Living her passionPublished 2:11pm Wednesday, November 13, 2013
An avid lover of the arts, Sharon Thalmann was elated when an opportunity to work directly in that realm presented itself. Thalmann has been curator at the Henning Landmark Center since 2009. Having been with the facility since its early planning stages, Thalmann has really become a part of Henning’s cultural legacy.
“I have been here almost since the beginning,” said Thalmann explaining her role in the furnishing and remodeling of the building which once housed the town doctor and his family, as well as his practice. Everything from the residence to the clinic area needed to be updated, brought to code and transformed to an aesthetically functional space. “The process took almost three years,” explained Thalmann. “The building had a good shell, but it needed a lot of TLC on the inside with remodeling, asbestos removal, etc.” Once the heavy work was done, Thalmann rose to the challenge of creating color scheme and interior design. Having worked as a designer, she skillfully helped choose the colors and provided input for how the gallery should flow. “The clinic was divided into many different rooms,” she said, “so the board and I decided to combine them into one big room [for the gallery], and then redesign the residence.”
The Landmark Center, made possible through a generous gift from the Espeland Family Foundation, is a non-profit organization supported by private donations, memberships and hard work and support. Because the inception and sustainability of the facility is such a community-driven venture, it is not only natural, but necessary, to have someone like Thalmann at the helm. Keeping the community involved is essential to the health of the Landmark Center – something Thalmann is passionate about.
Thalmann dapples in many spheres of the art world, but mostly in the theatre arts. Her experiences both on-stage and behind have greatly impacted her work at the Center. Thalmann has been and currently is involved in area theatre – with both the Alexandria Area Arts Association and the Prairie Wind Players out of Barrett in addition to Lakes Area Theatre which is a radio theatre. From acting to directing and producing, Thalmann also helps her husband, John, build sets for her productions and works with stage design and décor, as well as costuming. As anyone who works in community theatre knows, you have to wear many hats to make your production a success. Implementing the art world in a rural community like Henning mirrors this challenge.
“I love the arts,” said Thalmann. “Henning really never has had experience with outside artists and musicians. The Landmark Center provides an opportunity to get involved in new and exciting ventures, not only for myself, but the community as well. When we started this project, there was no set purpose other than creating something ‘for the community.’ It has been a really interesting journey working with board to develop events for community interest.”
Coming up with those events can pose a challenge. That is when Thalmann relies on her theatre connections for effective networking to not only obtain displays, but also implement programs for the community, and secure funding through organizations and grants. Throughout the past few years, Thalmann has introduced four artists in residence to Henning. These artists not only share their work, but their talent and medium through classes with the Henning Public School students and community education. Funding provided through organizations like Lake Region Arts Council and Phelps Mill Country breathes life into the Landmark Center making it possible to welcome the various artists and provide the necessary materials.
One of Thalmann’s favorite experiences was in 2010 at the hands of clay artist Aldo Moronie. Funded by a grant Phelps Mill, Thalmann coordinated this endeavor with not only Henning Public School, but also Underwood, New York Mills, and Battle Lake schools as well as adult classes. Participants in all communities built clay towers. “Over 700 towers were erected from three tons of clay and displayed in a mini-village created on the main street in Henning next to the Landmark Center,” explained Thalmann. “This was a huge collaboration, and it was a really intense experience for each person to become part of such a large joint project.”
The village was displayed for several weeks. Thalmann arranged the timing of the display to correlate with other events, and locals could observe the immense display at their leisure. What most folks may not realize, however, was the extensive behind-the-scenes tasks achieved by Thalmann to pull off such an impressive exhibit. Three tons of clay was shipped in, which she was responsible for distributing to the various towns. She also had to not only coordinate the classes with each of the high schools, but with each community as well. “It was quite a large task,” Thalmann admitted modestly, “but it was quite exciting for all who experienced it.” Thalmann also noted the added bonus of the joint production. “Although many of our sports teams are paired, more often the communities are rivals. They don’t always get a chance to work together on something. This was such a great opportunity to bring them all together,” she said.
And while this experience was one of her favorites, Thalmann has enjoyed every artist she’s hosted. “The kids have reacted very positively to all artists,” said Thalmann. She has enjoyed seeing the inspired works of the students who have had the privilege of working with the various artists and has been witness to a burgeoning growth of artistic appreciation in the students and community at large. “This past school year we hosted weaver Sandy Bot-Miller from St. Cloud,” explained Thalmann. “Literally boxes and boxes and boxes of yarn was donated from the community. It was so great to see that support, and the kids couldn’t stop weaving – study halls, classes and in between. The students were even making Christmas presents. And the adults had fun, too.”
Stemmed from a generous gift with no real parameters, the Landmark Center has evolved into an impressive facility complete with museum, artistic displays and a welcoming atmosphere for the entire community to enjoy. Thalmann has been a vital component in keeping the center thriving. “We’ve just had such fun experiences with artists and community,” said Thalmann. “We are very pleased with response from community. With the support from the artists, school, community and even the City, it’s nice to know they consider us important to the town.”