An art-filled life

A friend asked me about art opportunities for her son (who spent his morning making masks)… and I said:

There are some venues around here that offer art opportunities. We can talk about them sometime. But I want to say that while it is grand to get kids together to make art, I think it’s more important to make sure that the creative creature that lives inside of each of us has a chance. Parents are the best incubators for that creative creature.

I think that the critical thing is to encourage constant experimentation… making art is experimentation – pure, wonderful, exasperating, beautiful experimentation – it’s giving in to the urge to “what if…” something, to take a bit of this and a bit of that and put them together to make a new thing. It doesn’t have to be limited to traditional art activities – building a snow fort or baking a pie or making some contraption can be experimental – and if it is, you’re feeding the creative creature.

The most important thing for raising a child (or an adult) to live an art-filled life – to be blessed with the indescribable lightness of being that art generates – is to be willing to totally wreck havoc in the name of experimentation, to be willing to put the journey and the finding out ahead of things like order and propriety and everything else that shuts down the creative mind, that forces us to be those cogs in the machine.

I was very lucky as a child – my parents did not have much, but they let us play with almost everything they had. The contraptions we made were applauded and treasured – even when they had to be scraped off the sidewalk, or painted over, or dismantled so that dinner could be put on the table, or, or, or…

I was “sewing” before I started school, “building” before I was out of grade school… I learned how to use tools, how to make stuff from bits of this and that, how to fix things, how to “see” what might be, how to be fearless in my experimentation – to know “I can do that…” whatever “that” was.

And all because I was taught that the creative creature was important, that it was the most important part of me – the part that made me alive – the creative creature was me. Life was all about the making and thinking and looking and finding… All those doings done, all those thoughts thought, they stayed with me throughout my life. Even in the times when I was too afraid to make art, when life demanded too much of me to be able to spare the energy, I still was art-filled.

And one day I came back to it.

So, would I like to make my living making art? Hell yes. I’d love to… and I am really stubborn, so maybe it will happen.

But it’s ever so much more important to just be making the art.

The ART of Fine Furniture

Art: “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

Furniture:  “The movable articles in a room or an establishment that make it fit for living or working.”

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” ~Louis Nizer

Many people in society have arrived at a place where it is “acceptable” for furniture to last only a few years, as long as it is offered at an “acceptable” price. The majority of furniture is mass produced using materials that are sourced primarily for their quantity and homogenous aesthetic. Through this process, more often than not, these furniture pieces are void of human craft, with the exception of “some assembly required”. While a piece may embody aesthetically pleasing qualities, it hardly invokes the desire to touch and experience on an intimate level as a handcrafted piece of studio furniture does. In the millennial ritual of shopping for furniture, a hand crafted piece of studio furniture is rarely even considered by most consumers.

Every day I am inspired to do my part in keeping the art of making studio furniture alive. In my work I push myself to explore the limits of furniture and delve deeper into the realm of art. Today’s studio furniture makers such as Seth Rolland, Mark Laub, Tim Gorman, and Craig Johnson are contemporary artists that push the limits and continue to make creations that are the best among today’s studio furniture makers. Like the early American studio furniture makers, Wharton Esherick, Wendell Castle, Sam Maloof, and George Nakashima, the studio furniture makers of today will continue to create pieces that will challenge people to expand their view of what furniture means in our lives and homes.

Often when people are viewing my work they ask me:

“What would I use this piece of furniture for?”, or
“How long did it take you to make this?”

I usually respond with: “Once you own the piece, you can use it anyway you choose.” I am comfortable with my work serving utilitarian needs, and more, I would be honored if it were to fulfill a desire for having art present in a living space. Most contemporary studio furniture pieces are works of art, as well as interactive pieces of art that beg, or even need, the individual to partake in them. Experiencing the function of the piece is integral to appreciating it. The draw to maintain some element of utility is one of the most intriguing aspects of being a studio furniture maker. This is what keeps a studio furniture maker grounded in the roots of the craft, it keeps us connected with tradition and it pushes us to think more deeply about each facet of our work. My goal when making a piece of studio furniture is that when seen for the first time, the viewers are pleased with what they see, they find the work beautiful, and it evokes an emotional response. They are pulled closer to touch and explore the piece.

Leonard Guidroz, my mentor, who has taught me many things, the least of which was how to make studio furniture, had an insightful response to the question: How long did it take to make this? He would say, “Well, I am 62 years old.” The first time I heard it I knew this response was born from a place of honesty. It was a truthful explanation of how that particular piece came to be. I often see something happen in people’s eyes when I share Leonard’s response. They seem to realize the importance of life experience in the creation of art, and how wonderful it is to use one’s cumulative skills and inspirations in this way. Creating art, by all means, is not the easiest way to make a living, but the way I see it, art makes our homes fit for living.


The Art of Fine Furniture

June 21st – September 11th 2014
Opening Reception: Saturday June 21st at 1pm. (Open to the public)
Winona County History Center

“The Year of the New” at MMAM

2013 is “The Year of the New” at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM) in Winona, and it is about to reach its crest! Here is a little summary of an exciting, transformational season at your art museum:

Thanks to a tremendous team of Museum leadership and designers, the MMAM has a new visual identity, resulting in new logos, new print material, and a new website. From now on, you can stay connected with the MMAM at

Thanks to tremendous donor support, the Museum is upgrading its lighting to one of the finest LED systems in the world. This new system exceeds the Museum’s standards for lighting quality and will utilize almost 90% less energy than the old one. It will be installed in all of the Museum’s galleries by the end of September.

On September 15, the MMAM will unveil 6 new jaw-dropping masterpieces to its collections to a special group of Museum donors. These pieces will be on public display beginning with the finale of “The Year of the New” – the opening of the Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Family Gallery.

Funded through inspiring generosity by the Slaggie Family Foundation, This major expansion will increase the Museum’s main gallery space by over 2,200 square feet, add an additional hallway gallery and increase the MMAM’s storage space. The Gallery Dedication Weekend for MMAM members, donors and volunteers is September 28th and 29th, with the new space being open to the general public on the 29th.

I hope that you are as excited about the “New MMAM” as we are, and I invite you to stay connected with us as we continue to grow in dynamism and surprise in quality.

– Andrew J. Maus, MMAM Executive Director

Slaggie Family Gallery Exterior - Final II

Family Art Day Extravaganza

The River Arts Alliance and Winona Parks & Rec are happy to announce the sixth year of the FAMILY ART DAY Extravaganza to be held on Saturday September 7, 10am to 2:30pm at JAYCEE PAVILION, Lake Park. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts & cultural heritage fund and with generous support from Slaggie Family Foundation, King Foundation, Winona National Bank, Wenonah Canoe, WSU Art Department, and US Fish & Wildlife.

Family Art Day is an interactive art adventure for all ages. The goal of the art day is to celebrate the arts through fun family art activities that continue River Arts Alliance efforts to promote arts in the community through hands-on activities and experiential learning that provide exposure to different art mediums and develop appreciation for the processes of making art while having FUN!!!

THE EVENT IS FREE & OPEN TO ALL AGES.  Attendees will be able to move from one activity to another.  Most could complete many art pieces and processes in the course of the day and could have numerous pieces in process at one time.  Try your hand at throwing a pot on a wheel, make a glove doll, paint a mural and many other art projects. Some are new and some we have every year. The hours for the art projects are 10am to 2:30pm. Registration period begins at 9:30am and continues throughout the day.

Come early to signup with your favorite artist:
Sculpt with Michelle Cochran.
Make marbleized paper with Morro Schreiber & Dan Grimslid
Finger-paint with John Durfey.
Learn to tie knots from Tom Dukich.
Learn bookmaking with Jill Krase.
Make a cool necklace with Patty Albrecht.
Paint a mural with Julia Crozier.
Make a glove doll with Leslie and Jack Zantow.
Learn to paint with watercolors from Kathy Delano.
Learn to paint with acrylics from Barbara Feiten.
Make paper with Ray & Margaret Kiihne, Kirissa Grams.
Make puppets with Jill Marie & Joe Pigott.
Make a small mosaic with Monta May.
Throw a clay pot on a wheel with, Fred Fletcher, Rachel Vogel, Bea Salisbury and Mickey Maslowski.
Decorate a kite with Julie Johnston.
Do marble painting with Heather Kasper.
And others

Put September 7 on your calendar as a day to have FUN at Lake Winona.
For the art activities, contact Bernadette Mahfood at 452-4506 or hotflashdesigns at
For more information and updates contact the City of Winona Parks Department at 457-8258.


Once the students and faculty at Winona State are settled into the new fall routine, with the brisk winds stirring the leaves up and down the campus, the university’s cultural events begin in earnest. We welcome the larger community to our performing arts, visual arts, and eclectic speaker series events. Hopefully parking and logistics won’t keep you away! Remember that all campus parking lots are available to everyone starting at 5:00 p.m., and the metered spots behind the Performing Arts Center are free after 5:00. Many events are also free, and the revenue from the ticketed performances goes directly into supporting the production of our live music and theatre events. Read on, and add these dates to your own “things to do” September calendar!

This year’s all campus theme is “Civic Action: Meeting the Challenge to Improve Our World.” On Tuesday, Sept. 10 @ 7:30 p.m. in the Somsen auditorium the Lyceum Series will present Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen, which has been called a handbook for volunteers. Loeb explores what leads some people to get involved in larger community issues while others feel overwhelmed or uncertain, what it takes to maintain commitment for the long haul, and how community involvement and citizen activism can give back a powerful sense of connection and purpose.

The Watkins Gallery will showcase recent work by WSU Art Dept. faculty, including drawings, paintings, mixed media, printmaking, and sculpture. Exhibit dates are August 26 through Sept. 25, with the opening reception and gallery talk on Wed. Sept. 4th @ 4:00.

A terrific “faculty showcase”, the annual concert for the WSU Chapter of the National Assoc. for Music Educators is Tuesday, Sept. 24 @ 7:30 p.m. in the PAC Recital Hall. This is just a sampling of the talented musicians we have in the WSU Music Dept.

The Pulitzer Prize winning play ‘night, Mother by Marsha Norman will be performed Sept. 26-28 @ 7:30 p.m. in the  Dorothy B. Magnus Black Box Theatre. This moving, provocative story features two actors playing a mother and daughter who face the ultimate breaking point in their relationship. Directed by Jim Williams.

Plan Ahead!
Bring the kids and grandkids to the 47 classic Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Performance dates are Oct. 10-12, on the PAC main stage. Directed by Vivian Fusillo.

For more information, and to order tickets, please go to

Using a “mobile-first” strategy to find an audience

Ryan Kim over at GigaOM has recently discussed a new Forrester Research study that examines what might happen over the next five years in the field of mobile communication. Currently 83 percent of Americans own a cell phone and of those about 42 percent own a smartphone. In five years nearly all cell phones will be smartphones and those devices will be far more powerful than those we hold today.

What this means is that the way Americans find, access and use information is about to radically change. Instead of using books, newspapers, magazines, radio and television to find and learn new information, we will increasingly turn to the high power computers we now call a phone. If you already own a smartphone, I suspect you are seeing this happen right now.

Because of this the area arts community needs to begin rethinking how it connects with its audience. The community needs to begin developing what Ryan calls a “mobile-first” strategy. Mobile devices won’t just become one of several ways the audience discovers art, they will increasingly become the only means.

The reason for this is quite simple. Mobile devices are becoming so powerful that using them to access information is becoming the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to find what you are looking for. Also this likely won’t occur at some point in the remote future. Instead the transition will probably be complete in less than 10 years and possibly as few as five.

So what does a “mobile-first” strategy look like? At this point I can’t offer a complete picture, but based on how technology has developed in the past I have a few general ideas on what a viable approach might look like.

Despite the massive changes we have seen in information technology over the past 40 years, we know it is rare for a new technology to develop entirely from the ground up. As a result we can probably assume these newer mobile technologies will begin by building on top of existing approaches. All this new mobile technology won’t immediately replace our existing computers and networks, but begin by simply extending it.

From a practical point of view we will need to stop assuming they only way people will be viewing digital information will be at home or work on a large screen monitor.  Instead it will increasingly be viewed on small hand held devices. More importantly we can no longer assume a computer is something people will use only a short period of time each day, but rather something that will be available to them all day long.

This summer Winona will host two large festivals that will attract several thousand people. These individuals won’t come solely for the plays and concerts that will be offered as part of the festivals. They will also be looking to discover what else the Winona community has to offer.

Many of these people will turn to a smartphone to find out. The only question is “what will they find?”. If they fire up a location aware application like Yelp, Google Maps or Wikipedia will they find our art galleries, museums, theaters and parks? If they do find these places, will there be enough information available to figure out what these places offer? Finally will that information be in an easy to read, mobile friendly format or will they have to fight to find what they need?

Using a local search app on a smartphone in Winona

During my recent vacation to south Florida, I made extensive use of local search applications on my smartphone to help me find things to see, places to eat and where to spend the night.  These applications, like Google Places (aka Maps) and Yelp were quiet helpful and I visited many places that I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.

When I returned to Winona, I decided to fire up these applications just to get a feel for what a visitor to Winona might see.  What I discovered was rather disappointing.  Most of the listings were incomplete and even inaccurate.  Businesses were often misclassified and places that had closed years ago were still listed.  Many had either never been reviewed, or worse, had only one or two extremely negative reviews.

It is currently estimated that about 45 percent of the population in the US carries a smartphone and it will probably increase to 80 or 90 percent within 3 or 4 years.  Given how easy these applications were to use, it is likely that they will become the primary means people use to find places to visit when they travel.  If the information about a particular town or location isn’t accurate or reliable, it is likely that visitors will simply either move on or visit only previously known locations.  For example, a visitor would probably choose to eat at a familiar fast food joint rather than take a chance on an unknown local restaurant.

At the very least, local artists and arts organizations (galleries, museums, theaters, etc.) should consider reviewing their listings on these sites to ensure the information presented is accurate and complete.  Those who are interested in supporting our community and our local arts community in particular, should consider checking the listings for some of their favorite locations.  If there is a local place you really enjoy (e.g. a good restaurant or retailer), consider reviewing the site so other like minded travelers will be encouraged to visit.

To edit information that appears in Google Maps and Google Places, you can visit Google Map Maker.  To edit information in Yelp, simply visit the Yelp site, search for places you are interested in and edit the relevant information.  Please note that both sites are moderated and any changes you make won’t take effect until someone has reviewed your changes.

Also your changes are more likely to be accepted if you create an account at either Google or Yelp and log in.  This way a moderator can contact you if they have any questions and notify you when the changes are accepted. [Note: During the Yelp account creation process, Yelp asks for your email password to scan your address book for other Yelp members.  This is optional and I recommend that it be skipped.  While I believe Yelp is just doing what it says, for multiple security reasons you should not make a habit of giving your email password to anyone, no matter how trustworthy.  The only required personal information you need to provide is a valid email address.]

Although I have yet to use it extensively, Wikipedia has just released an Android app that makes it easy to search for Wikipedia articles based on your current location.  If you examine a Wikipedia article that discusses a particular location (e.g. Winona) you will notice that the article’s writer (anyone can be a writer) are beginning to add geographical coordinates.  I expect that in the future this information will be particularly useful for discovering and learning about interesting new places.

Winona Art Walk

The 11th annual Winona Art Walk (formerly Christmas Art Walk) will be held 9am – 5pm, Saturday, November 19. For the second year the Art Walk is the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Here’s a chance to support the local economy and over 30 regional artists who make glass, jewelry, paintings, ceramics, carvings, wood, textiles, photography, baskets, Christmas ornaments and more.

Maryann and Rick Frietsche’s Coconut Gal Designs, in the Winona Mall, will join the Art Walk again this year. Maryann uses semiprecious gemstones, shell, bone, horn, freshwater pearls and sterling silver in her original jewelry designs. You can also see some of her work at the Acoustic Café.

The Minnesota Marine Art Museum, 800 Riverview Dr., will again be a part of the Art Walk. Visitors can enjoy four exhibits. The museum will do a program with Leo (“Lyon”) Smith IV on that day (November 19th) from 1-3pm. Again, he will have a table set up and will be available to informally talk about his latest sculpture, a Claude Monet, and will be available to take reservations for reproductions.  In the gift shop you will find reproductions by folk artists Leo and Marilyn Smith, and Touchstone glass paperweights by local artists, Cathy and Colin Richardson.

Yarnology, 79 W. 3rd St., is the new yarn shop downtown. Owners Gaby Peterson and Kelly Momsen will feature gorgeous yarns from around the world, classes for beginners and improvers, and a welcoming place to sit and create!

Magnolias gift shop, 177 Lafayette St., is a ‘must see’ now representing 15 area artists. In addition to baskets and quilted runners, quilted wall hangings, handmade soaps, colorful aprons, local photography, ceramics, hobo bags and felted wool purses, Magnolias also carries Christmas ornaments, Polish pottery, Winona mittens, & metal décor.

Visit the Daniel Grimslid Studio, 159 E. 2nd St. to see Dan’s figurative lithographs and drawings as well as his printing equipment and his lovely garden in the back.


Julia Crozier’s Blue Heron Gallery and Studio, 168 E 3rd St, opened in November 2007 and now represents 20 regional artists. In addition to Julia’s exciting new contemporary paintings, the gallery carries several local artists’ work including Jack Honeywell, Carol Slade, Dirk Nelson, Larry Veeder, and Mary Solberg.

Lynette & Peter

New this year a group of artists who often open their studios will be set up a Gallery for a Day, 62 E. 2nd St.Artists include the following: Lynette Power, Rivertown Pottery, joins the Art Walk with her new bronze Otter sculpture, clay sculptures, oil lamps, wall pockets with bromeliad air plants, and assorted pottery. Also Diné (Navajo) artist, Peter Teller of Rough Rock, AZ, joins the group with his figurative drawings, and his clay and stone sculptures. Don’t miss their new collaborative standing clay figures.


Bernadette Mahfood, Hotflash Designs will be showing decorative glass tiles as well as her exquisite glass bead and fiber jewelry. See her fun new earring designs. And Walken Ratajczyk will have his latest kilnformed glass work available for sale. Mary Singer will show her latest paintings.  Mary Denzer of Seven Bridges Pottery, with her functional high-fired stoneware and porcelain pottery, Jean Colette with her handpainted silk scarves and ties, Denise Lorenz with her quilts and jewelry and Roger Meyer with turned wood bowls will all be showing at the Gallery for a Day.

Mary Singer

Hudson River Valley Autumn

The weather has taken a turn.  It’s cool today.  Autumn is blowing through the leaves the the Azure maple tree in the front yard.   Although the landscape is still green it feels different looking out at the neighborhood.

As I sit here watching the children get off the bus and walking up the hill to their homes, I drift back to an Autumn long ago in Catskill, New York.  We lived and taught in Catskill our first year of marriage.

Fall in upstate New York was spectacular.  We experienced it with bravado.  The Hudson River Valley School of painting was founded in the area in the middle years of the Nineteenth Century by Thomas Cole.

Our morning drive to work followed the Hudson River for eight miles Glimpses of the mountain that rose sharply, a palisade, five miles to the West would flash in our sleepy eyes.   Over the hill, past the bridge across the Hudson, we’d dip into the village and drive past Cedar Grove, Thomas Cole’s home.  We’d cross Kaaterskill Creek and onto Catskill Senior High School.

In early October, the vivid reds and oranges, brilliant chrome yellows seemed to have painted the cloves and peaks of the Catskill Mountains.  That’s how I remember it, maybe because the colors were so strong and rich.  The colors have emblazoned themselves on my mind.

To get a sense of the colors we experienced the Hudson River Valley, visit Fredrick Church’s painting, “Autumn” at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.  Church was a student of Thomas Cole. Each time I see the painting it brings me back to that special Autumn in 1967.  The remembering is always more meaningful in Autumn.