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Social artist selling beadwork for a cause

Longtime beadweaver Patrick Pope is using his art to raise awareness about domestic violence. (Shannon Geisen / Enterprise)

Patrick Pope began bead weaving about 20 years ago “at a time when I was very sick at heart and overwhelmed by life in general,” he said.  He hated his terrible job. He was depressed, anxious, suicidal.  A chance meeting with a Crow Indian Reservation bead artist led him to the craft. She became his mentor and friend.  “I was taught to treat every bead as a prayer,” Pope said.  “Bead by bead, prayer by prayer, over time you can create something extraordinary, spiritual, even sacred,” he says. “Over time you can learn to heal.”  Pope uses the “peyote stitch,” a technique prevalent in historic and contemporary Native American beadwork.  The name derives from the use of this stitch to decorate objects used in peyote religious ceremonies.  

Raised in Montana, Pope has lived in Park Rapids for the past eight years. Numerous relatives live in the area.  He works at the Tin Ceiling, perfecting his bead art in his spare time through faithful practice and book research.  “As I got better, I started looking outward and seeing what I could do,” he said.  Pope weaves tiny, round seed beads – size 11/0 or 2mm in outer diameter – into rattles, ornaments, hobby horses, walking canes, whitetail deer skulls and worry stones.  “I usually think colors first. I have a lot of white beads, so that was a base color,” Pope said, demonstrating with his current project, an intricately patterned walking stick.  He likes graduated colors in his artwork, but the designs are inspired.  “I hardly ever know what it’s going to look like,” he said. “That’s part of the prayer: What to do here? That’s part of the inspiration, one bead at a time.”  

A beaded rattle takes 40 hours of patient, meditative work. He constructs them from scratch using a wooden dowel, wooden bead and aluminum tomato paste can. After long experimentation, Pope found BB pellets make the sweetest rattling sound.  His artwork has another meaningful purpose, as his focus shifts from inward to outward.  “Each bead is a prayer against domestic violence,” Pope said.  He is donating 50 percent of his sales to the Headwaters Intervention Center and similar charities.  It’s a cause dear to him because, as a small boy, Pope was a witness to and victim of domestic violence.  When his mother planned to take him and his sibling away from their abusive father, his dad threatened to kill them all. Fearing for all of their lives, Pope’s mother left.  Amy Workman, executive director of the Headwaters Intervention Center, said that’s not an uncommon story.  

“They think they’re saving the children by leaving the home because the children are threatened to be killed,” she said.  Fortunately, at the age of 8, Pope was “adopted into a wonderful family,” he said.  Today, he and Workman are collaborating on a violence prevention campaign.  “He called us because his focus is raising awareness against domestic violence,” Workman said.  “Being able to fundraise is great, but the point of being a social artist is to bring awareness and bring people together to talk about issues,” Pope said.

Minnesota’s statistics   The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women confirmed 29 deaths this year due to domestic violence.  Three murders occurred in December alone.  “The holidays are a huge stressor,” Workman said of the spike in violence.  Femicides in 2015 have exceeded last year’s totals by seven, she said.  The Headwaters Intervention Center is launching a new teen group, called The Revolution.  Geared for 13- to 18-year-olds from area schools, the group’s intent is to discuss teen issues, child abuse, dating violence and teen violence.  The first meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 19 from 4-6 p.m. at the Park Rapids Area Library. There is a Facebook page for more information about The Revolution.  “My feeling is the younger the kids are aware, the more proactive they can be and stop violence before it starts,” Workman said. “So they can help a friend, help themselves.”  A su­pport group for survivors of domestic abuse meets Monday evenings at the Headwaters Intervention Center. For more information, call 732-7413.  A 24-hour crisis hotline is 1-800-939-2199.  As for beadweaving, Pope runs a bead circle, offering free lessons to anyone who wishes to learn. He teaches from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Saturday of the month at Smokey Hills Art, but the store will close for the season so he’s looking for a new venue. His beadwork is also for sale at the store.  “Art is really healing. I know that from experience. It’s God’s gift,” he said.