Family and the arts bring Nancy Valentine back to Fergus Falls

 Nancy Valentine, Otter Tail Lakes Country Association

West central Minnesota is known for it’s scenic landscapes, picture-worthy lakes and beautiful cities, which means it should come as no surprise that the arts hold a strong presence in the area as a result. One of the area’s residents that contributes to this artistic atmosphere is Nancy Valentine. In Nancy’s professional life, she is defined as an E-911 dispatcher for the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office and the Marketing and Membership Coordinator for the Otter Tail Lakes Country Association, but outside of her vocation, she is known as an artist and musician. Some of the ways Nancy contributes to the unique arts environment of west central Minnesota are her pursuits in Plein air pastel painting, playing the ukulele, and volunteering at Kaddatz Art Gallery.

Nancy was born and raised up in Fergus Falls. When her mother became pregnant with Nancy, her parents and older brother immigrated to Fergus Falls from Lan Zhou, China to avoid China’s one-child policy. After graduating high school, she attended the University of Minnesota Duluth and earned a degree in Communication and Professional Writing. She explains that she had two main motivations for moving back to Fergus Falls: her family and the arts. (Nancy’s grandparents immigrated to the area from China after her father passed away in 1996 to help her mother raise Nancy and her brother.) “I came to the weighty realization the summer after I graduated college that they [Nancy’s grandparents] are aging and I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could,” she said. Spending time with her grandparents is important to Nancy, and she has been gaining wisdom and many memories from doing so. The other reason she moved back was for the rich arts scene in Fergus Falls. Nancy knew that the opportunities to become involved with arts and music in this area were more widely available to her than they would have been in a larger city. Some of the examples she gave were her time spent volunteering with the “Family Art Table” at Kaddatz Art Galleries and taking classes directly from local artists.

The west central Minnesota community is something that Nancy appreciates and loves being a part of. “The unique feeling of being ‘known’ in my community can be attributed to the fact that I grew up here, which makes a person feel like a vital part of a community,” she said. She enjoys meeting and learning from influential people in the arts community –  many of whom she gets to know on a personal level instead of “admiring them from afar.” From living here, her close community of friends and family have helped her overcome her stage fright and because of this, she has began performing her music regularly at The Spot Panini and Wine in Fergus Falls.  As many of her friends have young families, Nancy is able to fill her time with her love of caring for children by helping babysit and run errands. For Nancy, living wide open is allowing the region to positively influence her to pursue her interests. Clearly, west central Minnesota is the place to do it.

Steve Henning