Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Piccadilly Prairie Hosts Paris Flea Market in New Location

The Paris Flea Market at Piccadilly Prairie is a fantastic event. It really does bring the lights of Paris to gloomy, winter Minneapolis skies. This article came out in the Southwest Journal at the end of January, just in time for the flea market. I'm honored to be able to write and photograph about such a great place. It's so unique and so much fun.

 Photo by CY Hunter
Once a year at the end of January, Piccadilly Prairie brings the lights of Paris to the gray, winter skies of Minneapolis.

The store’s Paris Flea Market, in its fourth year in 2016, had over 1,000 people buy tickets online for opening night.

“Something really clicked, and it exploded,” said Lacey Brooker, the store’s owner.

Now the Paris Flea Market is an anticipated annual event that takes place the last weekend in January. The next Paris Flea Market is Jan. 27–29.

This year’s Paris Flea Market will be an even bigger event thanks to the store’s new location, which opened in November. The store relocated from the Fulton neighborhood to Southdale Center, just a couple miles away.

“We have the same rustic, boho vibe as we did in our previous location but with more space and better parking,” said Brooker. “And when you’re done shopping there’s always dinner and a movie.”
Piccadilly Prairie’s new space has little vignettes, with sections dedicated to kids, Minnesota and local artists, as well as other fun areas to discover.

“We have more artisan gifts, like apple jams and honey sticks,” Brooker said. “And we added more local artists that craft everything from pillows to candles.”

The vibe is cool, creative and modern mixed with history. Piccadilly Prairie’s commitment to authenticity is mixed in throughout the store in refurbished pieces that keep the original hardware, always maintaining the unique nature of each piece.

The same workmanship and history are also in the new store’s design. From the 100-year-old Minnehaha Avenue bricks in the front windows to hand-laid, repurposed wood designs on the walls throughout the store, Piccadilly Prairie has a warm and cozy atmosphere that’s truly unique.
The store is a fun place to shop all year round, but the Paris Flea Market is a special event. It mimics a European flea market with many pieces brought in from Europe.

“For the Paris Flea we source as much as we can from France,” Brooker said. “We have pickers that live abroad and some that travel back and forth. The rest of our selection during the Paris Flea is French-inspired.”

Brooker’s eye for unique, authentic pieces is evident everywhere in the store. Beautiful linens, clothing, furniture, hand-poured candles and jewelry hang everywhere, mixed in with other great treasures. It makes the store’s Parisian atmosphere shine like Paris itself.

On opening night last January, people were lined up outside in the cold, waiting for the doors to open. They walked in to great finds, fun conversation and wine to enjoy while shopping (it is French, after all).

The always-warm atmosphere of Piccadilly Prairie is particularly radiant with the Paris Flea Market. The little store that started near the corner of 50th & Xerxes transforms itself into a magical Paris shop each January. They even greet everyone with a friendly “Bonjour” upon arrival.

Piccadilly Prairie stylishly displays pieces as you would actually use them in your own home. Linens and beautiful dishware are displayed on a gorgeous shabby-chic table in the corner, drawings and photos are hanging high up on the walls and tapestries, clothing and chairs are set up in a way to help you visualize them in your own space.

“Along with the French country pieces, which are mainly shabby-chic whites, we added Victorian pieces last year. And many of the French pieces are handmade,” Brooker said.

Brooker is also never lacking a fun sense of humor. A French porcelain pig holds a small chalkboard with “Oui, oui, oui” written on it, making you think of the classic fairy tale with a French flair. It’s the stories and the subtle, whimsical touches that make the Paris Flea Market a truly extraordinary event.

 A display at Piccadilly Prairie's Paris Flea Market event. Photo by Caryl Yvonne Hunter
A display at Piccadilly Prairie's Paris Flea Market. Photo by CY Hunter

January is always pretty cold in Minnesota, and it can make winter a little too gloomy for a little too long. But the warmth and beauty of the Paris Flea Market definitely brings a bright spot amid the dreary winter.
Minneapolis may be a long way from Paris, but thanks to Piccadilly Prairie, it seems like it’s right around the corner.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sharing Art in Unique Ways

This was published in Sr. Perspectives on January 1st. I love this artist. She has a wonderful shop on 46th and Grand in South Minneapolis that is full of unique pieces from local artists, as well as her own artwork which is really fun and colorful. She also has a lot of pieces she has done for Prince that are really a great tribute to him and his music.

Minneapolis artist spreads joy through her murals.

There are a few murals around Minneapolis, but Tammy Ortegon’s paintings have a personality to them that makes them quite inviting and unique. When you first meet the artist, you just know she was one of those passionate kids who could always paint. Her creative spirit shines through in everything she does. 

Besides owning a shop in South Minneapolis, Ortegon is known for the murals she has painted around the Twin Cities. “I love public art. It’s accessible to everyone,” she said. “I love driving by and seeing art – it isn’t expected.”

One of the things Ortegon is most proud of is that the murals were actually group projects completed with the kids in the community. The first mural she was commissioned to do is on the corner of Cedar Avenue and 34th Street in Minneapolis, on the side of the Corcoran Neighborhood Center. Ortegon taught six weeks of classes to the kids prior to working on the mural with them. The collaboration with the kids made it special – and the mural reflects what’s important to the kids in their community. Favorite things from their area, along with the kids themselves, are incorporated into the mural, giving it a personalized connection to the families who live there. The mural in the Corcoran neighborhood has a particularly sweet meaning for Ortegon. “In that neighborhood, the kids have more obstacles, and they have to be stronger to resist temptations,” said Ortegon. “We talked about those struggles and being true to yourself. The kids would always hang out in the park. It’s a resource for them.”

When Ortegon painted the mural on Peter Pan Cleaners on the corner of Grand Avenue and 38th Street, she noticed a contrast in the two neighborhoods. “The kids had more comforts and support in the Grand area,” Ortegon said. The enthusiasm was the same, however, and the final product was just as beautiful. It’s obvious it isn’t about the money for the artist – there is little money in doing these works of art, and it’s very time-consuming. On top of working a full-time job, and taking care of her own family, it truly is about working with the kids for Ortegon, and leaving a lasting impression in the neighborhood.

One of the unique murals from artist, Tammy Ortegon. Photo by Caryl Hunter
 Mural on Peter Pan Cleaners

Working on murals includes a lot of painting high up on ladders, and being able to paint to a scale most of us wouldn’t have any idea how to do. In the end, beautiful art covers a once plain wall with a rich and bright heritage. “I always want to do art that affects the local community. We are all connected. When you live as an artist – and I live art – everything we do makes a difference. My art should uplift everyone,” said Ortegon.

Ortegon’s murals not only beautify buildings and leave art for people to see publicly, they tell a tale of the neighborhood where they were created: the kids and their smiles, their input, and the places and activities they enjoy. In this, Ortegon’s murals are truly special. It not only engages the youth of the area, it adds color and art to the neighborhood.

In the Twin Cities, a lot of people know Ortegon’s artwork by her colorful paints and signature faces. Different cultures and places, as well as the influence of her own city, inspires her art, and makes it rich and interesting. As with many artists, it took a long time for Ortegon to be confident in her work. Artists usually don’t earn the title of “artist” until they are successful on society’s terms.“Until you make money, you’re not an artist,” she said. “It took me years to know I was an artist and like my art.”

She attributes a lot of what she does to her mother and her grandmother. “They didn’t have the privilege to be an artist. My grandma would put her drawings in a box under her bed,” said Ortegon. “I have privilege now because of the women who went before me. Women just did things to help their family then – or their art was considered to be ‘crafts.’”

“The most important part of the murals was working with the community,” said Ortegon. “It stays there when I’m gone.” And in that, it’s indeed very public art, whether you’re driving by or you live in the area. The murals are left to be enjoyed by each generation in remembrance of the artist…and the kids who inspired her. When all’s said and done, the buildings are beautifully covered with a story that can be read for years.

Tammy Ortegon is an artist from Minneapolis who is known for the murals she has painted throughout the Twin Cities area. Photo by Caryl Hunter
Tammy Ortegon

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Little Guy of Lake Harriet

This story was published in Sr. Perspective at the beginning of the month. The little girl was so adorable - and what this guy has done for years is so amazing and fun. I'm honored it was published! 

Stories often begin in the most unexpected places. In a small opening at the bottom of an oak tree growing on the edge of Lake Harriet, a tale was born. I had never noticed the tiny door with the brass door knocker and hinges – and certainly didn’t know anything about the fantasy elf who wrote letters to children on little pieces of shiny silver paper. As the years went by, a few letters grew into over a thousand a year, each personally answered and each ending with “I believe in you.”
When I first actually saw the tiny door, I was taken aback. Only about six inches tall, it opened to reveal a tall stack of letters. Around the bottom of the tree were carefully planted pink and white impatiens, a tiny sign that said “Gone Fishing,” and a small plastic doll in a toy lawn chair. As I stood and marveled at the little entrance, noticing the intricate care and detail put into it, I watched as children scurried up to the door to see if a note they had left had been answered yet.
A jogger who stopped by told me the history of the little guy. She said he had “moved in” several years ago and had become a child’s ultimate imaginary friend. She told me how a real man who lived nearby had been collecting and answering the letters since the mid 1990’s when the little door appeared. His wife had originally noticed the opening in the tree and suggested they put a door in it. What began as a fun idea for their family grew into a treat for all the families who walked the lake. With Lake Harriet’s paved walking and biking paths, canoes and sailboats, and concerts at the band shell, it is no surprise that this lake was picked to place a little elf and watch a story develop.
Addie, a nine-year-old from northern Minnesota, gave me my first opportunity to personally deliver a letter to the little guy. Children are so in touch with that magical realm that adults dismiss for reality, and she was quite taken with the little guy. In the note, she described herself and drew a colorful picture of the lake and the little guy’s house, as she saw it. Her letter - written in different colors of gel pens - contained several questions and suggestions for him:
“How do people find out about you at first? Do kids try to give you things in the winter? What did you make your door out of? Do you put a lock on your door in the winter? Do you know everything - like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus? Do you have a family? Do you have a little town? If you do, what do you call it? Where do you go for the winter? Who planted the flowers around your house - you or someone else? You should have a little bonfire ring that is not lit up next time you decorate your house. Who decorates your house - you or someone else?” I grinned as I read the letter and carefully placed it in the growing stack inside the door.
A couple of weeks later a letter was written back to Addie on his famous silver paper carefully placed in a sealed plastic bag in case it rained before it was received:
“Dear Addie, who wrote the huge long letter in different colored inks: How nice of you to write. Sorry I missed you. Boy do you ask a lot of questions. Are you a detective? You should be when you grow up. The door is made of pine and copper. People found out about me when they saw the door. Kids give me all kinds of things. In the winter we move to our castle to the east. It has marble walls inside and a copper door. My name is Thom and I live with my wife, Martha, a great elf, and our daughter Alta Lucia, age seven. She is a princess elf. I am taller than my younger brother and shorter than my older brother. Enjoy the summer.  I believe in you.”  -  Mr. Little Guy
On a long walk around the lake a couple of weeks later, I saw a man ride his mountain bike up to the tree, collect the letters, and ride away. He had windblown gray hair and wore long khaki shorts and a white t-shirt, and was - surprisingly - just a normal-sized man. I thought of how he must visit on a regular basis, collecting the letters and touching the hearts of all those children. How he probably worked a regular job and had a regular life, yet he took the time to read and answer each letter sent to him. He was keeping a fantasy alive that everyone delighted in.
It always makes me smile when I walk by the little door in the tree now, and I always stop to take a peek behind it. Often times there are children and adults crowded around it. Usually I have my camera or journal in tow.  As I cross the little footbridge and approach the next set of stairs near Queen Avenue, I know the tree I had walked by unknowingly for so long is right there. And there is always a new treasure a child has left there, a new set of flowers, and a fresh stack of letters carefully placed behind the hinged door. In the winter, the only difference is a small sign posted on the tree telling everyone that the little guy has moved into his winter castle for the season. Notes can still be sent to a post office box.
Today was a beautiful June day in Minneapolis. As I finished my regular weekend errand running for the day, I treated myself to a leisurely walk around the lake. When I walked by the tree today there was a small plastic bag of popcorn propped up against the little door. On top of the bag sat a small scribbled note written in blue crayon that simply said, “I love you, Little Guy of Lake Harriet.” I smiled as I turned to leave, and thought how that child really spoke for everyone.
 A young girl looks in the door of the tree.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On Getting Older...And Not Accumulating Too Many Things

In a great piece in be-bolder, Jörmundur Ingi Hansen has a great way of looking at growing older and living simply.

I've always been someone who likes living in smaller spaces in the city, collects less things, and lives pretty simply. My family has always thought I was poor, when I think the opposite is true. I'm by no means rich either, but that isn't what it's about. I always say "what's the point of money if you don't share it?" I like to help people out and travel when I can. There are some things you need, of course, like clothes...and books, but I have a tendency to give things away as fast as I buy them because it just reminds me of someone else or "it had their name on it." (I apparently say that a lot, according to friends.)

In the article, I especially love Hansen's comment on what is truly important: 
"The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you have to be content with what you have. We are too prone in modern society to collect goods and money – although I shouldn’t be advising this given that I am trying to sell people expensive suits every day! But people who think they can fulfill their lives by having more ‘stuff’ are missing the point. The best things you can collect are experiences and good memories."
As far as growing older...well that's a whole other story. In my last corporate job, I was looked down on because I was a little older than the Millenials (and not even THAT much older), even though my technical skills are very current. I have nothing against Millenials - I have some friends in that age group. It's the focus being only on them, especially in a marketing field that was supposed to reach all ages. When I was really young, I always looked up to people that were older. And when I worked in social services, I loved my elderly clients - they were interesting and I could learn so much from them. Their stories and experiences were amazing. The Native American culture, and people in other countries, respect and appreciate older people. I've always thought all ages are good - just like I have always thought all races and backgrounds are good. Isn't a mix of people more diverse and more interesting? Why not learn from each other?

In America, the focus is always too much on youth. We are all going to - hopefully - get older. Why not embrace it? Hansen lives in Iceland, so they do have a more open view on age there:
"I don’t think anyone treats me differently because of my age but maybe I just don’t notice it! Possibly young people think older people are obsolete but it’s not so bad here in Iceland, lots of people keep on working. My grandmother was still working until she was well over 90. She was a herbalist and would run up to the mountains to get ingredients. Even when I was 16 I had difficulty keeping up with her."
I myself plan to keep on working well into my nineties too, if I'm fortunate. After all, you should only get better with age, and writing is definitely a field that is more interesting as you have lived more. And I predict I will keep living my life with less and less things...and keep giving them away. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Don't Fear Diversity - Embrace It!

 In her last commencement speech at City College on June 3, 2016 - and her last as First Lady - Michelle Obama talked about the power of diversity. Without mentioning him by name, she did allude to a certain person running for president who is not open to diversity - but her message was more powerful and meaningful than that.

I happen to be a white woman, but I grew up all over the country - from the South to the Northeast to the Midwest. I've had a few different accents and often been the only white person in the room. My significant other, my friends - since the time I was very small to now - come from all walks of life. It wasn't just the moving around, it was also my parents, thankfully, who taught me to have an open mind. I've also always had an interest in traveling, in learning about different cultures, in learning other languages. Why would I want everyone else to be or look like me? How boring!

A candidate in the current election continually makes racist comments and has a mind that is so narrow and so egotistical, I doubt anything could permeate it. But, it's my hope that the people who follow him will learn to see that it's so wrong and so limiting. Because, unless you are Native American (who we also don't have enough respect for), we all come from families that originally came from somewhere else. My grandfather was from England. That isn't that far back.

In an article in Elle, and from her speech, Michelle Obama said that "Every single day I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters - two beautiful, black young women - head off to school." How powerful is that? That we have come full circle from a horrible time in our history - one we should be so ashamed of - yet as far as we have come, we still have way too far to go. There is still so much hatred, racism, and uncalled for fear. It is just something I have never understood, and never want to.

The First Lady went on to say:
"But unfortunately, graduates, despite the lessons of our history and the truth of your experience here at City College, some folks out there today seem to have a very different perspective. They seem to view our diversity as a threat to be contained rather than as a resource to be tapped. They tell us to be afraid of those who are different, to be suspicious of those with whom we disagree. They act as if name-calling is an acceptable substitute for thoughtful debate, as if anger and intolerance should be our default state rather than the optimism and openness that have always been the engine of our progress.
But, graduates, I can tell you, as First Lady, I have had the privilege of traveling around the world and visiting dozens of different countries, and I have seen what happens when ideas like these take hold. I have seen how leaders who rule by intimidation – leaders who demonize and dehumanize entire groups of people–often do so because they have nothing else to offer. And I have seen how places that stifle the voices and dismiss the potential of their citizens are diminished; how they are less vital, less hopeful, less free.
Graduates, that is not who we are. That is not what this country stands for. No, here in America, we don't let our differences tear us apart. Not here.  Because we know that our greatness comes when we appreciate each other's strengths, when we learn from each other, when we lean on each other. Because in this country, it's never been each person for themselves. No, we're all in this together. We always have been.
And here in America, we don't give in to our fears. We don't build up walls to keep people out because we know that our greatness has always depended on contributions from people who were born elsewhere but sought out this country and made it their home — from innovations like Google and eBay to inventions like the artificial heart, the telephone, even blue jeans; to beloved patriotic songs like  'God Bless America,' like national landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and, yes, the White House–both of which were designed by architects who were immigrants." 
Isn't it time we moved beyond such fear and hatred? Isn't it time we had a natural yearning to learn from different people and grow together as a country? I saw a sign in a store today that sums it up pretty well:

"Curiosity will conquer fear more than bravery will." (James Stephens)

Be curious. Be interested. Be open. Don't play into the fear of what you don't know - try to learn and try to understand that different cultures, different people, and different experiences can make life a lot more interesting in a land full of people from somewhere else. It isn't about walling people out or keeping things segregated...it's about mixing it all together. Isn't that what makes America interesting? Don't fear diversity - embrace it!  

Graphic From Pixabay.com

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Walking & Writing

There is something about walking that fuels the writing soul. It generates ideas and helps you come to conclusions with others. Living by a city lake, and running into people and their pets, only makes it better.

When I got home today, I took a long walk to Linden Hills. It's a bit of a stretch, but it's near the lake and there are people walking their dogs everywhere - from German Shepherds to small Shih Tzus. Dogs are always so happy when they're being walked, their tails wag in a constant rhythm with their paws, and subsequently the people walking them are usually happy...and pretty proud of their pets when you mention how cute they are.

With the sun shining, and summer finally arriving, everyone was especially friendly today. There were smiles and hellos with everyone I passed. I walked to the nearest mailbox and mailed a bill payment, then I crossed the street to find more of the wonderful Little Free Library boxes which are all over the city. This one was grouped with four other boxes, the most I've ever seen in a row, by the local hardware store. I ended up having a nice chat with a lady who had also stopped to leisurely look through each box and see the books they had to offer. We talked about what a wonderful idea it was, how we had both contributed books, and taken a couple home as well. The conversation turned to me also being a writer and she was quite interested in what I liked to read and what I wrote. We chatted about mutual favorites and each made some recommendations. I wish I would have gotten her name. I will hopefully run into her again sometime.

The last thing I did before heading home was to cross the street to Dunn Brothers Coffee and grab a bottle of water. A very friendly redhead sold me the water and I mentioned that it was always nice to meet a fellow redhead. "Tell people that you're a majestic unicorn," she said. I thought, cool, I'll do that. The best was when I told her that only 2% of the population were natural redheads and asked her if she was too. "Ya," she said, "I grew it myself." With that we high-fived, and I walked back out into the sun heading back home...with a big smile and my long, red ponytail held high.

 One of the many Little Free Libraries Around Town 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kancamagus Colors

In honor of fall, my favorite time of year, I thought I would put up a little memory post in honor of the season. In autumn, the air is crisper, the breezes a bit cooler, and the leaves are starting to change.

While I think Minnesota can be quite pretty in the fall with the bright oranges, reds, and yellows creating a beautiful backdrop by the city lakes, it does bring me back to the memory of the prettiest place I've ever seen in the fall: The Kancamagus Highway. Winding through the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the colors are so vibrant, so polished, they look more like a New England painting than a real New England road.

So, as fall and its beautiful colors come to the Twin Cities, I will take my camera and my notebook and record some of the beautiful shades and moments around the area. But, I will always hold that memory of living in New England in my heart...because people still think the photos look fake because the scenes are just that beautiful - and all the winding roads through the history, the mountains, and along the ocean all resemble a painting of nature's best.

Kancamagus Highway