Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Information sought in hit-and-run along Willow Street in Faribault March 22, 2023

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My neighbor’s totaled car, photographed Wednesday morning. That’s another neighbor’s house in the image. The car is exactly where it landed after being slammed into by a hit-and-run vehicle Tuesday evening. (Minnesota Prairie Rights copyrighted photo March 2023)

TUESDAY EVENING, MARCH 21, and we are kicked back, relaxing, watching “Will Trent.” And then it happens. BOOM! The undeniable sound of a crash. But we hear no screeching tires that would indicate slamming of brakes.

We pop from our comfy spots to peer out the windows. In the 9:30 pm dark of March, we see a vehicle parked in front of our house, then people walking down the middle of the street, busy Willow Street. Our eyes follow their path to a neighbor’s driveway and a smashed car. Demolished. We see no second vehicle near the crash scene.

Randy grabs his cellphone, steps outside in his slippers, phones the police. We have no idea what’s just happened, whether anyone has been injured. We know law enforcement needs to be summoned. Soon multiple squad cars arrive. We remain clueless and begin speculating as to what unfolded.

Wednesday morning I spoke with the owner of the totaled car. She was sleeping when an unknown vehicle slammed into her unoccupied car parked curbside by her house in the 400 block of Willow Street. I breathed a sigh of relief, told her how thankful I was that she was not in her car. Despite the loss of what she said was her “best” car, she also said she felt blessed.

My neighbor was remarkably calm. But also determined. She’d already begun phoning auto body repair shops and auto salvage yards in an attempt to locate the vehicle that destroyed her early 2000 Toyota Corolla. Yes, the driver left without stopping. How any vehicle managed to remain operable after totaling my neighbor’s car is beyond my comprehension. And how anyone in good conscience could leave the scene is also incomprehensible. But, hey, a driver drove away (never to be found) after striking my son as he crossed Willow Street to his bus stop in 2006.

On behalf of my neighbor, who asked if I am on Facebook (I’m not), I’m posting this information here in hopes that someone can help find the person responsible. State law requires drivers to stop following a crash. The person who parked her vehicle outside our house Tuesday evening was driving on Willow at the time of the incident and did the right thing by immediately stopping upon hearing the BOOM.

The hit-and-run vehicle is likely a large pick-up (or other) truck, probably with significant front end damage, my neighbor shared. Willow Street is a heavily-traveled arterial street in Faribault. I have to think that someone saw something that may be helpful. Perhaps a doorbell or surveillance camera will show a suspect vehicle.

Please, if you have any information, contact Faribault police at 507-334-4305. That plea goes to possible witnesses, garages, auto body repair shops, salvage yards, Willow Street residents. If someone you know is suddenly no longer driving their pick-up truck and your gut is telling you something, then do something.

My neighbor doesn’t seem the revengeful type. She just wants her losses covered. Then maybe she can sleep at night. It was disheartening to watch her Wednesday morning removing debris from the street, sweeping glass, emptying her car. She deserves justice.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Inside the Paradise galleries, an array of art

A side view of Amanda Webster’s “Just The Three of Us, A Triptych of Three” acrylic on canvas. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

FROM WILD ANIMALS to wildly vivid abstracts, the art of creatives fills four first floor galleries at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault. What an array of artwork to infuse color, joy and more into these lingering, colorless days of winter in the season of spring here in southern Minnesota.

“Lion King” and “Zebra” by long-time wildlife and nature photographer Dave Angell of Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2020)

The incredible talent showcased in these galleries impresses me. Whether created with a camera, a brush, or with a pencil in a sketchbook, this art shows a passion for the craft.

The relatively new digital marquee at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault flashes gallery hours. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2023)

Only a few days remain to view the current exhibits, which close on Saturday, March 25.

Some of Amanda Webster’s bold abstract acrylic on canvas art showcased at the Paradise Center for the Arts. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

When I stepped inside the main gallery at the Paradise to view the bold acrylic paintings of Twin Cities artist Amanda Webster, I simply stopped. Wow! Her large-scale colorful abstracts jolted me into a happy place.

Amanda Webster’s artist statement reveals the story behind her abstract art. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

That I saw Webster’s nature-inspired work on a cold January-like afternoon with a strong, biting wind likely enhanced my reaction. I wanted to walk right into those magical settings and leave this Minnesota winter behind. For an artist’s work to inspire that type of immersive response says something.

The winding white path leads the eye right into Amanda Webster’s vivid acrylic on canvas abstract, “Keep Going Forward.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

I envisioned Webster’s work in a corporate space, filling a business with energy. I envisioned her art in a medical setting, creating a positive, healing energy. I envisioned her art in my home, if only I had higher ceilings and a more modern, than traditional, house.

This shows a section of Bill Nagel’s “Walk Around,” an oil on canvas. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

Just off the Paradise’s lobby, abstract art also fills a small boardroom gallery. This space features the art of multi-talented, award-winning Minnesota artist Bill Nagel. He paints abstract art and also creates modern still-life and illustrations.

Bill Nagel’s oil on canvas, from left to right: “Work Around,” “Sombrillas Rojas” and “Sea Glass.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

His abstracts are decidedly different than Webster’s. While still colorful, they are more subdued, more geometric, more defined. At least to my eyes. Everyone views art differently. Nagel’s “Sea Glass” oil painting, especially, felt calming to me. Perhaps it was the mostly blue and green hues. Or maybe the very thought of being seaside was enough to carry me into a tranquil setting of warmth and water lapping against shoreline.

Barb Pendergast created this watercolor of a rooster. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)
“Jes,” an oil portrait by Ivan Whillock. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)
“Haley,” an acrylic portrait by Cheryl Morris. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

Across the lobby in another smallish gallery, I perused the images of photographer Stephen Hadeen and of Paradise Center for the Arts members. I always enjoy seeing what locals create. From a nature and wildlife photographer of 40 years, to an internationally-acclaimed woodcarver (who also paints) to a watercolor artist, these creatives embrace a variety of ways to make art. It’s simply fun to take it all in, whether photos of zebras or a watercolor of a rooster or a portrait of a canine with soulful eyes.

Student artist Syra Romero’s untitled art from a sketch book scan. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

It is the eyes which pulled me in close to view a mini gallery exhibit of art by students in the Paradise’s After School Art Club. The club meets a total of six hours in six sessions with local teaching artists. And what they create impresses. I know I never could have made art like this at their age. Not that I ever had the opportunity to learn. I didn’t.

“Wednesday,” a sketch book scan by student artist Aviella Young. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

But these students, oh, how fortunate they are to pursue their creativity alongside professionals. To learn technique, to be encouraged, to create art is such a gift.

Another gift awaits visitors to the Paradise Center for the Arts in the annual second floor All Area Student Art Show, which runs until April 8. That is one of my favorite exhibits because I love seeing what our young people are creating. Their work is remarkable. They inspire me. That show deserves a solo focus, which will be forthcoming.

“Keep Going Forward,” Amanda Webster’s acrylic, right, leads to more of her abstract paintings. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

For now, head to the Paradise by Saturday, March 25, to take in the current art in the first floor galleries. The Paradise, 321 Central Avenue North, is open from noon to 5 pm Wednesday – Friday and from 10 am – 2 pm Saturday.

NOTE: All art was photographed with permission from the Paradise Center for the Arts. This post includes only a sampling of the art featured in the gallery exhibits.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling