Many people have strong ties to their hometown. This can inspire them to stay for life, volunteer, or even run for municipal office.
Adam Sageng has turned his love for Mankato into contributions to the Mankato Memories Facebook page, his own page titled “Deep Valley: Mankato Art, History & Events,” and contributions of time and treasure to the community.
“I was born in 1981 and grew up just off Sibley Park in a wonderful neighborhood,” he began his life story. “It was perfect for playing as there are several dead end roads…as well as the train tracks, the river and lots of wood to build forts or climb trees in.”
He lived at 505 W. Second St., one of Mankato’s oldest homes, for a few years, and across from the old Lewis Athletic Field. The lots were used as barracks for returning veterans after WWII and are now the site of Habitat for Humanity homes.
At the start of the pandemic, he began to do family research on Familysearch.com — the free version of Ancestry.com exploited by the Mormon Church – and discovered why he is attracted to certain things.
This connection has helped fuel some of his projects. And to nurture a personal rebirth.
“I struggled with alcoholism and all the damage that comes with it for over 15 years,” he said. “And thanks in large part to these projects and my photographic art, I will be four years sober in June.”
His photographic art takes many forms. An example of this can be seen at the top of his personal Facebook page in an old black and white photograph of his great-grandfather Harry Earle on his 1912 Excelsior Henderson motorcycle. He colorized it, giving a new life in the picture and, probably more important to him, giving a glimpse of what the scene was really like.
“I’ve always loved time travel, so my next project was awesome. I would find old photos of downtown locations, put myself in the exact position of the original camera, take a current photo, then edit them on a split screen for a yesterday/today effect,” did he declare.
“I feel like it takes what was a photo in an abstract place and time and anchors it in our reality. It might just be the spark of curiosity someone is looking for.
He said his photography really picked up again two years ago when he took his mother’s old 35mm camera to California and captured an early morning long exposure on the 101 freeway. Eventually he found his 1981 all-mechanical Canon AE-1, which forced him to learn how to use manual mode… and started another trend.
“I really love taking night shots and plan to get some creative light painting shots this year.” He often posts early morning long exposure photos of downtown Mankato, capturing the mood and color as well as a deep historical feel.
Anyone who visits the train depot at Main and Riverfront may have seen another one of his projects. Several years ago, he said, he noticed the large green dumpster distracting from the classic “Mankato” sign and architectural style of the historic depot.
And then the family history intervened again.
“I learned that my great-grandfather Harry Earle worked as a baggage handler and was there to send troops into the First World War. I decided to try and do something along the lines of electrical boxes that are customized in the region by the CityArt program,” he said.
He reached out to classmate Dain Fisher of property manager Fisher Group Realty. There he pitched the idea and won approval for a vintage-looking trash can. He then approached Waste Management, the company that supplied the container. The company has since become LJP Waste Solutions.
“I visited the lady in the main office and presented this idea to her in person. Luckily, she was intrigued enough to email the company (offices) for me. This process took about a months to get approved and then I was ready to find an artist.
Acting locally, he contacted Mankato Makerspace and was referred to Kendrick Daum, who is known for his work “Look at This Project”. The quote was $1,000. Through his “Deep Valley” Facebook page, he started a fundraiser and within hours he had what he needed.
“It was easy for me to recognize this talent in Adam and I happily offered him funding for the project about two minutes after I posted the request,” said Justin Ek, local artist and one of Bellisimo’s owners. Paint & Coatings. “It made it easier for me knowing that I would also be helping my friend and Makerspace co-founder, Kendrick.”
As someone who works to improve the cultural aspects of the Old Town district, Ek may also have found a kindred spirit.
“Seeing a citizen take an initiative to enhance our city center is a real remedy. We need creative place makers (like Adam) who are passionate and respectful of history who bring modern creative energy to our community,” said Ek. “Adam really demonstrated those qualities.”
Another place where Sageng demonstrates these qualities is the Blue Earth County Library. While a fundraiser to buy a full license for the scanning software has stalled, he hopes to get it eventually so he can continue scanning, converting to a searchable format, and downloading PDF copies of the early years. of The Free Press so that people can access it.
Library director Kelly McBride presented him with copies of newspapers celebrating the city’s centennial and other significant events. To encourage people to read these articles, Sageng has integrated them into a table.
“Adam made the library a really good table,” McBride said of him. “He lacquered old Free Press articles on the table, and we got tons of questions and compliments about the table.”
Sageng recently completed three more tables using the remaining articles.
Talking with Sageng brings a flood of other memories and ties to his hometown: his Uncle John, who worked at Sibley Park Zoo as a talking bird trainer, who many remember calling “Hello, Bob” ; his other uncle, Billy Ray, known for being a “publicity runner” for The Free Press in the 1950s and 1960s; and her great-grandmother Anna, who worked at the Saulpaugh Hotel and then as an egg candler at Madsen’s Valu Center.
His family’s story is the story of the town, woven into a fabric that is both comforting and inspiring to him.
“I like to find as many ways as possible to convey that same joy, pride and curiosity to as many people as possible, while having fun and being an eccentric artist,” he said, summarizing why he does what he does.
“What really gets me up – at 4:15 a.m. every morning – is that I always have a list of hobbies and projects to choose from for the day. And there’s always something new. to learn.