Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Faribault: Appreciating local art, especially now March 30, 2021

Created from clay, this piece by Faribault artist Tami Resler is currently displayed at the Paradise Center for the Arts.

AS A CREATIVE, I’m biased when it comes to the importance of art in education and in our lives.

“Nebraska Sky,” acrylic on canvas by Kate Langlais.

Art takes us beyond the functional and necessary basics to a place that feeds our spirits and our souls. That frees our minds.

Faribault artist Julie Fakler, who works and teaches at the Paradise, specializes in animal portraits. This cat portrait is titled “Monet.”

With canceled concerts, celebrations and theatrical productions, closed arts centers and more during the past pandemic year, we’ve realized just how much we miss, and need, the arts. Or at least I did. I felt especially grateful that Faribault’s weekly outdoor summer concert series continued in 2020. I looked forward to the Thursday evening performances in Central Park where I felt comfortable among socially-distanced attendees. For more than an hour, I could immerse myself in music and relax in the outdoors. And now, with restrictions loosening, access to the arts, in all forms, is slowly returning.

Kate Langlais paints during a June 2020 concert at Faribault’s Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2020.

At one of those concerts last summer, I met Faribault artist Kate Langlais, who was painting on-site. She’s a gifted artist and shares her talents via teaching classes through the Paradise Center for the Arts. Langlais’ art, and that of other instructors and gallery committee members, is currently exhibited through April 3 at the Paradise in historic downtown Faribault.

Linda Van Lear’s “Bachrach Building” (an historic building across the street from the PCA,), second from right, and Dee Teller’s “Precious To Me” watercolor and ink on paper on the far right. Van Lear died in January and was active in the PCA.

And what a talented group of local artists. Their showcased art features acrylic on canvas/hardboard, watercolor & ink on paper, clay, wax dye resist on fabric and more.

“Bunny,” a truly creative clay birdhouse by Diane Lockerby.

I photographed a sampling of the gallery pieces. I celebrate this creativity. This art inspires me. Uplifts me. Causes me to think. Makes me happy.

“My Soul Sings” by Deb Johnson

I expect these featured artists feel like they have to create. Just like I have to create via my writing and photography. To do so gives me joy, feeds my spirit and my soul.

Outside the Paradise Center for the Arts (a former movie theater), with its stunning marquee.

FYI: The Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Ave. N., Faribault, is open from noon – 5pm Thursday and Friday and from 10 am – 2 pm Saturdays.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oh, the joy of the unexpected in a Minnesota arts center March 24, 2021

Jimmy Reagan’s art splashes across a tote and backpack for sale in a New Ulm arts center gift shop.

IT WAS THE VIVID COLORS which first caught my eye inside The Grand Artisan Gift Shop in downtown New Ulm. Bold hues flashed, accented by strong lines of color, as if the artist had pulled every crayon from a box of crayons and dashed them across the canvas.

Backpacks feature Jimmy Reagan’s colorful art.

This is the work of Jimmy Reagan, a 27-year-old St. Paul artist influenced by the likes of Picasso and van Gogh. His art graces backpacks, totes, sweatshirts in this gift shop on the first floor of The Grand Center for Arts & Culture. You’ll find a wide selection of art from other creatives here also.

Reagan’s work “offers him a means to illustrate his perspective of the world,” according to a promotional bio I picked up in the gift shop. This young man views life through the lens of autism. He was diagnosed with complex autism as a toddler.

These sweatshirts, with Jimmy’s signature “tick marks” (left), hang in the entrance to The Grand Kabaret, an entertainment space in The Grand.

Since 2009, he has created art and is internationally-recognized. I admire Reagan, who rose to the challenges of his autism to express himself and to communicate. Strong colors, simple images and signature “tick marks” (those short dashes of color) define his art. I, for one, am a fan.

The colorful bathroom with the canvas for chalk art above.

I’m also a fan of the public restroom on the second floor of The Grand. It’s not often I write about or photograph restrooms, although two photos I took of “The View from Our Window: Grant Wood in Iowa” rest area along I-380 northbound near Cedar Rapids published in the book, Midwest Architecture Journeys, edited by Zach Mortice and printed by Belt Publishing.

A sampling of the temporary art.

The Grand restroom in New Ulm is not artist-themed, but rather an artistic canvas for anyone who steps inside. The lime green walls first caught my eye as I walked past the bathroom. (As a teen, my bedroom was painted a similar lime green.) And then I noticed the chalk art above the tile and thought, what a great idea. Maybe it’s nothing novel for a public bathroom. But it was to me. And, although I didn’t pick up chalk and add to the black canvas, I photographed it. And that, too, is art.

Check back for more photos from downtown New Ulm.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Discovering New Ulm’s The Grand Center for Arts & Culture March 19, 2021

AS SOMEONE WHO GREW UP with minimal exposure to the arts, I feel not so much deprived as deeply appreciative of creativity. I consider myself an artist—of images and of words. To write and to photograph, oh, the joy.

A snippet of an acrylic, “Guitar,” by Caitlin Lang.

I feel gratitude for all the creatives out there who share their talents, whether in published works or performances or art exhibits or whatever in whatever space they choose.

The Grand Center for Arts & Culture in downtown New Ulm.

Recently I discovered a new-to-me center for the arts in New Ulm, a southern Minnesota city known for its German heritage and so much more. Like the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, the Hermann the German Monument, August Schell Brewery, the Wanda Gag House, the Glockenspiel…small town shops and eateries and, well, enough attractions to fill a weekend.

Beautiful signage and architectural details make this building visually appealing.

During a brief Saturday afternoon stop in New Ulm, my first must-see destination was The Grand Center for Arts and Culture, housed in a former historic hotel in the heart of downtown. The building itself drew my interest with its appealing signage and lovely architectural details.

A portion of the historical plaque outlining the history of the former Grand Hotel, now an arts and cultural center in New Ulm.

A front face plaque summarizes its history. You’ll find such historical info throughout this downtown on plaques, benches and even picnic tables. I appreciate the easy access to history.

Outside the front entry to The Grand Center for Arts & Culture in New Ulm.

Inside the arts center, the first floor features a gift shop brimming with great art and, across the hall, The Grand Kabaret, for entertainment/the performing arts. Downstairs, the basement houses Cellar Press, a letterpress and printmaking studio, which I didn’t see (but must).

Light floods the gallery, on these walls the art of Sam Matter.

A steep flight of stairs leads to 4 Pillars Gallery and studio space on the second floor. The compact gallery, with abundant natural light flowing into the room, feels intimate, inviting, ideal for showcasing art.

Musician portraits by Caitlin Lang.

Caitlin Lang of Springfield and Sam Matter of New Ulm are the current featured artists in a joint mixed media exhibit, “Intentionally Accidental.” Their show runs through April 3.

The bios of Caitlin Lang and Sam Matter, along with a guestbook, sit on a table in the gallery.

What a joy to see the work of these two young artists. Lang specializes in portraits and Matter describes his art as “a small scene from my heart to the viewer.” I love that poetic description.

Sam Matter’s art, created from the heart.

And I love this center for arts and culture, a must-see in New Ulm.

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FYI: The Grand Center for Arts & Culture is changing its hours starting March 23 and will be open from 11 am – 4 pm Tuesday – Saturday.

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Please check back for more photos from the arts center.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Up on the rooftop…in Fergus Falls May 22, 2013

I AM CONTINUALLY AMAZED by the access I am granted to interesting places because of my DSLR Canon camera, innate curiosity and friendliness.

A street level view of Victor Lundeen Company, left, and the Fergus Theatre on the right.

A street level view of Victor Lundeen Company, left, and A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls on the right.

Most recently I was invited onto the rooftop of Victor Lundeen Company and A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls for a bird’s eye view of historic downtown Fergus Falls in west central Minnesota.

Can you believe I hesitated? I am afraid of heights and wasn’t sure I could handle being several stories above street level, separated from the roof’s edge by a facade or nothing at all.

Atop the roof and looking toward the door into the Lundeen Company.

Atop the roof and looking toward the door into the Lundeen Company.

So I leveled with Paul Lundeen before exiting a door onto the roof of his business. If I couldn’t tolerate the height, I’d turn around.

Tour guide Paul Lundeen inside his print shop.

Tour guide Paul Lundeen inside his print shop.

As we moved toward the front of the building, Paul advised me to watch the guide wires, not wanting me to trip and plummet over the edge onto the brick sidewalk below.

On the left, a low wall separates the printing business rooftop from the theatre roof.

On the left, a low wall separates the printing business rooftop, right, from the arts center roof.

Stepping over the rooftop boundary between his printing company and the next-door arts center, my worries eased. A portion of the old theatre facade rose high enough for me to feel comfortable leaning against it and angling my camera down toward the buildings and street below.

Positioned safely behind a high part in the theatre facade, forefront, I shot sections of the business district.

Positioned safely behind the theatre facade, forefront, I shot sections of the business district.

The rooftop is a perfect place to watch parades, Lundeen said.

Looking the other direction into Fergus Falls' historic downtown.

Looking the other direction into Fergus Falls’ historic downtown.

A slightly different view from the roof.

A slightly different view from the roof.

And it would have been better for photos had I been willing to move away from the theatre facade. But I just could not push myself that far. I managed several shots before retreating.

The block of downtown Fergus Falls in which Victor Lundeen Company and Fergus Theatre are located.

The block of downtown Fergus Falls in which Victor Lundeen Company and the arts center are located.

Lundeen offered the rooftop access after a tour of his print shop, an invitation extended when my husband and I walked into his bookstore/gift/office supply/commercial printing business on a recent Thursday evening. We were staying overnight in Fergus Falls en route to Fargo.

As is usual with me, my camera was slung around my neck, my notebook tucked inside my purse. Paul greeted us and we started chatting and one thing led to another, all the way up to the rooftop.

CHECK BACK FOR MORE posts from Fergus Falls, including a tour of Paul’s three-generation family print shop, images of downtown buildings and lots more. This community should own the motto: “Friendly Fergus Falls.”

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling