Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From the heart of Northfield: A sculpture reflects community love April 12, 2022

Fused glass hearts on the sculpture “Spreading the Love.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

IN SOME WAYS, the “Spreading the Love” sculpture reminds me of a box of crayons. It’s a boldly colorful work of art sidling next to a sidewalk near the corner of Division and Sixth Streets in downtown Northfield.

The sculpture is located along Division Street, near Armory Square and Imminent Brewing. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

The crayon comparison comes in the mix of colors that combine in fused glass hearts created by Geralyn Thelen. The Northfield glass artist crafted the sculpture in collaboration with Hastings metal artist Dale Lewis as part of the 2020 Artists on Main Street Program.

Against a blue sky, a bold and beautiful multi-hued heart. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)
Signage explains the meaning of the sculpture. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)
The heart-filled tree represents community. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

The result is this metal community tree adorned with vibrant heart “leaves.” The heart shape represents love. And the mixed hues of those hearts represent inclusiveness, that all are welcome here.

Many hearts in many colors. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

That brings me back to crayons. Remember the thrill of a new box of Crayola crayons? The scent. The sharp points. The rows of neatly packed colors in, oh, so many hues and shades? What kid didn’t want a box of 64 crayons versus the standard 24?

A full view of “Spreading the Love.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Yet, even though we had all those choices in colors, there were expectations. Grade school worksheets directed us to color the sun yellow, the grass green, the horse brown, the heart red, for example. To earn an S+ on a paper, we needed to follow directions. It was a way to teach reading and colors. But that left zero options for creativity, for an opening of the mind.

This shows how metal artist Dale Lewis attached the hearts. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

To the child who yearned to use all the colors in the crayon box, following directions stifled creativity in the necessity of conformity. I’d like to think as adults that we consider all the colors in the crayon box. If only that were true.

Geralyn Thelen’s fused glass hearts represent love. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

That’s why projects like “Spreading the Love” hold such value. Art encourages us to see, to think, to open our minds and reflect. To color the sun purple, the grass orange, the horse pink, the heart in a mix of hues. Ours is a multi-colored world of skin tones, beliefs, lifestyles and more. Yet, we all share the commonality of love. Giving love. Receiving love. Feeling loved. And, it is my hope, spreading love.

TELL ME: How do you spread love?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


13 Responses to “From the heart of Northfield: A sculpture reflects community love”

  1. beth Says:

    this is a wonderful piece of public art for so many reasons, love the thought behind all of it

  2. I love this sculpture. I want one like it in my yard. 😊

  3. Love this and such a strong message with this creative work of art. I spread love through kindness, being open minded, through learning and educating myself, not judging, etc. I had a few children in my life (now adults) that I love dearly because they were think outside the box and questioned why horses could not be fire engine red and grass cannot be blue or purple. That creativity as well as love knows no bounds. Thanks for sharing this work of art and this beautiful message 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy!

  4. Oh my goodness those hearts are beautiful and yes they do remind you of crayons. At 40 plus years of age I still love shopping for school supplies.

  5. Valerie Says:

    I, too, love this tree full of hearts, and its message. I love colored glass. I love color.

  6. I just loved this piece you wrote!
    Ahhh…the days of crayons…how I envied those who had the boxes of 64 when my parents could only afford the box of 8. Was there 8? Funny how extremely important it was then to fit in, to think I wasn’t different and yet it built character.
    The world is so different now, even for kids. I think we all need to play with crayons more and play on the internet less, what an enriching world it would be.😊

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