Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating Laura Ingalls Wilder at a Chicago museum & I’m in December 18, 2017

Follow U.S. Highway 14, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, west across the prairie to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and then on to De Smet, South Dakota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


MINNESOTA PRAIRIE ROOTS. My blog name honors my roots in Redwood County where Laura Ingalls Wilder, celebrated author of the Little House book series, lived for awhile as a child. Walnut Grove lies just 20 miles distant from my childhood home. It is a place where earth and sky spread wide, where fertile black soil grows tall corn and the wind seldom stops blowing.


The American Writers Museum in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Lee Engquist.


Some 500 miles to the south and east of Walnut Grove lies Chicago. Windy, yes. But otherwise distinctly different. Nothing prairie-like here in this city. Until you look close, to the new American Writers Museum which opened in the heart of Chicago in May.


An overview of a section of the Laura Ingalls Wilder exhibit. Photo courtesy of Laurel Engquist.


I’ve not visited the museum. Yet, I hold a connection to this acclaimed museum now showcasing a temporary exhibit, “Laura Ingalls Wilder: From Prairie to Page.” I grew up with the Little House books read by an elementary school teacher each day after lunch. That was long before the books grew in popularity, long before the TV series, long before Walnut Grove became a destination for Laura fans.


My Laura Look-A-Like Contest photo close-up in the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Laurel Engquist.


But my love of Laura’s writing and my native prairie roots are not my only connections to this exhibit which runs through spring 2018. A photo I took several years ago during a Laura Look-Alike Contest in Walnut Grove is included in the exhibit.


Laura Look-A-Like contestants gather for a group shot in a Walnut Grove city park in July 2013. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.


Awhile ago, Boston-based Amaze Design contacted me about using the image. The design company manages content development for the museum.


This section features noted American authors. Within the museum is info highlighting Minnesota writers F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Charles Schulz and more. Photo courtesy of Laurel Engquist.


An exhibit in the Children’s Literature Room. Photo courtesy of Laurel Engquist.


Another exhibit focuses on the writing process. Photo courtesy of Laurel Engquist.


From what my friend Laurel, who recently toured the 11,000 square foot literary museum tells me, the place is impressive. Located on the second floor of a building at 180 N. Michigan Avenue, it includes 13 permanent exhibits in six galleries plus temporary exhibits. Laurel spent hours there wandering, reading, observing and participating in interactive aspects of displays. She was surprised to find my Laura Look-Alike photo as part of the American Voices Exhibit.


The prairie near Walnut Grove is especially beautiful in the summer. I took this photo at the Laura Ingalls Wilder dug-out site north of Walnut Grove many years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I’m honored to have my work included. I’m proud of my prairie roots, of my rural upbringing in a part of Minnesota made famous by a much-loved American writer.


FYI: If you’re wondering how Amaze Design found my photo, look no further than searching the internet. I also have photos included in exhibits at the Children’s Museum in St. Paul and in the World War II Museum in New Orleans. All found my work online, on this blog.


Disclaimer: Amaze Design paid for rights to use my Laura Look-A-Like image in the exhibit.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thanks to friends Laurel and Lee Engquist for permission to share their photos.



24 Responses to “Celebrating Laura Ingalls Wilder at a Chicago museum & I’m in”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    What a wonderful thing to see your photography on display in wonderful venues like this. You have a right to be proud of your gift and talent and of the roots that inspire you to document what you love most with your images. You need to make a trip to Chicago to see that exhibit — it would make me giddy to see something of mine on display like that. Congratulations.

    • Thank you, Beth Ann.

      I won’t be going to Chicago as big cities hold zero appeal to me and a trip there is not in the budget anyway. I’m happy enough seeing the pix my friend Laurel shot at the museum. That said, I visited Chicago once while in college and “on business” there as part of the college newspaper staff. No sightseeing involved.

  2. Almost Iowa Says:

    The quote from Octavia Butler is priceless.

    • I agree. My friend Laurel sent several photos of quotes and this one struck me especially. The more we write, the better we become at the craft. That said, some people are just more naturally gifted than others at writing. I find you gifted in humor and satire and your signature punch endings.

      I sometimes wonder if the general public understands and realizes the challenges of writing, of the effort and processes involved. Like any “job,” writing is work. Not everyone can (should) write. Just like I should never be in a professional that involves math.

  3. MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and your family Audrey,as well as to all of your readers

  4. Joyce in Kansas Says:

    The Little House books! I don’t know how many times I’ve read them. I used to bring them home from school and when I went to pick up one of the books to read my dad was reading it! I had to wait my turn. The Independence KS site where they lived is about 60 miles from us. It’s always interesting to see these wonderful books kept alive for future generations. Have you read Susan Wittig Albert’s book A Wilder Rose which throws a different light on the author?

  5. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Congrats on having one of your photos in the American Writers Museum! Nice. That place is on my list of museums I have to visit soon. Bonus: I love visiting Chicago!

  6. Valerie Says:

    This looks like a very interesting museum. I don’t get downtown Chicago very often…will have to keep it in the back of my mind to visit someday. It’s fun to know one of your photos is in a display there!

  7. Bernadette Says:

    Chicago is the perfect location for the American Writers’ Museum – in the heart of the country. I would love to visit there sometime and see your photo included. A special accomplishment showing your prairie roots. Thanks for the preview and mini tour.

  8. Jackie Says:

    Your work is so worthy of these displays, Congratulation Audrey….such an honor!

  9. Congratulations on having your work on display in such an important exhibit in Chicago! And again, I must implore you,when you get rich and famous, please don’t forget about us lowly peons!

  10. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I think this and deep dish pizza might be the only reasons for a country girl to visit Chicago

    • I knew anything Laura Ingalls Wilder would draw your attention. But I’m like you…no real desire to go to Chicago. Minneapolis and St. Paul are big enough city for me. And even those I skirt around because that’s the route to see my daughter, son-in-law and grandbaby.

  11. Susan Ready Says:

    I must say your presence to be posted at this new exhibit at the museum is impressive-what a honor to be included.

  12. Missy’s Håndarbeid (Missy’s Crafty Mess) Says:

    I found a great video tour of the Ingalls homestead in Desmet that you might enjoy watching!

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