Lindsborg, Kansas

One of my dear harp friends, RoJean Loucks, lives in a town known as “Little Sweden, USA.” Lindsborg is in the middle of Kansas and until recently I had no idea that my strong Swedish roots actually ran through the city. My Grandmother, Anna (Lind) Pankratz, was born outside of Portland, Oregon, in 1906. However, her first language was Swedish as both her parents came from Sweden—her grandparents came as well and lived with them. Here is some of what I retained of the Swedish she tried to teach us: Grandma was my Morfor, the mother of my father, she loved the fact that the relationship description was built into the word. Such common sense!

Since we were Oregonians I never thought much about the stops her parents and grandparents might have made between Sweden and Grandma’s birth. Luckily, she left us a short biography she wrote about her childhood. I’ve read it a few times throughout the years but never thought much about Kansas until we became neighbors! Turns out my great-grandfather, John Lind, was from the same area as the founders of Lindsborg and came to Lindsborg about the same time… Family weddings and burials took place in Lindsborg, according to my Grandmother.

This past June we decided to make the trek to Lindsborg to research the family history a little bit more. Genealogy researchers start their quests in Lindsborg at the McPherson County Old Mill Museum. We did as well and information on my family didn’t spring forth as quickly as I thought it would. Hmm… In the meantime, I got distracted by the art!!

In addition to being an abundant place for Swedish heritage, Lindsborg is also a fabulous place for art. Bethany College is nationally known for its fine and performing arts programs. A celebrated National Geographic photographer lives in Lindsborg with his superbly talented jewelry-making wife (I bought a necklace with a Swedish coin from 1620!). And there is also The Red Barn Studio. Lester Raymer studied at the Chicago Art Institute and worked in almost every medium. He often used ordinary or recycled things and transformed them into beautiful works of art, gifts, toys, and decorative elements. If you have ever watched the Sunday Morning show on CBS you have seen Lester Raymer’s iconic sun face. His studio was restored and opened as a museum to the public in September of 1997. (Redbarnstudio.org)

When we were in Lindsborg, we walked past the entrance to the museum. There is a nearly enclosed courtyard area in front of the studio and you aren’t quite sure at first if it seems daunting or magical. In the next shop we entered I asked the proprietress if we should go back and see the museum. She answered with an emphatic YES! So, we went back. And it was… magical. The space is fascinating and the artwork gloriously interesting and complex. I bought a small book about Lester Raymer and we went back to our room so Rick could take a nap. By the time he woke up, I was done with the book and ready to go back to the studio. When we got there I was immediately swept up with the print artist who was there as an artist-in-residence. She was lovely! And she helped me make a print. I told her it would immediately become the cover of a book when I got home but I almost like the print too much to cut it up. Maybe that will change but for now it hangs in my studio.

All of the art work in the Red Barn studio deserves close-up study and appreciation. However, I am particularly taken with his sun/moon theme quilt which must be seen in person to be truly appreciated and his mechanical toys. Seeing his toys is part of what inspired me to attend the Movable Book Society conference in Kansas City last month. Oh, and that part about being able to hang out with other book geeks!

As soon as we got home from our summer trip, I applied to be an artist-in-residence at the Red Barn Studio. This is a first for me. Their program for artists is obviously quite popular since there are only infrequent gaps in their calendar and many artists come repeatedly. I was thrilled and amazed when they selected me for the program and look forward to spending two weeks there from November 19th until December 3rd. I tell everyone that I have the best life in the world and I do. The balance between my harp life, magazine life, life life, etc. is a luxury that I appreciate. Going to stay in the studio feels like extreme decadence and I know I will relish my time there with nothing to do but art. And MUSIC.

Of course, there will be harp music! Over a year ago, I came up with the concept for my next CD and I hope the project takes a major step forward during this time. I almost have the set list narrowed down and I’m working on the final song arrangements now. I plan to have the arrangements done before I get to Lindsborg. The theme of the CD is a perfect fit for the Red Barn Studio and feels like another reason this residency was meant to be. One highlight of the trip is that I will be doing a concert with RoJean (tentatively on November 25th). I can’t wait!

Additionally, while I’m there I’ll be teaching a small group one of my favorite easy book binding techniques (on November 24th). I’m excited to share this creative endeavor with them. However, when I look around my art studio and now realize that I have to pack and move it a different location I think, “whose crazy idea was this?!!” I’m sure it won’t be as bad as I think. Part of the problem, I know, is that I don’t have a specific plan yet of what to work on. Specific book style, pop-ups…? Making a decision or two about projects would help my packing, obviously. But I was hoping for a little more “as the spirit moves me” art making on location. I’ll just have to channel Lester’s creative problem solving for inspiration.

So, follow along and I’ll let you know how things go.

Cheers, Beth

Check the Red Barn Studio website for additional information on the events. Also, the Christmas Artists’ Studio Open House on December 1st!

Below: My art print and the Raymer Sun Quilt

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