Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Uniquely Pequot Lakes August 16, 2018

 

PEQUOT LAKES. That central Minnesota town name rolls off my tongue in a poetic way that pleases me. Pequot Lakes.

 

Kids walk home from school in Pequot Lakes on a mid-September afternoon.

 

A short vacation in mid-September 2017 took Randy and me to this community of some 2,000 in the Brainerd Lakes area, a popular summer vacation and weekend destination spot. On the day of our end-of-the-season visit, few people were in Pequot Lakes. I prefer the quiet of an uncrowded location with no hurry, no schedule.

 

 

 

 

 

I knew even before we drove into town that I wanted to photograph the unique bobber-shaped water tower that marks the community as a fishing destination. I’ve previously photographed the tower and the Babe the Blue Ox sculpture in Bobber Park.

 

 

 

 

After finishing that shoot, we poked around town, ducking into Thurlow Hardware and Rental complete with trophy head mounts. While I’m not one who likes suspended dead animal heads, I recognize this as part of the hunting culture. Plus, the trophies make for a memorable visual characterizing Thurlow.

 

 

 

 

We ended our late Thursday afternoon visit with a quick tour through the Jack Pine Center mini mall.

 

Art details on the Babe the Blue Ox sculpture.

 

It was a slow day in Pequot Lakes. Just like some days on the lake, when the bobber floats and the fish don’t bite.

 

FYI: Please check back for more photos from Thurlow Hardware.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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From Farmington, Part II: Building community through art August 8, 2018

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I’M A MEGA FAN of accessible outdoor public art. Like murals.

 

 

Earlier this year, I came across a lengthy mural on the side of the Farmington Steak House in the heart of this south metro Minnesota downtown. It is the project of many—adults and youth—and funded by many.

 

 

“Reflections and Visions” embraces the idea of community, past, present and future. I like the concept of people coming together to create, to celebrate history and cultures and more in a work of public art.

 

 

 

 

In this age of so much conflict, so much hatred and anger and disagreement, I appreciate the efforts of these artists to focus on the positive, to see that each of us, though different, define community.

 

 

 

 

I am not so naïve as to think any singular mural will solve the issues that divide us. But we must start somewhere. And art seems a good place to begin.

TELL ME: Have you come across a similar outdoor public art installation that builds community and bridges differences? I’d like to hear.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The art of Wisconsin’s Bucky Badger June 12, 2018

Bright Idea Bucky by artist Kathryn Schnabel and located outside Central Library in downtown Madison, Wisconsin.

 

I’M NO SPORTS FAN. Nothing wrong with that. Sports don’t interest me. Art does.

 

 

So even I can appreciate Bucky on Parade, a public art endeavor in the city of Madison and in Dane County, Wisconsin, that simultaneously promotes athletics and art.

 

Visitors written ideas and inspirations are incorporated into the fabric of the Bright Idea Bucky.

 

The Madison Area Sports Commission produced the event with support from local tourism and the University of Wisconsin—Madison. UW is home to the Buckingham U. “Bucky” Badger mascot, star of Bucky on Parade.

 

Butterflies cover this statue created by Lon Michels and titled Enlightened Bucky. It’s located at 100 W. Mifflin Street.

 

I photographed three of the 85 Bucky Badger works of art during a recent visit to Wisconsin’s capital city. I wasn’t purposely looking for Bucky, thus only the trio. The personalized fiberglass statues of 64 local and regional artists are on display until September 12.

 

“Grow” by Emmalee Pearson and outside the Olbrich Botanical Gardens entry.

 

On September 29, the statues will be auctioned at a Bucky on Parade Finale Party with proceeds benefiting Garding Against Cancer, the Madison Area Sports Commission and other community charities.

 

 

Wisconsin’s Bucky Badger, like Minnesota’s Goldy Gopher, is a big deal to fans, and the economy. I didn’t have to look beyond downtown Madison to find Bucky merchandise…

 

 

and, uh, Badger Liquor.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Off the interstate in Mauston, Wisconsin: A community that’s dairy proud June 5, 2018

A glimpse of Mauston’s rural character.

 

IF YOU NEVER EXIT the interstate into a small town, you miss so much. Like the Cowtastic CowMoonity of Mauston. That would be in southwestern Wisconsin, just off Interstate 90/94 half-way between Minneapolis and Chicago.

 

 

A search for a picnic spot led Randy and me into this community of nearly 4,500 on a recent Saturday. After securing unclear directions to a park at a local convenience store/gas station, we ended up lost and seemingly headed out of town.

 

 

 

 

 

Then we happened upon the cows. And I momentarily forgot all about lunch, so excited was I over the herd curving along a ballpark fence. We’d just discovered, quite by happenstance, the Cowtastic CowMoonity Project of the Juneau County Dairy Promotion Council. At the under-renovation Mauston Lions Park, complete with picnic shelter, tables, restrooms and playground equipment.

 

 

 

 

After eating my turkey sandwich, clementine and yogurt—yes, yogurt—I headed over to the 60-head herd, camera in hand. You can bet this former dairy farm girl and former Redwood County, Minnesota, dairy princess candidate was excited.

 

 

 

 

It’s clear this community embraces all things dairy. This marks the fourth annual cow art project designed to promote the dairy industry via those cow cut-outs and panels of dairy facts and trivia.

 

 

 

 

Nonprofits, youth clubs, organizations and businesses purchase plywood cut-outs and then create cow art showcased along the park fence during June Dairy Month. So this is about more than just agriculture. Cowtastic CowMoonity also promotes local businesses and causes.

 

 

I love this folksy idea. What a creative way to educate, raise awareness and to show appreciation for the dairy industry, especially family-owned farms, in The Dairyland State.

 

 

 

 

The promotion of the dairy industry doesn’t end, though, when June Dairy Month ends at the end of June. Ten of the cows, selected by a secret panel of judges, are relocated to Veteran’s Memorial Park during the Juneau County Fair, this year from August 12 – 19. Good luck with that, judges. The public then votes for its favorite with the top cow earning a $100 prize.

 

 

 

 

Because of those cows, I’ll remember the CowMoonity of Mauston. I’d suggest this creative and dairy proud community visibly promote this outdoor educational art endeavor along the interstate. Or perhaps station a Cowtastic cow or three near that busy busy convenience store/gas station just off busy busy Interstate 90/94.

 

 

FYI: Want to play Wisconsin dairy trivia? Click here.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How I learned to appreciate car shows, Part I May 31, 2018

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A TIME EXISTED WHEN I WANTED nothing to do with a car show. “Go and look at old cars?” I scoffed. “Nope, not interested.”

 

 

 

 

But then I accompanied Randy to a show once and discovered that these were more than just old cars lined up for display. These vehicles represent love, devotion, passion, pride, art, memories, stories. And, yes, a form of transportation, although really that seems secondary.

 

 

What changed my mind about car shows like the recent Drag-On’s Car Club Show in Faribault? Photography. My view of an event is often shaped through the lens of my Canon DSLR. Through photography, I notice details and strive to tell a story with my images.

 

 

I am often drawn to the unusual. A plastic Jesus on the dashboard.

 

 

A plastic rat atop a rat rod.

 

 

Elvis crooning in a car.

 

 

A shiny bumper,

 

 

a unique color,

 

 

an emblem or hood ornament,

 

 

tail fins,

 

even rust draws my interest.

 

 

 

Art more than automotive focuses my attention.

 

 

 

 

I love, also, to people-watch. While I couldn’t sit for hours in a lawn chair next to a car at a car show, many do. Entire families embrace these events.

 

 

I observe genuine enthusiasm for motors, the rev of an engine, the careful restoration of a vintage vehicle.

 

 

Trophies aplenty are handed out at these shows. How do you even begin to judge the hundreds of vehicles? It seems a subjective process to me. I’d look at the artsy side with no interest in what’s under the hood. Randy, an automotive machinist who has worked on plenty of vintage vehicles, would, however, peer at engines and restoration details.

 

 

 

 

Despite our differing perspectives, Randy and I each enjoy car shows. Who would have thought I’d come full circle on this? Not me.

 

Please check back for more photos from the Faribo Drag-On’s annual show.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Showcasing cars & creativity this weekend in Faribault May 18, 2018

A scene from the July 2016 Car Cruise Night. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

VINTAGE CAR LOVERS and arts lovers, this is your weekend in Faribault.

 

This emblem tops a trophy awarded at the Car Club Show Down in August 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The season’s monthly Faribault Car Cruise Night kicks off from 6 – 9 p.m. Friday along Central Avenue in our historic downtown.

 

“Grandview Farm Cat” by Faribault animal portrait artist Julie M. Fakler. Julie is participating in the debut Crawl. You can find her inside the Paradise Center for the Arts from 5 – 6 p.m. and then painting outside the PCA from 6:30 – 8 p.m. Friday. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

This year the popular event features a new draw—the Creative Crawl Downtown Faribault from 5 – 8 p.m. I’m thrilled with the addition of art. Creatives will sell their handmade items, offer make-and-takes and/or demonstrate their creative art process, according to info from the Paradise Center for the Arts.

 

An absolutely beautiful work of art, in my opinion, photographed at the July 2016 Faribault Car Cruise Night. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The artistic aspect pairs well with the Faribault Main Street car show, which I already consider an art show. In past years, with the exception of last when I had a broken shoulder, I’ve photographed Car Cruise Nights. While someone like my automotive machinist husband is more interested in what’s under the hood of a vehicle, I’m more interested in the hood ornaments. I view vintage vehicles from an artistic perspective.

 

The logo for the Faribo Drag-On’s car club on a member’s vintage car. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Saturday presents a second weekend opportunity to see more cars during the annual Faribo Drag On’s Car Show at the Rice County Fairgrounds. That runs from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

 

Flea market vendors offer an array of merchandise. Photo used here for illustration purposes only and not taken at the RCHS Flea Market. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

While you’re there, shop at the Rice County Historical Society Spring Flea Market from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday.

 

An example of what you might see at the Armed Forces Day event. Photo used for illustration purposes only and photographed at a different event. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

If history interests you, consider taking in the 9th annual Minnesota Armed Forces Day/Military Timeline Living History Event at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engine grounds just south of Dundas/Northfield along Minnesota State Highway 3. That runs from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sunday. There is a charge.

 

Historic buildings in the 300 block of Central Avenue provide a lovely backdrop for the car show. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

There you go. If you’ve never been to Faribault, we’d love to have you here attending these events and exploring our community. If you live in Faribault, embrace all that’s offered here. Take pride in this place you call home and discover that, yes, there really is stuff to do right here in your community.

FYI: The next Faribault Car Cruise Night and Creative Crawl Downtown Faribault will be on Friday, June 15.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Varied art by a trio of artists showcased in Owatonna April 25, 2018

A sculpture inside the Owatonna Arts Center Library. The library is a must-see. It also features a vibrant ceiling mural.

 

SEVERAL DAYS REMAIN—until April 29—to view the work of three artists at the Owatonna Arts Center. Their art is notably distinct.

 

A section of “Winter Dreams of Spring.”

 

A solo piece of textile art showcases the work of Jan Myers-Newbury in the open space leading into the art center complex. “Winter Dreams of Spring” is a stunning quilted piece by this Pennsylvania artist with a Minnesota connection. She graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield.

 

A close-up of Dana Hanson’s oil painting, “The Native Man, His Eagle & His Chanupa.”

 

Featured gallery artist Dana Hanson of Faribault focuses on “Healing the Land” in her powerful exhibit on the Dakota people. Through visions and dreams this Christian artist was inspired to create oil paintings that honor the memory and heritage of this Native people.

 

“Protector of the 38 + 2,” an oil on canvas by Dana Hanson.

 

She narrows her subject to the Dakota who were hung in the largest mass execution in US history following the US-Dakota Conflict of 1862. She also highlights an annual memorial ride honoring those 38 men.

 

 

I suggest you visit this exhibit, study the paintings and read Dana’s words about this important, and too often forgotten, difficult chapter in Minnesota history.

 

A portion of the painting “Taking His Licks,” done by Raymond Stuart in 1958.

 

Once you’ve finished that, skirt into the art center hallways to view the whimsical and delightful work of Raymond Stuart, who years ago created calendar art. A native of Illinois, he eventually settled near his wife’s native Meriden (near Owatonna) to set up his home and art studio in a barn. His work seems Midwest Normal Rockwell-type to me. It’s rural, humorous and everyday. Delightful.

 

“Bug Attack” by Raymond Stuart, date of painting unknown.

 

I’m always amazed at the variety of art I can see right here in southeastern Minnesota. How fortunate we are to have places like the Owatonna Arts Center to share and celebrate the arts.

 

I love the expressions in Raymond Stuart’s’ art, like this of the boy in his 1954 painting “Surprised.”

 

FYI: The Owatonna Arts Center is open from 1 – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday and is located at 435 Garden View Lane.

 

UPDATED: 7:30 a.m. Friday, April 27, to correct the last name of the Meriden artist.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

All artwork was photographed with permission. Copyrights for art belong to the artist or rightful owner of those copyrights.