Posts in Category: What if?


Acrylic on Canvas 6 x 6 Melynda Van Zee©2013

Acrylic on Canvas
6 x 6
Melynda Van Zee © 2013

I recently painted a piece entitled “Organic Movement”. Then, I get an email about joining a movement to bring a windmill to the Gambella Village outside of Isiolo, Kenya.

I thought the image seemed to be representative of the idea of water and wells, and the title seemed to perfectly tie in with the grassroots fundraising efforts of many to help others across the world.  So, I said “YES”!

So Here’s the Deal.

We’re working on a project to raise 15k in 30 days (in June) to build a windmill for Gambella Village outside of Isiolo, Kenya.

The windmill would be Gambella’s last step towards complete self reliance, in other words, no longer needing any form of aid. It would be a graduation present for a village who came together five years ago to create a sustainable future for their children. Specifically, it would allow the village to have water irrigation all year round, drastically multiplying the amount of crops they can grow and sell.

We’re joining 30 other groups around the globe that want to pitch in to make a tangible difference in the world.   Our group has committed to the minimum $500, but we’d like to raise much more.

The idea is to prove that a handful of misfits can band together, and solve one real problem on the planet.

One Painting One Windmill One Real Problem

One Painting
One Windmill
One Real Problem

But how did this all come together?

Joel Bennett, Chief Dreamchaser for Veel Hoeden coworking space, has assembled the greatest collaboration of talent since the West Coast Avengers.  His generous community of Christian artists, entrepreneurs and generally “creative” misfits in Pella, Iowa and has already smashed the $500 target through both personal and business commitments. Click here for more on the project.

You know, I was raised in small town Iowa. We didn’t live on a farm, but there were fields in front of my home across the road and beyond my backyard. I married “a hard working farm boy”. My grandfather was a farmer. My dad wasn’t a farmer, but an educator and then, the owner of a business that supplied farmers with equipment and storage bins for their farms. My father-in-law currently farms several hundred acres of corn and soybean fields. I grew up with conversations about how many “tenths of an inch” were in the rain gauge-it was an everyday topic of conversation during most of the year. Now, when my dad calls and reports the amount of rain in the gauge, he doesn’t ask me how much was in my gauge, because he knows I don’t have one. I live in the suburbs and have no need to start my day looking in the rain gauge to see how much precious water fell from the sky overnight.

In light of a world that has so many needs in so many different areas, it seems like it is easy to throw up our hands and say “what really can I do?” It seems like such a small thing…one painting from a gal in rural, central Iowa who loves to create colorful things. One little 6 inch by 6 inch painting, but what if?

What if?

What if?

What if I went around my Dutch town here in central Iowa and took some photos with my tiny little painting next to some big Pella windmills?

Sunken Gardens Windmill I got engaged sitting in this park looking at this windmill.

Sunken Gardens Windmill
I got engaged sitting in this park looking at this windmill.

What if I invited my son into the project and handed him the camera and let him participate in creating photographs to share the story?

Vermeer Windmill-tallest working windmill in the United States Can you see me there with my itty, bitty painting?!?

Vermeer Windmill-tallest working windmill in the United States
Can you see me there with my tiny painting?!?

What if one tiny little painting could inspire just a few people to take time to notice that we are so privileged we don’t even realize what a luxury the water coming out of our faucet is?

Downtown Windmill Pella, Iowa Yes-those are giant wooden shoes on my feet

Downtown Windmill
Pella, Iowa
Yes-those are giant wooden shoes on my feet!


What if that looked or sounded just a bit crazy? Here I am a grown woman going around town standing in front of windmills with a tiny painting in hand. But, I live in a town full of windmills and, somebody doesn’t have one and needs one… to live, to farm, to feed their family.
What if while we are standing on the street in front of the largest working windmill in the United States taking pictures, we were invited up to the top, to take more pictures…

The Captain's wheel high atop the Vermeer Windmill. This wheel turns the giant blades to the wind.

The Captain’s wheel high atop the Vermeer Windmill. This wheel turns the giant blades to the wind.

What if while we were in the top of the windmill “Coach Ep”, the volunteer miller of the day, explained these diagrams of working windmills to us and then went on to tell us that there was a difference between Danish and Dutch windmills. You see the Danish windmill blades go clockwise and the Dutch windmill blades go counter-clockwise. Go figure?!?

Windmill Diagrams

Windmill Diagrams

What if we saw this amazing hand crafted windmill made out of stone in the Pella Historical Society office and were given permission to take a photo of it, too?

Handcrafted Windmill from local artisan made of cut stone.

Handcrafted Windmill from local artisan made of cut stone.

What if we found a tiny little windmill hidden amongst the treasures in a store named Funky Junque?

A tiny little Delft windmill

A tiny little Delft windmill

What if a few more people took the time to donate just a little something? A few more “drops in the bucket”…but added up together could bring a bit more life and vitality to another community across the world.

What if I couldn’t just go to my kitchen faucet and turn on all the water I want and need. What would it be like to live without that luxury? Why do I not even think about water being a luxury?

So, what if I offer up two options for you to participate in this social experiment?

1. You can join in the fun on my studio Facebook page and bid on the “Organic Movement” painting. All you need to do is enter your bid amount in the “Comments” section on my Melynda Van Zee Studio Facebook Page. The 6” x 6” acrylic painting on canvas will be shipped or hand-delivered (depending on where you live) to the winning bidder. The online auction is open immediately and will close 48 hours from now at 9:00 pm on Thursday, June 20, 2013. If you don’t want your bid to be public, simply message me and I will post your bid anonymously. All proceeds from the final bid will be donated to this “One Windmill” cause. You have 48 hours people!
2. If a painting or an auction isn’t your thing, you can simply make a donation to the project at the One Windmill website. After you complete your online donation, drop Joel  an email and tell him “Melynda sent you.”

Thank you-thank you-thank you for supporting this social experiment in bringing one windmill to a village that needs one.

Iowa State Fair

Garden of the Soul
©2010 Melynda Van Zee
36″ x 48″
Acrylic on Canvas

So excited to find out that both of my entries into the Iowa State Fair Fine Arts Exhibit were accepted. Both “Garden of the Soul” and “From Above the Wind and Waves” will be available for your viewing at the Fine Art Exhibit at the Cultural Center on any day of the great Iowa State Fair to be held August 11-21 in Des Moines, IA.

To be honest, there is a part of me that can’t believe I just wrote that opening paragraph. You see I’ve been going to the Iowa State Fair for as long as I can remember. Throughout my entire childhood, my dad had a booth in the agricultural division of the fair, so we would spend long days wondering through all the fair attractions while he worked. At night, if he wasn’t too tired, he would take me for one ride on the double ferris wheel-equally terrifying as it was electrifying-spinning wildly and flying over the fair grounds seeing for miles. As a teenager, I would occasionally get to invite a friend along to spend the day with me at the fair. Vivid memories of our bodies covered in stickers advertising political candidates, looking for treasures in the Shopping Mart, posing for photos in the Victorian dress up booth, meeting on-air TV personalities in person to capture their signatures-all a part of an Iowa girl’s annual trek to the fair.

I have continued the tradition of visiting the fair as an adult, bringing my own children to make their fair memories (riding a horse for the first time, flying down the Big Slide on a burlap mat, admiring the big bull, riding a boat in the pitch black at Ye Old Mill) and I never miss a trip to the Cultural Center to take it all in. In my years of teaching art to kids, I would love to check out all the kid’s art works that were displayed-looking at the talent and cruising for ideas I could use in my own classroom. I created my own dollhouses as a girl so I don’t miss a chance to see the amazingly detailed doll houses that are displayed. Several year ago on a whim, I decided to try to enter some of my photography to the photography exhibit at the fair. To my great surprise, some of my photos were selected. I’ve entered several more times over the years, always delighted to walk the aisles and see when my work showed up.

But, the fine art exhibit…that was the “someday”, the never gonna realistically happen “someday” part of the fair that tempted me-dangled out there in front of me as a “What if?”

“What if I actually started seriously painting my own paintings rather than dreaming about it?”

“What if I actually started to do what I had been so busy teaching for so many years?”

“What if I got brave enough to enter?”

“What if I get rejected?”

I did get rejected the first time I entered a painting a couple of years ago. But, I tried again. So in this fortieth year of life, I can say that there are still “What ifs?” that God is placing and answering in my life. There are still things that I have to learn and there are still surprises waiting around the corners of my life. Sometimes I get frustrated about living in what other people call “fly-over country”. I lament the lack of opportunities that are available in more rural areas. I can get restless with right where I am. But, I am resolved to continue to make the decision to take a long walk with my camera to capture the beauty and depth of my home and pick up the brush to paint what I have to say. And, I am delighted to make another trip to the Iowa State Fair to revel in all that makes this place I live, this Iowa, a continual field of yet-to-be discovered treasures, good old-fashioned fun and dreams for the future.

From Above the Wind & Waves
©2010 Melynda Van Zee
36″ x 24″
Acrylic on Canvas