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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight: Jane Olive

April 2016

Jane Olive

Southeast RSDP board member Jane Olive shows her costuming and hat-making skills in an 1890s day suit with thread crocheted cuffs and a “Votes for Women” button.

By Elizabeth Braatz

The Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships’ (RSDP) work wouldn’t be possible without the many wonderful contributions from local community leaders. One such leader is Jane Olive, a member of the Southeast RSDP Board of Directors. Olive has been an integral member of the board, helping promote its projects for sustainable tourism and resilient communities while bringing in a wealth of knowledge from her experience as a member of the Mantorville Economic Development Authority board, a member of the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council board of directors, and as the president of the Mantorville Restoration Association.

As fellow board member and RSDP Statewide Coordinating Committee Chair Bob Cline said, “Jane is a dynamic individual with arts contacts and experience [within] our entire Southeast region.”

Community involvement

Olive keeps very busy helping out southeastern Minnesota communities through a plethora of organizations. As a member of the Mantorville Economic Development Authority board, Olive helps promote sustainable and responsible economic development in Mantorville. She also holds a position as a member of the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC) board of directors. As SEMAC Director of Dodge County, Olive is heavily involved in promoting arts throughout both Dodge County and the larger southeastern Minnesota area.

SEMAC is one of 11 regional arts councils that report to the Minnesota State Arts Board, and, as Olive explained, “We disseminate funding from the legislators as well as [other] funds to local and regional artists throughout the southeastern section of Minnesota.” It’s thanks to SEMAC that events such as the Mantorville after-school Young Artist Open Studio can operate.

In addition to her other positions, Olive serves as the president of the Mantorville Restoration Association. The association owns six historic properties within the city of Mantorville, including the Mantorville Opera House, a beautiful stone carriage house, an 1856 Restoration House full of Civil War-era furnishings, and a historic Log House. Remarkably, the association’s properties are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The RSDP link

Olive became involved with RSDP three years ago and hasn’t looked back since. As Olive explained, “The University of Minnesota feels very far away from normal everyday living, so this is a good way to tap into those resources at the local and regional level to be able to solve [problems].” However, to tap into those resources organizations need to know about them. Olive helped one community group, the Mantorville Economic Development Board, learn about RSDP by organizing a meeting to explain its importance.

“Jane and I met nearly ten years ago when as a member of Mantorville’s Movers and Shakers group she responded to a request for communities to engage in an asset-based community development project,” said Southeast RSDP Executive Director Erin Meier. “I kept in touch with the Movers and Shakers on a variety of projects and shared priorities over the years, mostly through Jane. When I learned that one of her many volunteer obligations had moved off her plate, I asked her to consider the Southeast RSDP board. I was so pleased and honored that she accepted the invitation to apply. Jane brings a vitality and aesthetic to the board that broadens our thinking on community and regional well-being.”

Southeast RSDP Executive Director Erin Meier with board member Jane Olive at the Mantorville Opera House.

Besides connecting community groups to RSDP, Olive is involved with other projects related to sustainable tourism and resilient communities. The main project is the Zumbro Watershed Recreational Learning Stewardship Sites Project. The Zumbro River Watershed has many opportunities for recreation, but it’s currently both isolated and underappreciated. The project will create accessible public recreation sites to help people realize how valuable the Zumbro River is. Each site will also contain educational kiosks and similar tools so locals can link the watershed’s recreational value with the importance of water-quality best management practices, creating a culture of stewardship. As a member of the Southeast RSDP Board of Directors, Olive has been involved in planning this. Olive said she looks forward to watching one of the recreational learning sites get installed in the town she lives in, Mantorville.

Whether it’s connecting organizations or discussing ecotourism projects, Olive finds working with RSDP personally rewarding. “You feel like you’re making a difference. That’s the main thing; you’re making a difference in the community,” she said.

Besides the joy she experiences from helping others, Olive has found that her experiences with RSDP have helped her grow as a person. “I’m learning a lot of stuff that I would normally have no idea [about]. For instance, I know little about solar energy, but there’s a woman on our board who is [extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about clean energy]. [It’s] enhancing me personally.”

Bringing it all together

Jane Olive displays her hat-making and costuming skills at the 2014 TeslaCon convention in Madison.

Although Olive is involved in many different groups, she’s found that they work remarkably well together. All of them are helping improve the economic, cultural, and environmental quality of life for southeastern Minnesota communities, and her various experiences help her contribute to different boards. Olive explained, “Anytime you get involved with organizations, you bring your varied experiences to the table … so there are crossovers with them—and with people.” According to Olive, communities stay connected through the personal connections developed among board members and the various associations they bring to the table.

Of course, Olive doesn’t spend all her time at board meetings. Besides her listed positions, Olive stays busy with a plethora of interesting hobbies, including sewing, thread crocheting, painting, and much more. Olive is known in the area for her Victorian and Edwardian costuming and hat making.

She’s also learning to make silk flowers, and enjoys applying her artistic skills to her home. “Creating a comfortable and pleasing home is important to me,” Olive said. She uses her skills in sewing and painting to beautify her and her husband, John’s, home. She’s sewn drapes, pillows, and bedspreads, and has also painted walls and furniture to make their house a home. Olive cheerfully told a story of how “[a] few years ago I did a five-layer stencil in the living room. John nicely asked I not do that again soon … [but] I moved an ex-shed to the backyard last year and am planning to decorate it to within an inch of its life this summer.”

Jane Olive and her husband, John, attend a holiday party at the Mantorville Opera House.

Olive spends plenty of time with friends and family as well. In Olive’s words, “I am [also] quite a foodie and love to cook and entertain.” She and her husband frequently welcome friends and family into their home to try delicious, interesting American recipes. And, last but certainly not least, Olive keeps busy with a wonderful family. She currently lives with her husband, John, in rural Mantorville with two dogs, two cats, and six chickens. Olive proudly explained how their daughter, Liz, is going to medical school. She has two stepsons who live nearby, and Mr. and Mrs. Olive keep busy with their many grandchildren as well.

Safe guarder of local economic activity. Supporter of arts. Promoter of sustainability efforts. Protector of historic sites. Hatmaker. Selfless volunteer. Wife. Mother. Grandmother. Although Olive holds many titles, it’s what lies beneath them that make her a truly valuable part of the Southeast RSDP.

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