Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Peace poster contest inspires young artists to celebrate connections January 6, 2022

Maelynn Thoele, award-winning artist. Photo source: Arlington Lions Club Facebook page.

IMAGINE A WORLD OF PEACE. Of minimal division. Of connecting and compassion and care. That seems elusive right now. But one can hope, aim toward, embrace such goals.

The annual Lions International Peace Poster Contest encourages me. Young people from all around the world create art themed to peace. Therein lies the possibility that perhaps some day we can achieve peace and unity. If our young people have anything to say about it.

I invite you to scroll through the grand prize winning art in past peace poster contests by clicking here. Yue Zheng, 13, from China took the top prize in 2020-2021 when “Peace Through Service” themed the competition. During the first “Peace Will Help Us Grow” contest in 1988-1989, Mustapha El Tawokji, 13, of Lebanon earned the grand prize. The award-winning art created by 11-13-year-olds from places like South Africa, Peru, Brazil, Thailand, multiple U.S. states and elsewhere since 1988 inspires.

This year young people were tasked with creating art centered on “We Are All Connected.” The Lions website defines that:

While overcoming new challenges brought on by an unprecedented global pandemic, we’re celebrating the things that keep us connected—to each other, to our communities, all together around the world. This year, we invite young people to envision, explore and visually express these connections.

And that these young artists did. Maelynn Thoele, 13, a seventh grader at Sibley East in Arlington, Minnesota, won multiple district competitions to advance to the international level with her peace poster. Her puzzle art fits visually well with the “We Are All Connected” theme. Just like puzzle pieces fit together to create a scene, peoples and countries connect to create our world.

The details in Maelynn’s art convey peace in the backdrop peace symbol, a dove and more. Her art includes the flags of many countries and hands of multiple skin tones assembling that puzzle. Together. Connected.

A vintage peace tray I purchased in 2015 at an antique shop. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2015)

NOTE: I’d love to see the award-winning art of these students featured on t-shirts, posters, cards, etc. and, in Maelynn’s case, on a puzzle. Thoughts?

A Peace Poster Tabletop Exhibit is available (and loaned at no cost) to Lions groups in the U.S. The peace exhibit has been displayed, for example, in libraries, community events and Lions conventions. Call (630) 203-3812. I’d love to see that come to my Minnesota community.

Also, the Lions sponsor an International Peace Essay Contest for young people. I appreciate that opportunity for creatives who express themselves via words.

Please click here to read an earlier post I wrote about a 12-year-old girl from Rochester, who won the peace poster contest in her Minnesota middle school. Winners of the 2021-2022 peace poster contest will be notified by February 1.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo source: Arlington Lions Club Facebook page. That club sponsored Maelynn.

 

I was “this close” to Prince Farming’s hometown & more March 17, 2015

MAPPING OUT A ROUTE from Mason City to Dubuque, Iowa, last summer, I routed our drive through Strawberry Point, which is 10 miles from Arlington. Remember that.

The world's largest strawberry sculpture is made of fiberglass, weighs 1,430 pounds, is 15 feet high, 12 feet wide and was constructed in 1967.

The world’s largest strawberry sculpture is made of fiberglass, weighs 1,430 pounds, is 15 feet high, 12 feet wide and was constructed in 1967.

Strawberry Point is home to the world’s largest strawberry. I delight in kitschy roadside art, thus the stop in this town of nearly 1,300.

I'm not sure this motel is open anymore.

There’s even a Strawberry Motel.

Homespun address signage in Strawberry Point.

Homespun address signage in Strawberry Point.

A sweet message.

A sweet message outside a cafe.

Additionally, I find the name, Strawberry Point, charming. Its name history traces to the soldiers, traders and railroad workers who savored the wild strawberries growing along the area’s trails and hillsides.

Driving into Strawberry Point.

Driving into Strawberry Point.

On the late August afternoon my husband and I drove into Strawberry Point, I was tired and crabby. Mostly due to the excessive heat and humidity. But also due to the endless travel through an Iowa countryside that seemed monotonous in fields and flatness. This is unusual for me to feel this way given my appreciation for rural prairie landscapes.

This impressive building anchors a corner in downtown Strawberry Point and houses a coffee shop/cafe and hotel.

This impressive building anchors a corner in downtown Strawberry Point and houses a coffee shop/cafe and hotel.

Had I not been in such a funky mood, I would have explored more. Looking now at my photos from downtown Strawberry Point, I see what I missed. That sprawling brick corner building labeled Coffee Shop/The Franklin Hotel calls for exploration. Just like other places in Iowa.

The strawberry sculpture sits in the heart of downtown Strawberry Point.

The strawberry sculpture sits in the heart of downtown Strawberry Point.

How many of you had heard of Arlington, Iowa, before this season’s reality TV show The Bachelor aired? The star, bachelor farmer Chris Soules, dubbed “Prince Farming”, is from Arlington.

Signage remained from  RAGBRAI, the bike ride across Iowa.

Signage remained from RAGBRAI, the bike ride across Iowa.

Last July Soules met with RAGBRAI bikers in Strawberry Point, greeting folks in a fire department fundraiser. I missed him by a month. Not that I had even heard of him then.

While I don’t agree with the premise of The Bachelor, trying to find true love by dating multiple women simultaneously, I do see the show’s current value to Iowa, specifically, Arlington. That community of less than 500 is using its moment in the spotlight to raise funds for a new community center via sales of “The Other Bachelors of Arlington, Iowa” calendars. Local farmer and community volunteer John Fedeler came up with the calendar idea featuring 12 Arlington bachelors. Brilliant.

From what I’ve read on the campaign’s Facebook page, it’s a tastefully done calendar that can be yours for $14.99 plus $2 for shipping.

For example, here’s the bio on Mr. September, Jordan:

Mr. September was born in Arlington and helps out on his family’s farm. When he is not farming with his father, Mr. September works to grow his computer consulting business and practices his piloting skill. Mr. September is more reserved about details of his love life, but joked that he will be a “bachelor till the rapture”. Mr. September would give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it and is not afraid to reach out a helping hand.

A farm site somewhere in notheast Iowa between Nashua and Strawberry Point.

A farm site somewhere in notheast Iowa between Nashua and Strawberry Point.

He sounds like one wholesome Iowa farm boy to me.

Somewhere in northeastern Iowa.

Somewhere in northeastern Iowa.

And isn’t that the image we have of Iowa—a good, wholesome place of mostly farm fields and small towns? Pigs and corn. Fields of opportunities?

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling