116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
As 2018 comes to a close, Jenny Thielman, who started work as program manager at The History Center in January, sat down to talk about the past year and the year ahead. It's not an understatement to say it's been a time of transition for both Thielman and The History Center.
'It's been exciting to see the building come back to life,” Thielman said about the organization's recent move to the restored Douglas Mansion on Second Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids. The former funeral home, which features architecture designed by Grant Wood, sat unoccupied since 2012. The History Center purchased the mansion and completed extensive renovations before the grand opening in October. The building now has a bright future, thanks in part to the plans Thielman has in store for future events and programs. On the day of our visit, a brand-new Holiday Bazaar event with vendors and artists was just wrapping up. Visitors have provided input and ideas about other potential events, like a reading of local ghost stories near Halloween or even a Great Gatsby party. 'For some people, the last time they were here was for a sad reason - to attend a funeral. It's nice that they get to come back for something good.”
Thielman knows a lot about what it feels like to close one chapter and open a new one. After owning and operating a dance studio, DanceNation, for the past 10 years, she is preparing to close up shop next May in order to spend more time with her family. She said that her students and their families were sad to hear about the closure, but they have been very understanding of the need for a change. 'It was a hard decision, but the support I've received has been amazing. Parents explained to their kids that Miss Jenny needs time to be with her family.”
Since starting at The History Center at the beginning of the year, Thielman has been busy trying to keep up with both jobs. Running a dance studio has meant frequent evening and weekend work, which has caused her to miss out on time with her 10-year-old son, Zack. 'I only have one chance to be a mom, and the first 10 years have gone by pretty quickly.”
Thielman never set out to be a business owner. Instead, it was something that happened naturally after coaching dance for many years. After moving to Cedar Rapids from her hometown of Richfield, Minn., she started offering dance lessons under the brand name Just for Kix, eventually opening her own studio. She said she sometimes found it difficult to spend time on the administrative part of the business when she wanted to focus on the students. 'I love teaching, but I learned the business part the hard way,” she said. Thankfully, she'll get to continue to enjoy coaching through her part-time roles coaching dance at Kirkwood and coaching the Jefferson Jr. J-Hawk Poms. 'The kids inspire me. I don't use pre-choreographed dances; on the first day I turn on the music and just let the kids start dancing to see where that will take us.”
Although she is now settled into her new role at The History Center, she was hesitant about the change at first. 'I was nervous to interview, even though I knew I had qualifications. I hadn't had an interview for a long time.” Her new role allows her to work more regular hours. Plus, she'll get to use her creativity in new and different ways. 'Every day is different. One day I might be trying to come up with new programming, and the next day I might be busy working an event.”
Thielman said that one of the biggest challenges for The History Center in the coming year will be finding ways to encourage repeat visits. 'We have to keep thinking of new and engaging programming to keep people coming back.” One program that is keeping audiences engaged is the 'Oral Histories Live” series. During these events, community members who have had a significant influence in Linn County share their stories. Recent speakers included Herman Ginsberg from Ginsberg Jewelers and Ann Lipsky who talked about the Smulekoff's department store. (Videos of past presentations can be found at historycenter.org.) The next event on Feb. 5 will feature John Campbell, retired sports director at KCRG.
'Everybody has a story,” Thielman said. Events like this have extra meaning for Thielman at this phase in her life as she reflects on her past and looks forward to her future. 'Dance will always be a passion, but I'm still young, and I can do something different.”
HER quotes about looking back/looking ahead:
'Life can only be understood backward; but it must be lived forwards.” - Søren Kierkegaard
'Reflect upon your present blessings - of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” - Charles Dickens
'Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.” - Yvonne Woon
'Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous.” - Confucius
HER book suggestions on looking back/looking ahead:
'Am I There Yet?: The Loop-de-loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood” by Mari Andrew: This short, enjoyable read is geared toward readers in their 20s. Filled with illustrations, it encourages readers to reach for their goals and take risks.
'Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002” by David Sedaris: Sedaris looks back on his life by literally publishing his diary.
'Start Where You Are” by Meera Lee Patel: The same beautiful artistry Patel brings to her stationery and textile line fills the pages of this book of prompts, exercises and inspirational quotes