Life Lessons from the Road 015: Corn Palaces and Creativity
Mitchell Corn Palace humor

Corn Palace and Creativity

Ethanol mascot at the Mitchell Corn Palace -- everything's a commercial these days.
Ethanol mascot at the Mitchell Corn Palace — everything’s a commercial these days.

If you attempt to cross the entire state of South Dakota in a day, you’re in for 413 miles of wind and very few opportunities for “official” bathroom breaks. Mitchell’s Corn Palace breaks the traveler’s monotony about 82 miles west of the Minnesota state line.

Please allow a brief digression. When I originally told some of my North Carolina friends that I planned to stop at the Corn Palace, they thought I said “porn palace!” I doubt such an edifice would be located in South Dakota.

Okay, back to the official Corn Palace narrative. Technically, it’s a venue for such community events as sports, concerts and rodeos, but like everything else in need of operating funds, it has become a propaganda machine for something—in this case, the ethanol industry. Ethanol: the bane of every motorcycle engine.

Okay, I’m really sticking to the point now. What makes it a tourist attraction is its unusual Moorish Revival architecture and the colored-corn murals that cover the walls. Picture a onion-domed cathedral in St. Petersburg, but covered in mosaics on an annual theme. It’s an ingenious concept really. The theme was “transportation” in 2010 when I visited with my friends Leigh and Chris, and yes, included a mosaic of a motorcycle. You can see some snapshots here.

Imagine a new TV game show

Imagine a game show that challenges contestants to use make scenes from twelve colors of corn. I don’t know many of us with the artistic sensibilities to work within those constraints.

Let’s talk about constraints for a minute, shall we? As a right-brained person who’s spent her career in the business world, where the left-brained prevail, I’ve long noticed that obstacles are viewed as things to obliterate or quickly work around. Writer and poet Wendell Berry sees obstacles as MUSES. That’s right, a goddess who presides over an art form.

"Fountain of the Muses" at Brookgreen Gardens, SC
“Fountain of the Muses” at Brookgreen Gardens, SC

Berry says, “There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say ‘It is yet more difficult than you thought.’… The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

Today try thinking about a constraint you’re facing as a muse who’s urging you to higher levels of creativity.

In case you’re wondering…

What’s a muse? Any of a number of sister goddesses, originally given as Aoede (song), Melete (meditation),and Mneme (memory).

They’re more commonly known as the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who presided over various arts: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (lyricpoetry), Euterpe (music), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (religious music), Terpsichore(dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy); identified by the Romans with the Camenae.*

The picture to the left, “Fountains of the Muses” at Brookgreen gardens, depicts them as male (blasphemy!).



iTunes cover Life Lessons from the Road

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

About Tamela Rich

Author Tamela has extensively traveled the U.S. and Canada, delivering her message to Pack Light | Travel Slow | Connect Deep. Her keynotes and workshops include life lessons she has learned through chance encounters on the road.

Check Also

Four Mobile Apps for Finding Great Roadside Stops

Planning a great road trip might start considerations like a final destination on a specific arrival date, but why not add some roadside kitsch and history along the way? My philosophy is that the journey is an equally-important part of the vacation. #TravelSlow #ConnectDeep.