painter, working in the more abstract in her current exhibit, “lamina,” installed at the Arts Center of Saint Peter Moline Gallery.

Kay, of Mankato, is a photographer, grounded in the earth with her black-and-white, rural-themed images in “What Sustains Us: considering the hands and the land of rural south central Minnesota.” Her art is showcased in the Lower Level Gallery of the Arts Center.

Both artists distinguish themselves in their individual approaches to art. Therein lies the essence of art—the ability to create and express one’s self in a truly personal style that emerges from the heart and soul of the artist.

I am more of a down-to-earth appreciator of art, meaning abstracts puzzle and challenge my mind to consider what the artist is attempting to convey.  I don’t have to think so hard to understand real-life art.

Yet, it’s good for me to view more abstract art like that created by Pam and to talk with her and learn that she is trying to show, in her exhibit, “the quality of skin as a container…deconstructing the body parts…the fragility of life.”

Three almost ghost-like faces, with undefined, haunting eyes, created by Pam Bidelman.

I expect that her artistic expression connects to her former profession as a clinical social worker. One can only imagine the experiences she drew on while creating her current exhibit.

There’s a certain translucency to Pam’s pieces that I interpret as a sense of vulnerability.

A series of suspended faces, again with that vulnerable quality.

In Kay’s work, vulnerability also exists, in the primarily close-up black-and-white images she’s shot, mostly of hands, and in the accompanying short stories she writes about her subjects. I know rural people. It is not always easy for them to open up, to allow introspective photos and insights into their lives.

Kay gained their trust and shares her discoveries in art that is as honest as a hard day’s work on the farm.

For example, she writes in her interview with Sharon Osborne:

Sharon tells the story of her uncle, a retired farmer. Her aunt has answered the phone and the caller asked, “What’s your husband doing on this cold, blustery, snowy day?”

Her aunt replied, “What else do farmers do on a cold winter’s day other than crack walnuts down the basement?”

Viewing Kay Herbst Helms' photos in "What Sustains Us." She focuses primarily on hands in her images.

With other photos, Kay pairs poetry by Paul Gruchow and the poetic words of additional writers.

She is, says Kay, connecting the elements of hands, land, photographs and words in her exhibit.

Kay accomplishes that with the spirit of an artist rooted deep in her appreciation of rural life and the rural landscape.

Both exhibits are distinctly different. Yet each can be appreciated for the unique perspectives they offer on life.

Several of Kay's images include cattle, following the exhibit's rural theme.

FYI: Both artists’ projects were supported by grants from the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council with funding provided by the McKnight Foundation. Their exhibits run through March 18.

Kay created a previous, similar project, “Blessed Are the Hands That Have Served,” focusing on photos of 13 retired School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Click here for more information about the Arts Center of Saint Peter.

Check back for another post from the art center wherein you will meet two more artists.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling