Aikong See | Community Benefactor

Artist | Susan Waughtal

People often fail to visualize the plight of the vulnerable within their community. Not so for Aikong See whose organization, Project HOPE, provides for those most in need during a time when the seams appear to be falling to pieces. Along with a committed group of local residents, Aikong provides not only food and basic necessities for those in need but a warm smile and a welcoming heart. Building bridges among disparate community members is a task requiring an enormous supply of empathy. Project HOPE was built to inspire trust and forge relationships, and it has proven to the community that we can all enjoy our day in the sun.

Nominated by Diversity Council

Artist Bio Susan Waughtal

Susan grew up in Bemidji, Minnesota, where she loved drawing, helping her grandmother in the garden, and making things.  In second grade she met Roger Nelson, who decades later became her husband, and is her current partner in their life project, Squash Blossom Farm.

After earning her from the University of Minnesota in Studio Arts, Susan worked for many years leading environmental and community organizations:  the Southeast Minnesota Recyclers’ Exchange, Clean Energy Resource Teams, and RNeighbors, the Rochester Neighborhood Resource Center.  Throughout, Susan continued to paint and exhibit her work.

In 2008, Susan and Roger purchased a small 1910 farmstead near Rochester, which they named Squash Blossom Farm and are restoring as a permaculture farm dedicated to Local Food, Local Art, Local Music. They built a certified kitchen in the barn, where they bake wood-fired breads for the Farmers Market and wood-fired pizzas, served with live music on the farm on summer weekends.  Susan tends the cows, chickens, donkey and goats, grows vegetables, and uses the entire farm as her canvas, infusing art everywhere. She continues to draw, paint, photograph and sculpt, with the animals as her muses, the farm her inspiration.