Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Alley-side art in Faribault May 3, 2021

Faribault’s newest mural, completed late last year.

OUTDOOR PUBLIC ART enhances a community. It provides an outlet for creativity, adds interest to place and often brings joy. At least that’s my assessment.

As someone who grew up in rural southwestern Minnesota with minimal exposure to the arts—or perhaps more accurately minimal opportunity in the arts—I deeply appreciate the arts.

This sculptor of Alexander Faribault trading with a Dakota trading partner stands in Faribault’s Heritage Park near the Straight River and site of Faribault’s trading post. Faribault artist Ivan Whillock created this sculpture which sits atop a fountain known as the Bea Duncan Memorial Fountain. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

My community of Faribault, where I’ve lived for the past 39 years, embraces creativity, centered today at the Paradise Center for the Arts. Yet, the visual arts extend well beyond the walls of the Paradise to stained glass windows in our historic churches, an art collection at Buckham Memorial Library, sculptures, architecture, home-grown shops, historic-themed murals and even the graceful curves of the historic viaduct.

In this January 2016 photo taken from the viaduct, you can see the back of The Upper East Side (white stucco building) before the mural was added. The historic building originally housed W.H. Stevens Drug. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

You can see Faribault’s newest addition to the outdoor art scene from that viaduct, which offers a sweeping view of the downtown area.

Visual layering is part of this mural.

But I viewed this latest public art close up from an alley. On the back and sides of The Upper East Side, an art and gallery space at 213 Central Avenue, Morristown area artist Jeff Jarvis (West Cedar Studio) painted a mural onto the stucco building.

A 1950s scene along Faribault’s Central Avenue is shown in this mural in our downtown district. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The mural differs significantly from the historic-themed murals scattered throughout our downtown as part of The Mural Society of Faribault’s ongoing mural installation efforts.

Close up, colors and graphics pop.

The Upper East Side mural, a project of owner Suzanne Schwichtenberg and Jarvis, is more modern and graphic with strong lines. Less detailed. Bold. With unexpected pops of color. I find the zipper painted into the mural to be especially creative—the unzipping of history, of stories, of past and present. The mural invites introspection rather than simple reflection on an historic place or memory.

That’s my take. Not as someone with an art education, but rather as a creative who has grown to appreciate the arts in her community and beyond.

A locally-themed tote displayed at The Upper East Side. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo September 2018.

FYI: Suzanne Schwichtenberg leads paint-and-sip events and other painting sessions at The Upper East Side and also takes painting/social gatherings on the road. Jarvis is a third-generation artist specializing in historical sketches and scenes from everyday life. He is passionate about local and regional history, authoring a book on the area’s mill history.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On the east side of Central, creativity thrives in a Faribault shop September 5, 2018

Suzanne’s original art tells the story of her life. The top of the painting, with two hearts, is missing from this image.

 

SHE IS THE KIND OF PERSON who exudes happiness. You know. Big smile. Energetic. Outgoing and welcoming. The type of person you want to be around because she’ll make you feel better simply by being in her presence.

 

The back room studio where guests paint. Suzanne is adding a kiln to this space.

 

Recently I spent some time with downtown Faribault shop owner/artist Suzanne Schwichtenberg of The Upper East Side. It was an impromptu visit, an invitation extended when Suzanne noticed Randy and me walking toward her in the 200 block of Faribault’s Central Avenue late on a Sunday afternoon.

 

Suzanne’s artistic flair, decorating talents and appreciation for historic buildings shine in the living room of her second floor Airbnb.

 

The Airbnb features a spacious, full kitchen.

 

Paintings by Joseph Feaster are featured in the beautiful gallery space as you enter The Upper East Side.

 

Even with guests inside her shop finishing artwork at a sip-and-paint event, Suzanne had time for us. Time to tour us through her second floor Airbnb and then around her gallery.

 

Guests can paint pillows like this one propped against an original brick wall and lovely wood floor.

 

I could not believe this was the same ground level space that previously housed an insurance and financial business once run by Suzanne’s husband. The transformation back to original exposed brick walls, wood floors, transom windows and more was remarkable.

 

 

Any restoration to historic delights me. As does this shop, a gathering spot for artists, from novice to professional. Creativity defines this space in the heart of an historic downtown that is ever spreading its artistic wings. Suzanne hosts painting parties for kids to adults. Other artists teach here, show here, work here. This space brims with colorful art, thrums with a creative energy.

 

After an afternoon of guests painting…

 

A sign on the wall notes the offerings of artist Anna Chance at The Upper East Side.

 

Sample paintings line the hallway floor from gallery to back guest studio.

 

Just being inside The Upper East Side with Suzanne left me feeling empowered as an artist. I may not create with paint and a brush, but I create via a keyboard and a camera. It is through the efforts of Suzanne and her team—Joseph Feaster, Anna Chance, Paul Schell and Sarah Beth Stadler—and many others that the arts continue to grow in Faribault.

 

 

We need art. We need the joy it brings. We need the beauty it brings. We need the insights and awakenings and purpose it brings. I cannot imagine my life without art—without stringing words into blog posts, poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. I cannot imagine my life without art—without using my camera to tell a story, to capture a moment, to create a work of art.

 

Tote bag art is another option for guests.

 

I understand Suzanne’s passion. That she is sharing her creative joy makes Faribault a better place. We have a strong community of artists in this southeastern Minnesota city. And to see them emerging as a defining presence in our business district reinforces the importance of the arts—for the local economy, but most of all for us as human beings.

 

 

FYI: The Upper East Side is among 19 studios on the 2018 Studio ARTour of South Central Minnesota set for October 12 – 14 in the Faribault, Northfield, Nerstrand and Farmington areas. Click here for more information.

 

© Copyright 2018 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