By Molly Butler

Let me tell you about one of my regrets.

In undergraduate college, I wrote a short story that went on to win an award. I should have been proud of it, and on some level, I must have been, but like a lot of artists and creators, the work’s existence was a source of anxiety and shame. I didn’t want anyone looking too closely; they’d be able to see all the faults. One day after class, a peer, who was tall and talented and confident, pulled me aside to ask about the story.

“How did you do that?” was how he phrased it.

He was looking for an honest and fruitful conversation about craft and process. I was looking for a hole to hide in. Absolutely mortified, I yanked out one of those subconscious go-to safety moves; the dumb card.

“Oh, haha, I don’t even know.”

“You don’t know?” At this point, he must have been debating whether I was lying to keep some sort of secret creativity hack to myself or if I really was just an idiot off the page. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

“Haha, yeah, I dunno!”

I cringe to remember it. And I absolutely deserved the open expression of disgust and disappointment on his face before he walked away. It might have been genuinely impossible for me to have that conversation then. It’s still hard now. The shame behind this interaction is what I really want to talk about.

My niece, five years old, is a terrible singer. Not only does she get the lyrics wrong, she wanders all over the rhythm like a barfly at closing time, and she has this habit of sticking to the chorus-only. The difference between a high and a low note is apparently an issue of volume; some lyrics are whispered, a few are screamed. I could listen to her sing all damn day.

These comparisons take away the very value of the humanities; that art and music and dance come to us naturally. They are a natural side effect of being human.

The double-edged sword of valuing art is that we must now compare art, and that’s just not what all art was meant to do. Your mid-afternoon coffee-break doodle of a lobster should not be compared to the Mona Lisa. My niece should not be comparing her renditions of Baby Shark to Katy Perry (no comparison; my niece would absolutely destroy her on any one of the excessively competitive singing shows). And I should not have stood in that hallway with a peer and mentally compared my work to the classic stories we were studying and decided I was coming up short. These comparisons take away the very value of the humanities; that art and music and dance come to us naturally. They are a natural side effect of being human.

If you’re going to compare your art, it should only be to the absence it filled; the blank page or canvas or stillness on the stage. It’s the way my squash plants expand, tangled and imperfect, to fill my empty garden. The way a bird fills an empty crook of a tree with its nest. The same way the baby calves down the road see their empty pasture and know to leap and dance. Isn’t it so wonderful that we can fill these things with ourselves? Isn’t the natural way of the world beautiful?

Left to their own devices, the people will dance and sing and create. Don’t forget that about yourself. Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday

Lakota Made is the first and only Indigenous female-owned business in Old Town Mankato, and they’re celebrating their Store Grand Opening with an entire day of activities! Head to the HUB in Old Town Mankato from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for this event, which will highlight and celebrate various Indigenous artists, musicians and small business owners. There will be live music throughout the day, as well as spoken poetry and food. Wooden Spoon will be giving away sweet treats when you stop by with a Lakota Made receipt.

Then, head to the newly opened ARTrageous Adventures on Front Street in Mankato for their Meet the Artist Happy Hour. Photographer Lisa Lardy will have prints, notecards and her beautiful new cookbook available for purchase, as well as walls full of her work to enjoy. Stop by from 4-7 p.m. to meet the artist and read more about her work in our Artist of the Month column!

Head to Mankato Brewery from 4-8 p.m. for a book signing and discussion with author Frank Weber. Weber will be chatting about forensics and true crime at his presentation from 6-7 p.m. Grab a beer and enjoy this FREE event.

It’s time for New Ulm’s biggest festival of the summer! Bavarian Blast is on from July 15-18. This German and American Music Festival will have multiple stages and music ranging from classic German styles to rock and country. Take your time exploring historic attractions, monuments, vineyards and more. Food and Schell’s beer will be flowing, so grab your tickets here.

Cool off and top off the evening with Hot Summer Nights at the Spring Lake Park Swim Facility beginning at 7:30 p.m. This 21+ event will have a cash bar and food. Swim until the sunset and continue the party on the pool deck.

Saturday

It’s time for Tater Days in Eagle Lake! Enjoy a Rib Cook-Off at the American Legion, a 5k and 1-mile kids run at 8 a.m. The parade takes off at 1 p.m. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for event details and updates.

Artists, at the ready! Cultivate Mankato invites the community to take part in their ‘Love Wall Community Project” mural with Bellissimo Painting from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Then, head to the Living Earth Center in Mankato for Art in the Garden. This class is open to all ages and will invite artists to paint the landscape. Materials are provided, just register online to attend.

Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery in Kasota will help you Un-WINE-d with Captain Gravitone and the String Theory Orchestra, playing from noon to 3 p.m. Live music pairs well with any of their locally produced wines and spirits.

Or you can catch the Jamboyz at Indian Island Winery from 5:30-8:30 p.m., Jared Graff at the Westwood Marina Bar and Grill beginning at 6:30 p.m., or head to the Wine Café to catch live music during the Golden Hour, 7-9 p.m.

Sunday

Stretch the most of your weekend. Head to Morgan Creek Vineyard for another Sunday Yoga & Brunch session with Kelly Holland. Sip Morgan Creek Myst and enjoy a light brunch on the lawn following an all-level yoga session under the oak tree. Tickets are available online.

The Landing on Madison will host the Steeltoe band from 3-6 p.m., and Another Time Around will play at Patrick’s on 3rd in St. Peter from 4-7 p.m. You can also catch Tanner Peterson performing at the Westwood Marina Bar and Grill from 4-7 p.m.

Bonus: Your Own Best Critic

“It’s terrible.”

“I hate it.”

“I’m going to throw it away.”

Words I’ve heard people say about their own art. Words have power. While it’s well and fine to be your own worst critic, and that’s your right if you want it, but what about an experiment on the other side? It doesn’t have to be genuine. It doesn’t have to feel true.

“My drawing? Incredible. Michelangelo better make some room on the museum wall.”

“I wrote a poem about a sentient sock named Herbert, and I just know Random House Publishing is about to kick in my door with a million dollars.”

“You’re all very lucky you get to enjoy my dance moves.”

If this exercise doesn’t trick us into thinking better of our work, maybe it will at least remind us to have a sense of humor about these things. Have fun.

~~~

Weekend High Notes is a regular feature by Molly Butler. Molly covers weekend events, live music, and culture in the Greater Mankato Area. Suggestions are welcome using the MankatoLIFE contact form.

Author


  • is a writer, gardener, and animal lover. She returned to the Mankato area after completing her MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline University.