Newsletter Vol. 2 Issue 2 Fall 2019

In this issue Arts, Culture, Community, Wellness and Commitment!


Volume 2 Issue 2 PDF

A Vision for the Future | Seeing with Fresh Eyes

Many know the history behind the Cultural Centre as what use to be the Dirks-Blem Funeral Home in town, the amazing story of one man seeing the vision Mark and Rosemary dreamed of and the benefit it would be to the surrounding communities. If you don’t know the story, you can check it out here. What you may not know is the challenge it has been to transform the space so that people can see it for what it is now, a center for arts and community wellness, instead of what it was, the local funeral parlor.

Being a website designer, I’ve had the glorious opportunity to work with Mark and Rosemary on the website rebuild for the Cultural Centre. Which also meant having my camera, extra memory cards and battery pack at the ready so when there is a new exhibit, class, meeting or event going on, I can swing over and get some shots.

Needless to say, this process has truly given me a set of fresh eyes.

My previous job was as a designer at the local floral shop, delivering countless floral arrangements to what was then a funeral home, in memory of many loved ones passed on. Even for a creative visionary like myself, it was hard at times to see people ever being able to look past the décor of what the Cultural Centre once was.

However, something happens to you when you spend random moments there.

There is a peace in that building that is hard to express without experiencing it firsthand. You quickly find yourself wanting to take your shoes off and stay awhile. One could sit for hours to hear the unique stories behind the different art pieces, and you’ll never leave there feeling anything less than loved by the great Rosemary herself.

At times, beautiful pottery sits upon white pillars made of wood, then quickly transforms into a watercolor lover’s paradise. If I had to compare the experience to something it would be a time when I visited The Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. An admirer of her work for many years, I remember walking in, being so up close and personal with her work that you could see all the blunders and mistakes she had made. Seeing beautiful artwork in all its glory in the middle of nowhere makes you feel…. something.

That’s exactly what I feel like walking into the Cultural Center. In no time, incredibly beautiful old magazines from the early 1900’s are being placed in front of me for viewing. Original sculptures beautifully displayed, paintings and photography suspended from wire strands, the people, stories and community are what make this The Cultural Centre.

Always changing, and yet never losing its purpose. A building filled with the imprint of many, making a lasting impression on the lives of all.  May you stay long and visit often.

Enriching Lives | Building Community

The Arts in all mediums are an essential part of building strong communities and embracing the unique culture that exists within them.

I had the joy of wandering around Bird Island capturing some images for a magazine article and I have to admit, I fell in love with what some would call a dying small town. However, I saw just the opposite. The architecture, the gardens, Mariachi music drifting through the air, kids running through the parks, the setting sun casting the perfect glow across the grain elevator, streets lined with dozens of trees in full bloom, families cheering on the baseball team, master gardeners hard at work by the fair ground entrance, and the glow of Athmann’s Restaurant sign after dark. I couldn’t walk more than a few houses without seeing someone growing their own food, even if it was just a couple tomatoes in planters outside their front door.

What do all of those things have in common? They all play a significant role in the unique culture of this community. They’re all beautifully artful in their own way. To say I fell in love with this small town would be an understatement.

As a graphic designer and garden designer, I suddenly couldn’t help but walk past a vacant lot and imagine a gorgeous edible landscape with artful places to sit, play music, and consume beloved family food. I am very close to grabbing my shovel and flash mob planting a space in the middle of the night.

My point is, art in its many forms inspires. It creates an atmosphere where people can feel free to express themselves in a beautiful way, and the Cultural Centre serves as a catalyst. Through art exhibits, providing place for youth and adults to create art, make music, learn to cook and gather for community events; you will gain skills and leave inspired to find the unique cultural within your community as well.

The Cultural Centre is more than just a building with art on the walls. It has served as a reminder of the importance of living life together and serving one another with our unique abilities and giftings. And a community joined together in with the common purpose of enriching the lives of one another is truly a gift to all.

Click here to learn more about what the Cultural Centre has to offer.

Why Art?

The process or the appreciation of creative expression is a gift; a gift granted to humans throughout time. The Bhimbetka and Daraki Petroglyphs (290,000 – 700,000 BCE) found in two ancient quartzite caves in India during the 1990’s inspires us to ask who created these petroglyphs, was it utilitarian or simply creative expression?

As in ancient times, the artist creates a story through sculpture, paints, found objects, earth, paper etc., it doesn’t matter the medium used; the artist for a brief period in time focuses on creating an expression of the human experience.

In 2019 the Cultural Centre’s monthly exhibits ranged from Trish Bielke’s weavings, to color theorist Bud Setzepfandt’s work, to Michele Steffen’s realism, to Renae Saunders’ watercolors – these amazing artists told visual stories and sometimes provoked harmony or dissonance depending on the viewer. And that dear friends, is the purpose of art – to engage the viewer in a discussion with the artist even though the artist is not physically present.  

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”  Thomas Merton


Soft Opening on 'Fat Tuesday' with C&C Members

Our first official event took place on February 28, 2017 for the Bird Island C&C quarterly ‘Business After Hours’ evening out. 

The Bird Island Civic and Commerce puts on a quarterly event to bring together Bird Island business folks for an evening of food and activities. Typically, the event host rotates amongst various businesses or business sponsors throughout town. This event took place on “Fat Tuesday”, which is done in honor of the mythical ‘last-night-to-binge’ before what is traditionally the start of Lenten season, for those that celebrate it. C&C members were notified by mail, email, and the local newspaper (Bird Island Union) in the weeks leading up to the soft opening. Our signs were put up the day before this event by local graphic designer Jesse Hopkins with Rehab Wraps.
The event began with plenty of dinner food and desserts, shared with us by various local folks and businesses such as: Athmann’s Inn, The Broaster Cafe, and Paul Heyl with his specialty cheesecake, among a few others. Folks began to arrive around 5:00 pm and were quite excited to see the array of food and desserts that were laid out for them. It was, after all, ‘Fat Tuesday‘ so people were prepared to enjoy themselves. Folks gathered together at a few of the tables and sat around eating and enjoying their food for about a half hour. Some had time to peruse the art and historic artifacts the Centre had on display. Along many of the walls, we featured local New Ulm artist Deborah Petron. The displayed pieces are part of a wide varying collection of beautiful colored pencil pieces that will be rotated throughout the year at the Centre. All of her works of art are up for sale as part of our Deborah Petron Art Initiative to support the New Ulm and BOLD school system’s art programs and encourage art students to continue their passions. We also had on display various historic artifacts: wrought iron arrows and a prosthetic leg from the American Legion (donated by Gathering Friends Quilt Shop in Bird Island), a few of the old Bird Island Union bound collections that are available on microfilm at many of the historical society’s in the area, and a mysterious photo dating to the early-1900s that claims Bird Island was once home to a meat market.
Mid-way through the evening our Executive Director, Mariah Martinez, introduced herself to everyone and described just a few of the many programs we plan to implement at the Cultural Centre. Among them are: poetry competitions, violin lessons, CPR/First Aid classes, memoir writing workshops, language classes, mindfulness seminars, non-cell phone communication workshops, and live music from local musicians on a regular basis. These programs are only a small collection of what is possible to host at the Centre. Our Executive Director emphasized with folks in attendance that we want to hear from Bird Islanders and surrounding are residents about what they want to do at the Centre. Mariah invited the community to be teachers, students, and sharers of experience and love. She also gave them a few basic yoga techniques to take home with them, specifically geared towards people who sit at desks all day and/or are on their feet most of the day. Most folks joined in on the yoga routine. Our Board’s Vice President, Paul Heyl presented a few poems, two of his own, and shared a bit of information about our upcoming poetry competition via Submittable under the name of “Prairie Poetry Pound Down”. Folks wanting to enter the online competition and/or take part in the live competition, on June 17th, 2017 as part of Bird Island Days annual celebration can do so via our Submittable site. More on this event will be made available as it all comes together.
The evening ended with piano duels, congratulations and plenty of wonderful suggestions for possible activities, events, and programs to be hosted at/by the Cultural Centre. If you want more regular updates please follow our Facebook page and let us know if you have any questions, concerns, and/or suggestions for programming! We look forward to serving Bird Islanders as a community space for whatever the folks/town should need. Our prices for rental and our various classes can also be found on our Facebook page as well as on our respective pages here on our site!

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