Episode 27 | Rural Opportunities for the Creative Class

May 24, 2018

Show Notes:

In this episode of Catch Up With Chuck, Chuck is joined by Jeanne Wiemer, owner of Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room in Seward, Nebraska, to discuss attracting artists and creatives to rural communities through leadership, passion and entrepreneurship. Join us!

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Full Transcript:

[0:02] Welcome to the Rural Futures Institute [0:04] at the University of Nebraska. [0:06] I’m Chuck Schroeder, Executive Director of the Institute [0:09] and this is our weekly conversation [0:12] with difference makers in rural Nebraska and rural America [0:16] that we call Catch Up With Chuck. [0:17] So, with me today is a rural entrepreneur [0:21] with a very unique focus. [0:23] Jeanne Wiemer is the owner and director [0:26] of Red Path Gallery and Tasting Room in Seward, Nebraska. [0:30] Welcome, Jeanne, we’re glad to have you here. [0:32] Welcome, Chuck. [0:33] I’ve looked forward to this little chat. [0:35] Yes, well thank you for having me here today [0:37] to talk about Seward and Red Path Gallery and Tasting Room. [0:41] Well, you’re here really for a very specific reason.

[0:45] Followers of this broadcast will remember, [0:49] a few weeks ago we did an interview [0:51] with a professor of practice at the College of Architecture [0:56] here at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Stacy Spale, [0:59] and one of her students, Kenzie Klein from Cozad, [1:03] and they had been part of a very interesting [1:07] class project this semester. [1:08] Stacy had challenged her design students [1:11] to investigate their creative class [1:14] and discover what relationships and opportunities [1:19] there might be in their relationship with rural Nebraska. [1:22] How do we attract the creative class to rural communities? [1:26] So, she had 26 students, if I remember correctly, [1:29] that developed a host of ideas for using unutilized [1:35] or underutilized buildings in rural communities [1:38] to create a very attractive intersection [1:44] between fine culinary, even dramatic arts [1:48] to create a welcoming culture for artists, [1:52] musicians, thespians, artisans, [1:54] who might prefer a rural community environment. [1:58] Well, I have to tell you, it was fantastic. [1:59] We at the Rural Futures Institute had the opportunity [2:02] to engage with these kids and we loved their projects, [2:05] but the question remained, how do you [2:07] really make that happen in a community?

[2:10] So, Jeanne, who I’ve known for some time now, [2:15] is an artist and a writer in her own right, [2:18] and she took up that challenge of attracting [2:22] the creative class in one of our poster child communities [2:26] in rural Nebraska, Seward. [2:29] So Jeanne, I want you to take us back to the big idea [2:32] for Red Path Gallery and tell us what the heck [2:36] you were thinking. (laughing) [2:37] What was I thinking? [2:39] It takes a lot of passion, it takes an idea [2:42] that has probably been with you from way back. [2:46] I mean, I’ve always been very creative. [2:48] You meet people along the way and then, [2:51] things start happening when you [2:54] set that dream and goal out there. [2:56] And I’m from Seward, native to Seward County, [3:00] and so my parents knew the people [3:04] who owned the building before we purchased it, [3:06] so there was a link there. [3:08] So all of those things fit into this puzzle of life [3:11] and if you set your goals, magic happens.

[3:14] Well, you’ve really made magic happen there, [3:18] and so there you are on the historic town square in Seward. [3:22] When you drive there today, you would think [3:24] Red Path had been there forever, because it just fits. [3:25] It just fits. It does. [3:27] Here’s this beautiful, beautiful rural setting, [3:29] here’s this really terrific gallery that you’ve developed, [3:33] but listen, I’ve lived long enough to know [3:36] that businesses that are successful [3:39] and organizations, even communities, [3:40] don’t just emerge from the mist, [3:42] so they really begin in the lives [3:45] of the people who create them. [3:47] And you’ve touched on that just a little bit. [3:49] I want you to talk a little bit more [3:51] about your upbringing, kinda who you are, [3:54] where and how you were raised, [3:57] because you were raised in a creative environment. [4:00] Yes, yes, I guess I was raised in a creative environment, [4:03] and that could be in rural Nebraska, [4:06] so that to me, when we talk about how I was raised, [4:11] I guess I go right back to where I grew up on an acreage, [4:16] which could be considered a farm when I grew up, 80 acres, [4:20] and we had cows and chickens, and I went out there [4:25] and watched the cows and chickens and had visions [4:30] of things in my own head and so, [4:33] I didn’t have a cell phone or anything like that, [4:35] but I was always dreaming and visualizing, [4:38] and we had a flat top roof on our garage [4:41] and I’d go lay up there and look at the stars, [4:44] and like, where the heck did I come from? [4:46] (laughing) Sure. [4:48] So is that answering your question in a way?

[4:52] I know that you had art in your home, [4:54] you had that kind of activity going on, [4:58] so the idea of an artist being a serious… [5:03] Serious thing, and you know, my parents took us [5:07] to different art events, which Seward has [5:10] the oldest arts council in the state of Nebraska. [5:14] And Reinhold Marxhausen was kind of an instigator [5:17] in having that all created with some other [5:20] very key people in the Seward community, [5:23] and I knew that from a very young age, [5:25] and some of these art events were out in the country. [5:29] They were very rural and how to look at art [5:32] in a different way and life in a different way [5:34] and it was promoted that way, so to me, [5:36] the artist’s life was looking at life in this unique way [5:42] where I had the opportunity to visualize [5:44] and the time to do that as a child. [5:50] I could go sit on the swing or look at the stars [5:54] in rural Nebraska, and to me, that was real, [5:57] but yet it was this majestic thing that happened.

[6:00] And so the artists in your community were respected? [6:04] Yes. Respected members [6:05] of the community? Yes. [6:07] The idea of engaging seriously in art [6:09] was not frivolous. Right. [6:12] It was considered part of you becoming a human being. [6:16] Right, in my mindset, that’s how I felt about it. [6:19] Absolutely. Right. [6:21] I think we lose some of that today. [6:22] I think so. [6:23] And that’s part of why you and I are getting connected. [6:27] That’s right. (laughing) [6:28] So listen, I wanna talk just a little bit more [6:30] about Red Path Gallery and Tasting Room. [6:33] You’re a visual artist, a literary artist, [6:37] but Red Path has grown to accommodate [6:41] a broad variety of artists including musicians and others. [6:45] Tell us a little bit about what all [6:47] goes on at Red Path today.

[6:49] Well, when we first started, it was an art gallery. [6:53] That’s what I wanted to make sure that it was, [6:55] to include all Nebraska artists, [6:57] and so that’s where we started, along with wine tasting, [7:00] because I was very involved with tourism, [7:02] and I knew how to bring people into the building. [7:06] And it just happened that my art work is on the wine label, [7:09] so that’s kind of a neat thing, but then people came in [7:13] and artists wanna be around other artists, [7:16] and they’re drawn in, and then musicians are drawn in. [7:20] And so now we have music in the building and we have art, [7:24] and it’s all Nebraska people that are very talented. [7:27] And young people that can take off [7:30] and make this world a great place, [7:33] and people can enjoy the artwork along with the wine, [7:36] and it’s a super place and it enhances [7:39] the historic downtown in Seward, [7:40] so it’s a great location, too. [7:44] Okay, you have one really unique story [7:47] going on there right now, the young woman [7:49] who came to Concordia, a terrific musician. [7:54] You and your husband created an opportunity for her [7:58] to remain in the community and offering… [8:01] Anyway, you tell the story. [8:02] I think it’s beautiful. (laughing)

[8:04] Yes, Julia Marble with Marble Music [8:05] came to us through JD’s Coffee Shop actually, [8:09] down the street, kinda working together [8:11] in a collaborative effort in Seward, and said, [8:14] “Hey, if you’re doing music, talk to Jeanne at Red Path.” [8:18] And so we created a studio and she at that time [8:21] was teaching Sazuki violin method in our downstairs [8:25] when we weren’t open and then it grew [8:29] that we built up the upstairs to studios for her. [8:32] There’s violin, voice, guitar, piano, cello, [8:36] all of this that we include in the building [8:38] during the hours that we aren’t open to the public, [8:41] but open for lessons. [8:43] And my husband and I worked with her on her business plan [8:47] and to say that this all magically happened, [8:50] it doesn’t magically happen. No. [8:52] It’s work. People do come in. [8:54] (laughing) It is work. [8:56] And we had a 40 page business plan [8:57] for Red Path Gallery and Tasting Room, [8:59] and we worked with Julia to have a business plan, [9:02] ’cause sometimes those things are overlooked. [9:05] In college, we get our basics and we get [9:07] a good idea where we wanna go, [9:09] but then my husband’s been in business and I have, [9:13] so we wanted to work with the younger generation [9:17] to make sure that they come and go on [9:22] with these legacies that have started. [9:25] I just think that’s so powerful. [9:26] For people that are watching, we’ve had a growing audience, [9:32] which we love, many of whom live in rural, [9:36] but many of whom are curious about rural.

[9:38] For people who think living in a rural community [9:40] means that you are now a distant reach [9:44] to the arts and to arts education opportunities, [9:49] here is a rural community, roughly 8000 residents, [9:54] and the opportunity to number one, a fine art gallery [9:59] that is first class. Thank you. [10:01] There are a lot of galleries that, [10:03] anyway, it’s first class. [10:05] Here is an opportunity, music learning opportunities [10:10] that you’d have trouble finding in Omaha in some cases. [10:16] Right, and then we have the auditorium at the Civic Center [10:19] where they do their concerts and she’s with [10:22] the honor choir in Seward, so we have [10:24] a lot going on in that area, all kind of [10:26] under the Seward Arts Council umbrella. [10:30] The honor choir and then Marble Music, a private entity [10:33] under Red Path Gallery, and collaborating with them. [10:37] So yeah, the awning says both our names [10:39] and we are just on the go. (laughing) [10:41] I love it.

[10:43] Well, listen Jeanne, it’s no secret [10:45] that Seward is really a special community. [10:48] It has, just as you’ve told your story, [10:51] we know that it’s a community that’s benefited from [10:54] very capable leadership, from bold visions for the future. [10:58] We talk a lot at the Rural Futures Institute [11:01] about the power of a bold vision backed by grit. [11:04] Yes. It takes all of that. [11:07] It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. [11:09] No, no. [11:11] But also, as you’ve demonstrated, [11:14] one of the keys is people being willing to invest [11:18] in the community. Right. [11:20] And to say, “Okay, if the cavalry ain’t coming, [11:23] if we want this, and we wanna survive and thrive, [11:27] we’re gonna be investing in it.” [11:29] So you’ve done that, so listen, [11:31] Seward has always been forward looking and I know you are. [11:34] Talk a little bit about what you see [11:36] as the future of Seward. Okay.

[11:38] Well, I was on the Vision Committee for Seward [11:41] that we created pillars of strength for Seward. [11:44] In that, I made sure that arts and culture is part of that. [11:49] So, we have a pillar of strength that’s arts and culture [11:52] and we have a vision for 2035, and so, [11:59] we are very progressive in that sense, [12:03] that we know that we wanna continue [12:05] to make Seward a great place, enhance it, [12:09] have the younger generation moving forward. [12:11] And so, I think all of those things are important. [12:14] And people are taking notice, I think. [12:17] I think they are. Yeah. [12:19] I hear about it around the state. [12:21] Well, listen, here at the Rural Futures Institute, [12:24] we’re proud to have two of our rural serviceship students [12:28] in Seward this summer, one from Waverley, one from India. [12:32] And they are gonna be doing some, I know, [12:35] interesting projects there and Johnathan Jank, [12:39] your economic development director [12:41] has been a dear friend of the Rural Futures Institute [12:44] and one of the great young professionals in Nebraska, [12:46] so he’s kinda their key mentor for the summer, [12:49] which has been great fun. [12:50] So anyway, I know that those students [12:53] are gonna make their way into Red Path Gallery this summer. [12:55] And I had an opportunity actually to meet ’em [12:57] at the board meeting on Monday. [12:59] Oh wonderful. Yeah. [13:00] (laughing) They were all there. [13:01] They’re already rocking and rolling. [13:02] They are. Good news, good news. [13:03] They’re moving in. (laughing) [13:05] Well, we’re gonna be doing a little project [13:07] together there this summer and so, [13:09] I’m gonna be hanging around Red Path. [13:11] Yes you are. [13:12] And you need to tell that story. [13:14] (laughing) [13:16] We’re gonna have an exhibit called [13:18] Elder’s Character Over Time and we think it’ll be fun. [13:21] So anyway, anything you’d like to [13:23] add this morning to the story?

[13:25] Well, I just would like to say thank you [13:27] for having me here today, that’s an awesome experience [13:29] to come here and get to chat with you [13:32] about the rural future of Nebraska, [13:34] and people just need to take that passion and follow it. [13:38] All the people in Nebraska are hardworking. [13:42] We are real people. [13:43] All artists in the gallery are real people, [13:46] but we have this majestic side [13:47] that we promote with the arts that just shines through, [13:52] and so just remember that passion [13:54] will take you where you need to go, [13:56] but hard work in Nebraska’s what we do, too. [13:58] With both those things, we make it happen. [14:00] (laughing) Absolutely.

[14:02] Well, Jeanne, it’s been a delight to [14:04] have you on the show this morning, [14:06] and folks, I just invite you to come back next week [14:10] when we’re going to be meeting with [14:12] more real people in real places [14:13] demonstrating that thriving rural communities [14:17] are a worthwhile choice for really healthy [14:20] and great, productive, majestic living. [14:22] Thanks for being here.


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Episode 28 | Crossing the Rural/Urban Gap