Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

So many reasons to value the arts in southern Minnesota & beyond October 26, 2022

“Rain” by Ivan Whillock priced at $3,000 and exhibited at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

TO HAVE ACCESS TO THE ARTS, whether visual, literary or performing, here in southern Minnesota is such a gift. The arts enrich our lives, open our minds to new ideas and experiences, feed our souls, entertain us and, for me, also inspire.

As someone who grew up in rural southwestern Minnesota with minimal exposure to the arts, I especially value galleries, theaters, libraries, and any place that gives me access to creativity. Creating with images and words is my passion and my life’s work. I embrace the work of fellow creatives, who, like me, must create.

Woodcarvings fill the main gallery at the Paradise. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Recently, I stopped by the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault. The PCA centers the arts in my community with four galleries, theater, music, art classes and more. Here in this space, creatives converge. And we as a community are the better for that. I hope those in neighboring Northfield, Owatonna, Waseca and even small town Montgomery, feel the same gratitude for their arts centers.

“Eileen” by Ivan Whillock, priced at $1,500. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

The arts broaden our perspectives, make us think, laugh, cry, ponder… When I write and photograph, I feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment if my work resonates, prompts emotions, stirs interest and more. I expect the artists currently exhibiting at the Paradise feel the same. There is joy in getting art out there into the community, joy in connecting.

Marv Kaisersatt specializes in caricatures such as “Portrait of a Pig,” displayed but not for sale. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

As I meandered through the Paradise’s current exhibits, I observed incredible talent and variety in the art displayed. Inside the largest gallery, I meandered among woodcarvings by three Faribault artists, two carving for more than 40 years. Ivan Whillock and Marv Kaisersatt, are award-winning long-time carvers, nationally and internationally-recognized. Their work is decidedly different, but their creative skills decidedly the same—excellent. Both are quiet, humble men.

“Wood Spirit” by Chris Whillock, priced at $40. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Chris Whillock, Ivan’s son, is a talented carver in his own right. The pair create at Whillock Studio in Faribault and operate the Whittling Shack, source for woodcarving supplies, their art and more.

The plant-filled installment by Shelley Caldwell. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

In one of the most unusual installments I’ve ever seen is the art of Shelley Caldwell who lives in rural Faribault County near the Iowa border. Her artistic use of plants to shape art left me standing temporarily immobile, wowed by her imaginative creativity. Peace comes in connecting with nature and I felt that in the scene before me—all that green interspersed with light, air and a sense of movement. Her exhibit also includes mixed media drawings.

Photos of Autumn Carolynn line a gallery wall at the Paradise Center for the Arts. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

The images of Minneapolis-based travel photographer and writer Autumn Carolynn are displayed in another gallery. Studying the work of other photographers, especially one as talented as Autumn, helps me grow my skills, even if I’m not a world traveler. Her images take me to places I have never seen and never will. She expands my world through her photos and that, too, is an artful purpose.

This is an untitled acrylic and latex on canvas by Bethlehem Academy senior Tyler Hogate. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

In the final gallery, the art of selected students from Bethlehem Academy in Faribault is highlighted. I never fail to be impressed by the talent of these young people. I feel gratitude to their teachers, the PCA and others who support them in their creative pursuits. Now, more than ever, students need the arts as an outlet, a way to express themselves, a way to connect.

This shows a snippet of Ivan Whillock’s “He’s Late,” priced at $6,000. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

And now, more than ever in these unsettled times, we as a community, a state, a country, a world, need the arts.

FYI: The exhibit by artists featured here continues until November 12.

TELL ME: What do you appreciate about the arts?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


8 Responses to “So many reasons to value the arts in southern Minnesota & beyond”

  1. That plant installation is wonderful. What a gift.

  2. I appreciate the creativity 🙂 Art is all around us if we take the time to soak it in and savor it. It makes me smile and my heart happy. It sparks the creative being in me. It makes me want to be silly and play and laugh. Happy Day – Enjoy!

  3. Valerie Says:

    I always enjoy when you highlight the different arts in our area. We do have several opportunities for such a “rural” area. Thanks for highlighting many of them for us.

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