Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part III, outside the Paine: More from the gardens June 21, 2017

A lawn sweeps to the majestic front entry of The Paine.

A lawn sweeps to the majestic front entry of The Paine buffeted by the Evening Terrace. The public entry to the art center is to the left.

WHEN I TOUR an estate like The Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, my eyes lock on details. The heft of a door. The hue of a flower. The curve of a sculpture.

Massive doors define the entry.

Massive doors and architectural details define the entry.

The Paine presents many opportunities to embrace art. Natural and man-made. All connect to showcase an historic late 1920s mansion designed by Ithaca, New York architect Bryant Fleming. The English country house reflects three centuries of Tudor and Gothic styles all complemented by  beautiful gardens.

 

Details in architecture atop tne Kasota limestone walls.

Details in architecture and construction include the use of Kasota limestone.

Also noteworthy is the Minnesota connection to this Wisconsin site on the National Register of Historic Places. The home’s stonework is mostly Kasota limestone from southern Minnesota.

One of many garden "rooms."

One of many garden “rooms.”

 

A majestic native oak graces the front yard.

A majestic native oak graces the front yard.

 

Lucious planters frame a path to the patio.

Stately planters and lush plantings frame a path to the Morning Terrace.

The gardens, likewise, mimic perennials, trees and shrubs hardy to Minnesota. Given the climate similarities between the two states, this is logical. Annuals and bulbs are also incorporated into The Paine gardens.

Lilies bloomed during my July 2016 visit.

Lilies bloomed during my July 2016 visit.

Flowers in bloom during my mid-summer 2016 visit differ from those blooming earlier or later. The estate landscape is like an evolving art gallery. There’s a certain visual appeal in that, in observing nature’s art always changing.

BONUS PHOTOS:

The public entry to The Paine Art Center.

The public entry to The Paine Art Center.

 

The first sculpture I spotted, near the entry.

The first sculpture I spotted, near the entry.

 

My husband, Randy, plays a xylophone in a garden.

My husband, Randy, plays a xylophone in The Children’s Field Station.

 

One of many graceful sculptures.

One of many graceful sculptures.

FYI: For more information about The Paine Art Center and Gardens, click here. Then click here to read my first post from inside The Paine. Next, click here to read Part I and then Part II of my gardens series.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part I, outside the Paine in Oshkosh: Flowers and art and water June 19, 2017

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HEAT AND HUMIDITY PRESSED heavy upon me as I wandered the gardens of The Paine Art Center on a summer day in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Yet, the heat didn’t stop me from appreciating the lush flowers and plants, the water features, the sculptures and more showcased on this estate.

 

 

 

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It’s a lovely place, this late 1920s mansion and the landscape surrounding it. An episode of The Bachelor was filmed here in October.

 

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I realize most of you likely will never travel to eastern Wisconsin to tour The Paine. My second daughter lives in the area. So please join me on this walk around the grounds—a welcome visual summer respite for us dwellers of the North. And for those of you in other regions, I hope you, too, will appreciate the beauty of this estate once owned by Nathan and Jessie Paine of Wisconsin lumber business wealth.

 

A sweeping lawn stretches between the gardens and the rear of the late 1920s mansion.

A sweeping lawn stretches between the gardens and the rear of the late 1920s mansion.

 

Sculptures, water features,plants and flowers all intertwine in the gardens.

Sculptures, water features, plants and flowers all intertwine in the gardens.

 

Italian master sculptor created this marble sculpture titled "Girl with a Bird."

Italian master sculptor created this marble sculpture titled “Girl with a Bird.”

 

Artsy and beautiful planters abound, including this one outside the Carriage House.

Artsy and beautiful planters abound, including this one outside the Carriage House.

 

The Carriage House is available for rent, for events like wedding receptions.

The Carriage House is available for rent, for events like wedding receptions.

 

The showcase reflecting pond.

The showcase reflecting pond.

 

How lovely those lilies in the pond.

How lovely those lilies in the pond.

 

And how lovely the other lilies growing in the gardens.

And how lovely the other lilies growing in the gardens.

 

 

FYI: Because I have so many photos of the gardens, I will feature my images in two more posts. Click here to read my first post from inside this historic mansion.

Click here for more info about The Paine Art Center and Gardens.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

NOTE: These images were taken in July 2016.

 

Roadside art & more in Foley December 22, 2016

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AN ECLECTIC MIX OF CAST-OFFS rests roadside at the intersections of Minnesota State Highways 23 and 25 in Foley.

I don’t know what to make of this collection. Trucks. Trailers. Wheels. Sections of perhaps culverts and grain bins. All jumbled together.

Storage lot mixed with art, I assess.

 

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If anything, the scene succeeds in grabbing the attention of passersby who, perhaps like me, wonder about the story behind these sculptures, this space.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Minnesotan’s impression of Davis Square in Somerville June 9, 2016

Banners mark Davis Square in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Banners mark Davis Square in Somerville, Massachusetts.

UP UNTIL RECENTLY, I was unfamiliar with squares. Not as in geometric shapes, but as in a geographical location in a city. When my son, who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, would talk about Davis, Harvard and Porter Squares, I pictured a park-like setting centering cultural events.

A streetscape in Davis Square.

A streetscape in Davis Square.

Well, a square is not exactly or solely that. Rather, the two squares I visited (Davis and Porter) recently are the convergence of about a half-dozen streets with businesses surrounding them. These seem city versions of small town Main Streets with a mix of retail, restaurants, professional, service and entertainment oriented businesses and nonprofits packed into a compact area.

A biker squeezes around a bus in busy Davis Square.

A biker squeezes around a bus in busy Davis Square.

Sure, there’s a bricked area with picnic and patio tables, benches, trees and art in Davis Square. But lacking are the lawn, abundance of flowers and water features I expected. Hard surfaces handle the heavy pedestrian, bike and vehicle traffic that make this place visually chaotic for a rural Minnesotan like me.

A snapshot of pedestrian traffic.

A snapshot of pedestrian traffic.

When my husband, son and I—all native Minnesotans—waited for the “walk” signal to cross a street, we found ourselves standing alone while others hurried around us, intent on getting wherever they were going. Pedestrians obviously rule here. People just step right in front of vehicles, seemingly oblivious that they could be struck. That, more than anything, scared me during a recent trip to greater Boston.

Mass transit is a necessity in this densely populated metro area.

Mass transit is a necessity in this densely populated metro area.

As for the converging streets in the square, you better know where you’re driving. Sort of like roundabouts but not, these intersections are confusing to someone unfamiliar with the streets and how the traffic pattern works. I understand why public transportation, available at the squares, is the preferred way of getting around.

On a beautiful late May afternoon, we chose to dine outside The Boston Burger Company.

On a beautiful late May afternoon, we chose to dine outside The Boston Burger Company.

That all said, I enjoyed people-watching in Davis Square where the three of us dined at The Boston Burger Company late on a Monday afternoon.

The 420 burger was way too thick to fit in my mouth.

The 420 burger was way too thick to fit in my mouth.

I ordered the 420 burger (mozzarella sticks, fried mac & cheese, onion rings, fries, bacon, golden BBQ sauce and American cheese) available at 4:20 for $4.20.

That sandwich board would be for a burger.

That sandwich board would be for a burger.

And, yes, 420 was explained to me as I was totally clueless that it references cannabis. Anyone who knows me well would also be surprised that I actually ate a burger.

My son let me sample his King burger. I loved it. And the beans were great, too. Authentic Boston baked perhaps?

My son let me sample his The King burger. I loved it. And the beans were great, too. Authentic Boston baked perhaps?

The husband, as I expected, ordered his predictable burger, one topped with blue cheese. The son chose The King, a burger featuring peanut butter, bacon and a fried banana dusted in cinnamon and sugar. It was delicious.

I regret not taking the time to step inside this theatre.

I regret not taking the time to step inside this theatre.

I’d highly recommend dining outside The Boston Burger Company across from the Somerville Theatre for a front row seat to people-watching. I was thoroughly entertained.

Most cyclists take biking safety seriously. And they should given the heavy vehicle traffic.

Most cyclists take biking safety seriously. And they should given the heavy vehicle traffic.

The list of characters was ever-changing. From the inebriated man whom we worried was about to pee in public, to the young man dribbling a basketball, to the cyclist businessman with his pants legs rolled up to the woman with crimson hair to the chain of daycare kids to the man shouting to himself, I could have penned a dozen stories prompted by the people I saw.

I noticed lots of kids with their parents when I was at Davis Square.

I noticed lots of kids with their parents when I was at Davis Square.

One thing was particularly noticeable to me. With the exception of parents and their kids, I noticed few people interacting. It was as if all these individuals crossing Davis Square were in their own little worlds, en route to wherever they needed to be. The pace was hurried. The scene reminded me of the ants in the Ant Hill Farm my oldest brother had as a kid.

This is the most unusual cyclist I saw with his son riding in front.

This is the most unusual cyclist I saw.

I understand that those who frequent this area may not view Davis Square as I did on a late Monday afternoon in late May. And that’s OK. I was, after all, simply a visitor from Minnesota not widely-traveled outside the Midwest.

BONUS ART PHOTOS:

This colorful art creatively disguises a utility box. I love this type of street art.

This colorful art creatively disguises a utility box. I love this type of street art.

One of two sculptures I spotted.

One of two sculptures I spotted. The bronze masks on the Davis Square sculptures were installed after the original sculptures were vandalized. The sculptures are based on actual people who lived in the Square area.

I spotted this sign while dining, but then forgot to check out the park once I finished my burger.

I spotted this sign while dining, but then forgot to check out the park once I finished my burger.

Lucky for us, there was room to park in one of the public parking lots late on a Monday afternoon.

Lucky for us, there was room to park in one of the public parking lots late on a Monday afternoon. That’s where I photographed the colorful car art.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The patriotism of the Winnebago County, Iowa, courthouse square May 21, 2015

At the top of the hill looking down the street we just traveled to reach downtown Forest City and courthouse square.

At the top of the hill looking down the street we just traveled to reach downtown Forest City and courthouse square.

THE RED-WHITE-AND-BLUE BEDECKED gazebo caught my attention as we drove up the hill, past grain bins and Dollar General, into downtown Forest City two Saturdays before Memorial Day.

This oversized gazebo sits in the Winnebago County Courthouse square.

This oversized gazebo sits in the Winnebago County Courthouse square.

What a delightful, patriotic welcome to this northern Iowa county seat, home to Waldorf College, Winnebago Industries and Heritage Park of North Iowa.

The courthouse was built in 1897 for $20,496. A south wing was added later.

The courthouse was built in 1897 for $20,496. A south wing was added later.

The Winnebago County Veterans Memorial rests on the side of the courthouse near the gazebo.

The Winnebago County Veterans Memorial rests on the side of the courthouse near the gazebo.

The Union Soldier statue was purchased by the local Women's Relief Corps in 1899. The chapter was founded to care for Union soldiers and to assist their widows and orphans and to honor the dead. There are 151 Civil War veterans buried in Winnebago County.

The Union Soldier statue was purchased by the local Women’s Relief Corps in 1899. The chapter was founded to care for Union soldiers and to assist their widows and orphans, and to honor the dead. There are 151 Civil War veterans buried in Winnebago County.

This eye-catching display of American pride drew my eyes to the gazebo and then to the imposing 1897 Romanesque style courthouse. Both sit in the Winnebago County Courthouse square, graced by two war memorials—that of a Union soldier and the Winnebago County Veterans Memorial.

The vintage Sherman tank.

The vintage Sherman tank.

A Sherman tank anchors a corner of the block.

A sculpture on a corner of the courthouse.

A sculpture on a corner of the courthouse.

Aiming my camera up at the towering courthouse.

Aiming my camera up at the towering courthouse. Notice all that architectural detail.

Another courthouse sculpture.

Another courthouse sculpture.

The Union Soldier was constructed from zinc by J. L. Mott Iron Works of Trenton, New Jersey, at a cost of $155.

The Union Soldier was constructed from zinc by J. L. Mott Iron Works of Trenton, New Jersey, at a cost of $155. The monument was restored in 2005.

The fountain atop which the Union soldier stands was also built by J. L. Mott Iron Works. It is of French Victorian design. The goat head symbolizes strength and victory.

The fountain atop which the Union soldier stands was also built by J. L. Mott Iron Works. It is of French Victorian design. The goat heads symbolize strength and victory.

It was a lot to take in, to photograph. Artsy architectural details add visual interest to the fountain and courthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. I only wished it had been a week day so I could have toured the courthouse interior.

I appreciated the patriotic colors on The Legion.

I appreciated the patriotic colors on The Legion.

But, since I couldn’t get inside, I focused my camera on the exterior, all the while watched by two elderly men across the street near the Legion. I expect they were wondering about the couple in the car with Minnesota plates and the woman shooting pictures with a fancy camera. Perhaps I should have chatted it up with them. The likely could have told me a story or ten.

FYI: Click here to read my first, and then my second, blog post on other Forest City, Iowa, attractions.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Touring Franconia Sculpture Park, Part II October 23, 2014

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IF YOU’RE LIKE ME and grew up in a rural area with minimal access to the arts, you appreciate every affordable opportunity to experience art as an adult. For that reason, I often showcase the arts here.

I want you to be aware of the wonderful arts opportunities right in your own Minnesota backyard. To you readers who live elsewhere, I expect you will find local or regional artistic venues unknown to you or unexplored by your for whatever reason.

A snippet overview of Franconia shows "The Harris Project" by Ohio artist Araan Schmidt in the foreground.

A snippet overview of Franconia shows “The Harris Project” by Ohio artist Araan Schmidt in the foreground.

That brings us back to the Franconia Sculpture Park which, since its founding in 1996, has supported 735 national and international artists. Impressive. It offers an artist residency program. And to think I’ve never explored this 25-acre park with 100-plus oversized sculptures southwest of Taylors Falls until a few weeks ago.

But then again I’ve never been to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden either and that’s been around since 1988 and its even closer to my home than Franconia. I really must tour the Minneapolis park sometime. It’s my lack of fondness for urban traffic and urban areas that’s kept me away.

Minnesota artist Mary Johnson's "Lizard Lounge."

Minnesota artist Mary Johnson’s “Lizard Lounge.”

Give me rural any day, one of the reasons I appreciate Franconia so much. It’s located in Franconia Township, which nestles the St. Croix River. The park runs flat and open and stands next to farm fields.

With these hours, there's ample opportunity to tour Franconia.

With these hours, there’s ample opportunity to tour Franconia.

Yesterday I offered you a photo tour glimpse of Franconia, which is open dawn to dusk every day. Here’s one more peek at the art you’ll find there.

Donations are encouraged to support the park.

Donations are encouraged to support the park.

Admission is free, although donations are encouraged.

ONWARD, INTO THE TOUR:

It's interesting to study the light reflecting on these triangles. New York City artist Ryan W. Turley created this sculpture which he calls "Spectacle."

It’s interesting to study the light reflecting on these triangles. New York City artist Ryan W. Turley created this sculpture which he calls “Spectacle.”

There's something about the bend of this sculpture and its positioning that drew my eye.

There’s something about the bend of this sculpture and its positioning that drew my eye. And, yes, that’s a cornfield in the background.

There are a few, what one would consider, more traditional sculptures like this one.

There are a few, what one would consider, more traditional sculptures like this haunting one.

Art in progress.

Art in progress.

I couldn't figure out if this was art or the home of a resident artist or both.

I couldn’t figure out if this was art or the home of a resident artist or both.

Maryland artist James R. Long calls his sculpture "Vessel with Orbs." To me it looks like BINGO balls minus the numbers and letters.

Maryland artist James R. Long calls his sculpture “Vessel with Orbs.” To me it looks like BINGO balls minus the numbers and letters.

I really liked this sculpture

My impression of this sculpture: escape.

CLICK HERE TO READ my first post about Franconia Sculpture Park.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Franconia, up close: A visit to a rural Minnesota sculpture park October 22, 2014

Welcome to Fraconia Sculpture Park.

Welcome to Franconia Sculpture Park.

EXPLAINING THE 25-ACRE Franconia Sculpture Park in rural Shafer, Minnesota, eludes a succinct definition.

Some of the pieces invite interaction and play.

Some of the pieces invite interaction and play.

This place, just west of Taylors Falls off U.S. Highway 8 where State Highway 95 turns south in Franconia Township, seems a playground for the imagination. For here you will find 105 oversized sculptures and others in progress that are mostly abstract and open to interpretation.

An overview of a section of the park shows its size and scale.

An overview of a section of the park shows its size and scale.

And isn’t that part of what defines art, the perspective the viewer brings to the piece?

How we view art is rooted deep in our experiences.

How we view art is rooted deep in our experiences.

I won’t pretend to bring any studied art knowledge to this mini photo tour of Franconia. I bring only my background, my life experiences, my interpretation and a deep appreciation for the creative process. For whether we create with words or paint, metal or wood, or any other material, the reason for creating remains rooted in passion and the need to express one’s self.

This suspended sculpture by Minnesota artist Melanie VanHouten is titled "Reclamation." All I could think were Dorothy and "you're not in Kansas anymore" and tornadoes and "The Wizard of Oz."

This suspended sculpture by Minnesota artist Melanie VanHouten is titled “Reclamation.” All I could think were Dorothy and “you’re not in Kansas anymore” and tornadoes and “The Wizard of Oz.”

Franconia is worth a visit, whether to immerse yourself or for a quick study of art worked from mostly found/repurposed objects. I especially appreciate that aspect of this sculpture park.

I noticed how the trailside flowers mimicked a sculpture behind them.

I noticed how the trailside flowers mimic a sculpture behind them.

It’s a vast, wide open rural space that anchors these sculptures and hosts resident artists. Allow plenty of time to meander the many trails that wind among the sculptures. And, if it’s a cold and windy day, clamp a cap upon your head. You’ll need it.

SELECTED PHOTOS from my tour of Franconia, with more to come in a second post:

Bayete Ross Smith of New York City created "God the Power: Minnesota," a towering stack of boomboxes. Remember these?

Bayete Ross Smith of New York City created “Got the Power: Minnesota,” a towering stack of boomboxes.

These remind me of broken surfboards. They certainly inject a jolt of color into the park.

These remind me of broken surfboards. They certainly inject a jolt of color into the park. The circle is part of another sculpture in the background.

A somewhat more traditional sculpture.

A somewhat more traditional sculpture.

It is the setting of this geometric art that especially pleases me. Right next to a cornfield.

It is the setting of this geometric art, right next to a cornfield, that especially pleases me.

I happened upon this sign, a reminder that artists are actively at work here.

I happened upon this sign, a reminder that artists work here.

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Minnesota artist Kari Anne Reardon’s “The Big Game”drew my attention for the subject matter and scale. Yes that is a “gun” aiming at a deer.

This sculpture was among my favorites and reminds me of milkweeds.

This sculpture was among my favorites and reminds me of milkweed pods.

Milkweed pods, along the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway near Morton, autumn 2006

See the resemblance to milkweed? You’ll find real milkweed growing at Franconia. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

"Black Book," the work of Minnesota artist Peyton features multiple paintings on "pages."

“Black Book,” the work of Minnesota artist Peyton, features multiple paintings on “pages.”

Donations to this nonprofit arts organization are welcome.

Donations to this nonprofit arts organization are welcome.

Note: Please visit the Franconia website (click here) for titles of artwork and the artists and for more info about the art shown here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling