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What happens when we make art with found materials

Project Optimist staff and readers are inspired by Mary Jo Hoffman to create art using found natural materials.

What happens when we make art with found materials
Allison Jurek of Crown, Minn., created the above scene using found natural materials in the spirit of Mary Jo Hoffman's STILL blog. (Courtesy of Allison Jurek)

Nature often mesmerizes me.

In March 2023, I saw the Northern Lights for the first time. They danced above my head on a dark, gravel road on Lake Superior's South Shore, and I remember thinking, "This is magic!"

But, as Mary Jo Hoffman points out in her work, the beauty of nature doesn't have to be the result of a major solar storm — it's all around us.

I've found myself paying more attention when I take the dog for a walk, for example, since editing Lisa Meyers McClintick's feature on Hoffman. There were many days I would try to rush through, so I could make sure our dog got a potty break and some exercise. I often didn't pay a lot of attention to the environment I was walking through, intent to get home for lunch and return to work.

Project Optimist Managing Editor Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten. (Erica Dischino for Project Optimist)

More often now, I'm observing the trees, the birds, and the rest of my surroundings. There are still times when I have to hurry, but I'm trying to make those less frequent.

Members of our team here at Project Optimist felt the same way, so we decided to create art inspired by Hoffman. We opened it up to submissions on our Instagram page as well, which is how Allison Jurek of Crown, Minn., sent us the scene she created. It appears at the top of this story — thank you for sending it, Allison! Erica Dischino, social media storyteller, pointed her camera at dandelions. You'll see two submissions from Erica, along with one from Project Optimist founder Nora Hertel, and one from me, below.

Dandelions arranged in a circle. (Erica Dischino for Project Optimist)
Social media storyteller Erica Dischino shook the sheet of paper to make her dandelions a bit messy. (Erica Dischino for Project Optimist)
Dark purple tulips. (Nora Hertel for Project Optimist)
A rhododendron branch. (Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten for Project Optimist)

Mark your calendar

We're throwing a party to celebrate our Biophilia series! It will be held from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. July 28 at Riverside Park in St. Cloud. The event will include food, music, and forest bathing. Forest bathing is the practice of immersing oneself in nature, without digital devices. Registration is required for the forest bathing portion of the event, while the open house is available to all. We hope to see you there!


It's our birthday!

Project Optimist published its first newsletter in June 2022. We've published nearly every Wednesday since then. We can hardly believe it's been two years!

Help us celebrate with a donation to our birthday fundraiser!

And we have a gift for you!

Everyone who donates $50 or more will be entered to win a hand-printed copy of the Minnesota icon in our logo. It's a beautiful piece of artwork!

Donate online or reach out to Nora at nora@projectoptimist.news to make a gift from a donor-advised fund.

Project Optimist founder Nora Hertel holds a hand-printed copy of the Minnesota icon from our logo. Give $50 or more to our birthday fundraiser and it could be yours! (Courtesy of Nora Hertel)

➡️
Register today for a free, in-person dialogue on wildfire. We've partnered with Friends of the Finland Community to host the event on June 26 in Finland, Minn. Details, including registration, are here.

More ways to explore biophilia

We compiled a listing of biophilia-related events happening across Minnesota over the summer. The June events are listed below. The complete listing can be found here.

Know of an event we missed? Email me at jen@projectoptimist.news.

June 6

Creating Art from Nature with Sonja Larsen, Watermark Art Center, Bemidji. Exhibit runs through June 22.

Bi-Mawadishiwewaad – “When They Come to Visit“, Sam Zimmerman, painter, Watermark Art Center, Bemidji. Exhibit runs through August 17. 

Julia Iverson Exhibition, watercolor painter, Kandiyohi County Historical Society. Exhibit runs through August 24.

Spaces and Faces Art Exhibition, Jessica Stölen, photographer, Granite Area Arts Council, Granite Falls. Exhibit runs through June 29.

Joe Deutsch’s Multi-Media Mental Health Display, Arts & Heritage Center of Montgomery. Exhibit runs through July 6.

Eric Zuccola’s Collage Exhibit and Wednesday Art Appreciation Group’s French Impressionist Exhibit, Waseca Art Center, Waseca. Exhibits run through June 8.

CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour, Mankato and North Mankato. Exhibit runs through April 2025.

The micro-seasons of Minnesota
Mary Jo Hoffman adapted Japan’s 72 micro-seasons to Minnesota’s Great Lakes region.

June 7

(Re)Collect: a solo exhibition by Susanna Gaunt, Watermark Art Center, Bemidji. Exhibit runs through Aug. 24.

June 7-9

Crafting the Twig and Driftwood Chair and Footstool, 9 a.m., North House Folk School, Grand Marais.

June 8

Oil painting class, 8 a.m. to noon, Jackson Center for the Arts, Jackson.

Watercolor - Northern Lights, 9 a.m. to noon, Waseca Art Center, Waseca.

Create a Barn/Hex Sign, 9:30 a.m., Marine Mills Folk School, Marine on St. Croix.

Community Open Carving Session, 10 a.m., Marine Mills Folk School, Marine on St. Croix.

Wet-on-Wet Oil Painting, 10:30 a.m., Marine Mills Folk School, Marine on St. Croix.

Forest Bathing, 1 p.m., via Duluth Folk School, Duluth.

31st annual Great American Think-Off debate, 7 p.m., New York Mills School Auditorium, New York Mills.

June 9

Intro to Cyanotype: The Basics and Beyond, 11 a.m., Aspire Artisan Studios and Folk School, Victoria.

June 12

Paper Making at The Barn, 12:30-2:30 p.m., NYM Sculpture Park / The Barn Elevate Exploratory, New York Mills.

June 13

Found Object and Bead Jewelry, 2 p.m., Ely Folk School, Ely.

June 14-16

Needle Felting and Bead Embroidery: Bead, Felt, and Frame, 9 a.m., North House Folk School, Grand Marais.

June 15

Oil painting class, 8 a.m. to noon, Jackson Center for the Arts, Jackson.

Wooden Spoon and Spatula Carving, 9 a.m., Avon Hills Folk School, Avon. 

Watercolor - Painting Flowers, 9 a.m. to noon, Waseca Art Center, Waseca.

June 15-16

Swedish Dalmålning using Traditional Techniques, 9 a.m., North House Folk School, Grand Marais.

June 18

Swedish Dala Horse Woodcarving, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 18 and June 25, Creative Arts Center, Battle Lake.

June 20

Introduction to Rosemaling Gudbrandsdal Style, 2 p.m., North House Folk School, Grand Marais.

Grate Owl, 2:30 p.m., Willmar Community Center, Willmar.

Drawn by Nature: Citizen science helps counter climate anxiety
Volunteers fill data gaps, help with vital programs

June 21-23

Build a Wooden Longbow, Marine Mills Folk School, Marine on St. Croix.

June 22-23

Art on the Ave and Chalk in Sauk, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sinclair Lewis Park, Sauk Centre.

June 22

Oil painting class, 8 a.m. to noon, Jackson Center for the Arts, Jackson.

Make Your Own Drum, 11 a.m., Marine Mills Folk School, Marine on St. Croix.

June 23

Photographing Orchids Field Trip, 8 a.m., via Ely Folk School, Ely.

Sunday Morning Nature Workshop, 11 a.m., Arts Center of St. Peter, St. Peter. 

June 24-29

Canoe vs. Kayak: An intro to skin-on-frame building, 9 a.m., North House Folk School, Grand Marais.

June 24-30

Cedar-Strip Boat Construction: Techniques and Fundamentals, 9 a.m., North House Folk School, Grand Marais.

➡️
Explore Project Optimist's series on wildfire.

June 24

Book Planter Class, 6 p.m., New Richland Public Library, New Richland.

June 25

Beginning Pine Needle Basketry, 9 a.m., Ely Folk School, Ely.

June 26

Flower Pots Class, 5:30 p.m., Arts Center of St. Peter, St. Peter.

June 27

Beginning Pine Needle Basketry, 9 a.m., Ely Folk School, Ely.

Making a Fabric Hanging Collage, 2 p.m., Ely Folk School, Ely.

June 28

Bi-Mawadishiwewaad – “When They Come to Visit“, Sam Zimmerman, painter, reception from 5-7 p.m., Watermark Art Center, Bemidji. Exhibit runs through August 17. 

Minnesota tests roads paved with carbon-injected concrete
Drivers on Interstate 94 west by Albertville are part of an experiment to lock up carbon pollution in concrete.

June 29

Oil painting class, 8 a.m. to noon, Jackson Center for the Arts, Jackson.

Pulp and Paper Making with Sophia Hotzler, 9 a.m., Avon Hills Folk School, Avon. 

Hole-to-Hole Cane Footstool, 9:30 a.m., Marine Mills Folk School, Marine on St. Croix.

Flower Sack Embroidery, 10 a.m., Marine Mills Folk School, Marine on St. Croix.

Intro to Wood Burning (pyrography), 1 p.m., Ely Folk School, Ely.

Not your Mother’s Necklace, 1 p.m., Ely Folk School, Ely.

Judy Onofrio exhibit, “Deep Dive,” Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Winona. Exhibit runs through Jan. 5, 2025.

June 30

Sunday Morning Nature Workshop, 11 a.m., Arts Center of St. Peter, St. Peter. 


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