Mitchell artist Brondel brings ‘Hope’ to fight against opioid addiction
Painting to be auctioned off to benefit Emily’s Hope
MITCHELL — Dale Brondel hasn’t been painting long. And at first, he wasn’t really interested in taking up the hobby.
But he’s glad he did.
“I love it,” Brondel told the Mitchell Republic, a smile clear in his voice and his eyes even as he spoke through a facemask.
Brondel, 65, is one of several participants in the art program at 401 Create by LifeQuest , where he recently completed a painting titled “Hope.” Now the burgeoning new artist will see his work of art auctioned off through Emily’s Hope , an organization named for Emily Anne Groth, an aspiring young painter who died from a fentanyl overdose in 2018 at the age of 21. The organization raises awareness about the dangers of opioids.
A space for everyone
Brondel was mingling with fellow LifeQuest participants earlier this week at 401 Create, many of them hunched over their own respective art pieces, creating a variety of scenes and styles. Brondel and his fellow artists chatted and moods were chipper.
Jennifer Haddon, director for 401 Create, was also on hand overseeing their handiwork. The artists were one of the first groups to move into the Main Street new space, which was developed to enrich the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities by connecting the residents with the community to engage in various activities.
“It’s a space for everyone,” Haddon said. “Our executive director Pam Hanna had a vision for this to be for everyone. We’re having volunteers from the community come down and teach classes.”
The 401 Create program, a part of LifeQuest and located at 401 N. Main Street in Mitchell, provides a space where community members can join LifeQuest residents in various activities, including art, education, music and other enrichment activities.
LifeQuest procured the building for the program early last year, and activities started in earnest at the location earlier this week. The space features a wide-open floor plan with 6,722 square feet of room for practically any type of activity one could imagine. Large windows let in plenty of light, giving the room a bright appearance throughout the daytime.
The art program of which Brondel is a part moved into the space just recently, and he is a regular fixture in classes. He has only been painting since March, when the art program originally got underway at the Kilstrom Center. But he has since completed several works, many of which hang in office buildings around Mitchell.
Susan Kiepke, a member of both the LifeQuest Board of Directors and the LifeQuest Foundation Board of Directors, has served as Brondel’s guardian for 12 years. She said he may not have thought of himself as an artist at first, but he clearly had a talent for it once he gave it a try.
“He likes artsy things. He sings, too. And he makes the most beautiful silk flower bouquets. All the ladies at the Kilstrom Center office have them in their office,” Kiepke said.
He also makes candy for kids who visit the Safe Place of Eastern South Dakota , formerly known as the Mitchell Area Safe House, in Mitchell. And he’s been known to dress up for the holidays to bring some cheer to children.
“I’ve been Santa Claus. I like to do that for the kids,” Brondel said.
The funds generated from the sale of his painting will continue to help kids and others in need. Haddon said the 401 Create program has donated some other smaller pieces for various auctions in the past, but this painting will be a signature moment for both the program and Brondel, whose work was noticed recently by someone associated with Emily’s Hope.
“We’ve done a couple of baskets filled with little art projects that we’ve done at auctions around town. He did a purple ribbon on Purple Ribbon Day for the (Safe Place of Eastern South Dakota) and they have it in their entryway. Someone from Emily’s Hope had seen it. And he said he wanted to do a really nice big painting.”
Brondel said he was excited to be able to help with the project.
“So we did that. I love to do it,” Brondel said.
Emily’s Hope is a legacy charity started by Groth’s mother, Angela Kennecke, in an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of opioid addiction, which was labeled a public health emergency in 2017 by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Over 70,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses in 2019.
Haddon said she talked to Brondel about the subject as he was getting ready to start his painting. He was eager to help.
“We talked about it before he decided to do the painting, about what opioid addiction was, and use that as an educational platform. He loves to help kids, and that’s a way to help kids,” Haddon said.
Haddon said a group from LifeQuest will head to Sioux Falls with Brondel for the auction Jan. 29, where he will get to meet and chat with fellow artists who share the same desire to help people who may be struggling with addictions.
Brondel’s painting projects are a great example of what can happen when the community and LifeQuest participants come together to share their skills and knowledge, Kiepke said. Brondel himself has benefited from the program, and she knows others benefit in a similar way.
“It enhances lives. Just since Dale has been in this art program, it gives him a purpose to come here. And for the others as well,” Kiepke said. “The whole program at LifeQuest is so important to these folks. Without it, many don’t have families around or don’t have support, and here the staff is amazing. They support these folks and help them with their daily living.”
The more local volunteers who get involved, the better, she said.
“The hope is that community members will come and share their expertise. There are so many opportunities here to grow and expand. It’s a really great thing for the community,” Kiepke said.
Haddon agreed, noting that members of the community who come in to share with the participants often find themselves as enriched as those taking the classes. She knows, because it happens to her all the time. Brondel himself urged Haddon recently to take part in a Mitchell holiday tradition even though it was something she had never done before.
“I always tell people that I learn as much from them as I’m teaching. They have taught me so much and they bring me out of my shell with things they want to try,” Haddon said. “Recently we did a float (for the downtown Parade of Lights ). And Dale told me to quit being a wuss and just say yes. And the night we did it, it was so much fun. I was so glad he talked me into it.”
There’s something for both teacher and learner at 401 Create, Haddon said, and they’re always looking for people to help do good through creativity.
“If you can imagine it, we can create it here. Anything they want to teach someone else or share with someone else,” Haddon said.