Congratulations to Linda Clarksean of Alpha, receives SMAC 2019 Prairie Disciple Award

The Southwest Minnesota Arts Council is pleased to announce Linda Clarksean of Alpha (Jackson County) as the recipient of the 2019 Prairie Disciple Award, which acknowledges a person who has been instrumental in promoting the arts in the 18-county area of southwestern Minnesota. You are invited to join SMAC in publicly honoring Clarksean at our Annual Celebration, this year in Olivia, on September 28th, 2019. Save the date!
Kathy Fransen (of Jackson) was Clarksean’s nominator. Fransen’s answer to the application question of “Describe the impact this arts supporter has had on the arts in the SW MN region and why you feel they merit this award” was so nicely put that it has been included in it’s entirety here so that our readers can all understand why the SMAC board agreed with this nomination.
Fransen’s answer:
“As a lifelong teacher, Linda has always had a passion for encouraging and growing creativity in children. When Linda interacts with three year olds, she lets them lead the way, and she always sees the fullest potential in each child. Her mantra is to color outside of the lines.
As an ECFE teacher, she wanted every child to explore their own creativity on each surface. The impact that Linda has had on children in the Jackson school system is one that most will carry throughout their lives. Linda instilled creativity, being present, and encouraging every child to grow their artistic self through individual expression. The references included in this application speak volumes about the impact that Linda has had on children and adults in Jackson County.

When Linda retired from over 30 years of teaching, she continued to feel a need to teach Art to children. That passion and dedication of lighting an artistic spark within children has resulted in the creation of Jackson Center for the Arts. Linda continues to teach Art to all children, from Toddler Exploration, through High School students. Once Linda became inspired with the vision of an Art Center in Jackson, she was determined that it was going to happen, and it was going to be part of a revitalization of the ‘downtown’ economy in Jackson. Linda pursued that dream and kept a positive attitude through all of the challenges of creating a 501(c)3. She surrounded herself with a wide variety of creative people who all saw her vision and supported her along the way. She consciously selected a board of directors who would complement her strengths and fill in where she had weaknesses. Linda would not accept negative attitudes, and would quickly turn a nay-sayer into a believer with her determined vision.

The impact that LInda has had on the community of Jackson is growing stronger every day. In a very short time, she has brought Art to the surface of discussions about what brings people to Jackson. Her vision, passion, and dedication is what made Jackson Center for the Arts a reality in SW Minnesota. Linda accomplished something that had never been done before; she created a healthy, vibrant Art Center in Jackson, that is open to all ages. She surrounded herself with a Board of Directors who have varied strengths and viewpoints and can encourage many aspects of The Arts in the community.

I am recommending Linda Clarksean for the 2019 Prairie Disciple Award, because I have seen the artistic impact that has she had on the community, including my own children and grandchildren. She has changed the attitude of an entire community, and I believe that she was able to do that because many of the adults supporting her have been her students. They have been inspired, moved, and motivated to pass on the spark of creativity.”

It should also be noted that on Clarksean’s resume, one of her communication skills is listed as “serial optimist who elevates others”!

Aline Wilking, the current Jackson County Central Schools elementary art teacher, had this to say in support of Clarksean: “I believe she values process over product. This approach facilitates learning: value in original ideas, self-expression, self-confidence, and creative thinking skills.” Wilking goes on to say that she and Clarksean have collaborated on district student art shows at the Jackson Center for the arts, and that the “the opportunity for young artists to exhibit their work has been a yearly priority for Linda.”

Lindsay Chapman-Nesseth, whom Clarksean was an ECFE and preschool teacher, also supported Clarksean’s nomination saying “Linda strikes a balance between teaching actual technique, while allowing children full artistic freedom. She truly delights in the unique perspective of each child.” As an adult, Chapman-Nesseth also worked as a paraprofessional with Clarksean, as well as her own daughter attending her preschool classes. In fact, her daughter, Sylvia (now eleven), also had a recommendation for Clarksean when she heard about this award, saying: “Teacher Linda is very patient with kids of all ages. She provides the materials and lets us do and make beautiful things. Linda is always up for a challenge. Linda encourages kids to feel confident about their art. If you make a mistake, Linda encourages you to turn it into something better. Linda was my preschool teacher. We always did art projects ans she had us try new things. Linda is an amazing teacher and fits this award perfectly.”

Chapman-Nesseth also noted that it’s not just children who benefit in the arts from Linda: “she is challenging the adults in Southwest Minnesota to tap into their own unique perspectives to create original art. Linda’s role as an art advocate has evolved from working solely with children, to working with the artistic child within each of us.”

Kindergarten instructor Brenda Grupe worked with Clarksean in the past as team teachers in the Early Childhood Family Education program in Jackson and said that “Linda’s love of the arts was contagious. Her promotion of the arts extended into the wider community as she prepared materials promoting why art was important, and the developmental and emotional skills children gained from the arts. These were handouts in parent education classes and the school newsletter. At the time there was not an art teacher at the school. Lind was part of a group of concerned parents, teachers and community members who were instrumental in the hiring of an art teacher. Linda was laying an important foundation for the arts.”

Gayle More, an artist, instructor, and board member at the Jackson Center for the Arts supported Clarksean’s nomination saying “Linda has been such an inspiration to all of us that Jackson Center for the Arts” and that working with her has been “fulfilling and energizing.” More also emphasized that it’s not only the young that benefit from Clarksean’s skills and enthusiasm: “Linda has  brought joy and creativity to nursing home residents with her gentle touch.”

Deb Sirovy Kruse, who is the office manager for Jackson Center for the Arts, said of Clarksean, “Through her Creative Kids classes she teaches art, but she teaches so much more through her art. She teaches how to make choices, she teaches friendship, she teaches tolerance for others…no child leaves not feeling loved, welcomed or an accomplished artist!”

Pam Pronk also wrote a letter of recommendation for Clarksean. Clarksean was Pronk’s childrens pre-school teacher and her parent mentor. Pronk also became a teachers aid for Clarksean’s ECFE class for ten years. Once they both retired, they taught art classes together through Community Education at the library. This led them to dream of having their own place to teach classes, which is one of the factors that sparked the Jackson Center for the Arts. Pronk says “each and every class Linda plans is different and new. She pours her heart and soul into letting the kids be creative.” Pronk says Clarksean is always pursuing to further her knowledge of art projects and enhancing her skills to share with the center. According to Pronk, Clarksean keeps very busy teaching classes at the center: She plans classes for toddlers through high school students, “Creative Kids” classes four times each month, runs open studios for children to continue working on their projects, teaches kids drawing club twice a month, facilitates the adult drawing class, and has recently added watercolor painting classes for both children and adults.”

SMAC’s board of directors was so pleased to hear so many positive things about this instrumental promoter of the arts in our 18-county region! Please join us in honoring Linda Clarksean as our 2019 Prairie Disciple. And if you know of someone like Clarksean that you would like to nominate for 2020’s Prairie Disciple, be sure to check out more details and past recipients here!

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