Follow U.S. Highway 14, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, west across the prairie to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and then on to De Smet, South Dakota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
MINNESOTA PRAIRIE ROOTS. My blog name honors my roots in Redwood County where Laura Ingalls Wilder, celebrated author of the Little House book series, lived for awhile as a child. Walnut Grove lies just 20 miles distant from my childhood home. It is a place where earth and sky spread wide, where fertile black soil grows tall corn and the wind seldom stops blowing.
The American Writers Museum in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Lee Engquist.
Some 500 miles to the south and east of Walnut Grove lies Chicago. Windy, yes. But otherwise distinctly different. Nothing prairie-like here in this city. Until you look close, to the new American Writers Museum which opened in the heart of Chicago in May.
An overview of a section of the Laura Ingalls Wilder exhibit. Photo courtesy of Laurel Engquist.
I’ve not visited the museum. Yet, I hold a connection to this acclaimed museum now showcasing a temporary exhibit, “Laura Ingalls Wilder: From Prairie to Page.” I grew up with the Little House books read by an elementary school teacher each day after lunch. That was long before the books grew in popularity, long before the TV series, long before Walnut Grove became a destination for Laura fans.
My Laura Look-A-Like Contest photo close-up in the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Laurel Engquist.
But my love of Laura’s writing and my native prairie roots are not my only connections to this exhibit which runs through spring 2018. A photo I took several years ago during a Laura Look-Alike Contest in Walnut Grove is included in the exhibit.
Laura Look-A-Like contestants gather for a group shot in a Walnut Grove city park in July 2013. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.
Awhile ago, Boston-based Amaze Design contacted me about using the image. The design company manages content development for the museum.
This section features noted American authors. Within the museum is info highlighting Minnesota writers F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Charles Schulz and more. Photo courtesy of Laurel Engquist.
An exhibit in the Children’s Literature Room. Photo courtesy of Laurel Engquist.
Another exhibit focuses on the writing process. Photo courtesy of Laurel Engquist.
From what my friend Laurel, who recently toured the 11,000 square foot literary museum tells me, the place is impressive. Located on the second floor of a building at 180 N. Michigan Avenue, it includes 13 permanent exhibits in six galleries plus temporary exhibits. Laurel spent hours there wandering, reading, observing and participating in interactive aspects of displays. She was surprised to find my Laura Look-Alike photo as part of the American Voices Exhibit.
The prairie near Walnut Grove is especially beautiful in the summer. I took this photo at the Laura Ingalls Wilder dug-out site north of Walnut Grove many years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
I’m honored to have my work included. I’m proud of my prairie roots, of my rural upbringing in a part of Minnesota made famous by a much-loved American writer.
FYI: If you’re wondering how Amaze Design found my photo, look no further than searching the internet. I also have photos included in exhibits at the Children’s Museum in St. Paul and in the World War II Museum in New Orleans. All found my work online, on this blog.
Disclaimer: Amaze Design paid for rights to use my Laura Look-A-Like image in the exhibit.
© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Thanks to friends Laurel and Lee Engquist for permission to share their photos.