Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Inside the student art show at the Paradise, Part II March 17, 2022

Love the student art spanning walls in a current exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault. Aubrey Schafer, Roosevelt Elementary fourth grader, created the Love art on the left. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

IF I COULD TALK to these students, what would they tell me about their art? Would their responses show a passion for creating? Would they tell me they were just completing an assignment? Or would their answers fall somewhere in between?

Assorted art by Lincoln Elementary students. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

As a wordsmith, I often wonder about the stories behind the art displayed at the annual All Area Student Show at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault. While perusing the pieces, I see varied versions of the same theme. That reveals a general classroom assignment focused on a subject. Yet even that prompt leads to individual creativity.

Portrait by Isaac Rodriguez, fifth grader at Roosevelt Elementary School. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

What would Ayub, Mariyo, Isaac, Natalia, Aubrey, Lily, Myrka, Jaelynn, Mumtaaz, Brianna, Rain and the many other student artists say about their art? The art they created at their respective schools—Faribault Area Learning Center and Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt Elementary schools.

Student art runs the length of a second floor hallway. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

When I view their exhibit, I am impressed by the level of talent—from kindergarten through high school. But this is about much more than talent. This is about encouraging young people in the arts. This is about showing us adults that young people have an artistic voice. This is about taking away our own interpretations of this artwork.

Colorful insect art by Ayub Osman, fourth grade, Lincoln Elementary. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)I
Myrka Mendoza, Faribault Area Learning Center 11th grader, drew this realistic butterfly. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)
Envisioning Mariyo Mohamed’s (second grader at Lincoln Elementary) snail in a picture book. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

I appreciate how, even on the theme of nature, students’ interpretations range from boldly colorful—as if illustrated in a children’s picture book—to realistic—as if printed in the pages of a nature guidebook.

This textured birthday cake art by Lincoln second grader Jaelynn Martinez makes me want to grab a slice and celebrate. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

The art shown in this exhibit conveys celebration, joy, history, a sense of place, personality, messages, nature and more.

Each art piece is titled with basics of name, grade and school. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

If these students wrote artists’ statements, what backstories would they share? What inspires them? Why did they choose bold or subtle? Are they conveying a message? Or simply creating?

Art by students from Jefferson Elementary School. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

As someone who’s created with words and images for decades, I understand how my prairie background, upbringing in a southwestern Minnesota farm family and personality influence my work. I write and photograph with a strong sense of place, with detail. And, I hope, with compassion, empathy, understanding, connection and a desire to make a positive difference. I listen. I observe. I create.

Created by Lily Krauth, kindergarten, Roosevelt Elementary. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

I create, too, with a focus on what’s right here—in our area communities, in the countryside… And, today, what’s on the second floor of the Paradise Center for the Arts—the art of young creatives.

FYI: The student art show continues through April 9 at the Paradise, 321 Central Avenue North, Faribault. PCA hours are from noon – 5 pm Wednesday through Friday and from 10 am – 2 pm Saturdays. Click here to read Part I in this two-part series.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Encouraging young people in the arts via Paradise exhibit, Part I March 16, 2022

Eye-catching student art lines a second floor hallway at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault. The eye art is by Wyatt Suckow, Lincoln Elementary School first grader. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

ENCOURAGEMENT. OPPORTUNITY. CONFIDENCE. Like dominoes, those three words tip into one another. And the result for young people can make all the difference.

A poster outside the main gallery at the Paradise Center for the Arts promotes the student art show on the second floor. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Those thoughts emerge upon viewing the All Student Art Show at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault. This year’s show, featuring the art of students from Faribault Area Learning Center and Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt Elementary Schools, runs until April 9.

Eydelin Leon Ruiz, Roosevelt Elementary School second grader, created this sweet kitty face. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

I view this show through not only an appreciative lens, but also through the lens of encouraging students in the arts. Showcasing their art in a public exhibit most assuredly builds confidence.

One of the more unusual pieces of art was crafted by two Lincoln Elementary School fourth graders, Cole Hammer and Barrett Boudreau. The folded art looks different when viewed from opposite sides. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

If we all thought for a moment, I expect we could list individuals in our lives who encouraged us in our interests, passions and/or careers. For me, that would be Mrs. Kotval, an elementary school teacher who each afternoon read aloud chapters from books—the entire Little House series, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (and Tom Sawyer), Black Beauty… From those post lunch readings, my love for language and stories sparked. In middle school, Mrs. Sales fostered my increasing love for language and writing. Across the hall, a math teacher (whom I shall not name) scared me so much that my dislike of numbers multiplied. In high school, Mr. Skogen required journal keeping, further fostering my love of writing. And in college, Mr. Shipman and Mrs. Olson offered such encouragement that I never questioned my decision to pursue a journalism degree.

A portrait by Huda Muse, Faribault Area Learning Center junior. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

How reaffirming then to have educators encouraging young people in the arts, and an arts center that values their work.

Each piece of art names the artist and his/her school and grade. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

At this student art exhibit, you won’t find ribbons or other awards. And that, too, I appreciate. You’ll find art. Simply art. I think too often there’s a tendency to pass out ribbons to everyone. Kids can see right through universal praise, which then feels mostly meaningless.

Art aplenty… (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)
The art of Roosevelt Elementary School kindergartner Joey Trevino. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)
Art, inside a classroom exhibit space and outside along a hallway. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

But nothing is meaningless about the art showcased along the hallway and a classroom on the second floor of the Paradise. Every student, from kindergarten through high school, created a work of art worthy of public showing. Worthy, not necessarily by the art critic definition of art, but rather via the definition of this is something a child/pre-teen/teen created. That’s the value therein.

A cardinal by Nova Vega, a kindergartner at Jefferson Elementary School. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Perhaps some of these students will pursue art professionally. But I expect most won’t. For some, art will always be a side interest/hobby/pursuit. Yet, this early encouragement, no matter future interest, fosters an appreciation for the arts that can last a lifetime. What a gift that is to our young people.

Birch trees painted by Suprise Sonpon, 4th grade, Jefferson Elementary School. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

To the students who created art for the 2022 exhibit, thank you for sharing your creativity. To the educators who worked with these youth, thank you. And to the Paradise Center for the Arts, thank you for each year hosting this student art exhibit. What a gift to our community.

Faribault Area Learning Center students Hunter Quast and Justin Horejsi worked together to create this service station model. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

TELL ME: Did someone encourage you at a young age to follow an interest/passion/other pursuit? I’d like to hear.

FYI: Other area arts centers are also featuring youth art in current exhibits. At the Owatonna Arts Center, view the Owatonna Public Schools K-12 Art Exhibit from now until March 27. At the Arts and Heritage Center of Montgomery, student art from Tri-City United is now displayed, beginning with elementary age. That transitions to art by middle schoolers and then to high school students, through May 14.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Appreciating the creativity of Minnesota artists at the Paradise March 11, 2022

“Flying Snow Owl” woodcarving by Lakeville artist Mike Stoecklein. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

THE RANGE OF CREATIVITY in southern Minnesota continues to impress me. Take the art of Kate Langlais of Faribault and of Mike Stoecklein from Lakeville. They create decidedly different art. But they share the commonality of incredible creative talent.

“Pope Francis,” an acrylic portrait by Faribault artist Kate Langlais. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Recently I viewed exhibits by both in separate galleries at Faribault’s Paradise Center for the Arts. I continue to feel deep gratitude for this arts center in my community. We need art—whether literary, visual or performing—to feed our spirits and souls, just as much as we need food to feed our bodies.

“Grey Tree Frog” woodcarving by Mike Stoecklein. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

A walk-about viewing the work of Kate and Mike reaffirms the importance of art in my life. Mike’s nature-focused pieces, especially his woodcarvings, take me into the woods. To observe an array of owls. To spot a tree frog, the elusive frog I’ve always wanted to see but haven’t. His landscape paintings also connect me to place. (He paints the occasional portrait, too.)

A portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Kate Langlais. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Kate’s Paradise exhibit is portrait-strong, her specialty, although she also paints landscapes. When I study the faces she’s recreated, I feel a connection, too. Kate has an ability to convey emotions and personality. Generosity. Kindness. Strength. Love. Compassion.

Mike Stoecklein’s “Eagle Owl” woodcarving. In his artist statement, he writes: “I create for myself, and if others enjoy it, then that’s even better…” Owls are a favorite subject of this artist. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

I encourage you to stop by the Paradise galleries—Mary Welke (a Minneapolis artist) and Summer Heselton (a junior at Bethlehem Academy) also have art displayed—this weekend or next. All four shows close on March 19. Also head upstairs to the annual All Area Student Show, which runs until April 9. I’ll feature a post on that soon.

Paradise hours are from noon-5 pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and noon-2 pm Saturday. The Paradise, located at 321 Central Avenue North in historic downtown Faribault, also opens for evening concerts, theatrical productions and other events.

TELL ME: Do you have a go-to arts center in your community? Why do you value the arts? Let’s hear.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Mary Welke’s art reconnects me to my rural roots March 8, 2022

Corn husks define Mary Welke’s mixed media on canvas, “Shucks.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

I FELT CONNECTED, oh, so connected to Minneapolis artist Mary Welke’s art as I viewed her exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault.

The lower portion of “Roots” shadows on the gallery wall. These are dry corn roots. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Welke’s mixed media art is unlike any I’ve ever seen. It resonates with me, reconnecting me to my southwestern Minnesota prairie roots. To the farm. To the land. The place that shaped me as a person, writer and photographer.

Nature inspires Mary Welke as seen in these oversized mixed media art pieces. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

That I experienced such a strong emotional reaction is a credit to this artist, who grew up near the Mississippi River in northeast Minneapolis. Her childhood exploration of river and fields and time with her grandmother in a sprawling vegetable garden instilled an early appreciation of nature, which inspires her art.

“Autumn Yield” by Mary Welke. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Understanding that background explains how this urban resident came to create “Field and Farmland,” a project funded by a 2020 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant. She also did her homework—visiting, researching and documenting the prairie and meeting with farmers. The result is art reflecting the prairie, prescribed burns and farmland restoration.

“Spring/Summer Renewal” by Mary Welke. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

The incorporation of organic materials like soil, corn roots and leaves, other crop residue and more drew me into Welke’s art. I felt as if I was back on the farm, watching my dad turn the rich black soil toward the sun for spring planting. I felt, too, like I was walking the rows of a harvested corn field, the scent of autumn lingering in the prairie wind.

I didn’t note the title of this art featuring burlap and twine. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)
So much texture in “After Harvest” by Mary Welke. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)
Corn husks up close in Mary Welke’s “Shucks.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Welke’s art is layered. Textured. It holds not only a visual depth, but a depth of connection to the land, to farming.

Mary Welke’s “Topographical Prairie Lands” scattered across a black surface. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

This is what I love about art. The ability to relate. To stand in a gallery and contemplate. Remember. Appreciate. And, with Welke’s work, especially, to feel rooted in the land.

#

NOTE: Please check back for more posts on other exhibits currently at the Paradise Center for the Arts. Artists Mary Welke, Kate Langlais, Michael Stoecklein and Summer Heselton will participate in a Visual Artists Talk at 6:30 pm on Thursday, March 10. See the Paradise Center for the Arts Facebook page for more info. The art of all four will be on display at the Paradise through March 19.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault celebrates Winterfest December 3, 2021

A city of Faribault snowplow in a past Winterfest parade. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

THROUGHOUT MINNESOTA, including in Faribault, December brings holiday and winter-themed events. In a typical year, I’d embrace all of these celebrations. But, like last December, we are still very much in the middle of a pandemic. And, for me, that means skipping most crowded events. Even those which are outdoors. If people masked and were mostly (all) vaccinated, I would feel more comfortable. But that isn’t happening. At least not locally.

Crowds gather along historic Central Avenue as the sun set prior to a past Parade of Lights. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2017)

With that as a disclaimer, I want to share that Faribault is celebrating Winterfest, which began on Thursday and continues through Saturday. It’s a wonderful celebration with a wide range of activities. And I expect because COVID-19 canceled Winterfest in 2020, lots of folks will join in this year’s festivities. I encourage you, if you attend, to remember that our county is still in a high community transmission rate for COVID and to take care to protect yourself and others.

The dining room table set for the holidays during the Christmas open house at the Alexander Faribault house. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2017)

Friday, December 3:

  • Horse-drawn wagon rides along Central Avenue
  • Shattuck-St. Mary’s snow sculpting by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes (weather permitting)
At the 2018 Sleds on Central Vintage Snowmobile Show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2018)

Saturday, December 4:

  • Sleds on Central Vintage Snowmobile Show, 1 – 4 pm, 400 block of Central Avenue (food and beverages available for purchase)
  • Fireworks, launched near the viaduct, 5:30 pm
  • Parade of Lights on Central Avenue between 1st and 6th Streets, 5:50 pm
  • Street Dance with music by Fender Bender, 400 block of Central after the parade (food and beverages available for purchase)
  • Elf, The Musical, 7:30 pm at the Paradise Center for the Arts (also showing at 2 pm Sunday, December 5, and other dates; check the Paradise website) Masks recommended per CDC guidelines.
Last year’s Holiday Tree Display. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2021)

Also check out the Faribault Parks & Rec Department Holiday Tree Display in Central Park, now through December 9.

#

© Copyright 2021 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

 

From the Paradise: Student art reflects the pandemic March 26, 2021

This vivid art by Faribault Middle School seventh grader Levi pops color into the student art exhibit at the Paradise.

THE ALL AREA STUDENT SHOW rates as one of my annual favorite art exhibits at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault. I love viewing the creative efforts of students from elementary age through high school. Their talent always impresses me and this year is no exception.

This year’s exhibit is significantly smaller, filling only a single second floor hallway.

But the 2021 show, because of the pandemic and mostly distance learning, is scaled back. Way back. Art lines only a section of one hallway rather than multiple hallways and the walls of the second floor gallery.

Bethlehem Academy sixth grader Diego drew the masked portrait, left, one in a long line of masked portraits by BA students.
Masked portraits by BA sixth graders, Allison, left, and Megan, right.
Lillian, from the sixth grade class at BA, created the portrait on the left.

Not only are fewer pieces of art displayed, but the art, too, reflects the pandemic and distance learning. Students from Bethlehem Academy, for example, drew portraits. Of their masked selves.

“Lines” by Faribault Middle School eighth grader Aronranrcsy reminds me of the prairie. This is one of my favorites.

I also noticed a lack of copycat art with teachers assigning students to a specific art task and then student after student after student creating the same thing. I observed more creativity and diversity. And I really appreciated that individuality as it allows students to open their artistic wings and soar.

“Color” by Mohamed, Faribault Middle School eighth grader. This just makes me happy.

Paradise Center for the Arts Executive Director Heidi Nelson and I briefly discussed my observations. She agreed that distance learning definitely factored into the artwork, noting that some of the art is computer generated/created.

What incredible talent…portraits by Faribault High School student Stacie.
Each work of art is tagged with the artist’s name and school. I’d welcome info on the art medium.
Hazel, a third grader at Bridgewater Elementary School, created this family portrait, which I absolutely love. If we’ve learned one thing during the pandemic, it’s the value of family.

However these students created—whether via a pencil or a brush or a computer or some other method—they share the common denominator of making art. And for that, I feel inspired and grateful.

FYI: The All Area Student Show on the second floor of the PCA continues through April 10. The Paradise Center for the Arts is open from noon – 5 pm Thursday and Friday and from 10 am – 2 pm Saturdays.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Experience Faribault through the art of Joe Kral March 25, 2021

Faribault themes “My Hometown” by Minneapolis artist Joe Kral.

WITH NEARLY 100 PIECES of art displayed in the Carlander Gallery at the Paradise Center for the Arts, Faribault native Joe Kral’s “My Hometown” exhibit takes time to view. But there’s not much time to see this place-focused show, which opened in mid-February and closes April 3. I’d encourage you, especially if you have a Faribault connection, to view Kral’s art now.

The art of Joe Kral fills the Carlander Gallery.
“The Happy Clown.” Kral’s art celebrates the clown graphic used on the Tilt-A-Whirl amusement ride created and made in Faribault, up until recently.
Kral’s signature art highlights Faribault.

The Minneapolis artist creates mixed media paintings in a signature style that appeals to my love of vintage graphics, fonts, old print ads and nostalgia. Kral sources vintage materials from books, magazines, maps and postcards. He then adds colors and texture with spray paint, stencils and ink, according to information on his website. The results are a visual and creative delight.

The Hardwood General Store building still stands near the King Mill Dam.
Some of the businesses featured in Kral’s art still exist. But most don’t.
The King Flour Mill was destroyed by fire and is honored here by Kral.

Faribault residents and natives, particularly, will feel like they are walking down memory lane when viewing “My Hometown.” Kral features primarily Faribault businesses. Like Brand Peony Farms, Fleck’s Beer, King Flour Mills, Farmer Seed & Nursery and Tilt-A-Whirl—all gone. But he also includes art on current businesses like the well-known Faribault Woolen Mill and KDHL radio.

Chief Taopee art created by Kral.
Town founder, Alexander Faribault, portrayed in Kral’s mixed media art.

Two locally important early leaders, Chief Taopee and Alexander Faribault, are also included in Kral’s hometown exhibit.

More of Kral’s art…

With the historic bend of this show, “My Hometown” seems like a good fit also for a history center/museum, which may draw an entirely different audience. This speaks to the diverse appeal of Kral’s art.

Joe Kral, when he was a student at McKinley Elementary School in Faribault.

In his bio, Kral shares that he was raised on skateboarding, BMX, heavy metal and art. I see that influence in his art. And I also see his love for Faribault—which I expect comes from leaving his hometown, reflecting and then appreciating the place that grew him as an individual and as an artist.

Kral’s Brand Peony Farms art recognizes Faribault’s past history as a peony capital. The business no longer exists.

FYI: The Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue N., Faribault, is open from noon – 5 pm Thursday and Friday and from 10 am – 2 pm Saturdays. While at the Paradise, check out the other gallery exhibits. I will feature some of that art in upcoming posts.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Immigrants, Escape Artists &, yes, Elvis in the house September 1, 2020

“Ashley,” portrait by Kate Langlais.

 

“GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM. GO BACK TO MEXICO AND NEVER COME BACK!”

 

A snippet of Ashley’s story, as posted with her portrait.

 

I intentionally capitalized and boldfaced those angry words spoken to a 5-year-old by a “mean girl.” Can you imagine hearing such awful, horrible words directed at you? Yet, they are all too common. If not spoken, then thought.

 

Kate Langlais, painting at a recent concert in Faribault’s Central Park as part of “Art in the Park.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2020.

 

Ashley, the subject in an art exhibit, “I Am Minnesota,” by Faribault portrait artist Kate Langlais, experienced that hatred. She reported the insult to her mom and her principal. I’m thankful she called out the bully, because no one should have to endure such disrespect, especially a kindergartner.

 

“Faysel” up close by Kate Langlais. He fled war in Somalia.

 

And I’m thankful to Kate, the artist, for taking on this project which features portraits of first and second-generation immigrants living in Faribault and their stories. Her portraits are currently exhibited at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault through September 12.

 

The title of each portrait is simple. The subject’s name.

 

Kate invites viewers to “recall what they know about their family’s immigration stories.”

 

Parker, four months, the son of an immigrant who arrived here at about the same age. Portrait by Kate Langlais.

 

But she pushes beyond that to prompt thought about problems immigrants must overcome—language barriers, cultural differences, acceptance (or not) by neighbors.

 

An overview of a portion of the Escape Artists exhibit.

 

After viewing Kate’s thought-provoking portraits and accompanying life summaries, I walked over to a larger gallery featuring art by the Escape Artists. Right away, I connected the two. Not because the art is at all alike. But because of the word “escape.” The subjects in Kate’s portraits escaped oppression, war, poverty and more for life in America. The Escape Artists are a group of artist friends who, 30-plus years ago, began escaping together to create art.

 

A section of “On the Ragged Edge” by Theresa Harsma.

 

As I meandered through the gallery, I considered the Escape Artists’ art with the imprint of Kate’s portraits on my mind. For example, Theresa Harsma writes in her artist’s statement for “On the Ragged Edge” of sorting through her collection of found objects and choosing those that seemed to want to be part of the piece. Just like immigrants want to be part of the piece that is America.

 

“1938 Church Wedding” by Linda Van Lear is based on The Holy Innocents Episcopal Church located at the Rice County Fairgrounds/Historical Society Museum Grounds.

 

I expect LInda Van Lear’s painting of “1938 Church Wedding” includes immigrants among wedding guests, probably even in the bridal party.

 

“Lasso the Moon” by Susanne Crane.

 

And I interpreted Susanne Crane’s “Lasso the Moon” as lassoing dreams. Dreams of a better life for those who came to America, including my forefathers, and probably yours.

 

This photo shows part of “Streams of Consciousness, Rivers of Green” by Theresa Harsma.

 

“Maria” by Kate Langlais.

 

Back to artist Theresa Harsma, another work, “Streams of Consciousness, Rivers of Green,” struck me in its connection to one story in “I Am Minnesota.” Three times Maria attempted to cross the river from Mexico into the U.S. The determination, the exhaustion, the despair—they’re all woven into her story. No matter how you feel about immigration issues, at the very core is a human being, now a Minnesotan, with struggles, hopes and dreams.

 

An overview of the Cash-Elvis exhibit.

 

Julie M Fakler created this piece, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog,” inspired by Elvis’ song.

 

A close-up of Dan Rathburn’s “A Man in Black” (aka Johnny Cash).

 

Once I finished touring the Escape Artists’ exhibit, I shifted my focus to a Johnny Cash and Elvis pop-up show in a small corner gallery. In some ways, these two musicians were escape artists, too, escaping through their music.

 

“Tree of Life with Mother Nature’s Daughters” by Susanne Crane.

 

I love when art, from a divergence of artists, connects. We are all different. Yet alike in our humanity.

 

The Paradise Center for the Arts marquee.

 

FYI: The Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North, Faribault, is open Thursday-Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. The above exhibits close on September 12.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The progression of COVID-19 in Minnesota & my thoughts May 6, 2020

The marquee at the Paradise Center for the Arts, photographed on March 17, 2020. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A SERIES OF PHOTOS I’ve taken in historic downtown Faribault represent, in many ways, a visual timeline documentation of the progression of COVID-19 in Minnesota.

Just three days after touring the annual Faribault Area Student Art Exhibit and shopping the Faribault Winter Farmers’ Market at the Paradise Center for the Arts, I photographed this message on the PCA marquee:

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 17, 2020.

 

That was 10 days before Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued his initial Stay-at-Home executive order. On the date of that first photo, March 17, the state was already shutting down due to the global pandemic that has changed every facet of our lives. Among the closures, our local center for the arts.

 

PCA marquee photographed on April 11, 2020. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I next photographed the marquee on April 11, when the “closed until” date had changed to May 1.

 

Photographed on April 19, 2020. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

And then, only eight days later, I stopped to photograph the marquee message again. This time no “closed until” date was noted. Rather, the posted words offer encouragement. That seems the best approach. One of hopefulness, of unity and of strength rather than focusing on dates that continue to change.

None of us really knows how long COVID-19 will be around, although every indication is that it will be here for a long time. Infection and deaths are rising at a rapid rate here in Minnesota. Yes, testing has increased, resulting in higher numbers. But so has the spread. Just ask my friend who lives in Worthington. Or my extended family who live in Stearns County. Even in my county of Rice, which still has a low rate—30 positive cases as of Tuesday—in comparison to many other counties, numbers are on the rise.

 

A helpful reminder posted on the Paradise Center for the Arts marquee. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2020.

 

These are difficult days for so many of us. My heart breaks for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Like my friends Raquel and Bob. Randy and I are concerned about my mom and his dad, both in the high risk elderly group living in care centers. But worry doesn’t fix anything. So we do what we can to tamp our fears, use common sense, and try to keep ourselves and others safe. We aren’t gathering with family or friends. We limit our travel to local. Shop only for necessities. Wear masks. Social distance. Wash our hands often and use hand sanitizer.

 

Posted in the front window of the Paradise Center for the Arts. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2020.

 

But this is about much more than just our individual behavior. The current marquee message at the Paradise states, WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. Our choices, our actions, our decisions affect others. Our families, friends, neighbors, strangers… That, I believe, is especially important to remember during this global pandemic. This is about the health and safety of all of us.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling