Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Exploring art inside the Weitz Center for Creativity at Carleton College December 5, 2013

MY EXPOSURE TO PROFESSIONAL ART as a youth could be categorized as minimal. There were no visits to art galleries, no attending theatrical performances, no concerts outside of school walls.

Yet, I did not feel deprived, for art surrounded me in blazing prairie sunsets, an inky sky dotted with an infinity of stars, road ditches graced with wild roses, tall grass bending in the wind, the symphony of a howling blizzard, the crunch of boots on hard-packed snow, the orchestra of pulsating milking machines and munching cows and the radio voices of ‘CCO.

To this day, I credit my rural southwestern Minnesota upbringing for shaping me as a writer and photographer. There, on the stark prairie, within the confines of a close and loving family living off the land, I learned to appreciate the details in the landscape and life itself.

Today, I no longer live on my beloved prairie. And I have immediate access to the arts within my own community of Faribault and nearby. You won’t find me, except on rare occasions, aiming for the Twin Cities to view art. I am not a city girl.

The Weitz Center for Creativity at Third and College Streets in Northfield, Minnesota.

The Weitz Center for Creativity at Third and College Streets in Northfield, Minnesota.

In late October, I discovered Weitz Center for Creativity, “a center for creativity and collaboration in the liberal arts,” on the campus of Carleton College in neighboring Northfield. The center is housed in the historic former and repurposed Northfield high school and middle school and in 30,000 additional square feet of new construction.

Near the entrance to the Weitz Center Commons area.

Near the entrance to the Weitz Center Commons area. (Photographed in October.)

The complex offers such creative spaces as a theater, dance studios, a technology resource center (the Gage/Bauer IdeaLab), a teaching museum, galleries and more.

From Jessica Rath's "take me to the apple breeder" exhibit, a porcelain apple and an apple tree photograph.

From Jessica Rath’s “take me to the apple breeder” exhibit, a porcelain apple and an apple tree photograph.

The Perlman Teaching Museum and galleries there drew me to view “Single Species Translations,” which included Jessica Rath’s “take me to the apple breeder” and Laura Cooper’s “Opuntia,” and “The Intersection Between Book, Film, and Visual Narrative.” The exhibits have since closed. But “Lifeloggers: Chronicling the Everyday,” opens January 17 and runs through March 12, 2014. The exhibit will feature the works of a dozen artists.

And here’s the really sweet deal. Admission to the Perlman Teaching Museum (and galleries) is free. Hours are 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Note that the museum is open only during Carleton’s academic term, although closed during breaks and during the summer.

Connecting indoors and out in a section of the Commons.

Connecting indoors and out in a section of the Commons.

My first impression of the Weitz Center for Creativity was one of visual appreciation for the modern, clean lines and minimalistic setting. I love the walls of windows, the pots of pines and palms and other plants interspersed among clusters of tables and chairs in a space that visually connects to the outdoors.

Cozy spots for conversation in the Commons.

Cozy spots for conversation in the Commons.

I appreciate, too, the cozy settings of living room furniture that invite conversation and create a sense of intimacy in the spacious, open Commons area.

A snippet of Jessica Rath's exhibit shows porcelain apple sculptures and photos of apple trees in the Braucher Gallery.

A snippet of Jessica Rath’s exhibit shows porcelain apple sculptures and photos of apple trees in the Braucher Gallery.

Entering the gallery, I noted the gleaming starkness of the space, an excellent backdrop to showcase exhibits. I know this is the gallery norm. But, since I did not grow up visiting galleries, I am still struck each time by this visual impact of a clean slate. Light and shadows and mood play upon art here.

A student studies a portion of "The Intersection Between Book, Film, and Visual Narrative" in the Kaemmer Family Gallery.

A student studies a portion of “The Intersection Between Book, Film, and Visual Narrative” in the Kaemmer Family Gallery.

I won’t pretend to understand and enjoy every exhibit I view. We each bring our personalities and experiences and tastes to a gallery and those influence our reactions.

I love the simplicity of the apples positioned on the table in Rath's exhibit and how the shadows angle onto the tabletop.

I love the simplicity of the apples positioned on the table in Rath’s exhibit and how the shadows play upon the tabletop.

More tabletop art, to be picked up and paged through by gallery visitors.

More tabletop art, to be picked up and paged through by gallery visitors.

More print to appreciate.

Additional print and creativity to appreciate.

A wall-size artistic interpretation of Opuntia by Laura Cooper.

A wall-size artistic interpretation of Opuntia by Laura Cooper.

While I could relate to apples and books, I couldn’t connect to the exhibit on Opuntia, a type of cactus. Cacti, except for a few grown as houseplants, are mostly foreign to me.

This signage greets visitors upon entering the Weitz Center for Creativity.

Just inside the doors of the Weitz Center for Creativity.

Yet, I learned. And that, too, is part of the arts experience.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

18 Responses to “Exploring art inside the Weitz Center for Creativity at Carleton College”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Favorite is the apples on the table—hands down!!! Lovely.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, who would think apples on a table could be so lovely and artistic? Now if I tried to do this…

      We each possess unique talents and that is a good thing.

  2. You’d never guess from the drab exterior that something special was going on inside.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Now I like the simple lines of the exterior. But I can see what you’re saying.

      • We’re all different 🙂 I’m more of a Louis Sullivan architecture fan with the little bits of romance built in. Modern architecture seems cold. But I guess you’re used to the cold these days.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I’m not necessarily a modern architecture type of person either. Depends on the building.

        Yes, we are used to cold here in Minnesota. Temps are dropping rapidly to icebox levels.

      • As soon as I say I like something old, I find something thoroughly modern to prove myself wrong 🙂 Stay warm. I bet you have a great coat. My husband is from the midwest and told me when moving to upstate NY that all you need is a good coat and a pair of work overalls and your good to go. He bought me pink overalls for Christmas one year and they’re the BEST!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        A wool coat, Sorrell boots, wool socks, warm mittens, a stocking cap and a scarf. Yup. That should keep me warm for awhile. I should have long johns, too. Used to…

        I’m ringing bells for the Salvation Army this weekend. So we will see how warm I stay dressed in that attire.

  3. Thread crazy Says:

    Love that apple…would like to have a few of them on my counter here at home.

  4. What a Great Place to Explore – appreciate you giving us a peek too! I love Creative Arts that make you think and want to get involved:) Happy Thursday.

  5. treadlemusic Says:

    Growing up in the Twin Cities Metro, I was able to hop a bus to many such spots. One of my faves was the Mpls. Art Institute and all the theaters!! Ballet, live productions, musicals, orchestra….love it!!!! That looks to be an awesome spot!!!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      That’s incredible, to have that much exposure to the arts growing up. But being in the big city makes a difference. We were lucky if we “got to town” once a month.

  6. “Center for Creativity” – I love that! 🙂 We visited the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts over Thanksgiving weekend and had no idea how marvelous it is!!!!!!!!!!! And FREEEEEEE!!!!!


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