Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Embracing the writing & art of the Northern Great Plains at SDSU April 19, 2017

“The Prairie is My Garden,” a painting by South Dakota artist Harvey Dunn, showcases the prairie I so love. Here I’ve photographed most of a print which I purchased at a yard sale. I bought the art because I liked it and only learned afterward of its value and prominence. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

ONE OF MY FAVORITE PRINTS, “The Prairie is my Garden,” is rooted in South Dakota. The artist, Harvey Dunn, was born in a claim shanty near Manchester, west of Brookings.

I’ve been to Brookings. Once. While in college, I accompanied a roommate to her hometown where her dad owned the John Deere dealership. I don’t remember a lot about that visit except the fancy house in which my roommate’s family lived and our attendance at the annual Hobo Day Parade. That tradition of South Dakota State University, which peaks in a Jackrabbits football game, is going on its 105th year.

As you’ve likely surmised, Brookings is rural oriented, the university known for its ag focused majors. Students, for example, make ice cream and cheese from milk produced at the SDSU Dairy Research and Training Facility. This is a hands-on college that draws many a rural raised student.

 

The promo for Oakwood 2017 features “Dancing with Fire,” the art of Samuel T. Krueger. Promo image courtesy of Oakwood.

 

This university, where students work with farm animals and where the prairie paintings of a noted Plains artist are housed in the South Dakota Art Museum, seems the ideal setting for Oakwood, a literary journal. Featuring the work of SDSU students, staff and alumni and also of greater Brookings artists/writers and others in the Northern Great Plains region, the magazine releases this Thursday. According to the Oakwood website, the journal embraces a regional identity.

I am happy to be part of that identity with the inclusion of my poem, “Ode to my Farm Wife Mother,” inspired by my mom. She raised me and five other children on a dairy and crop farm about 1 ½ hours northeast of Brookings in Redwood County, Minnesota.

 

A gravel road just north of Lamberton in Redwood County. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Most of the poetry I write is based on prairie life. I write with a strong sense of place. The endless open space and wide skies of the prairie lend themselves to creativity. Within the stark setting of rural southwestern Minnesota, I noticed details—the strength of the people, the blackness of the earth, the immensity of the setting sun, the sharpness of a winter wind, the quiet of stillness. I can trace my poetry, my photos, everything I create, to that rural upbringing. I am honored to have my latest poem selected for inclusion in Oakwood 2017 as a writer from the Northern Great Plains.

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FYI: A public reception will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20, at the SDSU Briggs Library & Special Collections for writers and artists whose work is included in Oakwood 2017. Readings and talks will be featured. Because I live nearly four hours away, I can’t be there. When I can share my poem with you, I’ll do so.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Connecting & helping one another December 18, 2012

I HAVE, on numerous occasions, connected buyers to sellers here on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

Ron and Peggy's elephant slide

I connected a New Yorker to this elephant slide in Faribault.

Within the past year, for example, I facilitated the sale of a $700 vintage elephant slide. A New York resident came across a blog post I’d written several years ago about the elephant slide spotted at a garage sale. She wondered if it was still available for purchase. It was and so Valerie and her husband made a whirlwind trip to Faribault to buy the slide after I connected her to the seller, Peggy.

A snippet of the cross Bud Paschke crafted honoring veterans from all branches of the military.

A snippet of the cross Bud Paschke crafted honoring veterans from all branches of the military. An Arizona woman saw this photo on my blog and inquired about the cross.

Just last week I connected an Arizona woman to Bud, a local craftsman featured in a post about a holiday craft sale at the Faribo West Mall. Bud creates the most stunning fretwork pieces and Rachel wanted one of the military crosses he’s made. Rachel’s check is in the mail and the cross will soon be on its way from Faribault to Arizona.

The photo by Eric Lantz illustrates the cover of Scott Thoma's just-published book.

A photo of the Tracy, Minnesota, tornado by Eric Lantz illustrates the cover of Scott Thoma’s book.

A few days ago Scott Thoma, who authored Out of the Blue, a book about the 1968 deadly tornado in Tracy, Minnesota, inquired about a tornado video I once highlighted on this blog. He thought perhaps it contained footage from that devastating tornado; it doesn’t. Scott has been searching for that elusive video. If any of you possess a video from the Tracy tornado, submit a comment and I will connect you with Scott. He wants to show the footage as a lead-in at book signing events.

A print of Harvey Dunn's "The Prairie is my Garden."

A print of Harvey Dunn’s “The Prairie is my Garden.”

On Saturday I received a snail mail inquiry about a print of the painting, “The Prairie is my Garden” by Harvey Dunn. I bought the print several years ago at a yard sale, featured it here and now a woman from northwestern Minnesota wants to buy it. June tells me her mother purchased the painting for her grandmother’s 80th birthday in 1968. But the print was lost in a fire several years ago.

I wanted to help June, but I love the Harvey Dunn print too much to give it up. Perhaps you have this Dunn print to pass along to June.

That brings us to today and an article I read in last week’s The Gaylord Hub, republished from the Fairfax Standard-Gazette. The request is much greater, much more serious.

An 8-year-old Gibbon boy is in need of a kidney transplant. His kidneys are failing. Fast. The article by Publisher/Editor Daniel McGonigle does not detail the cause of the kidney failure, only that a transplant is needed soon and that Samuel Forst’s mother is no longer a qualified donor. The family is seeking a healthy donor (18-40 years old, in good physical shape, not overweight or with high blood pressure) with type O blood.

If you match these requirements and are interested in testing for a live kidney donation to young Samuel, contact Ann at 612-625-9658 at University/Fairview Hospital here in Minnesota. Or call 612-672-7270.

Here in blogland, I’ve grown to appreciate the power of social media in connecting people, in meeting needs, in helping others.

I know asking for a kidney is huge. But I must try, for Samuel’s sake.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

de Servin, de Groot and Dunn art at bargain prices June 8, 2012

I’M NO ART EXPERT. I buy art simply because I like it, not because of its value.

Yet, I’ve managed through the years to purchase several pieces of art, which unbeknown to me, were created by notable artists and therefore possess more than your average value.

I didn’t find these in some upscale, trendy metro art gallery. Rather, I’ve discovered my art treasures at rummage sales and at recycled art sales right here in Faribault.

Yes, I shop on the cheap because, frankly, as much as I wish I could, I cannot afford an original work of art sold at retail price. That is the truth and I apologize to all the starving artists out there who are trying to make a living via their art. Remember, I am a writer. I understand.

That said, let me show you the trio of recycled art pieces which I consider my most valuable art discoveries, although I certainly did not realize this at the time of purchase.

My bargain Jose Maria de Servin painting.

I was shopping at the Paradise Center for the Arts annual Recycled Art Sale several years ago when I came across this interesting painting of a young girl on burlap. The bold colors, the subject and the uniqueness of the art—unlike any I’d ever seen—drew me to her. For $7, this art piece was mine.

Later my second daughter, who at the time was studying Spanish in college, researched the artist, Jose de Maria Servin, and shared that he’s a rather well-known Mexican artist. Seems his original oils fetch anywhere from several hundred to well over $1,000.

To make this even more interesting, I bought Servin’s oil painting on the third day of the recycled art sale and the husband didn’t much like it. He likes it now, or at least its value.

Theodore de Groot LathArt by Austin Productions, patent number 4,061,514

The second notable piece of art also came from that recycled art sale at the Paradise. It’s LathArt, a type of folk art by the Dutch artist Theodore de Groot. LathArt, according to information I found online, was produced by Austin Productions in the 1970s using a patent to die cut the pieces.

Again, I bought the de Groot LathArt owl for $10 because I liked the rustic design and the uniqueness of the art, not because I knew anything about the art or artist.

My print of Harvey Dunn’s “The Prairie is my Garden.”

Ditto for a print of South Dakota artist Harvey Dunn’s painting, “The Prairie is my Garden.” When I spotted the framed print at a yard sale, it reminded me of my native southwestern Minnesota prairie and I just had to have it along with a dozen wine glasses and a “Felix the Cat” video, all for $20.

Months later I grew curious about the artist and learned Dunn was a well-established illustrator for magazines like The Saturday Evening Post among other accomplishments.

So there you go. I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire art of value without even knowing its value. I bought the art solely because I liked it. And isn’t that the best reason for purchasing a work of art?

A sidewalk sign outside the Paradise Center for the Arts advertising the fifth annual Recycled Art Sale.

FYI: The annual Recycled Art Sale at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North, Faribault, began at noon Thursday and continues from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Proceeds benefit the Paradise and the Faribault Mural Society.

Old film reels from the former Paradise Theatre are among items being sold at this years Recycled Art Sale. The smaller reels hold movie trailers such as “Rambo” and “Brewster.” Gallery walls and tables are covered in art donated for the fundraiser.

The musical, “A Year with Frog and Toad,” opens Friday evening at the Paradise.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My latest art-at-a-bargain find from the Salvation Army August 7, 2011

My Jose Maria de Servin painting.

WHAT’S YOUR PREFERENCE in art?

Do you shop for mass-produced art at a big box retailer?

Or are you the gallery type, purchasing one-of-a-kind fine art?

Maybe you shop flea markets, rummage sales or thrift stores for hand-crafted or vintage art.

Perhaps you’re artistic enough to create your own art to hang in your home or workplace.

If you know me as well as I expect you may from following Minnesota Prairie Roots, you would rightly guess that I prefer to find one-of-a-kind art at a bargain by shopping second-hand. Notice that I didn’t say bargain art. I said art at a bargain. There’s a difference.

My collection includes original paintings by hobbyist painters, prints by unknown artists, embroidered pieces by someone’s grandma… I’ve purchased most at unbelievably low prices—try 50 cents or $3.

Through the years I’ve even acquired an original Jose Maria de Servin painting and a vintage print of South Dakota artist Harvey Dunn’s  “The Prairie is My Garden” at steal prices. Both times I had no idea what I was purchasing. I simply liked the art.

That’s the thing with me and art. I buy a piece of art not as an investment, but because I like it.

That said, I recently picked up a three-dimensional rendition of  “The Last Supper” at the Salvation Army Store in Faribault. I debated whether I should pay $14 for the made-in-Spain art. In fact, I set the 24 x 17-inch piece down twice before watching another woman pick up and admire it. At that precise moment I decided I really wanted the unique art. I had to restrain my urge to run over and snatch it up after she set it back on the shelf. I waited until she was well out of grabbing range.

The Last Supper three-dimensional art I bought at The Salvation Army Store.

Later, the woman stood behind me in the check-out line and told me how she wished she had “The Last Supper” I clenched in my hands. “Then I saw you pick it up,” she said.

I responded with a seemingly casual remark: “Yeah, if you see something you think you might buy, you shouldn’t set it down…”

HOW ABOUT YOU? Where do you shop for art and what deals have you found?

Close up with Christ and the disciples at The Last Supper.

I hung the three-dimensional The Last Supper in my dining room.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling