A heart for art: Terry Parvan discovers her hidden talents
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The year that Terry Parvan moved away from Minnesota, she remembers the weather being so bitterly cold that the inside handle of a door on her house snapped off.
Terry has few regrets -- especially regarding the winter weather -- about now making her home in Arizona, but that doesn't stop her from being nostalgic about her growing-up years in Worthington. It was such a reminiscence that led her to name her art enterprise after the place where she spent her formative years -- Winifred Street.
"Winifred Street is a tree-lined street in a small town in southwestern Minnesota where I grew up," she explains on the website, www.winifredstreet.com, that features her artistic creations. "It's where much of my creative talents were shaped and molded, and more importantly, remembered. It's the place where I learned that 'if it's to be, it's up to me.'"
Terry grew up in Worthington as Terry Jueneman, oldest of 10 children of Ed and Georgine. She credits her artistic leanings to her late mother.
"I watched my mom -- even when we were living in the small town of Reading, before we moved to Winifred Street -- having 10 children and what goes into creating a meal, getting kids out of the door for school, getting them dressed," she reflected. "It was a major endeavor on her part to create, but I watched her turn a very small something into a large thing, a great piece of something. She went through the macramé period with big hairy owls all over the house collecting dust, stenciling, knitting, crocheting, refinishing furniture. She died in 1989, but before that she had a little craft business, Grammie's Attic, and she sat down in the basement and created these cute little wooden blocks, welcome signs with ducks and geese on them. She just had a natural gift to create."
Terry's own artistic talents were hinted at in a high school art class.
"The only thing I remember being told about having artistic talent was in the late '60s, in art class with Mr. Jaycox. I was doing some kind of abstract painting in his class one day, and he said, 'You have a natural gift. Don't ever stop making art.'"
That piece of advice, however, fell by the wayside.
"I went on to decades of doing anything but art," said Terry, a 1970 graduate of Worthington High School. "I worked for a couple of places in town, then I moved to the Mankato area and worked for the Holiday Inn up there. I met my husband in Mankato, and then we moved to the St. Paul area, where he worked for the state of Minnesota."
While in the Twin Cities, Terry was employed by Control Data. When husband Moe transferred with American Express to Salt Lake City, Utah, she was able to transfer to a Control Data subsidiary that was eventually acquired by 3M. In 1991, another transfer took the Parvans to Arizona, where they've been ever since.
"When we decided to move to Arizona, I made up my mind that I wanted to be on my daughter's school schedule," Terry explained. "Jessica was 8 at the time, so I went into direct sales for 20 years."
Although she knew few people in Arizona, Terry's outgoing personality and ability to network brought her great success in the direct sales field, eventually developing a base of more than 600 customers and earning her a director position in the company.
"It was a great ride," said Terry literally, since she earned the use of six vehicles during that career.
Eight years ago, Terry was diagnosed with late-stage uterine cancer.
"I was a hair's breadth away from Stage 4," she said about the diagnosis. "My doctor told me with radiation and chemo my chances were 50/50, and without them it was zero. I said, 'I don't like any of those numbers. I'm going to come back and prove you wrong.'"
Working with a friend who was a retired homeopathic doctor, Terry embarked on a regimen of nutritional and herbal supplements that she credits with saving her life.
"I celebrated eight years without doing any of those nasty things," she said. "It was a personal decision, and you have to believe in your gut that you're doing the right things for you. But I'm still here, and I'm loving life, totally healthy and happy. Positive thinking has a lot to do with that. I always taught that as a consultant in direct sales, always helped them to find what it was they wanted to do with the rest of their life. That's not to say that I don't have negative thoughts, but I just think that if you believe you can move mountains, you truly can."
About two years ago, Terry began evaluating what she really wanted to do with her own life. And much to her own amazement, the answer was art. So she gave up her sales directorship and poured her positive energies into the process.
"Today, I call myself a mixed-media artist who creates affirmation art, message art, heart art, mixed-media collage, art cards that have been upcycled and more," she explains on the website.
Terry finds her inspirations in nature and the bits and pieces of ephemera that she's amassed.
"I've collected all this stuff over the years -- old paper, old books, fabrics, even some of the fabrics my mom used to use -- and I'm having an absolute blast letting the creative juices flow. My mantra is that it's all good, and whatever happens is a good thing, always," said Terry, who also went back to school to be a life coach. "I make a lot of things that have words, quotes, affirmations, lyrics -- gentle reminders for women. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to have somebody walk up to me at an art fair or show and pick something up off my table and see the corners of their mouths turn up because they got it. I've even had men do that, kids do that.
"One of my favorite stories is a 13-year-old boy who walked up to my table, and he purchased a piece that said 'I am fearless.' It gives me goosebumps to think that is hanging in his room, reminding him that he is fearless and that he can go out and do it, that he just can't be afraid."
Terry also believes firmly in the power of love and incorporates the image of a heart into many of her pieces.
"I love hearts. I've collected hearts for years," she said. "It's all about love, and the heart signifies love, not just one day a year, but every day. I just love sending that message out to people. If love was at the forefront of everything we did in our lives, what a wonderful world we would live in."
Her creative process often begins in the wee hours of the morning.
"I have a lot of ideas, and I'll get out of bed in the middle of the night to write things down, usually about 4 in the morning," she said with a laugh. "I get very creative around 4 o'clock. I'll go and look at an art magazine, something I want to expand upon in my own interpretation. I have projects all over my studio -- I have a full studio -- with many things going on at one time. It's a process that just flows. I have to allow it to sit and meld a bit, then new things happen and great things come from it.
"I love playing with paper, am just really attracted to the texture and feel of paper, the feel of fabrics. And I love anything that's rusty and old and vintage. I repurpose a lot of things, and I especially love working with cardboard. I did a television segment where I walked the host through being creative with cardboard, how you can take something as plentiful as cardboard and turn it into a work of art."
In addition to art pieces that can hang on the wall, small cards and magnets, Terry markets handmade journals, including an inspiration journal that bears this verse, written a year after she'd launched Winifred Street:
I thought I'd fall.
It wasn't that scary after all.
I took the leap and built my wings
Refusing to worry about trivial things.
I look back now and just say wow!
See how far I've grown.
Terry also conducts art workshops in the Phoenix area.
"I'm just having fun doing what I love and sharing it with other people," she said. "So far everybody has been really happy with their results, and we're having a good time. It's amazing what happens when you're just sitting there cutting and pasting. It's therapeutic, being surrounded by people with a common goal and interest, sharing and caring. The goal is to finish a beautiful piece of art, to have that reminder, but also to have new friends, and the friendships continue."
Visits back to her hometown are infrequent for Terry, who still has two sisters, Nancy Berg and Beth Van Orman, living here. But she fondly remembers Winifred Street as the place where her journey began.
"If I had to look back and change anything, I wouldn't change anything in my life, because it brought me to the place I'm at in life, and it's where I want to be," she reflected. "It's all good."
Terry Parvan's artwork is available at several outlets in the Phoenix area; locally at Schafer's Health & Gifts in downtown Worthington; and through her website, www.winifredstreet.com.