November 1 – December 30, 2023
Gallery Exhibit – 2 Part Series
Photography + Storytelling
Community Public Art Project

Join us for an exploration of community and belonging with award-winning photographer John Noltner. This program is designed to provide residents of New York Mills and the surrounding region the opportunity to teach and learn from each other what we need to truly belong, through portraits and personal stories.

This project is part gallery exhibit, part photography studio, part storytelling, part public art, and most importantly, about connections. ALL are invited to join us for this community art project focused on learning more about belonging, what it means to people, and how we can together create more opportunities for connections for all those in our rural region.

John Noltner’s latest blog post on his A Peace of My Mind website,, explains a recent similar project he led in Oregon:

Read about Noltner’s Oregon Belonging Project >

Photography Exhibit

November 1 – 25, 2023: Part 1

The first portion of the gallery exhibit will feature examples of Noltner’s work from other communities to learn how others have approached answering some of life’s bigger questions. There will be images with quotes projected on the walls of the Cultural Center gallery. There will be 4 viewing areas where you can see approximately 150 stories projected. These stories are from Noltner’s previous projects including the George Floyd series, a veteran series asking “What do you want the world to understand?”, an Oregon collection on Belonging, and a series from Art Prize asking “When have you found unexpected courage?”.

An opening reception will be held on Wednesday, November 8 from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. John Noltner will give an artist talk, share more about this project, and be available to take portraits and visit with attendees before and after the reception.

November 29 – December 30, 2023: Part 2

The second portion of the gallery exhibit will feature portraits and thoughts from our local area. What did people in and around NYM have to say about belonging? Noltner will unveil the local portraits taken during his time here in November. These will be available for viewing in the gallery throughout the month of December.

A local opening reception will be held Friday, December 1 from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.  Gallery receptions are always free to attend and open to the public. All of the community members who are featured in the show are cordially invited to attend and will have a chance to share more about their experience and thoughts on belonging. John Noltner will also be there to help us kick off the second half of this community art project.

Photography/Storytelling Studios | Opportunities to Connect

During the month of November, community members from the region surrounding the Cultural Center are invited to be photographed and offer perspective on questions around belonging, including “What does belonging mean to you?” and “When have you felt a sense of belonging?” There will be a number of opportunities to do this during several weeks in November. Some studio dates have been scheduled, and we are still seeking organizations/groups/people to connect with!

Here is a list of our currently scheduled studio dates:

  • Monday, November 6 | 10AM – 5PM @ Niijii Radio, Callaway
  • Wednesday, November 8 | 2PM – 7PM @ NYM Regional Cultural Center
  • Thursday, November 9 | @ Perham Living Hour Happy
  • Thursday, November 9 | 5:30PM – 8PM @ NYM VFW Post 3289
  • Monday, November 13 | 9AM – 12PM @ NYM Senior Center
  • Tuesday, November 14 | 12-2PM @ Nest, Perham
  • Tuesday, November 14 | 2-4PM @ Elevating Voices — Crosspoint Alliance Church
  • Wednesday, November 15 | 10AM – 12PM @ NYM Public Library (Coffee Talk 10:30 – 11:30)
  • Wednesday, November 15 | 3:30-6:30PM @ NYM City Hall Ballroom (Welcoming Communities Assessment)
  • Thursday, November 16 | 4PM – 8PM @ NYM Regional Cultural Center
  • Friday, November 17 | 4PM – 7PM @ NYM School Carnival

If you are interested in scheduling a studio date at your organization, community, or business location, let us know! We hope to schedule 10 dates in total during November 6 – 17. Call us at 218-385-3339 or email


John Noltner Biography

With images and words as his medium, John Noltner has been telling stories for twenty years for national magazines, Fortune 500 companies, and non-profit organizations. His work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Forbes Magazine, Midwest Living, and the New York Daily News, among other publications.

Throughout his career, John has managed logistics for editorial and commercial clients, both nationally and internationally, having worked on three continents. He carefully arranges details and builds relationships with his clients and subjects, using humor, understanding, and compassion to craft compelling and insightful stories.

A Peace of My Mind is John’s flagship effort, allowing him to use storytelling as a vehicle for bridging social, political, and cultural differences. Since 2009, he has been asking people the simple (or not so simple) question, “What does peace mean to you?” The project combines photographs of diverse subjects and their personal stories exploring the meaning of peace. He has included the voices of Holocaust survivors, homeless individuals, political refugees and others.

Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, wrote the forward to his first book based on the art project, and says this:

“John Noltner takes us on a unique journey filled with revelations of courage and commitment, resilience and hope. It is a beautiful journey that speaks to our innermost being. It touches us in a way that allows us to see the world from a different perspective. Perhaps it will inspire us to become peacemakers.”

A Peace of My Mind has been presented at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, the Peace and Justice Studies Association, the Sojourners Summit for Change, the Dayton International Peace Museum and has received both regional and national awards.

John is a member of the American Society of Media Photographers, the Peace and Justice Studies Association, and the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers.

A Peace of My Mind represents John’s belief that art and storytelling have the power to transform our hearts as well as our communities.


Exploring Belonging at the NYM Regional Cultural Center

This collaboration between John Noltner and the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center is an exploratory project with the goal of increasing connections and learning from rural residents how to work together to provide more opportunities for all to experience a sense of belonging. ALL are invited to join in and learn along with us as we explore belonging one story at a time.

We would like to thank the Minnesota State Arts Board for supporting this project with a Creative Support grant.


Questions or want to get involved? Call us at 218-385-3339 or email

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.