Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A Minnesota student art show viewed through a COVID-19 lens April 20, 2020

An overview of one small section of the student art shown at the Paradise Center for the arts, second floor gallery.


BEFORE COVID-19 BROKE here in Minnesota, before we began to social distance and isolate at home, I toured the annual Faribault Area Student Art Exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault.


The Paradise marquee shows the arts center is closed until May 1, maybe longer.


As I do each year, I photograph some of that art to showcase here, as a way to celebrate these talented young creatives and to encourage people to view the exhibit. But the Paradise is closed now and that show by elementary through high school students inaccessible.


COVID-19 seems so relentless, breathing a firestorm of infection around the world. Art by sixth grader Eric from Cannon River Stem School.


Much has changed in the world since I toured this exhibit a month ago. Viewing it now, through the lens of COVID-19, I see the art from a different perspective. Not as the artists created pre-global pandemic, but interpreted in light of today’s crisis.


The virus rolls, overwhelms, overtakes. Yet, in the distance are the bright colors of hope. Art by Avery, fifth grader, Cannon River Stem School.


I think we’re all feeling this way. We just want this pandemic to stop, for everyone to be safe and well, and for life to return to normal. Art by Nico, second grader, Cannon River Stem School.


This art by Henrik, Nerstrand Elementary School second grader, reflects the #aworldofhearts movement to spread the love via placing hearts in windows to show care and love.


That’s the thing about art. It’s open to interpretation. We all bring our stories, our histories, our experiences, our insights, our observations, to art. No matter when it’s made or by whom, art is subjective.


A month ago, students would have been thrilled to miss a day of school. But now I expect they all wish they were back in class rather than distance learning. This art was created by Jazz, Faribault Middle School seventh grader.


While I will always view Lady Liberty as a symbol of freedom, I now also think specifically of New York and how hard this city has been hit by COVID-19. My heart breaks for New York. Art by Wendy, Faribault Middle School eighth grader.


I love Minnesota. And I’m thankful for the strong leadership shown by our governor, commissioner of health and others in leading us during this crisis. Art by Max, Jefferson Elementary School fifth grader.


Today, while scrolling through my photos from the student art show, I selected art that holds an entirely different meaning than it would have a month ago.


We are all hoping for this at some point–a return to normalcy, to doing the things we love. Like camping. Art by Alex, Jefferson Elementary School fifth grader.


Take your time to study this student art. Consider your reaction. And read my thoughts (in the captions under each photo) about the art in the light of today’s COVID-19 reality.


This superhero art by Audrey, third grader at Lincoln Elementary School, represents all the heroes out there on the frontlines. The doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery store workers…scientists who are working hard to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.


THOUGHTS? I’d like to read your reactions to any of the art featured here.

Please check back for more photos from this student art exhibit.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “A Minnesota student art show viewed through a COVID-19 lens”

  1. I love Henrik’s picture of blowing the hearts and it is very timely, isn’t it? Children’s art is just so wonderful so thank you for sharing these with us.


    The student art is pretty amazing. The three (numbers 3, 4, and 5) that portray the virus are very insightful especially coming from young people. Some of those portraying Minnesota are also insightful – they have a good understanding of the wonderful state they live in. I’m glad these students have a chance for their artwork to be seen through your blog.

    • Colleen, keep in mind that these students created this art BEFORE COVID. The interpretations below each work of art are mine and not that of the students. I’m simply seeing their art through a COVID lens.

      But I agree that these students have a good understanding of Minnesota, as shown in the “state” art, especially.

  3. valeriebollinger Says:

    I was taken by the picture of the person holding their hands up/out…then I noticed it was by a second grader. WOW.
    I wonder what the young artist had in mind when he/she was creating the picture…before the pandemic took hold. I like your interpretation…we all want this pandemic to STOP!

  4. Marilyn Donnell Says:

    Your photo story is so lovely especially now in the constraints of COVID-19.

  5. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    Yesterday I came across a quote that relates so well to your post. It is from Spanish painter Joan Miro: “The painting rises from the brush strokes as a poem rises from the words. The meaning comes later.” Wow, your point exactly.
    Regarding the student art, the raised hands work reminded me of the nursing home residents who put their hands to the windows to have some contact with loved ones on the outside. A very thoughtful post. Thank you.

    • Thank you for sharing that quote, Bernadette.

      And thank you for sharing that interpretation of the raised hands. That certainly fits. Interesting how we viewed the art in different ways, exactly my point. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

  6. Quite an interesting perspective when you view these thought the eyes of today’s world. Thanks for sharing these, Audrey. ❤

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