Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A powerful Northfield sculpture focuses on mental health July 30, 2019

 

PAUSE ON THE CORNER of Division Street by the Northfield Public Library in the heart of this historic southern Minnesota river town, and you will find yourself next to a massive rusting sculpture.

 

 

 

The public piece calls for more than a cursory glance at an abstract person reaching skyward. The art calls for passersby to stop, read the inscription at the base of the sculpture and then contemplate the deeper meaning of “Waist Deep.”

This temporary downtown art installation, created by 15 Northfield High School students and three professional artists through the Young Sculptors Project and funded with a $10,000 grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council, creates a community-wide public focus on mental health issues. After two years, the sculpture will be permanently placed in the high school courtyard sculpture garden.

 

 

Like any art, “Waist Deep” is open to personal interpretation. The signage notes, though, that the sculpture is meant to support those struggling with mental health in the community, of needing and receiving help from caring others.

 

 

As I looked at the layered and fractured pieces comprising the sculpted person, I saw beyond the arm reaching for help and the lowered arm with curved hand clawing the earth. Both represent, in my eyes, darkness and light, hopelessness and hope. Mental illness leaves a person feeling incomplete and broken. Fractured. Trying to hang on. Reaching.

 

 

I photographed the sculpture on a recent weekend morning under rainy, then partially cloudy and sunny skies, not unlike the ever-changing skies of mental illness. Sometimes pouring. Sometimes parting. Sometimes shining with hope.

As the sculpture name “Waist Deep” and art itself suggest, those dealing with mental health issues can feel waist deep in the water of the disease—flailing, perhaps unable to swim, battling the overpowering waves.

We have a responsibility to throw a life-line. How? First, start seeing mental illness like any other illness. Call it what it is—a brain disease. End the stigma. Someone suffering from depression, for example, can no more wish away or snap out of depression than a diabetic can cure his/her disease by thinking positive thoughts. Educate yourself.

 

 

Support those who are waist deep. Show compassion. They need care, love, encouragement, support just as much, for example, as cancer patients.

Be there, too, for the caregivers, who feel alone, who work behind the scenes to secure often elusive professional care for their loved ones. In Minnesota the shortage of mental health care professionals and treatment centers, especially outside the Twin Cities metro area, is documented in media report after media report. It’s a crisis situation. Telling someone in a mental health crisis they need to wait six weeks plus for an appointment with a psychiatrist or a psychologist is absurd and unacceptable. We wouldn’t say that to someone experiencing a heart attack. They would die without immediate care. Those waist deep do sometimes. Every day. And it shouldn’t be that way.

I applaud the 15 NHS students and the three artists who created the public art piece in Northfield. Projects like “Waist Deep” shine the spotlight on a disease which has too long been hidden, shoved in the dark corner of silence.

THOUGHTS?

FYI: I’d encourage you to read the book Regular & Decaf by Minnesotan Andrew D. Gadtke and published by Risen Man Publishing, LLC. It features conversations between Gadtke and his friend, both of whom have brain diseases. It’s a powerful, insightful and unforgettable read.

Advertisements
 

Spread a little sunshine with words of gratitude July 26, 2019

 

GRATITUDE. How do you define that word, express it, show it?

 

 

I express my thankfulness mostly in words, written and spoken.

 

 

For that reason I was especially drawn to a tree on a hillside outside the Northfield Public Library. Upon the branches dangle colorful tags. And on those paper pieces, people penned their responses to this prompt: What are you grateful for?

 

 

 

 

I filtered through some of those answers last Saturday when heavy rains ended and the sky broke to partially cloudy. To read those responses brought more sunshine into my day, I expect exactly as The Spread Sunshine Gang intends. The Gratitude Tree is a project of the group, “a non-profit with the mission to share goodness, kindness and generosity to the Twin Cities metro area and beyond,” according to the Sunshine website.

 

 

 

 

 

That mission makes me smile as do these additional thoughts from the website:

The Spread Sunshine Gang believes the world needs more love, happiness, forgiveness and kindness. We are a motley crew of hard-working people who make time to spread a little sunshine. Through random acts of kindness and dedication to paying it forward we create events for others to do the same.

 

 

 

 

I love this, absolutely love the purpose behind projects like The Gratitude Tree. In a world where selfishness and meanness and anger seem sometimes all too prevalent, we need to pause and ponder gratitude. And then we need to act on that word and shine our thankfulness and love.

 

 

TELL ME: What are you grateful for? Have you seen a Gratitude Tree or something similar? I’d love to hear.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Small town Minnesota: Pretty in pink butcher shop July 24, 2019

 

WHEN I’M OUT AND ABOUT in small town Minnesota, I look for the unique, the interesting, the whatever that makes a rural community memorable.

 

 

A month ago we stopped in Wanamingo to kill some time while waiting for friends to arrive at nearby Aspelund Winery and Peony Gardens. Along the main route through downtown, I spotted a local butcher shop, Wanamingo Meats & Catering, aka Blondies Butcher Shop. You can’t miss it.

 

 

Bright pink shutters class up an otherwise non-descript brick building also accented by a pink Holstein cow, pink signage and pots of primarily pink petals.

 

 

And then there’s the message out front: Its (sic) better to have grilled and burned than to never have grilled at all. As a mega fan of grilled foods—thank you, Randy, for grilling every weekend year-round—I agree.

 

 

Blondies Butcher Shop certainly focuses visual attention, exactly the point to draw customers inside this female-owned business. I’ll remember this small town shop next to the grain bins long after I’ve exited Wanamingo.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: Connecting community through music July 18, 2019

The 8th Street Band performs in the Central Park bandshell during Faribault Heritage Days. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2019.

 

MY INABILITY TO READ a single musical note doesn’t diminish my appreciation for music. Rather I value all those vocalists and instrumentalists who enhance my life with the music they create.

 

A crowd gathers to hear The 8th Street Band. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2019.

 

Here in Faribault, gifted musicians bring music to Central Park on Thursday summer evenings beginning at 7 p.m. as part of the free Concerts in the Park series. This has been ongoing now for 132 years. That’s a lot of music in a long string of concerts.

Tonight’s performance features the horn band Little Chicago with hits from the 60s and 70s. Songs from bands like Chicago, The Grass Roots and Blood, Sweat & Tears. My kind of music from my era.

 

Visiting, connecting during a performance by The 8th Street Band. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2019.

 

I love the informality of these concerts where folks tote lawn chairs to the park and then settle in to listen to the music and to chat with other concert-goers. There’s a strong sense of community, a connectedness that comes from the universal language of music bringing people together.

 

A stuffed animal rests on a park bench (next to grandpa) during the Faribault Heritage Days celebration band concert. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2019.

 

Together. We need more of that in today’s chaotic world where too many individuals fail to think before they speak or post on social media. A world where differences split peoples and anger spews and too many harsh words erupt.

 

The sun sets behind the bandshell as barbershoppers sing tunes ranging from “Sweet Caroline” to “God Bless America.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

We need the language of music to envelope us, to take us away for an evening, to unite us in the commonality of something beautiful and lovely and freeing. We need the distraction of voices and of instruments as the sun shifts around the bandshell and slants across the grass, closing the day with song.

FYI: The July 18 concert also includes Free Art in the Park from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Local artist Kate Langlais will teach the basics of painting. Pre-register with the Faribault Parks & Recreation Department.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A photo essay from the Dam Days carnival in Morristown, Minnesota July 17, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

TIS THE SEASON of small town celebrations and county fairs here in Minnesota. We pack a lot of activities and events into the summer months. Carnival rides, games and concession stands pop up on Main Streets and in city parks. Folks flock to fairgrounds, this week locally in Faribault for the Rice County Fair.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Whether you embrace these events or steer clear of them and the ensuing crowds, they are part of our history, our culture, our communities.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

 

In June I photographed snippets of the annual Dam Days celebration in Morristown to the west of Faribault. And later in the month, I took my camera to the Midway at the Faribault Heritage Days celebration in Central Park.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Today I invite you to peruse selected photos from my Sunday afternoon walk among the amusement rides, games and food stands in Morristown.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

On this day mostly locals and those come back to their hometown for Dam Days, enjoyed the festivities and each other’s company in the sunshine of a sweet summer day in southern Minnesota.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

“Crochet in Translation”: the art of Malia Wiley July 16, 2019

Malia Wiley’s “Swine in an Afghan.” Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

WE SHARE THE COMMONALITIES of attending the same Christian college, Bethany Lutheran in Mankato, and of being creatives.

 

Malia Wiley with her oil painting, “Stag Luxuriously Robed in Crochet.” Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

I write and photograph. She paints and crochets. She is Malia Wiley, a young southern Minnesota artist who specializes in painting primarily pet portraits. But Malia also crochets and has now combined her two creative passions into an artistic endeavor, Crochet in Translation.

 

Flying geese in crochet and painting by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

“Cozy Squirrel” portrait up close by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Love the vivid colors in this rooster portrait by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

The result is a signature art form unlike any I’ve seen. Novel. Unique. Memorable. And truly creative with the colors and textures of crocheted afghans inspiring, weaving into and enhancing Malia’s portraits of animals.

 

Malia Wiley, left, chats with guests at her recent Owatonna Arts Center Crochet in Translation gallery opening. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Recently I attended an opening reception at the Owatonna Arts Center honoring Malia and celebrating her work as an artist. A gallery exhibit of her art continues there until July 28.

 

“Hens on Crochet” by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

I chatted briefly with this talented artist and learned that her grandma taught her to crochet. Her “Hens on Crochet” incorporates an afghan crocheted by her grandmother and exhibited with the painting.

 

Malia Wiley crafted this jewel-toned afghan, the inspiration for a peacock painting. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

“Bundled Sheep” by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Afghans from Malia Wiley’s collection stacked in a corner of the gallery. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Malia also crafted a few of the showcased afghans. But most were found—at thrift stores and garage sales. Crocheting an afghan, Malia says, takes considerably more time than painting an animal portrait. I don’t doubt that when you look at the intricate patterns of crocheted afghans.

 

In addition to originals, Malia Wiley sells prints of her animal portraits. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

That Malia makes her living as an artist delights me. With this Lake Crystal artist’s level of talent and signature style, it’s easy to see how she has become a successful professional artist. On a larger and more public scale, Malia’s work is featured on a mural she painted for the ag-themed Grow-It Gallery at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota in Mankato, a museum on my to-see list.

 

“Preparing the Den” by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

I love when young people, anyone really, follow their passions and find joy in the talents with which they’ve been blessed. We are all the richer for the creatives who enrich our lives through their art.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Paintings were photographed with Malia’s permission.

 

Connect with farmers, the land, animals & more during co-op farm tour July 11, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Shepherd’s Way Farms, rural Nerstrand. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

FARM-FRESH VEGETABLES. Free-range chickens. Fields of flowers. Hand-crafted butter and cheeses. Organic berries.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

All and much more focus the annual Co-op Farm Tour scheduled for 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. this Saturday, July 13, in the eastern half of southern and central Minnesota into western Wisconsin.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots 2016 file photo from Shepherd’s Way Farm.

 

The event offers the public an opportunity to meet farmers on the land, to tour their farms, to engage in farm activities and learn more about local sources of food (and flowers). The more we know, the better informed to make decisions about food choices. The more we know, the better connection with those who grow, raise, tend, harvest.

 

Approaching Shepherd’s Way Farms, rural Nerstrand. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

As someone raised on a 160-acre crop and dairy farm in southwestern Minnesota, I understand and appreciate these farmers. Farming may seem like an idyllic life-style. But I will tell you that it’s hard work being a small-scale farmer. The job is labor and time intensive. Yet, talk to one of these mostly new-generation farmers and you will hear their passion for farming. They are dedicated and market savvy and passionate in a way that inspires.

 

In the window of Ruf Acres Market, cartons promoting eggs from Graise Farm. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I hope you can find time this weekend to visit one or several of the farms on the Co-op Farm Tour. Several are in my area of Minnesota, including Graise Farm, Faribault; T.C. Farm, Dundas; Twin Organics Farm, Northfield; Shepherd’s Way Farms, Nerstrand; Ferndale Farm & Market, Cannon Falls; Hope Creamery, Hope; and Little Big Sky Farm, Henderson.

FYI: Click here for more info on the Co-op Farm Tour.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling