Catch Up With Chuck | Episode 27 | Rural Opportunities for the Creative Class

Catch Up With Chuck | Episode 27 | Rural Opportunities for the Creative Class
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    Welcome to the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska.
    I'm Chuck Schroeder, Executive Director of the Institute
    and this is our weekly conversation with difference makers in rural Nebraska and
    rural America that we call Catch Up with Chuck.
    So, with me today is a rural entrepreneur with a very unique focus.
    Jeanne Wiemer is the owner and director of Red Path Gallery and Tasting Room in Seward,
    Nebraska.
    Welcome, Jeanne, we're glad to have you here.
    Welcome, Chuck.
    I've looked forward to this little chat.
    Yes, well thank you for having me here today to talk about Seward and Red Path Gallery
    and Tasting Room.
    Well, you're here really for a very specific reason.
    Followers of this broadcast will remember, a few weeks ago we did an interview
    with a professor of practice at the College of Architecture
    here at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Stacy Spale,
    and one of her students, Kenzie Klein from Cozad,
    and they had been part of a very interesting class project this semester.
    Stacy had challenged her design students to investigate their creative class
    and discover what relationships and opportunities there might be in their relationship with
    rural Nebraska.
    How do we attract the creative class to rural communities?
    So, she had 26 students, if I remember correctly, that developed a host of ideas for using unutilized
    or underutilized buildings in rural communities to create a very attractive intersection
    between fine culinary, even dramatic arts to create a welcoming culture for artists,
    musicians, thespians, artisans, who might prefer a rural community environment.
    Well, I have to tell you, it was fantastic.
    We at the Rural Futures Institute had the opportunity
    to engage with these kids and we loved their projects,
    but the question remained, how do you really make that happen in a community?
    So, Jeanne, who I've known for some time now, is an artist and a writer in her own right,
    and she took up that challenge of attracting the creative class in one of our poster child
    communities in rural Nebraska, Seward.
    So Jeanne, I want you to take us back to the big idea
    for Red Path Gallery and tell us what the heck
    you were thinking.
    (laughing) What was I thinking?
    It takes a lot of passion, it takes an idea that has probably been with you from way back.
    I mean, I've always been very creative.
    You meet people along the way and then, things start happening when you
    set that dream and goal out there.
    And I'm from Seward, native to Seward County, and so my parents knew the people
    who owned the building before we purchased it,
    so there was a link there.
    So all of those things fit into this puzzle of life
    and if you set your goals, magic happens.
    Well, you've really made magic happen there, and so there you are on the historic town
    square in Seward.
    When you drive there today, you would think Red Path had been there forever, because it
    just fits.
    It just fits.
    It does.
    Here's this beautiful, beautiful rural setting, here's this really terrific gallery that you've
    developed, but listen, I've lived long enough to know
    that businesses that are successful and organizations, even communities,
    don't just emerge from the mist, so they really begin in the lives
    of the people who create them.
    And you've touched on that just a little bit.
    I want you to talk a little bit more about your upbringing, kinda who you are,
    where and how you were raised, because you were raised in a creative environment.
    Yes, yes, I guess I was raised in a creative environment,
    and that could be in rural Nebraska, so that to me, when we talk about how I was
    raised, I guess I go right back to where I grew up
    on an acreage, which could be considered a farm when I grew
    up, 80 acres, and we had cows and chickens, and I went out
    there and watched the cows and chickens and had
    visions of things in my own head and so,
    I didn't have a cell phone or anything like that,
    but I was always dreaming and visualizing, and we had a flat top roof on our garage
    and I'd go lay up there and look at the stars, and like, where the heck did I come from?
    (laughing) Sure.
    So is that answering your question in a way?
    I know that you had art in your home, you had that kind of activity going on,
    so the idea of an artist being a serious...
    Serious thing, and you know, my parents took us
    to different art events, which Seward has the oldest arts council in the state of Nebraska.
    And Reinhold Marxhausen was kind of an instigator in having that all created with some other
    very key people in the Seward community, and I knew that from a very young age,
    and some of these art events were out in the country.
    They were very rural and how to look at art in a different way and life in a different
    way and it was promoted that way, so to me,
    the artist's life was looking at life in this unique way
    where I had the opportunity to visualize and the time to do that as a child.
    I could go sit on the swing or look at the stars
    in rural Nebraska, and to me, that was real, but yet it was this majestic thing that happened.
    And so the artists in your community were respected?
    Yes.
    Respected members of the community?
    Yes.
    The idea of engaging seriously in art was not frivolous.
    Right.
    It was considered part of you becoming a human being.
    Right, in my mindset, that's how I felt about it.
    Absolutely.
    Right.
    I think we lose some of that today.
    I think so.
    And that's part of why you and I are getting connected.
    That's right.
    (laughing) So listen, I wanna talk just a little bit
    more about Red Path Gallery and Tasting Room.
    You're a visual artist, a literary artist, but Red Path has grown to accommodate
    a broad variety of artists including musicians and others.
    Tell us a little bit about what all goes on at Red Path today.
    Well, when we first started, it was an art gallery.
    That's what I wanted to make sure that it was,
    to include all Nebraska artists, and so that's where we started, along with
    wine tasting, because I was very involved with tourism,
    and I knew how to bring people into the building.
    And it just happened that my art work is on the wine label,
    so that's kind of a neat thing, but then people came in
    and artists wanna be around other artists, and they're drawn in, and then musicians are
    drawn in.
    And so now we have music in the building and we have art,
    and it's all Nebraska people that are very talented.
    And young people that can take off and make this world a great place,
    and people can enjoy the artwork along with the wine,
    and it's a super place and it enhances the historic downtown in Seward,
    so it's a great location, too.
    Okay, you have one really unique story going on there right now, the young woman
    who came to Concordia, a terrific musician.
    You and your husband created an opportunity for her
    to remain in the community and offering...
    Anyway, you tell the story.
    I think it's beautiful.
    (laughing) Yes, Julia Marble with Marble Music
    came to us through JD's Coffee Shop actually, down the street, kinda working together
    in a collaborative effort in Seward, and said, "Hey, if you're doing music, talk to Jeanne
    at Red Path."
    And so we created a studio and she at that time
    was teaching Sazuki violin method in our downstairs when we weren't open and then it grew
    that we built up the upstairs to studios for her.
    There's violin, voice, guitar, piano, cello, all of this that we include in the building
    during the hours that we aren't open to the public,
    but open for lessons.
    And my husband and I worked with her on her business plan
    and to say that this all magically happened, it doesn't magically happen.
    No.
    It's work.
    People do come in.
    (laughing) It is work.
    And we had a 40 page business plan for Red Path Gallery and Tasting Room,
    and we worked with Julia to have a business plan,
    'cause sometimes those things are overlooked.
    In college, we get our basics and we get a good idea where we wanna go,
    but then my husband's been in business and I have,
    so we wanted to work with the younger generation to make sure that they come and go on
    with these legacies that have started.
    I just think that's so powerful.
    For people that are watching, we've had a growing audience,
    which we love, many of whom live in rural, but many of whom are curious about rural.
    For people who think living in a rural community means that you are now a distant reach
    to the arts and to arts education opportunities, here is a rural community, roughly 8000 residents,
    and the opportunity to number one, a fine art gallery
    that is first class.
    Thank you.
    There are a lot of galleries that, anyway, it's first class.
    Here is an opportunity, music learning opportunities that you'd have trouble finding in Omaha in
    some cases.
    Right, and then we have the auditorium at the Civic Center
    where they do their concerts and she's with the honor choir in Seward, so we have
    a lot going on in that area, all kind of under the Seward Arts Council umbrella.
    The honor choir and then Marble Music, a private entity
    under Red Path Gallery, and collaborating with them.
    So yeah, the awning says both our names and we are just on the go.
    (laughing) I love it.
    Well, listen Jeanne, it's no secret that Seward is really a special community.
    It has, just as you've told your story, we know that it's a community that's benefited
    from very capable leadership, from bold visions
    for the future.
    We talk a lot at the Rural Futures Institute about the power of a bold vision backed by
    grit.
    Yes.
    It takes all of that.
    It's not all unicorns and rainbows.
    No, no.
    But also, as you've demonstrated, one of the keys is people being willing to
    invest in the community.
    Right.
    And to say, "Okay, if the cavalry ain't coming, if we want this, and we wanna survive and
    thrive, *we're gonna be investing in it."
    So you've done that, so listen, Seward has always been forward looking and
    I know you are.
    Talk a little bit about what you see as the future of Seward.
    Okay.
    Well, I was on the Vision Committee for Seward that we created pillars of strength for Seward.
    In that, I made sure that arts and culture is part of that.
    So, we have a pillar of strength that's arts and culture
    and we have a vision for 2035, and so, we are very progressive in that sense,
    that we know that we wanna continue to make Seward a great place, enhance it,
    have the younger generation moving forward.
    And so, I think all of those things are important.
    And people are taking notice, I think.
    I think they are.
    Yeah.
    I hear about it around the state.
    Well, listen, here at the Rural Futures Institute, we're proud to have two of our rural serviceship
    students in Seward this summer, one from Waverley,
    one from India.
    And they are gonna be doing some, I know, interesting projects there and Johnathan Jank,
    your economic development director has been a dear friend of the Rural Futures
    Institute and one of the great young professionals in
    Nebraska, so he's kinda their key mentor for the summer,
    which has been great fun.
    So anyway, I know that those students are gonna make their way into Red Path Gallery
    this summer.
    And I had an opportunity actually to meet 'em
    at the board meeting on Monday.
    Oh wonderful.
    Yeah.
    (laughing) They were all there.
    They're already rocking and rolling.
    They are.
    Good news, good news.
    They're moving in.
    (laughing) Well, we're gonna be doing a little project
    together there this summer and so, I'm gonna be hanging around Red Path.
    Yes you are.
    And you need to tell that story.
    (laughing) We're gonna have an exhibit called
    Elder's Character Over Time and we think it'll be fun.
    So anyway, anything you'd like to add this morning to the story?
    Well, I just would like to say thank you for having me here today, that's an awesome
    experience to come here and get to chat with you
    about the rural future of Nebraska, and people just need to take that passion
    and follow it.
    All the people in Nebraska are hardworking.
    We are real people.
    All artists in the gallery are real people, but we have this majestic side
    that we promote with the arts that just shines through,
    and so just remember that passion will take you where you need to go,
    but hard work in Nebraska's what we do, too.
    With both those things, we make it happen.
    (laughing) Absolutely.
    Well, Jeanne, it's been a delight to have you on the show this morning,
    and folks, I just invite you to come back next week
    when we're going to be meeting with more real people in real places
    demonstrating that thriving rural communities are a worthwhile choice for really healthy
    and great, productive, majestic living.
    Thanks for being here.
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