Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Connecting with nature at Carleton College August 19, 2019

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TO WALK HERE, among wildflowers lining water’s edge, is to find peace. And these days I crave peace, a short escape from the challenges of life. Nature offers that quiet, that solitude, that ability to forget reality for awhile.

 

 

On a recent Saturday, Randy and I followed a trail into a nature area at Carleton College in Northfield. I thought how lovely to attend college here, to have this natural space available on the edge of campus. A place for students to retreat, to recharge, to reboot.

 

 

 

 

On this day, I retreated, focusing my attention (and camera) on vivid and pastel petals,

 

 

reflections on water,

 

 

 

the arc of bridges

 

 

and then, the unexpected—a memorial to Carleton alum Ann N. Nelson who died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. A second Carleton alum, Joe McDonald, also died there.

 

 

The memorial stone placed between benches next to a labyrinth drew my thoughts away momentarily to that awful day in our nation’s history. And I considered the pain and the horror of it all and how, even in this peaceful place, one cannot fully-escape the difficult realities of life.

 

 

THOUGHTS?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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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

 

Hello, God, it’s me March 1, 2014

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NEVER UNDERESTIMATE the power of prayer. Never.

Prayer provides a powerful personal portal to God. Consider that connection as immediate as a text message or a phone call away.

The thing about God, you won’t get his voice mail. He’s always listening. Twenty-four seven. He is, after all, our heavenly Father. And what parent wouldn’t love to hear from his/her child on a daily basis? Love works that way.

Yet, just like an earthly father, God doesn’t always give us what we want. Prayer doesn’t work that way. God responds in ways that he deems best. He really is a lot smarter than us.

Oftentimes that’s hard for someone like me, who desires to be in control and possesses minimal patience, to accept. I want the issue resolved yesterday, the direction given immediately, the prayer answered right now exactly as I prayed it.

I imagine God wonders sometimes if I will ever learn. I’m trying, God.

Prayer necklace

Recently I began carrying a medallion in my pocket to remind me of the need to always be prayerful. It’s really a necklace, minus the chain, a piece of jewelry I received during my childhood. I don’t recall who gifted this to me, but I’ve had it for nearly 50 years.

On the front side is an image of praying hands, on the back this inspirational prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Prayer necklace back

You likely know this as the Serenity Prayer adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous. I am not an alcoholic. But I am in need of serenity in my life. I tend to worry and stress about issues. Ask my husband.

I recognize that flaw. So this silver dollar sized medallion slipped inside my jean pocket reminds me daily that God is in control. This doesn’t mean I should sit idly and do nothing about certain situations. God doesn’t expect that. But rather, he needs me to understand that he is the one walking beside me through my days.

Oftentimes these days, I find myself sliding my right hand into my pocket, my fingertips brushing the outline of those prayerful hands, the imprint of the raised letters. A sense of peace fills me as my lips whisper a silent prayer.

Another window shows Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Even Jesus prayed, here in the Garden of Gethsemane. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

DEAR READERS, please join me today in praying for the families and friends of three Carleton College students who died in a car crash Friday afternoon at Minnesota Highway 3 and Dakota County Road 47 just outside of Northfield, three miles from campus.

The trio were killed and two other students seriously injured when their car apparently went out of control on an icy and snowy roadway and was broadsided by a semi, according to news reports.

Dead are James Adams of St. Paul, Minnesota; Michael Goodgame of Westport, Connecticut; and Paxton Harvieux of Stillwater, Minnesota. Hospitalized in stable condition in the Twin Cities are Conor Eckert of Seattle, Washington, and Will Sparks of Evanston, Illinois.

I cannot imagine the depth of grief felt by the families, friends, the Carleton College community and the community of Northfield.

A vigil is being held at 11 a.m. today at Skinner Memorial Chapel on the college campus with counseling staff and chaplains available. (Click here to read a message from the president and dean of students at Carleton.)

Please pray for peace, comfort and healing. Prayer provides a powerful personal portal to God. At all times, in all circumstances.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Exploring art inside the Weitz Center for Creativity at Carleton College December 5, 2013

MY EXPOSURE TO PROFESSIONAL ART as a youth could be categorized as minimal. There were no visits to art galleries, no attending theatrical performances, no concerts outside of school walls.

Yet, I did not feel deprived, for art surrounded me in blazing prairie sunsets, an inky sky dotted with an infinity of stars, road ditches graced with wild roses, tall grass bending in the wind, the symphony of a howling blizzard, the crunch of boots on hard-packed snow, the orchestra of pulsating milking machines and munching cows and the radio voices of ‘CCO.

To this day, I credit my rural southwestern Minnesota upbringing for shaping me as a writer and photographer. There, on the stark prairie, within the confines of a close and loving family living off the land, I learned to appreciate the details in the landscape and life itself.

Today, I no longer live on my beloved prairie. And I have immediate access to the arts within my own community of Faribault and nearby. You won’t find me, except on rare occasions, aiming for the Twin Cities to view art. I am not a city girl.

The Weitz Center for Creativity at Third and College Streets in Northfield, Minnesota.

The Weitz Center for Creativity at Third and College Streets in Northfield, Minnesota.

In late October, I discovered Weitz Center for Creativity, “a center for creativity and collaboration in the liberal arts,” on the campus of Carleton College in neighboring Northfield. The center is housed in the historic former and repurposed Northfield high school and middle school and in 30,000 additional square feet of new construction.

Near the entrance to the Weitz Center Commons area.

Near the entrance to the Weitz Center Commons area. (Photographed in October.)

The complex offers such creative spaces as a theater, dance studios, a technology resource center (the Gage/Bauer IdeaLab), a teaching museum, galleries and more.

From Jessica Rath's "take me to the apple breeder" exhibit, a porcelain apple and an apple tree photograph.

From Jessica Rath’s “take me to the apple breeder” exhibit, a porcelain apple and an apple tree photograph.

The Perlman Teaching Museum and galleries there drew me to view “Single Species Translations,” which included Jessica Rath’s “take me to the apple breeder” and Laura Cooper’s “Opuntia,” and “The Intersection Between Book, Film, and Visual Narrative.” The exhibits have since closed. But “Lifeloggers: Chronicling the Everyday,” opens January 17 and runs through March 12, 2014. The exhibit will feature the works of a dozen artists.

And here’s the really sweet deal. Admission to the Perlman Teaching Museum (and galleries) is free. Hours are 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Note that the museum is open only during Carleton’s academic term, although closed during breaks and during the summer.

Connecting indoors and out in a section of the Commons.

Connecting indoors and out in a section of the Commons.

My first impression of the Weitz Center for Creativity was one of visual appreciation for the modern, clean lines and minimalistic setting. I love the walls of windows, the pots of pines and palms and other plants interspersed among clusters of tables and chairs in a space that visually connects to the outdoors.

Cozy spots for conversation in the Commons.

Cozy spots for conversation in the Commons.

I appreciate, too, the cozy settings of living room furniture that invite conversation and create a sense of intimacy in the spacious, open Commons area.

A snippet of Jessica Rath's exhibit shows porcelain apple sculptures and photos of apple trees in the Braucher Gallery.

A snippet of Jessica Rath’s exhibit shows porcelain apple sculptures and photos of apple trees in the Braucher Gallery.

Entering the gallery, I noted the gleaming starkness of the space, an excellent backdrop to showcase exhibits. I know this is the gallery norm. But, since I did not grow up visiting galleries, I am still struck each time by this visual impact of a clean slate. Light and shadows and mood play upon art here.

A student studies a portion of "The Intersection Between Book, Film, and Visual Narrative" in the Kaemmer Family Gallery.

A student studies a portion of “The Intersection Between Book, Film, and Visual Narrative” in the Kaemmer Family Gallery.

I won’t pretend to understand and enjoy every exhibit I view. We each bring our personalities and experiences and tastes to a gallery and those influence our reactions.

I love the simplicity of the apples positioned on the table in Rath's exhibit and how the shadows angle onto the tabletop.

I love the simplicity of the apples positioned on the table in Rath’s exhibit and how the shadows play upon the tabletop.

More tabletop art, to be picked up and paged through by gallery visitors.

More tabletop art, to be picked up and paged through by gallery visitors.

More print to appreciate.

Additional print and creativity to appreciate.

A wall-size artistic interpretation of Opuntia by Laura Cooper.

A wall-size artistic interpretation of Opuntia by Laura Cooper.

While I could relate to apples and books, I couldn’t connect to the exhibit on Opuntia, a type of cactus. Cacti, except for a few grown as houseplants, are mostly foreign to me.

This signage greets visitors upon entering the Weitz Center for Creativity.

Just inside the doors of the Weitz Center for Creativity.

Yet, I learned. And that, too, is part of the arts experience.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling