Follow-up Artist Reception

This summer has been brutal between the heat and being just being busy. We hosted the first Artist Reception and Fundraiser Preview for the Ottawa County Arts and Humanities Council. The event went amazingly well! I can’t wait to see these remarkable and unique art pieces hung downtown. The Arts Council had the space looking grand, with Art on the walls and a beautiful charcuterie table. The live music really brought it all together. I wish I could really express how joyful it was to see Astoria lit up and filled with people having a good time. Here are some photos from the event.

Artist Reception & Fundraiser Preview

We are so excited to be able to give the Ottawa County Arts & Humanities Council a place to host their first Artist Reception & Fundraiser Preview. The Downtown Banner fundraiser is tied into their Annual Art in the Park Event. The Banners are a way to highlight local artists’ work, raise money for the council, and create a visual space for people to enjoy during the month of September. To find out more about the Banner Project, Art in the Park, and The Ottawa County Arts & Humanities Council, visit their Facebook page at the link below.

www.facebook.com/Ottawacountyartsandhumanities

It Takes a Village.

I recently saw a post on Facebook about how we can’t rely on having a village because they don’t exist. It made me sad that this was posted by a young mom and reflected a lot of struggles that new parents, the elderly, the disabled, and many others feel daily. Loneliness is such an epidemic so large other countries have entire divisions to work to combat it. In so many ways, we are more informationally connected than ever before, and it feels like we are more emotionally disconnected than many past generations. What does it take to build the village that we are missing? What does that village even look like? 

Last week I shared the very special things about this community I live in. Things that make it a really nice place to live. Those special things don’t happen by accident they are often by design. One thing I will say is we can still do better. A village is built not just by the people in it taking but by them giving back. We have amazing people that run committees, councils, meetings, planning boards, and volunteers to make it work. There are a fair number of us that are in different organizations and give a lot of time and dedication to these things. Volunteer burnout happens sometimes. To create the village we want, we must show up and give back on top of asking for what we need. This summer, the Minneapolis Rec Commission really worked hard to bring an abundance of activities for kids, and our Markley Grove Park Friends work on bringing community events at the park. Those that volunteer do great things and our communities need people to give back and show up. These activities help to build a village because it takes us out of behind our screens and out of our houses. It puts us directly in contact with the people we live with. We reconnect. It becomes much harder to be divisive when you know that easy words online are to your neighbor. We get to know the people around us, how they are different, and how we are similar. Community is built in bigger events like the many we have here and in so many small ways. The ability to know you can ask for an emergency cup of sugar or the people that will be there for you if you need them. 

Community is not a spectator sport! Show up often! Give as much as you can in ways you can, big and small! Ask questions and be curious about those around you. 

Summertime!

Last Wednesday, we celebrated the first day of summer! Summer has always been my favorite season. I love the warmth, the activity, and the lushness of everything being green, it makes me feel good. The draw of outdoor activities and the fun connections we make. Our little town has a way of making summer so much fun. Our local library keeps a full schedule. Right now, there is a big foot hunt happening every week. It is amazingly cute, and the kids have been keen to go explore. Our library and the wonderful people who work there are doing a great job keeping us in book clubs and summer reading programs. They do great things. 

Another piece of our town that I don’t think gets nearly enough credit is our local public pool. This is a staple summer activity for the town. Kids will spend all day out and being active. My kids live for the pickle juice popsicles from the concession stand. 

Our lumberyard sells the bait that people use when they fish off the bridge or at the river that runs under it. The hardware store has a walk-up ice cream window that is a great way to cool off on the way to the pool. The Farm is always a place to stop in to meet friends for coffee and treats. The basement has indoor activities if it’s too hot to go out.

Earlier this week, I was talking with a friend about the usual aspects of life, Kids, life after covid, and the challenges of the state of things now, and she mentioned how there aren’t many spaces left like our town. She called our town a little Mayberry, and in many ways, she’s right. There aren’t many spaces left like the one we live in. I miss an abundance of things about bigger cities and firmly believe we need to keep participating and growing in ways to keep this town alive. We need reasons for people to come and visit. We need reasons for people to want to live here. There is a balance between keeping the best parts of what has been alive and changing with the world to have a vibrant place to incorporate those things into. 

-Karen

I had Chat GPT write a blog post!

Do you ever have those times when you have a million things on your plate, and it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day? That’s been me for the last month. I have had an abundance of things on my mind and not enough time to do them all. So with that in mind, I took my scattered thoughts and asked ChatGPT to write them out for me. So here is the collaboration between my mind and an AI regarding the importance of the Arts in Rural Communities. It’s a lot more than anyone realizes. 

Title: The Vital Role of Art in Rural Communities: Cultivating Creativity and Connection

Introduction: In our bustling world, where technology dominates and urban areas flourish, it’s easy to overlook the quiet beauty and cultural significance of rural communities. While rural areas may not always be in the spotlight, they are home to rich traditions, heritage, and a deep sense of community. Art, in its various forms, plays a critical role in preserving and enhancing the vibrancy of rural communities. In this blog, we will explore how art is not only a source of aesthetic pleasure but also a catalyst for social, economic, and personal growth in rural areas.

  1. Preserving Cultural Heritage: Art serves as a vessel for preserving and celebrating the unique cultural heritage of rural communities. Traditional crafts, folk music, dance, storytelling, and visual arts are deeply rooted in rural traditions and reflect the identity and history of the people who inhabit these areas. By supporting and promoting local artists and artisans, rural communities ensure the continuation of their cultural legacy for future generations.
  2. Building Community Identity: Art fosters a sense of pride and identity within rural communities. Local art initiatives, such as community art projects, mural paintings, and public sculptures, not only beautify the surroundings but also contribute to a shared sense of ownership and belonging. The process of creating and appreciating art brings people together, fostering social connections and strengthening community bonds.
  3. Economic Development: Art can be an engine for economic development in rural areas. By establishing galleries, studios, and art-related businesses, rural communities create opportunities for artists to showcase and sell their work. Art festivals, craft markets, and studio tours attract tourists, generating revenue and boosting local businesses. In this way, art not only enriches the cultural fabric of rural areas but also provides livelihoods and contributes to economic sustainability.
  4. Enhancing Quality of Life: Art has a transformative effect on the quality of life in rural communities. Access to artistic experiences, such as theater performances, music concerts, and art exhibitions, promotes personal growth, intellectual stimulation, and emotional well-being. Art has the power to inspire, provoke thought, and evoke emotions, providing an avenue for expression and reflection in rural areas that may otherwise lack diverse entertainment and cultural opportunities.
  5. Inspiring Creativity and Innovation: Art nurtures creativity, and rural communities can benefit greatly from this aspect. By encouraging artistic expression, rural areas foster an environment that embraces innovation and problem-solving. Art education programs in schools and community centers cultivate the creative potential of young minds, empowering them to think critically, explore new ideas, and develop skills that can be applied to various fields beyond the arts.
  6. Attracting Tourism and Cultural Exchange: Art can be a powerful magnet for tourists, drawing visitors from far and wide to experience the unique cultural offerings of rural communities. Festivals, exhibitions, and artistic events become opportunities for cultural exchange, enabling residents to share their stories, traditions, and talents with visitors. Through tourism, art opens doors to new perspectives, ideas, and economic opportunities, creating a positive ripple effect for the entire community.

Conclusion: Art is not a luxury but an essential thread that weaves the fabric of rural communities together. It preserves cultural heritage, strengthens community identity, stimulates economic growth, enhances the quality of life, inspires innovation, and fosters cultural exchange. By recognizing and supporting the critical role of art, we can ensure the sustained vitality and prosperity of rural areas, celebrating their unique creativity and fostering connections between people, places, and traditions.

May and Early June

The last month and a half have flown by. Here at Astoria, May was pretty quiet. We focused on Arts Council projects and had an enjoyable Game night. We played Magical Kitties Save the Day. This is a tabletop RPG that got its start through Kick Starter. It’s a really great game for starting kids into the world of gaming. We had a small group that was a mix of kids and adults. It was a fantastic time. 

Art was another big focus for the month. Ottawa County Arts and Humanities Council has been busy with projects like Down Town Rain Walk, Painting Banners for their yearly fundraiser, monthly meetings, and planning for new projects. The last Sunday of the month is always open studio. It’s where Astoria and the Arts Council come together to create a meeting and collaboration space for the community. This time is open to the public to bring their own art/crafting projects so we can meet and work in a group setting. If you would like access to art materials, it’s $10. This gives anyone access to the Arts Council supplies. 

June was an absolute blast at Disco Night! Everyone that attended had a great time. We start the nights earlier than most and quieter so parents with kids can attend and bring their families. Nobody dances harder than our youngest attendees. We want everyone in the community to have an opportunity to come out and attend. *I remember the days when my kids were little, and I was missing that going out social life. I wanted to ensure that nobody in our community would miss out on being able to do something fun. -Karen* 

June also kicked off our collaboration with The Card Collector Corner. This has been an awesome weekly event. This group was created to share the love of sports card collecting. A fun place to share your PC (Personal Collection) and learn more about the hobby: they have a desire for this to be kid/family-friendly, which aligns with Astoria’s values so well. We have been excited to have Jarid and all the collectors. This event runs on Sundays from 3:00 pm-6:30. With a small break for Father’s Day and vacations. We appreciate them coming in and transforming the space for their event!

We hope everyone is having a great summer so far! 

April Recap

April is a wonderful month. It’s filled with all the springtime things. It starts to feel like we can all get out of winter mode and back into doing things. We have spent this month having a blast being busy. We brought our themed event with Emo night. It was really heartening to see so many people come in, enjoy time with friends and get into the vibe of things. It was an all ages event and I think the littlest community members have some of the most fun. Part of having events is knowing that people have families and being able to go out with everyone is so important. That same weekend we hosted our first monthly open Game Night. We all learned how to play new games and met new people. It was a nice way to unwind after Emo Night. This month also hosted a private party, monthly Arts Council Meeting and After School Youth arts program. For that we chalked the front sidewalk to welcome students. We are ending the month with Open studio time for artists to come and create together. We have added a screen in the front window so we can show everyone what all we have going on.  

In our personal lives we have had a really busy month. The Arts Council has some really exciting projects on the way and that has been taking up a lot my time. We also rescued a family of cats in need. For a while three baby kittens were needing extra feedings while their momma cat was cared for and recovering. Being up every two hours day and night is an endeavor. The family is doing pretty well, recovering, and growing. Justin and the kids started an online radio station project and they have been having a great time being busy with that. I’ve also been working hard on getting through my own schooling so I can bring a much needed service to the area. 

All in all April has been a great month with a lot to be grateful for. 

-Karen

Officially Designated Game Night!

I wanted to make a quick post about our first regularly scheduled event. Game Night! 

I adore games! Board games, tabletop RPG, card games, dice games, any games that are fun to play. With the amount of game stores and game creators out there, I know I’m not the only one. With that in mind we are bringing Game Night as a regular event for people. Bring a game and some friends or just come in and we will have something to play. If you don’t know the game we will teach you. For groups that already have the games and want a space we have that too. We will have snacks and drinks for sale but if you are looking for something more Minneapolis offers baked goods, coffee/teas, beer and wine at The Farm. We have restaurants, Pizza Hut, Papa’s burger mill and Fajitas. 

I keep hearing my fellow adults ask, “how do you make friends as an adult?” Science says you just consistently show up to anything that you enjoy. It takes time and consistency. It also takes having something that is open and available. My dream is for Astoria to be that place. Where friends are made and the community comes together. 

Right now the other regular event is Open Studio time brought to us by the Ottawa County Arts and Humanities Council. This is a way for people to come together to create with other artists. If you bring your own projects, it’s free to just stop in and hang out. If you would like access to art supplies it’s $10 a session. 

Third Spaces and Upcoming plans

In sociology, the third place refers to the social surroundings that are separate from the two usual social environments, which are home and work. Common third space churches, libraries, gyms, front porches, cafes, and bookstores. Any place where we meet and hold other social interactions. Third places are where we commune and hopefully create the social ties that unite a community. I spend a lot of time observing life around me. It’s a substantial part of my introverted nature. A few pretty significant observations that most of us as adults feel profoundly about is how much harder it is to make and keep friends and the time and energy (also moneconnect with other adults meaningfully. We also seem to hold onto wanting to have a reliable community of people to rely on. There is this saying regarding parenthood about how it takes a village, but often we no longer feel like the village exists for us. Those villages and friendships of the past were built in third spaces.

In Minneapolis, there is a surprising amount of third spaces that are pretty underutilized for helping people hold onto those connections. We have an abundance of churches, and our excellent library staff putting together ways to connect people in the community. With the Farm, we have a place to meet and enjoy coffee or a brew while we spend time with friends or attend one of their many events. This weekend we hosted the Arts Council for open studio time, and the group met to cut and sew the banners that are painted and displayed downtown. Sitting back and observing how we as a community can come together and laugh, share, cry, and connect was almost indescribable. It’s a feeling of community and support. I think that is something that so many people are missing.

The feeling of the village. That village is created by the community’s people coming together and getting to know each other, helping each other. Having the ability to reach out because they know the people around them. I’m not from Minneapolis, and it has been a challenge to find a place in a community of people who many have been here for generations. I now have children who I want to know what it feels like to grow up in a village, looking at how they can contribute to their communities and have their community create a place for them. I want that for all of us that live here. For us to grow and connect. To be a place that people want to both visit and come back to. Where we can know our neighbors and share a community, that is why our third spaces are so important. They allow us to get to know each other and connect within our communities.  

Upcoming plans for events. Some are solid and waiting on deciding dates, and some are things I’m still looking into how to implement. I am always looking for ideas from people with what they would like to see. 

Indoor/outdoor market

A blessing box and community fridge

Yoga classes

Meditation classes and regular events

Monthly game night

Coffee/Garden club

Cultural speakers and events (music/arts)

Creating a barter and odd job board area 

Expansion and Growth

Expansion can be uncomfortable, but it should never be unwelcome. 

This last month has had a lot of expansion for me. At first, it felt uncomfortable. Mid-December, we all got covid. I’m at high risk for side effects, and up until then, we all managed to avoid it. Inevitably we did eventually get it, and I have been struggling with the symptoms of long covid. This experience has had a tremendous impact on daily life, as it has for anyone who struggled with the many issues of covid. Getting sick has a way of giving pause and reflection on where you are in life. I had to pause and slow down. I was angry at not being able to finish my renovation goals as planned. I was upset at how exhausted I was. I did use those places between naps to make some decisions on what I wanted this new year to look like. I decided that I, in fact, could not do it all and needed to figure out what was the most important for me to focus on. That is solidly placed on my family and creating a community in Astoria. I came up with two very big decisions. The first is to leave my daytime job as a barista at Ad Astra books and coffee house. I will always value my time there. I adored my job. Coffee is an immense love of mine, and that isn’t going anywhere. The community of people I met through my years there are some of the most valuable I have found since I moved to Kansas. But it was time to say goodbye and move on to the next phase of life. My second big decision was to take on schooling to learn to be a meditation and mindfulness coach. Years ago, I was a hypnotherapist, and life with tiny babies put that on hold. I have missed those practices and want to be able to add wellness practices to the things Astoria offers. There are many ways to build community, and better self-awareness is a significant step. I really want to spend my time building Astoria to be the space I envision and I can’t make that happen if I am overbooked and not able to dedicate my personal resources to it. 

Happy Days Ahead,

Karen