Prairie Mosaic 707

Prairie Mosaic 707


(woman)
“Prairie Mosaic” is funded by– the Minnesota Arts
and Cultural Heritage Fund, with money from the vote
of the people of Minnesota on Nov. 4th, 2008; the North Dakota Council
on the Arts, and by the members
of Prairie Public. Welcome to “Prairie Mosaic,” a patchwork of stories
about the art, culture, and history
in our region. Hi, I’m Barb Gravel.
And I’m Bob Dambach. On this edition we’ll meet a
metal artist from Fergus Falls, travel East to a museum that sparked
the Industrial Revolution, and listen to poetry
with a musical flare! She pedals effortlessly,
a smile as broad… At 10 feet high and comprised of roughly
2,000 papier-maché bricks, the Spirit Wall is a
collaborative art project between North Dakota artist
Terry Jelsing and members of the Spirit Lake
Nation at Fort Totten. Within each brick of the wall
are the hopes, dreams, memories, songs, and drawings of
the people who created them. (Terry Jelsing) When I’ve got
colored paper, I can kind of drape it over
the sides like that, add a little bit more, and I
start to fill up the mold. Good. Go ahead,
pick it upside down, lift up, pinch it, drop it, very good. I think the connection between
art and life for people on the reservation is less distinguishable
than it is maybe for the white cultures
that surround it. [ceremonial drum plays
a steady beat; jingles jingle] We often think of art
as a commodity, and I think that
from ancient times forward, people in indigenous communities
have thought about art simply as an exercise
in everyday life. The North Dakota Museum of Art
received a grant to host a collaboration project
between people of the Spirit Lake Nation
and at least 6 artists. I was fortunate
to be one of them. And so the wall itself is
like the community, but the brick is
like the individual, like all of you are individuals. So when you take
all of these bricks, which are like all of you,
and you put ’em in a wall, it’s a pretty strong wall
wouldn’t you say? (girl) Yeah. (Terry)
When I started to think
about the reservation and what the reservation meant,
I thought of the wall as a metaphor
that really sums up for me the idea of how we perceive
the reservation, “we” perceiving
meaning the culture
that is not a part of that. And so I wanted to get
on the inside and find a way or a process in which the people
of Spirit Lake could show some of their work
as being part of that. The spirit bricks are bricks
that was an increment that many people could make. I encourage them to write
prayers, stories, names of people,
memories of people, draw pictures, from the very
young to the very old. They would tear this paper up
and put it into the paper bats that I had before the bricks
were actually cast. I think for folks who have
participated in the project, to see their bricks become
part of a stronger whole, is something that I wanted
to accomplish as an artist. And so my part in it is
really an arranger, a designer of processes, a way of bringing people
together. When I think about
the bricks themselves, we’re looking at right around
2,000 efforts, 2,000 people being involved in
what this is about. Brickmaking’s a hard job,
but somebody’s gotta do it. All of these bricks are made
of different things. There’s lawnmower grass
mixed in with them, those are kind of the browner ones because
they’re organic surfaces. There’s papers that were
generated on the reservation. I think every secretary between
Rugby and Devils Lake’s been saving paper for me
for over a year. There’s deer hair in ’em,
there’s probably some blood in them
from hunting season. So all of these bricks
get ritualized with the time of our life. Even though I’m using
nontraditional materials, it does
sort of work like traditional
bricklaying materials. This is what a bricklayer would
probably call backfilling. This stuff sets up
fairly quickly, so I don’t have a whole lot
of time to deal with it, so I preplan where
the bricks are gonna go. And the first thing I do is
just simply lay ’em up and get the surface kind of
connected on all sides. ‘Cause they’re relatively
the same width they’re not always the same height,
so the kind of odd shape, it’s kind of responding
to each one separately as you’re putting them together
because they’re different. Okay, once I have that part
of it done, I have to shim these because if you notice,
they all tend to fall down, and I’m simply using just
different pieces of foam core, different types
of foam core paper, and I’ll get these up
to a certain level. The material is
relatively strong when these bricks dry
completely; they’re almost like
solid pieces of plywood, and so if you think of
the weight of this as being the end grain of telephone books
piled up on top of another, you can imagine how heavy
these sections are. Probably 75% of the bricks
have been made by people on the Spirit Lake Nation,
so the idea of collaboration is to extend out as far
into the community as possible and try to get as many people
to participate. I taught at Rugby High School
for several years. The welding instructor,
Bruce Gannarelli, has been doing some wonderful
things with kids there and wanted to give them a chance
to be collaborators too. What we designed is a bracket
system to go on each side of the wall and then bolt all the way
through it. It’s good that kids get
to do these different types of projects, but also a project
like this that reaches out beyond the community
and into the state. The North Dakota Museum of Art
has been a great leader in the State of North Dakota and
has certainly promoted projects like this that create
opportunities in rural areas, and I think the benefit is yet
to be realized in terms of how social art projects can affect
the culture of North Dakota as well as what we think about
art in our lives as individuals. Sculptor Jeffrey Zachmann
gained national recognition when he transformed the path
of his artistic career from functional potter
to metal and motion. I love to watch people so much
that I think this is just bait, this is just my way of getting
people in to look at ’em. I am very interested in
different perspectives and what makes people tick, and this kinda goes with that
in a way. At an art show, people reveal
an awful lot about themselves just by watching a sculpture and how they interact
with people around them. I started my art career, I was a
functional potter for 15 years. It was probably a very
good place for me to start because I learned the ropes
on selling artwork, how to approach the public,
what shows to do, where to go with that,
how to enter into art shows. All along I’d been making
these kinetic sculptures, and I just kinda made ’em
for myself. I didn’t think anybody else
would like ’em, I thought it was my weird quirk, ’cause I hadn’t seen
anything like it. My wife on the hand, said Jeff,
you should do a show with these. And I was like oh geez,
no one’s gonna buy ’em and I’m gonna be humiliated, they’re just gonna point
and laugh at me. They’re not gonna pay
what I have to ask for ’em, and she just kept on it. After a while I said okay, I’m
gonna apply to some art shows. The first one I did was
right here in Fergus Falls, it was fun to do,
I didn’t sell anything, but people would just crowd
around and watch and it was like oh my gosh,
I can’t believe this! Then the second one was a small
organization in Minneapolis, I sold some pieces,
it was just amazing! And then the third one was
at the Smithsonian. I did the Smithsonian
Craft Show, which was like
a career high point. People pay a lot of money
to come to the show. So at that time, I had
a lot of little tiny pieces as well as some of my larger
stuff and I thought oh, they’re not gonna want to
look at the little stuff, ’cause little stuff
was hand done and so I put
those all down on the floor and then up on the tables
I put my bigger pieces. And these guys came in, in their
very expensive Italian suits, on their knees, playing
with these sculptures, totally blew me away. Some of our most valuable tools
look like junk to anybody else. We talk about when we die,
and they have that big auction, all our really valuable tools
will just be in the dollar box. This is one of those tools. It’s a thing I use
for making spirals, kind of a tornado-type shape
that is in a lot of my work. And the ball comes in kind of
slow and then speeds up as it drops down,
so it adds a lot of action. People tend to like
that kind of stuff, and I just love
that little detail. Things have just taken off. Within 6 months
of doing my first show, I didn’t have time to do
any more art shows with the pottery at all,
and I haven’t looked back. The inspiration for my artwork starts when I was
about 8 years old. And I’ve been thinking
about this a lot lately. I had a friend who had an Amish
toy that you put a marble in one side, and it’ll go down
one side and drop down and then go back and drop down
and that’s all it did, and that friend and I played
with that for a long time. And then where I grew up, when
they were building like crazy in the ’50s, they dug
the basements, and then for some reason, nothing
happened for about 2 years. And they had these huge piles
of dirt, and I and my friends and my sisters would go out
and I had a handful of marbles and I would make trails
and tunnels from marbles. And that’s how this all started. And then when I went to college,
studying ceramics, I started making slab pots
with holes and channels that marbles could go through. People were quite interested
and it was fun for me to do. Clay didn’t work very well–
it shrinks and it warps. Took me a while to realize
that I needed to work in something other than clay. Just because I was a potter–
it was kind of one of those slap in
the forehead moments, what am I working in clay for? And then everything
kind of came together. A lot of this
is done just by eye.
I’ve done enough of them now that I kind of get a feeling
on how things are going, but at the same time,
I get surprised. And if you’re in my studio, there are balls laying
all over the place. The jump is one of the things
that people are always mystified–
how do you figure that out? And the way that I tell them is, you can take the slope that it’s
got with the speed of the ball, so taking the velocity
of the ball and the distance, and you can calculate that out
and see where it lands, Or you can take the track,
make the swoop, and wherever it lands, weld
the baskets– that’s what I do. So that cleared better. People are drawn to motion. And I think it’s
actually something that’s probably buried very deep
in our primitive selves that we’re attuned to motion. In our primitive caveman self,
probably whatever was moving was either lunch or a threat, so
we better pay attention to that. When you’re sitting
at an art show, the chairs we sit at
are fairly high so we’re at eye level
with people. And it’s really fun, ’cause I’m
sitting there in this chair, people are walking by and all
of a sudden you can see a hit and come right in to my booth,
it’s like, whoa! I always think it’s like a
gopher, what the heck is that? And it just draws ’em in,
it’s just the motion, that people are just drawn
to motion for some reason. You know Bob, as we travel
across North America gathering materials
for our documentaries, we often come across
special places that we’d like to share
with you. And Barb, one such place was
Lowell, Massachusetts where the Industrial Revolution
comes alive. [piano plays softly] [steady clatter of a loom] (David Byers) Lowell is one of
the most important cities in the American
Industrial Revolution. It’s really the first
large-scale industrial city built solely for the purpose
of producing cloth and producing profit
for the mill owners. Here they were able to
bring together capital, nature in the form of the river,
to create a power system, and also bring in
a new kind of labor system to create
this first large-scale city. Lowell became a model
for other industrial cities and throughout the 19th century,
places like Lawrence and Manchester, up and down
the Merrimack River Valley, and ultimately
all across New England and up and down
the Eastern Seaboard would model themselves
after Lowell. This is really where
industrial America begins. The whole reason that Lowell is
here is the waterpower system. The Merrimack River in the space of about a mile-and-a-half
drops 32 feet. And that drop is what powers
these mills. And the mills would be sided
right along side, so the water would flow in, flow underneath the basements
of those mills, drop down through big tunnels
called penstocks, flow through the penstock, drop down about 15 feet
onto a waterwheel, spin the waterwheel,
spin pulleys, leather belts, and ultimately run whole rooms, whole floors, and whole mills
filled with machinery. Originally, as they’re
building Lowell, there aren’t any workers around.
This is really farm country. In Lowell in 1820,
about 200 people lived in what today is a city
of 106,000 people, not a lot of the labor force
to draw on. And so the mill owners were
forced to send recruiters out into the countryside,
and they recruited the children of farmers
out there. At the time farms weren’t doing
very well and many of
the large farm families were looking for things
for their children to do and particularly
their daughters. If you were a woman on the frontier in New England, very few
opportunities open to you. Maybe you could work
as a domestic servant, maybe as a school mistress,
but that’s about it. So this is a great opportunity
for women to come and work for the first time. And they would come
by the thousands, even the tens of thousands
in the 1830s and the 1840s. And first
because this was farm country and not very many places for
them to live, so the companies built boarding houses
specifically to house these mill girls that would
come down to work in the mills. People imagined kind of
tenement style dwellings and pretty cramped, well you’ll
see, it’s a bit nicer than that, certainly was a little bit
cramped, 30 or 40 girls would be living in a fairly
small boarding house unit, but you’ll see there, there’s
parlor space that served as a kind of living room,
but also a dining room space, a place where the girls would
play musical instruments. There’s a piano there. Upstairs in the boarding house,
you’ll see a bedroom and in each one there will
be 2 beds, 2 girls to a bed, so pretty close living up there. Further up in the attic,
any sort of leftover girls that didn’t fit in the bedroom
would be living more or less dormitory style. You’re living
with 30 or 40 other girls in pretty close proximity, but
there are benefits to that too. If you lived on the farm, maybe
you wouldn’t see anybody else your own age for weeks at a time
or months at a time. Here you had the camaraderie of
sort of like going to college and living in the dorms;
you form some relationships that are really important to you
throughout your life. But there were problems with it. It comes with
some very difficult and challenging working
conditions. This is pretty tough labor
for 11, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in a hot, sweaty, humid environment filled
with cotton lint. And some of the mill girls began
to think about well, might we ask for more, more wages,
better working conditions. And they get together to form some of the first labor unions
in the country. The Female Labor Reform
Association was formed here in Lowell in the 1830s,
and they begin to stage walkouts,
stage strikes. But by about the 1850s,
the mill girls are deciding that this isn’t the experience
that they wanted and they begin
to head back home. The mill owners need to fill in and they turn
to the Irish laborers that have been here all along,
working, digging the canals, building
the mill systems, and begin to bring in the
Irish into the mills. And that’s really the first wave
of immigrants you see
working here. And then throughout
the 19th century, there will be waves of
immigrants that come to Lowell from really around the world
and end up working in the mills. And you see a shift in the labor
force from being really 80%, 90% women
in the 1820s, 1830s as more of the immigrant groups
begin to flow in, there’s much more of a mix,
and you see men doing jobs that maybe women
had done before. Men had always been part
of the factory process, doing some of the work like working
with the carding machines, and they’d always worked
as overseers and as mechanics. But now increasingly
throughout the 19th century, they become machine operators
as well, and by the end
of the 19th century, you see about an even mix
of men and women working on the floor
of each one of these factories. By the end of the 19th century,
Lowell is really changing and using far more steam power
than hydropower. About 1881 or so
it’s about half and half, and then it tips the balance
the other way the last couple of decades
of the 19th century. That steam power is interesting because it really
puts Lowell out of business. You don’t need to place it
along a waterway, you don’t need the drop
in the water, and that’s what Lowell’s unique
competitive advantage was. Well, once you can put
a steam engine in there and do it efficiently,
and do it fairly cheaply, well, now you can put a factory
anywhere you want. So by the 1880s,
places like Fall River are far larger textile cities
than Lowell ever was. What Lowell’s model had created had now just put it
out of business. The duo calling themselves
“Lines and Notes” is made up of
Terri Manno and Kevin Zepper Their original
music and poetry creates
a mood and tone for the audience
to interpret. Enjoy the eclectic
“Lines and Notes.” [playing jazz] ♪
♪ [reciting] Out of bed
and chicken skin feet Hit freezing wooden floor. I’m half awake and sleepy seeds Still cling to the corners
of stony, dreamy eyes. I’m running slow-mo on a go-go, Co-cold Minnesota November
morning, Focusing with chilly will on
the coffee cooker to pour out, From a pouting spout, A mean slow stream
of steaming java. Shiver and strut, peel off
paisley pajamas And jump into the cup: Sproing off the breadboard
diving board, feet together, Palms lock in prayer overhead
and kerploosh, A 9.5 Olympic swan dive
into the mug. I swim and swoosh around the
inside hemisphere of the mug, Dive under the hot, murky brown
and feel stinging caffeine Peeling eyelids awake. I poodle paddle
across the ripples, Crossing back and forth from
one lip of the cup to the other; Australian Crawl, climb up
curving handle and cannonball, Throw sienna over scalp,
splash and spit Like a greasy,
grinning gray goose. Just plain roll in it Till half the java’s
all over the kitchen floor, Towel off with
a big paper coffee filter, Drain the cup
in two guiltless gulps. [playing softly] ♪
♪ ♪
♪ ♪
♪ ♪
♪ [reciting]
She floats through
the Universe Coffee Hut And orders a tall,
dark cup of twilight. ♪
♪ ♪
♪ A Mercury Comet carries her
to the beach by the bay; ♪
♪ She spreads her shawl
on the ground Where grass and sand blur. ♪
♪ ♪
♪ It’s early morning, Her favorite time,
when the fiery yellow sun And shy, coy moon exchange
glances in the pale iris sky. ♪
♪ She sips the spangled
twilight slow, Pausing when she’s connecting
with something, As she does in the morning. ♪
♪ ♪
♪ The ocean air
rolling in from a point Where the only land
is underneath deep water Cools her face, Dissipates the remaining steam
from her open cup, Fluttering breath
from a blue mother. ♪
♪ For her, all of the elements in
her life melt like a sandcastle, Magic surrounds her. ♪
♪ She warms her hands
on the wax cup, Feels the honeycomb dimples
on the amber wrap holder, Savoring each swallow Down to the bitter brown. In this moment, The sky clock winds down
and balance regenerates. ♪
♪ After she empties her cup,
she gazes into the bottom; ♪
♪ Tiny stars shimmer
among earthy dregs. ♪
♪ ♪
♪ ♪
♪ ♪
♪ [playing in bright rhythm] ♪
♪ On 20th, the
high school boys track team Runs on the sidewalk, Tanned and muscled
like a squad of Adoni. Their determination rolls
off stoic brows, Ten miles, that’s all. In close pursuit is
the girl on the bike. She follows a few yards behind
these gazelle. She peddles effortlessly,
a smile as broad As the brim
on her straw garden hat. The girl grins for sunshine,
for summer, for bicycles, For following the high school
boys track team. Before my eyes, the bike
becomes a white stallion, And the girl wears a hunter’s
tunic with bow and arrows Slung over her marble left arm. Hunting these, “the easy prey.” They will wear down, they run in
straight lines in the flats. No water, they will need to stop
and rest in shade. She will ride up and dismount,
they cannot run. She pulls back
the gut of the bow, piercing their glistening skin
with her eyes. If you know of an artist, a topic, or an organization
in our region that you think might make for
an interesting segment, please contact us at… I’m Bob Dambach.
And I’m Barb Gravel. Thank you
for joining us for this edition
of “Prairie Mosaic.” [guitar, bass, & drums
play in bright country rhythm] (woman) “Prairie Mosaic”
is funded by– the Minnesota Arts
and Cultural Heritage Fund, with money from the vote
of the people of Minnesota on Nov. 4th, 2008; the North Dakota
Council on the Arts, and by the members
of Prairie Public.

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