What Chelsea Thought About Playing Minerva

 

My experience portraying Minerva Teichert was such an adventure and honor! It was my first time acting for film outside the classroom. As a stage actress, I found it refreshing and terrifying allowing my voice and body to just… be. Accept myself for who I am. Take no prisoners. Let my quirkiness shine. Have faith.

 

Minerva was much the same way.

 

She embodied unconditional love for another human being, no matter his background or religious affiliation. She had an open heart. She had a quick wit and stubbornness I find admirable. She questioned others. She second guessed herself. She believed in her work, her passion. She let herself fall in love. She was vulnerable and embraced it.

 

Her example has been immeasurable in my life. Spiritual wounds have healed because of her story. She’s helped me smile and mean it. I’ve gained insight into my past relationships with men “not part of the fold” and used that knowledge in my current eternal marriage. She’s given me perspective in balancing my marriage and theatrical career. She’s shown me the importance of following the Spirit, no matter the prompting.

 

I hope her story fosters others’ faith, as it has mine.

 

—Chelsea Hickman

 

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Biography

 

“You can have sagebrush colors; blues, grays, and add a little red, and wheeee... I want a touch of red in my heaven.” (1)

 

Minerva Kohlhepp Teichert was a Mormon wife, mother, and artist. In her remarkable lifetime she completed over 400 paintings and three books of fiction. The subjects of her art had a special focus on women, the West, and the Book of Mormon.

 

She was born on August 28th, 1888 in North Ogden, Utah to Mary Ella Hickman and Frederick John Kohlhepp. Minerva was the second of nine children. When she was still
very young her family moved to Southeastern Idaho where they lived close to the
Fort Hall Indian Reservation. This early influence defined much of Minerva’s work. She sustained an interest in Native Americans throughout her life and frequently represented them in her artwork.

 

Minerva showed an early aptitude for drawing and art which her family supported. In 1902, at age fourteen, she moved to San Francisco where she nannied for a wealthy family while attending the Mark Hopkins Art School. After graduating from high school in Pocatello in 1906, she moved to Chicago for a time where she continued her studies in art. Her early work as an artist allowed her to help support her father while he served a foreign LDS mission.

 

It was in 1912 that she met Herman Teichert. At the time, Minerva was living with Agnes Driscoll, Herman’s sister. Minerva and Herman got off to a rocky start because Minerva chose to get engaged to another man over Herman. She called that engagement off when she found out that he had expressed some anti-mormon sentiments. Herman wasn’t a member either, but he was different from this first beau.

 

However, Minerva was faced with a choice: enrollment at the Art Student’s League in New York City, or marriage to Herman. She chose the Arts Student’s League. While in New York she was tutored by Robert Henri, a noted Impressionist painter of his day. Robert believed that Minerva had great potential as an artist, and he encouraged her to paint the thing nearest to her heart, the Mormon story.

 

While in New York, Minerva lived an adventure. She paid her way through school by performing as a Native American dancer. Performing in this capacity was when she began wearing her signature headband. She stayed close to the Church and attended the Harlem Branch. One day while attending Relief Society there she received an answer to her prayers. Minerva had been trying to decide what she should do. Should she pursue a career as an artist, or should she instead invest in a marriage and in a family?

 

That day in Relief Society, her teacher encouraged the girls to go home to their sweethearts, where they would be much happier than they would be following a career. For Minerva, this was the answer. And it prompted her to return to Idaho, and return to Herman. They married quickly because Herman had been drafted to serve in WWI.

 

While Herman served overseas, Minerva gave birth to their first son, Herman Kohlhepp Teichert. Both the baby and Minerva became very ill with the Spanish Flu during this period. The stress of the flu so affected Minerva that it turned her hair its iconic white.

 

By 1928, the five Teichert children (Herman, Robert Henri, Hamilton, Laurie, and John)
had entered the world. And in 1933, Herman Sr. was baptized. The family was sealed a short while later and Herman ended up serving in the Cokeville, Wyoming ward bishopric for 20 years.

 

Despite her busy work as a wife and mother, Minerva always made time to paint. She felt that it was part of her mission in life to tell the Mormon story using her paintbrush and canvases. One of her crowning achievements was the mural she painted inside the Manti Temple. She began work on that project in 1946, and finished it a year later.

 

Her art was not well known or appreciated during her lifetime. Because it was not in high demand, she donated many of her pieces to Brigham Young University prior to her death. Since then, the BYU Museum of Art has acquired many more of her works, which are now noted and remembered by the arts community.

 

She passed away in 1976, leaving a legacy of life behind her. Perhaps Minerva would extend the sentiment expressed in the following letter to her daughter, Laurie, to all those who are touched by her art and story:

 

“This life is a great experience. May our Heavenly Father bless [us] to live! To see!
To think! And happiness will come gradually. You’ll hardly know when. I bless you to live, darling, live!”
(2)

 

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Poetic Licenses Taken in the Film

 

Minerva and Herman probably reunited in a friend’s front parlor. But running into each others’ arms on a country road was so romantic we were sure Minerva would approve.

 

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Questions Minerva Inspired Us to Ask

 

How do you choose between two good things?

How do you move forward, despite uncertainty?

What does God expect of women in their roles as wives?

 

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Quotations used in the Biography

1. LDS Church Archives. Museum of Church History and Art.

2. Eastwood, Laurie Teichert. Letters of Minerva Teichert. Provo, UT: BYU Studies,1998. pg. 219

 

 

Photograph of Minerva Teichert used by permission, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, all

rights reserved.

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