Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Outstanding student art showcased in Hudson, Wisconsin exhibit April 26, 2017

“If My Thoughts Had Wings” colored pencil and watercolor by Jeanna Krause, a senior at Ellsworth High School. Her art is priced at $1,000.

 

AS A CREATIVE TYPE who creates with words and a camera, I am often impressed by the works of visual artists. Incredible talent exists out there among painters, sculptors and others.

 

The Phipps Center for the Arts, Hudson, Wisconsin.

 

Signage promotes the student art exhibit.

 

A first look at the main floor gallery space art.

 

I am especially impressed by artwork displayed in the current Annual Area High School Art Exhibition at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wisconsin. High school students from western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota were invited to submit pieces as were teachers of the participating students. Their art fills polished gallery space on two floors of this beautiful near waterfront property along the St. Croix River. The artwork ranges from paintings to photography to collage, ceramics and much more.

 

Annika Shiffer, a senior at Eau Claire North High School, created “Cherry Blossom” from soapstone, wire and glass beads. It is not for sale.

 

This untitled collage by Shelly Schmitt of Somerset High School is not for sale.

 

Mallory Bleeker, Ellsworth High School sophomore, created this charcoal portrait of Matt Damon. It’s not for sale.

 

The variety of art and the creativity therein exhibits a professional level of artistry. It was hard for me to believe that these artists are high school students, still learning. I enjoyed the humor of a senior from St. Croix Preparatory Academy who priced his ceramic coil pot at “$100,000 (college tuition).”

 

The gallery spaces are polished and gleaming, a lovely canvas for artwork.

 

Stillwater Area High School senior Natalie Gella crafted this stoneware clay “Scared Face,” not for sale.

 

So much talent in this incredible art…

 

One student-artist will be awarded a $2,000 Alice M. Stolpe Scholarship for the Arts at a May 7 closing reception. Choosing a winner among those planning to major in art will be difficult, in my opinion. Peruse this sampling of art created by 109 students (and three teachers) from 15 schools. You’ll see why I am impressed by their work.

 

Casey Loe, senior at Eau Claire North High School, created this “Be Bold” ink art which is not for sale.

 

Travis Eisberner, Eau Claire North High School junior, created “Geometric Reality” in acrylic. It’s not for sale.

 

Kendall Isaacson of Somerset High School crafted this untitled ceramics art which is not for sale.

 

Pretty incredible art, huh?

 

Dylan Cook, senior from Stillwater Area High School, created this analogue photography “Hell Erupts!” priced at $50.

 

FYI: Gallery hours at The Phipps are from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Saturday; from noon – 4:30 p.m. Sundays; and an hour before and through intermissions at all the Phipps theater performances. This exhibit closes on May 7.

 

One of the gallery spaces overlooks the St. Croix River across the street.

 

The art center is located in downtown Hudson at 109 Locust Street.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS on this exhibit.

NOTE: Photos of artwork are published with permission of The Phipps Center for the Arts. All artwork is copyrighted by the artists and cannot be reproduced or used without their consent. 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Showcasing the talent of Faribault’s student artists March 14, 2017

The art exhibit threads along hallways, into corners and into a room on the second floor of the Paradise.

 

EVERY TIME I VIEW the annual Student Exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts, I want to snatch several pieces from the walls for my art collection. I’m that impressed by the student art. And I’m not just saying that because I want to be nice and tell the kids they do a great job. My praise is genuine.

 

Gracie, a sixth grader from Faribault Lutheran School, created this cat art.

 

The soulful eyes drew me to this drawing by Faribault Middle School eighth grader Victoria.

 

Variations of a block print by Adreanna, a student at Roosevelt Elementary School.

 

From block prints to paintings to collages to weavings to drawings done in a range of mediums, this art is diverse, introspective, often colorful and worthy of showcasing.

 

Abstract art created by students from Divine Mercy Catholic School.

 

Twelfth grader Derek from the Faribault Area Learning Center drew this fox.

 

Lincoln Elementary School students created this art.

 

What I especially appreciate about this second floor show is the opportunity for students to put their art out there in a public venue. I expect one day the works of some of these artists will hang in the Paradise’s main floor galleries or in other galleries.

 

This photo shows part of high school student Audrey Petersen’s “Peacock Feathers” acrylic on canvas. Her art is currently displayed in the Corey Lyn Creger Memorial Gallery.

 

Already the Corey Lyn Creger Memorial Gallery in the Paradise is devoted to artwork by a high school student artist.

 

Student artist Faith created this cartoon style character.

 

Lots of variation in the art showcased on this wall.

 

Roosevelt Elementary fifth grader Jose painted this portrait.

 

It’s reaffirming for young people to have their talents validated and appreciated, whether on the floor of a basketball court, the stage of a theater or in the hallways and rooms of an art center. All too often the arts lag behind sports in societal importance. Arts are to be valued, too.

 

Art angles into a corner.

 

A streetscape by Brooklyn, Faribault Lutheran School fourth grader.

 

I angled my camera upward to photograph this floral art by Faribault Middle School eighth grader Baylee.

 

To the students from the nine Faribault schools—Roosevelt, Jefferson, Lincoln, Faribault Middle School, Faribault Area Learning Center, Faribault Lutheran School, Cannon River STEM School, Divine Mercy and the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind—with artwork on display, thank you. I enjoyed your creativity.

 

So much creativity…

 

This skull art by Faribault Middle School eighth grader Bailey features symmetry.

 

The variety of subjects and artist styles and mediums impresses.

 

I see a lot of potential as these artists continue to grow and learn.

 

Bold, vivid art by students from Divine Mercy Catholic School.

 

FYI: The Student Exhibit will be on display until April 1 at the Paradise, 321 Central, in downtown Faribault.

Please check back for a story on art created by students from the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind.

© Text copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Artwork is the copyright of each artist and photographed with permission from the Paradise Center for the Arts.

 

In which I discover the art treasures of St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges April 20, 2015

SOMETIMES I FEEL like I am missing out on a whole big wide world of art.

Not because art is absent here in outstate Minnesota. It isn’t. Recent years have seen a renewed effort to bring the arts—visual and performing—to communities like mine outside the Twin Cities metro area. Faribault has the Paradise Center for the Arts. Neighboring Owatonna, Northfield and Waseca also have art centers. Even the community of Zumbrota, population around 3,400, has the thriving Crossings at Carnegie.

So there are plenty of opportunities to engage in the arts at a local and regional level without venturing into Minneapolis or St. Paul, which I really prefer to avoid given my aversion for traffic congestion and big cities in general.

Despite an abundance of wonderful local art, I was still missing that segment of art created by renowned artists or by artists outside of Minnesota.

That is until I recently realized that I can see that type of art, too, right in my backyard.

In the center of this display space outside the Flaten Art Museum is a poster for the "Selma to Montgomery" exhibit on the Civil Rights Movement.

Promotional posters posted in the Dittman Art Center at St. Olaf College show the wide variety of artistic offerings.

Two colleges in Northfield, a 22-minute drive from my Faribault home, both sometimes showcase notable art from their collections in exhibits that are open to the public. They also bring in outside artists and traveling exhibits. Entrance to Carleton’s Perlman Teaching Museum and St. Olaf’s Flaten Art Museum is free. No cost and no traffic are a winning combination for me.

Items from St. Olaf's art collection were displayed in the recent "Interrogating Genders" exhibit.

Items from St. Olaf’s art collection were displayed in the recent “Interrogating Gender” exhibit.

Together, these two prestigious private colleges hold more than 6,500 paintings, fine art prints, photographs, sculptures and more in their collections.

Entering the Flaten Art Museum Atrium, I encountered this mega sculpture just outside the "Selma" exhibit.

Entering the Flaten Art Museum Atrium, I encountered this mega sculpture just outside the “Selma” exhibit.

I discovered Carleton’s gallery space about 18 months ago and St. Olaf’s just recently, when I arrived at the college atop the hill to view Selma to Montgomery: Marching Along the Voting Rights Trail, an exhibition of Stephen Somerstein’s photos.

Walking across the hall from one museum space to another, I found Michon Weeks' "Wheel Within Wheel (#1-44) paintings hung along the atrium wall. The acrylic on paper on wood panel is a visual inventory of items in her Northfield garage.

Walking across the hall from one museum space to another, I found Michon Weeks’ “Wheel Within a Wheel (#1-44) paintings hung along the atrium wall. The acrylic on wood panel paintings are a visual inventory of items in her Northfield garage.

After studying Somerstein’s remarkable images, I strode across the hall to see the Interrogating Gender exhibit, since closed.

Rosa Bonheur's "Cows in Pasture."

Rosa Bonheur’s “Cows in Pasture.”

The 16th Century "Madonna and Child, an oil painting on panel by Adriaen Isenbrandt of Belgium.

The 16th Century “Madonna and Child” by Adriaen Isenbrandt of Belgium.

The angle at which I photographed "Archaic Greek Statue of a Woman" makes it appear as if the Italian terra cotta sculpture is studying the art on display.

The angle at which I photographed “Archaic Greek Statue of a Woman” makes it appear as if the Italian terra cotta sculpture is studying the art on display.

There I marveled in getting close up to photographs taken by Andy Warhol. Yes, the Andy Warhol. I stood in reverent awe before a 16th Century oil painting on panel of Madonna and Child by Adriaen Isenbrandt. I enjoyed art from Africa and Italy and the Cows in Pasture pencil on paper by Rosa Bonheur.

A wood sculpture from Africa, artist unknown, and titled "Seated Maternity Figure."

A wood sculpture from Africa, artist unknown, and titled “Seated Maternity Figure.”

I could have reached out and touched the art, except I didn’t. It was that comfortably accessible and intimate. I didn’t have that feeling I often get in galleries of “be careful and don’t touch,” although I was aware of cameras on the premise.

My husband peruses the art.

My husband peruses the art.

I only wish I’d realized years ago that I could simply walk onto these college campuses and view art by well-known and other artists and students, too.

I got down low to photograph the Greek woman sculpture encased in glass.

I got down low to photograph the Greek woman sculpture encased in glass.

Now that I know, I’ll be back.

FYI: All of the exhibits mentioned in this post are no longer showing. Both colleges will be featuring a Senior Art Show in their exhibit spaces.

Please check back for a story and photos of the Selma to Montgomery exhibit.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Raising funds to preserve priceless paintings in Park Rapids August 27, 2012

BETWEEN NORTHWESTERN MINNESOTA and Chicago, you won’t find another art collection like the Gabor and Edith Nemeth Study Collection dating from the 15th to 19th centuries.

Now that “Old Masters” collection of 42 European paintings owned by the Nemeth Art Center in Park Rapids is in need of a permanent storage unit to preserve the valued art for future generations.

A campaign is currently underway to raise $1,200 for materials to construct a modular custom storage unit that will keep the paintings separated and vertical, thus preventing further damage. As of August 23, the NAC had raised $600 via an online campaign and direct contributions, according to NAC Executive Director Meredith Lynn.

Brian Stieler of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts has volunteered to design and build the storage structure. And representatives of the Midwest Art Conservation Center in Minneapolis have already been to Park Rapids to assess the collection and lay out plans for restoration.

“St. Jerome,” painted by a 17th century follower of Hendrik van Somer, and part of the collection.

About a third of the paintings require restoration, Lynn says, with several in such condition that they can no longer be exhibited. More than 30 of the pieces are continually on display (during the center’s open months from May – September) in the 1900 Victorian style brick courthouse turned art center which opened in 1977.

That was the year the historic and priceless collection of paintings, by students who studied well-known masters like Rembrandt, Rubens and Bosch, came to be owned by the then newly-established North Country Museum of Arts.

European born art restorer and dealer Gabor Nemeth, who came to the U.S. in the 1940s and worked thereafter primarily in Los Angeles, also maintained a home in the Park Rapids area (his primary residence now) and brought his collection to Minnesota in the mid 1970s.

After a three-day January 1977 exhibit of his collection in Park Rapids—a show which drew long lines of some 4,000 people total in the then town of 2,700, according to newspaper reports—Nemeth decided to offer the art to Park Rapids. Conjecture had long been that St. John’s University would be the recipient of the collection (for a reason unknown to Lynn; I asked).

In an article published in the May 2, 1977, issue of the Bemidji-based newspaper, The Pioneer, Nemeth is quoted: “There is really nothing up here as far as art goes. People will appreciate it (the collection) if they are given the chance to see it.”

“Adam and Eve,” a 17th century painting by a student of Cornelisz.

Clearly the people of Park Rapids realized the significance of Nemeth’s offer as 30 families borrowed $35,000 to purchase the paintings, a price “significantly less than the appraised value,” Lynn notes.

She won’t put a value on the paintings today other than to assess it’s “quite high.” Beyond the monetary value, the art center director calls the collection “historic and unique paintings with priceless cultural value.”

Speculation has existed that perhaps the masters themselves may have dipped their brushes into oil or tempera to work on paintings in the collection. The art center lays no official claim to that suggestion, although Lynn says, “…it’s possible that painters such as Rembrandt painted on several of the canvases that we own.”

The identities of whose who painted the pieces as part of a greater studio study setting are primarily lost to history, according to Lynn.

Many of the paintings were originally acquired for Lois Warschaw, an art collector and prominent political figure in Los Angeles, prior to ownership by Gabor Nemeth and his wife, Edith.

Today, as it always has, the Gabor and Edith Nemeth Study Collection centers the Nemeth Art Center, which opened in August 1977 after the Park Rapids community pulled together to purchase the paintings and remodel the courthouse into a center for the arts.

Says Lynn:

New visitors to the Nemeth Art Center are always pleasantly surprised by the beauty and historical relevance of our paintings. Park Rapids is a small town, but the arts community here is growing and hopefully our collection will help raise awareness of the town as an arts destination.

That’s exactly what Gabor Nemeth hoped for 35 years ago—that his collection of Old Masters paintings would draw tourists to this community in northwestern Minnesota. And it does. The collection includes works of biblical scenes like “Madonna and Child,” “Madonna of the Harpies,” “The Holy Family,” “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane,” “Christ in the Wilderness,” and several genre paintings such as “Kitchen Scene” and “The Card Players.”

Today efforts also focus on preserving the collection via construction of the custom storage unit. With $600 more in contributions (as of August 23), the project can proceed.

But the art center’s goals go well beyond a storage fix. Options are under consideration to move into a handicapped accessible building with more consistent climate control. The center is also working on a seven-year plan to restore the study collection paintings.

Executive director Lynn summarizes the situation and needs:

The Nemeth Art Center is a unique institution, and this collection forms its backbone. Maintaining historic items is important and costly, and the NAC cannot provide the community with something so special without continued help.

“Portrait of a Noblewoman,” an 18th century painting by a follower of Rubens.

IF YOU’D LIKE to contribute to the storage unit fundraising effort, click here to reach the NAC storage unit project campaign on indiegogo.

Or visit the NAC website, by clicking here, for details and contact information.

To read a detailed history on The Gabor and Edith Nemeth Study Collection, click here to a presentation prepared by Steven R. Peterson with grant funding from the Region 2 Arts Council. Thanks to LouAnn Muhm, chairperson of the NAC Board of Directors, for directing me to this presentation, the source for some of the information cited in this post.

Special thanks to NAC Executive Director Meredith Lynn for answering my lengthy list of questions via email.

If you wish to view the Gabor and Edith Nemeth Study Collection, art center hours are from 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, May – September. Each month the NAC also features a curated exhibit of contemporary art in addition to pieces from its permanent collection.

Finally, check out the current “Rembrandt in America” exhibit now showing at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts by clicking here. Perhaps viewing that will inspire you to support efforts to preserve the priceless paintings in Park Rapids.

Images of paintings are courtesy of the Nemeth Art Center

 

Celebrating poetry and art in Zumbrota on a Saturday evening April 22, 2012

Artist Connie Ludwig's "Pantry Jewels," inspired by my poem, "Her Treasure." (Please excuse the glare on the glass; there was no way to avoid it while photographing the painting.)

Her Treasure

In the dark, dank depths of the dirt-floored cellar
she stocks a treasure-trove of jewels
in jars upon slivered planks—
golden corn nuggets,
amber chunks of ample beef,
ruby red tomatoes,
peas like unstrung pearls,
jade shards of dill pickles,
amethyst beets,
clusters of topaz apples
and an abundance of sauerkraut,
diamond of this hard-working German farm wife,
dweller of the Minnesota prairie,
tender of the earth,
keeper of the pantry
and guardian of the garden gems
that will adorn her dinner table
during the long winter months ahead.

#

I MET “MY ARTIST” Saturday evening and saw the art she created, inspired by my poem (above).

And I use those words, “my artist,” because I feel connected to Connie Ludwig of Goodhue. She, like 25 other artists participating in Poet Artist Collaboration XI at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota, took words of poetry and shaped them into art.

“Her Treasure,” under Connie’s paintbrush, became “Pantry Jewels.” The earthy watercolor painting of canned beets, pickles and peaches glows with the perfect balance of light and darkness, with sunlight filtering through glass and glinting off the golden rings that lock in garden goodness.

Connie understands my poem—the memories of my mother canning fruits and vegetables in her southwestern Minnesota farmhouse kitchen. She understands the dark dirt-floored cellar in which these preserves were stored upon rough boards. She understands the importance of honoring the women who honored the land by feeding their families with the fruits of their labors.

In the chapbook published for Crossings’ Poet Artist Collaboration XI, Connie writes:

My mother and aunts loved gardening and canning. They considered those “squirreling skills an essential part of themselves. I have wonderful memories of the ladies showing off, trading and sharing their canned jewels. And, of course, feeding them to us. The models for this painting came from the pantry of my husband’s cousin.

Connie, right, and I pose for a photo after a 90-minute presentation in which 26 poets read their poems and 26 artists talked about how the poems inspired their art. Note Connie's "Pantry Jewels" painting just above my head to the left. If I could buy this $490 watercolor on aqua board, I would in a snap. I love it that much and how it honors my rural roots. But I can't... If you're interested, contact Crossings.

Connie, thank you for transforming my poem into such down-to-earth, beautiful art that touches my soul. Your painting was all I hoped for in this process of poetry inspiring art.

A snippet shot of the crowd at Crossings at Carnegie, including Marie Marvin, center in blue. This place was elbow-to-elbow people during the hour-long gala reception before and after the poetry readings and artist talks held at the next door historic State Theatre. There were 26 poems selected from around 180 submissions for this juried Poet Artist Collaboration, now in its 11th year.

Thank you also to the artists and poets and guests who took the time to thank me for writing “Her Treasure.”

Thank you to my husband, Randy, for always supporting me in my writing.

To Crossings at Carnegie, and specifically Marie Marvin who opened the art center in 2001, thank you for acting as the driving force behind this collaboration. The phenomenal (or as I would say, overwhelming) turn-out is a tribute to the hard work of your team. I’d like to see more events like this through-out Minnesota that pair words and art.

To be one of the 26 poets selected for inclusion truly brought me joy. To mingle with so many poets and artists for an evening inspired and validated for me the importance of the arts in our lives.

Crossings at Carnegie, housed in a former Carnegie library, is a privately-owned cultural, visual and performing arts center in Zumbrota. I love the rural atmosphere with the hardware store and grain elevator just down the street. I need to return to Crossings as I was overwhelmed (crowd-wise and visually) on this busy evening.

I’d encourage you, if you have not seen this exhibit at Crossings, 320 East Avenue, to take it in before the April 26 closing date. Click here for more information.

Also check back here for an additional post from Poet Artist Collaboration XI.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Off I-94: Artsy Fergus Falls June 17, 2011

The vintage-looking sign on the side of a building in downtown Fergus Falls caught my attention. The Market sells a variety of merchandise from kitchen to bath and body, garden and home accent products and lots more.

UNTIL LAST SATURDAY, I’d never entered Fergus Falls, only driven past this west central Minnesota community along I-94 en route to the Dakotas. After miles and miles of interstate travel, the towns don’t seem to matter any more. On the fringes, one seems like the other—just another rest break, a place to tank up on gas or a quick stop for a bite to eat.

Sadly, that marks the reality of today’s fast-paced, get from point A to point B, world.

But then one day you have a reason to pull off the four-lane, to explore one of these interstate-side communities and you discover a town with a personality and identity, and you wonder why you have not come here before this day.

And so that is how I found Fergus Falls, population 14,500, when I traveled there last weekend to view my Roadside Poetry Project poem displayed on four billboards. (My spring poem has since been replaced by a summer poem.)

After photographing my poem and dining at the downtown Viking Café (click here to read my earlier post on this vintage restaurant), I explored this Otter Tail County seat with my husband, Randy.

Certainly, we saw only a small portion of this riverside town. But I toured enough of Fergus Falls to come up with a single word to describe it: artistic.

I wonder if the folks who live in Fergus also see their hometown as an art community. Or would they choose another word to describe their town?

Here are photos to back up my word selection.

Knit graffiti circled a tree downtown. Bottlecaps were strung on another tree by this one. What a simple and memorable art idea.

Fergus Falls Summerfest happened to be on when we were in town. Here's one section of the event.

Clear Lake, S.D., artist Karlys Wells of Back Porch Art created this gourd art, among my favorite art at the fair.

Even signage can be art, like this on a downtown bakery.

Call it art, or something else, but this Rice Krispie cake in a bakery window display made me laugh out loud.

Kaddatz Galleries, a nonprofit art gallery, showcases the work of Charles Beck and other local artists.

Woodcuts and woodblock prints by one of Minnesota's most-recognized artists, Charles Beck of Fergus Falls. His subjects are the landscapes and nature of Otter Tail County. Until I walked into this gallery, I do not recall having ever heard of Beck. His earthy, rural art appeals to me.

I was impressed with the number of visitors in the Kaddatz Galleries.

The doors to the Fergus Theatre were locked, or I would most definitely have gone inside. The vintage exterior adds so much to the charm of downtown Fergus Falls.

I am a big fan of vintage signs for the character they add to a community.

SO HAVE I CONVINCED you to pull off I-94 in west central Minnesota and explore Fergus Falls? Fergus lies 2 1/2 hours northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul, mighty close to Fargo, N.D.

Here are several websites to check out and learn more about some of the places highlighted in my photos and story:

www.VisitFergusFalls.com

www.kaddatzgalleries.org

www.fergusarts.org

www.fergusfallssummerfest.com

www.roadsidepoetry.org

www.marketfergusfalls.com

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling