Jeanne's artistic journey started as a kid when she participated in theater and speech, encouraged by her dad. But she didn't discover her love of her current art form until the 1990s, when she became fascinated by the computer and printer. She enjoyed the ability to print out photographs and artwork, even when it wasn't her own. Wanting to engage on a deeper level, she purchased her first digital camera and started photographing her surroundings. Her camera quickly became a part of her, and she was encouraged by all the compliments she received on her photos. She was able to start designing flyers for friends, which evolved into making greeting cards with her photos on the front.
Proud of the cards she was making, she took a leap of faith and approached her general manager at the St. Louis Park Byerlys and asked if she could sell her cards there. To her surprise and delight, he said yes! The good news reignited her passion to continue exploring the art form, and she purchased a nice camera to get even better results. The new camera compared to the old was like "the difference between throwing a paper airplane and flying a 747."
As she kept at it, her photos continued improving, but not without plenty of mistakes. "You gotta kiss a lot of toads before you get your prince" -- or in this case, your prints. Her general manager noticed the improvements and moved the cards to a more prominent area: right at the checkout aisle for all to see. Her sales improved, and she's developed a following of supporters who check in to see when the new designs are available.
The beauty of the artist is that the journey never ends. Jeanne has now gotten into photo editing, which has taken her out of her comfort zone. "The learning will be ongoing," and she's glad for it. New equipment and editing skills have enabled her to explore photo enlargements, and she has started working with some printers, framers, and matters.
When asked if she had advice for others who might want to get into a new art form for the first time, she quickly replied, "if your heart is in it--if it's your passion--it will happen." It's advice she follows daily as she continues to follow her heart and her passion, finding beauty in the world through her camera lens.
You can find Jeanne's cards for sale in the checkout aisles at St. Louis Park Lunds & Byerlys, or contact her at email@example.com to inquire about her photos, cards, and prints.
Mari Harris is a singer, pianist, voice teacher, and vocal coach. More recently, she started identifying as an artist and philanthropist. Mari lives her life as one work of art, with each day and decision its own brushstroke. She has chosen to live with great intention to her actions and decisions, much like the way she sings with intention, giving each note and word just the right balance and inflection.
Mari recently performed in St. Paul as part of the Rhythm in Rice series, which uses "music as the thread to honor and unite multi cultural communities." She is often called a jazz vocalist, but her singing is multidimensional, and she performs a wide variety of styles as a soloist and band leader.
In addition to performing on stage in concert, Mari uses her talents to help people at conferences and workshops get the most out of their time. After they've been sitting all day absorbing information, networking, and listening to presenters, Mari will perform a final set of music to send them on their way. Her spirit and voice helps transform information into action, and inspires the guests to use what they've learned and create positive change. It might not be a typical gig for a singer, but Mari is not your typical artist.
What's next for Mari? She has been invited to perform and produce theater productions all over the country in some unique and nontraditional venues, like a public library. Though Mari's background is not in production, she says she has enjoyed the new opportunity, and might give it a try closer to home. Keep an eye out for Mari in St. Louis Park and the Twin Cities, as she's certain to be performing somewhere near you soon!
Aric Bieganek is literally a rockstar. He is the founder and front-man of a band called ROCK, which stands for the Royal Order of Chords and Keys. But, their audience isn't necessarily who you'd expect. Aric and his bandmates play what's known as Kindie Rock music. That's a combination of "kid" and "indie," and the band is wildly successful with kids and adults alike. ROCK has performed at festivals and conferences in Brooklyn, NY and Ann Arbor, MI and plays frequently all around the Twin Cities. In 2011, Aric even received New England Public Radio's Arts and Humanities Award for Emerging Talent.
Aric has always searched for ways to focus his music on building community. He was involved in music and theater groups growing up, and has experienced first hand the power of music on a community. He certainly experienced this while he was living in New York City, working as an early-childhood music educator. The classes there didn't want to hear "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or the other kids' classics, so he took their feedback like any good community-focused artist would, and decided to write his own songs. He put pen to paper, and before he knew it, he had written hit songs like "Central Park Kitty," "The Pizza Song," and a rap song called "Cookies and Milk." And the crowd went wild. In 2006, Aric brought his unique teaching style to Northampton, MA, where his original songs were so popular that his classes grew, and he had 50-60 families coming on a weekly basis to rock out together to his Kindie Rock music.
Wanting to be closer to family, Aric moved back to Minnesota in 2012, and found a home in St. Louis Park. He loves living in a vibrant, open-minded, social community, going to events at Wolfe Park, and enjoying all the creative activities the Twin Cities has to offer. These days, Aric is advising students at McNally Smith College of Music on how to follow their dreams in pursuit of careers in music. On weekends, you can find him teaching children in Northeast, and rocking out with kids all over the community.
While he's found his professional vocation in teaching and children's music, Aric's favorite job is being a dad to his eight year old daughter. He's encouraged her to make art and music, but has let her passions grow on their own. She loves to drum on the kitchen table, give concerts in the back yard, and draw her own comic books. Who knows? Maybe someday we'll see the two of them share the stage with their own Kindie Rock band.
You can read more and hear Aric's band, ROCK, at welcometorock.com
Sheila Asato is, to put it quite simply, a creative in every sense of the word. When asked her mission as an artist, she says "My mission as an artist is to support healing across cultures through art. I love collecting stories, visual and verbal, and giving them form through the book arts. My work is deeply informed by dreaming, which allows me to go below the surface of culture and language, to a common world we all share each night. While much of the dream experience can never be fully translated into waking life, I believe we can invite the transformative energy of dreaming into waking life through the arts."
Sheila doesn't consciously choose what area or discipline of art to pursue, but rather allows her dreams to guide her in the right direction. In the past, her dreams have led her to painting with watercolors, teaching and facilitating workshops, living in and studying the culture of Japan, designing and making books, cross-cultural training of business people and their families, and opening up her own creative studio right here in St. Louis Park. Lately, her dreams have been leading her into more writing, which she hopes will allow her to reach more people and receive more funding through grants.
While we all, in some cases unknowingly, dream in our sleep sleep, Sheila has found a way to harness the creative energy of dreams. "Dreams are essential to our psychological and emotional well-being. It is our most emotional state of consciousness, so that's where we work stuff out...Dreams are essential to the consolidation of memory...Dreaming is essential to survival...We generally don't value states of consciousness outside of waking, rational awareness of physical reality, and there's a whole lot more to life than just that."
Sheila has found a way to present this tough-to-grasp concept of multiple levels of consciousness through book arts. As I held and paged through a book she created, I admired it's beautiful colors and textures, but saw it only as a book, in the way I've seen so many books throughout my life. She told me that's how I see my everyday waking life, only in the dimension I know and am familiar seeing. I handed the book back to her, and as she took it, she opened it up to reveal a wonderful web of pages that folded and unfolded in ways I hadn't even considered. Light poured through the pages and the true magic of the book became so tangibly clear. That is what you can unlock in your dreams, she told me. There is so much more depth and substance to it than what first meets the eye.
At Monkey Bridge Arts, Sheila offers individual and group dreamwork, in addition to visual art lessons like bookmaking and watercolor painting. Sheila hopes that in the next five years, her studio adjacent to the historic Walker St. downtown area might become the heart of the arts in St. Louis Park. "I'd love to have all these apartments and the spaces here be filled with musicians, and artists, and actors, and writers. Wouldn't that be cool to make this an arts district?" Sheila is open to visits at her studio where you can see her work and learn more about her fascinating artistic journey. Learn and see more at www.monkeybridgearts.com
Duncan Macklem-Johnson is a student at Perpich Center for Arts Education and a resident of St. Louis Park. As part of his studies at Perpich, he was assigned an independent project related to music. Duncan chose to organize a benefit concert to support Avenues for Youth, and he has worked hard to organize the venue, performers, budget, marketing, logistics, and more. We sat down with Duncan to learn more about his journey with this proejct.
How did you decide to do a benefit concert for your independent project?
Every year at Perpich Center for Arts Education, the music department assigns its students an independent project. The instructions are to work out an idea with an advisor that would teach you something related to music and set up a structure that can help you achieve this goal over the course of 3 months. This year I chose to plan a benefit concert because it holds the opportunity to teach me about the music industry and it also benefits the community that has supported me in my path to become an artist.
How did you choose the charity? What’s special about them to you?
I have been volunteering at organizations that help the community as long as I remember, but for this show I decided to pick and organization that I had not previously worked with. I read through many different articles and websites about a variety of different organizations and the one that stuck out to me the most was Avenues for Youth. Avenues offers shelter to homeless youth around Twin Cities area, but what made them so memorable was that they didn't stop there. They help all the people that come through their doors to attain and sustain a stable life. They teach them valuable life skills such as cooking, and they also teach them how to set up a resume and secure a job. The passion that these people share for the community goes beyond what I could have imagined and that's why I chose to plan this concert in their name. I have been in contact with several members of their staff and all of them are very welcoming and excited for my project.
What has been the biggest challenge so far, or a challenge that you didn’t expect to face?
So far the biggest challenge has been the anticipation. The St. Louis Park community has been very supportive, but even with all the support the fear of failure always lingers. Luckily this has driven me to seek as many opportunities to advertise and add elements to this event. The anticipation has not ended yet but as more time passes I believe that this feeling will slowly dwindle because of all the support that still has yet to come.
What have you learned about yourself or about putting on a benefit concert through this process?
Through this project I have learned that I am much more productive when I keep my things organized. In my artistic life I find comfort in the imperfect and unorganized, but planning an event is made much easier with an organized approach.
How long have you been practicing your art form?
I started playing guitar when I was 15 years old. I was hooked immediately and it seems like I’ve never put down the guitar during the last few decades! I have been a singer since I was a small child. At the age of 16 I wrote my first songs. I have been a Music Therapist professionally for nearly 22 years.
What is one of your favorite memories or stories from your artistic journey?
I’ve been in a great number of performance situations over my life as a musician, but one of my favorites has got to be the evening I performed a few of my original songs during a songwriter’s showcase in Dublin, Ireland. They introduced me as someone who came from “all the way across the pond” just to sing for them. The Irish audience was so attentive and appreciative. They were great!
What's next for you artistically?
A little while back I wrote 100 songs in the space of 2.5 years. The songs were inspired by my wife’s miraculous survival from Stage IV brain cancer. These songs never mention illness, but they express a much more mature experience and understanding of life than I had previous to her illness and survival. I hope to merge my wife’s beautiful, inspirational and dramatic story of survival with these songs and create a movie and/or theatrical performance which will be meaningful to people.
Apart from that, I’m sure that I will always keep my ties to Music Therapy.
You can find some of Brian's lyrics and songs on his website, www.brianzachek.com
Josie Ross is a student at Benilde-St. Margaret's High School in St. Louis Park. She has been acting at BSM and other local theater companies for many years, and is hoping to pursue a degree in theater or directing after she finishes high school. Josie loves the collaborative effort that is a theater production, and is passionate about making the theater an inclusive space for all. We asked Josie about who inspires her artistically, and she had a huge list of names. We've shared her stories of two people here.
Josie: I met Scotty Reynolds when he coached me as a seventh grade speech competitor at Benilde-St. Margaret’s School. He told me about his interesting work as the Artistic Director for Mixed Precipitation Picnic Operetta. I auditioned for a production as a seventh grader and for the next three years, I was fortunate enough to join the company as an actor and eventually served as an Accessibility Intern. From these varied experiences with Scotty, I learned that theater and storytelling do not need to happen within a traditional theater space. To reach broader audiences, you can go into the community and provide access. For Scotty, this access meant traveling to community gardens in Minnesota to perform free picnic operettas to communities that would not have access to theater, let alone opera.
Matt Jenson is the Director for Arts Programming at Minnesota’s Association for Children’s Mental Health. I met him as an actor when he directed Fidgety Fairy Tales, a company that stages musical productions to re-imagine myths and legends to raise awareness about children’s mental health around the state of Minnesota. After acting for several seasons, Matt offered me a role as a student director. In addition to spreading a message about the importance of removing the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding mental illness, my involvement in these productions helped me understand another important element of accessibility: theater access is not limited to the audience; the cast can include different members of our community. For example, Matt does not limit the cast to fully-abled people, but instead includes children ages 7-18 who have mental health disorders or physical disabilities.
I acted at Stages Theatre Company in their first sensory friendly show, which allowed people who are deaf, blind, or on the autism spectrum to come and watch the performance. These shows allowed the audience members to watch the performance regardless of their needs, including dimmed lights, lowered sound effects, and a chance to meet the actors before the show. When I saw the look of happiness on these children’s faces, I realized what I was doing made a true impact. Through this experience, I came to see that everyone deserves to have access to theater. I began to research training opportunities in the Twin Cities and learned that the Children’s Theatre Company offered training on how to work with people with special needs to its in-house employees, and I begged to be a part of the program. I was trained alongside the employees and was asked to work for their summer camps with children with special needs. I shared this knowledge with other theater programs, volunteering as an accessibility intern for three theater companies.
Another time I was able to fine tune my skills was as a cast member in a production at Chaska Valley Family Theatre. A young woman in our cast grew up with two deaf parents. Her father had been diagnosed with cancer and was likely to pass away during the run of our show. I knew how much his daughter would have liked to have her father experience one of her shows. Not knowing how to provide quality theater experiences to the hearing impaired, I began to research community resources. After learning how to find qualified American Sign Language interpreters, I raised money to provide an ASL interpreter for two of our shows by selling some promotional items to audience members before and after each show. I raised $3,000, which covered the expenses of the interpreter. These shows were dedicated to the father, and many deaf people, including the the actor’s family, came and enjoyed these shows. I started a fund in memory of the father that provides an ASL interpreter at one show in each of the theater’s productions.
Linda Trummer has lived and worked in St Louis Park for over 40 years and has been involved in the community in numerous ways. One of the most impactful may be as the Outreach Coordinator of the Meadowbrook Collaborative for 23 years.
"Linda has been a faithful steward of The Meadowbrook Collaborative which has touched and transformed the lives of many young people from economically challenged families living at Meadowbrook Manor in St. Louis Park. She has worked with local artists to bring hope, inspiration, and creativity to a part of our community that would not have access to these ingredients for healthy living without her and the Collaborative," said a FOTA Board Member.
When asked what about her work with the Meadowbrook community has made her the most proud, without hesitation Linda said, "the kids." She has stayed connected with many people she has come to know. The impact Linda has had on people's lives keeps them drawn to her. "That's just my greatest joy, watching kids grow up and seeing them come back to visit."
Just over a year ago, Linda was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma, which demanded she suspend the work that has brought her so much joy. While on medical leave, Linda felt it was important to fill her time with something meaningful. "I was thinking about all the times I used art with little kids over at Meadowbrook." Linda began sitting with people on the oncology floor at the hospital. She invites them to just doodle or color, and they begin talking. "People don't even know that talking to someone who has cancer or anyone else in general can really be healing." Linda's desire to have an impact on the care people receive at the hospital has led her to join the hospital's Patient Advisory Board. As Linda will attest, the staff at Methodist is amazing. However, it's hard to deny that spending time with Linda doodling and talking allows everyone to feel better than when they came in.
Linda's diagnosis has been life-changing. "An important part of that journey for me was to be able to share my experiences with others in a meaningful way, and for others to not fear sharing their own emotions in return." Linda has been writing a book about her experience. She also journals and shares some of what she writes with friends on Facebook. Her poem, "Leaving Behind," is one of many Linda posted as a way to " ...just write what is going through my heart." Linda's cousin, Randy Trummer, put those words to music. Randy returned Linda's words back to her with images and set to music he wrote and performed, giving Linda's experiences an even greater impact to those near her.
As a poet, song-writer, or fellow doodler, Linda has found a way to continue giving to others with her greatest lesson: "Spend more time appreciating all that surrounds us, write love letters and thank you notes. Say 'I love you,' and share hugs. Make every moment matter. Write a poem and make it a song, and sing it every day. Even if you can't sing. Then laugh out loud, and start all over!"
How did you first get into painting?
I got into painting at a very, very early age. My father was a commercial artist, and the minute we could hold something in our hand to draw with or color with, we were painting and drawing. So, it was just kind of a natural thing for me, and both my sisters are artists, and both my sons are artists as well. So, I really believe that it is an inherent ability.
How did you wind up getting into teaching? Did you have to put a stop to your painting?
I found that in my early years of teaching I was mostly just doing the teaching and raising my family, taking care of my garden, and all those kinds of things. But I was able to pursue my own art as my children got older and probably when I started teaching middle school. I really got my art out in the community when I was living in St. Cloud. I found it was a good combination being a teacher and giving myself time in the summer to do my artwork.
How do you go about getting your artwork out into the community?
I’m not doing it nearly like I used to. Kind of word of mouth--if I knew other artists in the area or if I knew they had galleries. I used to do art shows and art fairs, and it was a lot of work. People just didn’t realize what it costs to buy an original piece. Then, I was doing a lot of watercolors so I had everything matted and framed, and that’s expensive. So, I stopped doing that, but I met other artists. By meeting other artists it gave me an avenue to find out places where I could show my work. I would enter shows and be accepted into some of the galleries that were up there [in St. Cloud]...When we moved to the Twin Cities I thought, well I’m kind of done doing that. If someone finds out about me, great. But, I started teaching community ed in St. Louis Park, and that got me out there a little bit. And through my teaching art in community ed, I repeated many, many classes, and some of my students kept taking all of them. So, now I have three private students that come to my home studio that I work with. And it’s great. They're adult students. It’s pretty fun
Do you miss doing the art shows?
A lot of artists who do these art fairs get stuck in a rut because what they do sells. And it’s easier, and they have a gimmick that works. I used to tell myself, “I’m not gonna do that,” and I haven’t. But then, I haven’t really made a living at it, either...That’s why certain pieces speak to you, because the person hasn’t tried to use a gimmick, they haven’t tried to control or contrive the piece. You want it to be real. You want it to be you.
I’m a singer, and it’s interesting hearing you say that, and probably thinking of visual art, while I’m thinking of music in the exact same way. It’s interesting how the concept applies so well across art forms.
It does. It absolutely does. That’s what I don’t like about some singers--I say, "who are you trying to sound like? Why are you doing that to your voice? Just sing the song." And I realize there are pieces of music that are more abstract than what you would normally hear, but there’s still good ways to present them. That’s critical thinking right there. That’s what we give our young children by exposing them to the arts. I used to always tell my students, I’m not trying to groom you for being a professional artist. If that’s what you choose, that’s wonderful. But, I’m just exposing you to things...so you have some of that feeling. That empathy you need to have. And the beauty.