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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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