The Bitter Cold of January and Upcoming Events in Spring!

The December Gallery and Creators Market wrapped up. I couldn’t have been happier to see how many artists showed up, most of them local and some from as far as Wichita and Dodge City. I hope that all the items purchased for gifts were thoroughly enjoyed by their recipients. I cannot thank the Artists and Creators who shared their works and allowed us the opportunity to work together. Without them, the market wouldn’t have been possible!

We were really hoping to use the month of January to get caught up on some of the renovations that are still in progress. Unfortunately, it was bitterly cold, and the upgrade we were working towards was upgrading our heating system. It was far too cold to get the work done indoors, and those projects will come together in time.

February brings in some very awesome news! We are so excited to announce that we are now working with Jim’s Formal Wear to be able to rent and sell tuxedos and suits! We are working on ways to provide discounted rates to those in Ottawa County to help make prom season and weddings a little easier and stress-free! Being local and living so close to Astoria will allow us to be able to get fittings and orders at times convenient for you. Not having to drive to Salina, not having to take time out of work/school days, and getting a special local rate are huge benefits.

In additional community news! We can finally move forward with our goals for a community pantry! This week, we are purchasing two used newspaper machines that we will convert into a community pantry for anyone with a need. These are also going to join with another project that we are beginning. We will be working with the Ottawa County Conservation District to turn the small plot of dirt behind Astoria into an urban community green space! We are planning on having a few raised garden beds to be used for pollinator gardening and a few other options. We will work together to use this as an opportunity for classes and workshops to teach kids and adults about conservation and ways to make it work in small spaces. There will be updates and events to come as the weather warms up. If you are interested in participating in this project or would like to contribute, please let us know so we can ensure you are updated!

December Holiday Market and More Giving Back!

I’ve been so excited to have the Pop-Up Gallery and Creators Market running! When I bought This building, I envisioned what it would look like. This is something entirely different. I never imagined I would have so many opportunities to help others with this space. Everything for sale in this market will impact the creator and the consumer. We all hear about how we should shop locally because it matters more. It’s hard to always see how that phrase actually helps others. For every item bought from us during this market, 80% of that sale goes back to the artist. When we help them sell one of their works, it will directly impact them. I wish I could express the feeling of knowing how much I can facilitate for my community just by having a space and being willing to manage it. I have been given the gift of being able to live my life in a way that allows me to serve others. As a way of giving back to the community members who are coming in to help support us, we will have a drawing for a $25 gift card to Gene’s Heartland Food in Minneapolis, KS. If you come into the market, you can fill out a card, and we will draw the winner on our last day of December 31st.

Happy Holidays! -Karen

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. 


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. 


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.

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. 


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,


Welcoming in 2023

It’s the time of year that never fails to sneak up on everyone and as we get older seems to happen so much faster than in the past. We made it through the holidays and are looking forward to the new upcoming year. For some, it feels pretty ambivalent and downright scary, and for others, a time for hope. For us, this year is full of hope and promise. The last year has seen so much progress in getting Astoria renovated into a usable space. We have dedicated more personal hours than I even tried to count. In the upcoming months, we are planning on opening the doors to really pulling people together and starting to have classes, events, opportunities, and much more. 

Something very dear to my heart and plan for Astoria is the ability to help others achieve their dreams of starting or building their businesses. This goal started a long time ago when my first baby was just a baby. I began a journey to becoming a hypnotherapist. It was a challenge to be a new mom and start a practice. I had a high-need baby and needed to start small to grow. I couldn’t find a space to allow me to have the office I needed for a few hours a month. I decided that I would wait until the timing was better. So now here I am, and I have a goal to help others who want to start their businesses and need a space that they can work in for the time they need without worrying about leases and making rent. The ability to start small and work on a schedule that works for growing families and growing businesses. It’s not an easy to market concept. It doesn’t fit into a simple two-line ad, but I hope to spread the word to the people who want to change their lives. 

I hope to provide opportunities to everyone from teachers who want to run their own classes(yoga, arts, dance, crafts), influencers or people on social media platforms who wish to have an easy place to set up and film, people in the healing or helping arts. There are endless possibilities. 

December Brings New Opportunities

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, December always comes with a heaviness. The feeling that it’s time to slow down and start focusing on home and heart spaces. The time of year for starting projects and planning how to spend the cold winter months. Winter is the time I like to set aside for learning new things and enjoying the slower pace of the world. 

With that feeling, we are ecstatic to announce this December, we will be hosting a residency of Anonymous Productions / OPFX. If you happened to stop in or drove by the Electric Sandbox event, you were sure to notice the lights and screens. During the month, they will work on building and planning for future endeavors, recording DJ sets, and running full productions. So if you drive by and it’s all lit up, there is some pretty cool work happening.  If you would like to find out more about what each company does, reach out and shoot them a message. You can find their Facebook pages here.

In the meantime, if you want an up-close view of some of what’s happening, stop in this Saturday, December 3rd, for our 80’s / 90’s night. It is $5 at the door, and great music and production inside. See you then!