Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Appreciating the art & architecture of a business block in historic downtown Faribault August 31, 2018

A side view of an artsy window display at Fleur de Lis Gallery.

 

STOREFRONT WINDOWS ARE LIKE A CANVAS, a creative space that can cause passersby to pause, then perhaps step inside a business. Or at a minimum, to value the visual efforts of a shopkeeper.

 

A full front view of that Fleur de Lis window art.

 

Historic buildings reflect in the front window of Ruf Acres Market, one of Faribault’s newest businesses. Ruf Acres won the 2017 Downtown Faribault Business Challenge to launch new businesses.

 

A colorful flier promotes Pawn MN.

 

During a brief walk in the 200 block of Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault on a recent Sunday afternoon, I discovered visual delights in window displays, splashes of color, wordage, architecture and more.

 

Nona has created this eye-catching Wash Day window displace at Keepers Antiques.

 

I appreciate the efforts of local shopkeepers to create window art that enhances our downtown.

 

In the window of Ruf Acres Market, egg cartons promote eggs from Graise Farm in rural Faribault.

 

Mallory of Grit & Grace uses a Rolling Stones quote to draw people into her new Faribault shop of merchandise and much more.

 

At The Upper East Side, Suzanne offers guests the option of painting totes and more. Love this artsy Faribault tote made at the sip and paint shop.

 

I appreciate those who value and promote local.

 

Ruf Acres signage highlights historic Faribault.

 

Markers like this tag historic buildings throughout downtown Faribault.

 

Historic architecture reflected in the window of a van.

 

I appreciate, too, those who long ago decided our historic buildings were worth saving. “You have a beautiful downtown,” a woman from Jackson noted to me as she and her friend explored Central Avenue while I shot photos. I welcomed them, invited them to return when shops are open.

 

 

I appreciate also the energy and enthusiasm of shopkeepers like Jessica at Fleur de Lis Gallery and Suzanne at The Upper East Side. Both possess a passion for art that adds to the growing art presence in my community.

 

 

A close-up of that Wash Day window display at Keepers Antiques with historic buildings reflected in the glass.

 

Fette Electronics is a long-time business in downtown Faribault.

 

From the Paradise Center for the Arts to local shops to new public art installations to historic murals, this southeastern Minnesota city is stretching its creativity and emerging as a place for the arts. For that I am grateful.

 

A section of the 200 block of Central Avenue in the business district of historic downtown Faribault.

 

It is through the lens of art—whether visual, literary or performing—that we see beauty in a place. And today that place is Faribault.

 

FYI: Check back for a close-up look at The Upper East Side, a paint and sip business and more.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Poster art showcases Faribault’s historic architecture December 9, 2016

TRAVEL WEST ACROSS the Highway 60 viaduct toward downtown Faribault and you likely will notice the steeples and towers poking above the landscape. Just like on the eastern side of my Minnesota community, these punctuating structures mark numerous historic buildings.

 

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Now Jeff Jarvis, a local historian and artist who works as the City of Faribault’s community enrichment coordinator, has created Steeples & Towers, a photo montage. For a donation to the Concerts in the Park fund, you can purchase this 12 x 18-inch poster featuring 18 spires on educational, religious and residential structures. Places like the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour, the Hutchinson House, Buckham Memorial Library.

Buckham Memorial Library, Faribault, was built in 1929 with a Greek theme. Interior features include a Charles Connick stained glass window and Greek murals.

Buckham Memorial Library, Faribault, was built in 1929 with a Greek theme. Interior features include a Charles Connick stained glass window and Greek murals. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I’ve long valued the detailed architecture that defines so many aged buildings in Faribault. Jeff’s targeted and documented Steeples & Towers poster art heightens that appreciation and focuses awareness. “How dreary buildings would be if they were all square boxes,” he notes.

I agree.

 

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Likewise, Jeff’s artistic eye and historic awareness drew him to photograph 27 windows in historic downtown Faribault. Places like the Alexander Faribault House, the Fleckenstein Building, the post office. He’s created a Historic Downtown Faribault Windows poster, also available for purchase via a donation.

He writes:

The inspiration to do the windows downtown came initially from reading signs placed in the empty downtown buildings—“This building is not empty; it’s full of opportunity.” Reading these struck me as funny. From my point of view as an artist, I see the beauty of the intact architecture and the variety of exterior colors. It seems backward, but to me a full store is almost secondary.

The prize is being able to stroll about in respect and appreciation of the historic district. I see and imagine the stories hidden behind the facades—the limestone backsides, the alleyways with faded vintage lettering, and the add-ons that can be viewed if you look closely.

Of course, there are lots of metaphors or idioms about windows that are fun that could apply to the downtown situation like “God closes a door, then opens a window,” etc. The project itself was like seizing a window of opportunity to teach others to quit quibbling about downtown—to turn their focus instead to one of the lovelier features in town.

Historic buildings in downtown Faribault are decorated for the holiday season.

Restored historic buildings in downtown Faribault decorated during a past holiday season. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Jeff has it right. As a community, we need to seriously appreciate the aesthetic and historical value of the many old buildings that stand in and near the heart of the downtown and elsewhere throughout Faribault. I’m not saying that appreciation hasn’t existed. It has as evidenced in the restoration of many historic buildings, the existence of the Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission, the current interest in possible Artspace development and more. But sometimes we get sidetracked, too often complaining about perceived problems or what we don’t have rather than valuing what we do have.

The Bavarian Musikmeisters, a 35-member band, perform on July 14 at Faribault's Central Park.

The Bavarian Musikmeisters, a 35-member band, perform on July 14 at Faribault’s Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

And one of those assets—Concerts in the Park—is the benefactor of the historic posters sales. Those summer concerts are a 130-year tradition in Faribault. I’ve been attending these outdoor performances for more than 30 years, since relocating here. I’ve grown to love this Minnesota community. The traditions. The people. And, yes, the steeples, towers and windows, too.

FYI: If you are interested in purchasing these historic posters for a donation to the Concerts in the Park, stop at Faribault Park and Rec, 15 West Division Street, or email jjarvis@ci.faribault.mn.us. Donations will help underwrite concert costs.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Art posters copyright of Jeff Jarvis

 

Gold, diamonds & guns January 29, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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WHEN THE SON WAS HOME from Boston for holiday break, my husband and I took him downtown Faribault one evening for our favorite local pizza served at the Signature Bar & Grill.

 

Faribault, Ron's Pawn Shop

 

He hopped out of the van across the street from the restaurant and promptly pulled out his cell phone, aiming it at the front window of Ron’s Pawn Shop. He was laughing.

 

Faribault, Ron's Pawn Shop window close-up

 

“Golds, diamonds and guns,” he read aloud. I paused, looked. He laughed. Again.

How often had I gone by Ron’s Pawn Shop and never really noticed the signage my college son found entertaining and amusing? Too often.

It proved an important lesson to pay more attention to that which I pass often, but don’t always see.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How are the fish biting on Central? December 10, 2013

Pawn Minnesota often displays merchandise, including this fish house, outside its downtown Faribault store.

Pawn Minnesota often displays merchandise, like the red fish house, outside its downtown Faribault store.

IT’S NOT EVERY DAY you spot a fish house positioned on a street corner in an historic business district.

But then this is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” and home to lots of fishing enthusiasts who can’t wait for lakes to freeze thick enough for ice fishing. Yes, in Minnesota we do walk and drive onto frozen lakes to fish.

Outdoor merchandising...

Outdoor seasonal merchandising…

That said, Pawn Minnesota likely grabbed the attention of shoppers with the Quickfish 3 pop-up portable fish house set up outside the business at 230 Central Avenue in downtown Faribault Saturday afternoon.

To make this even more noteworthy, the pawn shop is housed in the former Poirier Drug Store featured in the 1993 movie Grumpy Old Men. In that film, co-stars and ice fishermen Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon visit the then old-fashioned pharmacy.

In an ironic twist, the now-closed Dandelet Jewelry across the street was converted into a pawn shop for the movie. And now there’s a real pawn shop in what was once the drugstore.

If this sounds a bit confusing, consider also that Matthau and Lemmon ice fished in Grumpy Old Men. Thus the fish house erected outside the former drugstore seems especially fitting.

Minnesota weather appropriate merchandise outside the pawn shop.

Minnesota weather appropriate merchandise showcased in historic downtown Faribault.

That’s how my thoughts wandered when I spied that fish house on the corner with two snowblowers parked next to it. Now if you tell me the fish are biting there…

FYI: If you think my brain cells are frozen, then click here to read about the annual Grumpy Old Men Festival set for February in Wabasha. The fest includes, among other activities, an ice fishing contest and an “Ice shacks n’ Plaid Parade.”

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling