2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Niki Johnson

Niki Johnson – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  If chosen as the Artist in Residence at the Pfister Hotel, I will create a series of six sculptural child-sized bathtubs decorated to illustrate fairytales written by Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm.

Fairytales are the earliest narratives that join us culturally to one another. This body of work re-imagines the bathtub as the place where children go before hear bedtime stories. It is my intent with these sculptural works to create dialogue about earliest stories we come to learn, as well as how daily rituals and self-care shape our everyday lives.

I envision my residency in the Pfister artist’s studio as a professional and inspirational experience, where I am allowed the opportunity to share various aspects of my practice with the patrons of the hotel. During my 30-hour workweek in the Pfister artist’s studio, I will primarily be working in oil clay, sculpting and carving features for the bathtubs, and drawing detailed sketches for the components of each piece. As the final sculptures will be made out of cast porcelain, I will be spending additional time in my home studio preparing molds and casting. To encourage a holistic experience for the patrons, I will keep a few molds on display and will also regularly post photographic documentation of the work I do both on and off site on a digital display that I can talk about.

Additionally, I will produce a line of limited edition commemorative plates to match each of these sculptural pieces. They will be available when I begin each tub, as both an aide to help patrons visualize the direction of the work in progress, alongside the drawings and sketches that will be on view.


Niki’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2014 through February 14th, 2014.  The public will be able to vote for Niki & the other 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Brandon Minga
Dena Nord
Richard Dorbin
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Dena Nord

Dena Nord – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  When Pfister employees describe the hotel’s famous art collection they mention favorites, its history, and save the best for last – the residency program. One employee described it as “It was a breath of new life. Since the program, the collection has really started to grow.”

Taking that idea of life and growth as inspiration for my proposal, if selected I would create a body of abstract paintings that seem to literally grow on top of the existing collection. I would pick eight to ten pieces to work off of and record my abstract painting interpretations in time-lapse video. Using a technology called augmented reality; I would overlay the process video of my new work on top of the existing collection piece, as well as my original painting. With any smart device, one could download my App and unlock these videos and see how I organically developed the painting. If feeling inspired, I might also tag other things in the hotel that would work well with my new medium of technology and fine art.

In the studio, I would create a living hands-on environment. Guests and employees feeling creative, or public visitors on gallery nights, could paint along with me on a group canvas. I would demonstrate techniques on my current piece and talk about my work, while others follow along on the group canvas.


Dena’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2014 through February 14th, 2014.  The public will be able to vote for Dena & the other 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Brandon Minga
Richard Dorbin
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Brandon Minga

Brandon Minga – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  Built in 1893, The Pfister Hotel has long been known as a historic beacon of Milwaukee and one of the trendiest places to stay and play. In the late 19th century, while the Pfister was becoming the premier spot for Midwest movers and shakers, the hottest trends in fashion, art, food and spirits were also beginning to emerge. It was this juxtaposition of old and new, past and present, that inspired me to create “the Vintage Future” for the Pfister Hotel.

My work will marry the richer history of the Pfister Hotel with the trends of today. I will reimagine historic events like “the Drunkard” and past venues such as “the Old English Tavern” and “the Columns” drawing a contemporary inspiration from the Pfister’s Victorian collection and archives, both image and text. I hope to collaborate with the Pfister’s narrator, chefs, bartenders, and social media partners to create these interactive events, in which we would pair my artwork with food and libations inspired from menus of the past.

“The Vintage Future” will include 15-20 mixed media collages on paper. I will offer limited-edition prints and create related apparel. Much like what Charles Pfister had intended when he concocted his Indian Punch, “the Vintage Future” will be marketed and sold nationwide.


Brandon’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2014 through February 14th, 2014.  The public will be able to vote for Brandon & the other 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Dena Nord
Richard Dorbin
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng

His shocking story sparks inspiration

Ranachith “Ronnie” Yimsut is a genocide survivor, an orphan and a refugee. He is also a brother, husband, father, architect, author, teacher and social justice activist.

But more than anything, Ronnie is an inspiration.

I met Ronnie in the Cafe at the Pfister and I don’t think I have ever said fewer words during an interview. All I could do was listen, nod and occasionally fight back a tear.

Ronnie was born in Cambodia during the early years of the Vietnam War. When the Khmer Rouge moved in, 12-year-old Ronnie and his family were forced into work camps.

Ronnie suffered two years of hard labor, starvation and warfare. He was the only survivor of a Killing Fields attack in December 1977 where he lost nine of his 12 family members, including his parents.

After fleeing the site on foot, Ronnie eventually reached Thailand where he was jailed. He was later moved to a “holding center” where he learned how to plant and harvest crops. He was finally able to eat more food, but still only weighed 80 pounds at the age of 16.

Eventually, news crews began to appear at the center and Ronnie told his traumatic story and showed his scars to the world. When a distant aunt, who worked for Voice of America in Washington, D.C., saw that he was still alive, she sponsored his emigration.

So Ronnie, believing at the time he was the sole survivor in his family, came to the United States just before his 17th birthday. He enrolled at a high school in Washington, D.C. and later finished up in Portland, Ore. He then got a degree in architecture from the University of Oregon.

While in college, Ronnie learned his oldest brother and sister had survived and were in a refugee camp in Thailand with their families.

“Overnight, I had 13 mouths to support,” he says.

For five years, Ronnie sent money to them while working two or three jobs and going to school full time. He also took out loans to help them and eventually move them to the United States.

Five years ago, Ronnie relocated to Milwaukee to accept a job as a senior landscape architect for the USDA Forest Service. He brought his wife and two children, now adults, with him.

But this is only two-thirds of Ronnie’s story. One-third of his life is dedicated to activism and giving back to his homeland.

In 1993, Ronnie envisioned a school that would train and empower rural villagers to live sustainable lives. Eventually, he designed and built Bakong Technical College in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where he is now the non-paid chairman of the board.

The college trains men and women a variety of skills including language, carpentry, construction, masonry, hospitality, food science, small engine repair, bicycle repair, clothing making and more. The students are also taught about the tourist industry.

Ronnie has written numerous books, including his most recent book, “Facing the Khmer Rouge: A Cambodian Journey.” He is also a human rights activist and has frequent speaking engagements about genocide.

When he paused to take a sip of his drink and a bite of his sandwich, I was speechless, humbled, inspired. I cannot imagine experiencing so much violence and hardship and culture shock and to come out of it so strong and smart and committed – without debilitating anger, without hate.

“I shouldn’t be here,” said Ronnie, whose given name, “Ranachith,” means “undefeated warrior” in Sanskrit. “But I am. And so, I am making the most of my life.”

Update: Ronnie also took some time to speak with Artist-in-Residence, Stephanie Barenz during his visit to The Pfister. Stephanie has since created a painting inspired by his story.

“Project Runway” party planners rally for Timothy

When I saw Elyse Cizek, thumb Megan Zarnott and Alexis Rose sitting at the Lobby Lounge, I instantly knew they were up to something great. Not only were they dressed in fashionable and inspired attire, but there was a magnetic energy about them that I was immediately drawn to.

I quickly learned they were at the hotel to have a meeting about an upcoming event they were hosting in honor of Timothy Westbrook, sale the Pfister’s former artist-in-residence who was selected to be on “Project Runway” this season.

“We’re bringing Timothy back to the Pfister to honor his work and his success,” says Alexis, the driving creative effort behind the event. “We are doing a fresh, mod theme that was created by Elyse.”

Elyse, click a model and the creative director for the event, also has a business called Miche Made Up. Megan is a student and assisting in various ways from design to promotions for the event.

The event takes place Thursday, July 18, from 6 to 11 p.m., in the Pfister’s stunning Imperial ballroom. It will include a cocktail hour, fashion show, music by Thriftones and a screening of the premiere episode of “Project Runway.” The cost is $10 at the door. Find more details here.

Attendees are encouraged to wear “Timothy Westbrook inspired” clothing. Timothy is primarily a fiber artist who creates garments from recycled and organic materials. Prizes will be awarded for the top three outfits.

Timothy, who is originally from New York, stayed in Milwaukee following his Pfister residency. He is garnering much-deserved national attention for his exquisite work, and at the same time, is doing something extremely valuable for local artists.

In a town that sometimes struggles to molt the misperception that we’re subpar to larger metropolises, Timothy is investing in the city and believing in its potential. By doing so, he is encouraging and inspiring the local art community.

Alexis says the first time she met Timothy was backstage at a fashion show where she was a volunteer dresser. He noted her dedication and talent and walked up to her and asked, “Who are you?” She told him her name and he said, “You’re great!”

The rest is history; the two have been friends and working together ever since.

“He started mentoring me and bringing me under his wing and it’s just been experience after experience, show after show, love after love,” says Alexis.

Timothy had a similar swooping approach with Elyse.

“I first met him as a model. As soon as I walked into his studio, I thought ‘this guy is brilliant,’” she says. “He has such a dynamic personality and wants to make sure everyone who’s an artist, an expression, works together.”

The women are contributing to the growing creative network of Milwaukee artists by tapping many local artists and stylists for the event.

“We are pulling together a lot of people who are really inspired and want to be artists as their main gig,” says Elyse.

The three women look forward to continuing to work with Timothy and to support his work in any way they can.

“The three of us met through Timothy and we’ve grown together because of him,” says Alexis. “We’ve received so much inspiration from him and it’s amazing that now we get to put that inspiration into a show that’s honoring and showcasing him.”

Our Story Arts

As part of her residency, Stephanie Barenz, our 5th Artist-in-Residence has developed a mentoring program, “Our Story Arts” along with her husband, Zach.  Stephanie and Zach dreamed up the program shortly after Stephanie began her residency in April of this year as a way to encourage, enlighten and explore ways for children to explore self expression through the arts.

Zach, who teaches writing for 5th and 6th grades at Milwaukee school, St. Marcus, saw the program as another way to encourage his students to express their goals and dreams, and Stephanie, who had already been teaching art a few hours a month at the school, saw the program as an opportunity to bring a new dynamic and purpose to her residency.

Our Story ArtsThe program, in which presently seven 5th to 7th graders from St. Marcus are enrolled in, sees them visiting and attending classes with Stephanie and Zach twice each week in the AiR Studio on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

Stephanie and Zach’s mission for “Our Story Arts” is “to focus on the needs of the individual, to start a junior art community in Milwaukee, and tell the story of our city’s children through creative self-expression.

The seven students are divided into two groups – Junior Artists-in-Residence and Junior Narrators, modeled after the Pfister programs. The kids have been working on the theme of identity, and are producing work based on this concept. In the last two months the children have developed their voice through creative writing assignments, video interviews, poetry, brush and ink calligraphy, portraiture, and gesture drawing. In the future, they will be working to develop their own zines with Pfister Narrator, Molly Synder and her husband, Royal Bravvaxling, who is a writing instructor at MIAD.

While the kids enjoy their art, they highly enjoy being part of the Pfister experience.  The kids are enthusiastic, hardworking, creative, funny, thoughtful, and inquisitive.

Joel loves Michael Jackson and drawing comic books. Gavin wants to be an architect and recently enjoyed selling his first work of art out of the Pfister studio. Kayla is dedicated to being an artist and told me yesterday she now loves art more than basketball or any other activity. Astashia writes beautiful poetry and enjoys that challenge that art brings to her day. Joanna, is a wise soul and honest, aspiring writer. Tania likes graphic novels and has created over 44 characters. Nikayla has a rare wisdom for someone her age and wants to be a journalist.

You can view their work on the Our Story Arts Facebook page, which is updated regularly. In the coming months, the students will also have some of their artwork on display in the Stephanie Barenz Gallery at the Pfister. The children will receive 50% of their sales to purchase more of their own art supplies. The other 50% will go towards fees for their field trips and program expenses.

If you would like to support a child in their journey of self-expression please make donations payable to Stephanie Barenz and send to:

“Our Story Arts”
c/o Stephanie Barenz
Suite 600, 207 E. Buffalo Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Creativity is Everybody’s Business

Maggie Kuhn Jacobus is not your typical executive. Nor is she your typical mom. After a successful carrer as an entreprenuer, writer, producer, marketer, and public relations exec, she took a six-year sabbatical to raise her kids in the lush and far-flung tropics of Costa Rica because she wanted to give them a creative and enriching childhood. “Select soccer and routines were the things I feared most,” she admits.

Maggie Keuhn Jacobus
Maggie Keuhn Jacobus

Kuhn Jacobus is back in her hometown of Milwaukee with teenage boys. She took the position of President and Executive Director of the Creative Alliance  in January and is passionate about linking, leveraging, promoting, and growing the creative industries in the Milwaukee region.

“Creativity is everybody’s business,” she insists at a reception in Cafe Rouge on Thursday night.  It’s evident that not only with her impressive professional resume, but also by her own personal choices that she is just the risk-taker Milwaukee needs to prove the impact of the creative industries on our local economy. Kuhn is a “Glass half full” type of leader and says “Risk is about possibility. We have to ask ourselves what can we do with what we have here in Milwaukee?”

Creative industries are responsible for $2 billion in wages here in Wisconsin, contributing to our region’s vibrancy. But until industries stop working in sillos, growth and development cannot happen. So, the Creative Alliance is set on connecting commerce and creatives.

The Creative Alliance is partnering with the Pfister’s Artist in Residence program and hopes to add more creativite residencies to corporations in MIlwaukee, among a long list of other tactics to bring the creative industry to the forefront of economic discussion.

Stephanie Barenz, the Pfister’s current Artist in Residence, also spoke to the crowd about her work as a full-time creative professional working in a corporate setting.  She is currently working on both a mentoring program with students at St. Marcus School (where her husband is a teacher) to teach them about writing and painting as well as a body of work entitled “The Carriers,” which explores how travel affects our perception of home. What a fitting proposal for a working studio in a historic hotel. Several of her intricate and thought-provoking paintings were on display, along with a diverse body of work from past Artist in Residence finalists.

Stephanie Barenz's artwork on display
Stephanie Barenz’s artwork on display

To really hit home her point, Kuhn Jacobus invited her favorite local band, Painted Caves, to serenade the crowd with exotic sounds, while they mingled and discussed how enriching and vital the arts truly are. The whole event was well choreographed and engaged like a creative leader does best.

 

Painted Caves
Painted Caves

 

 

A Master and His Admirer

Dr. Jeffery Hollander has had a prolific career in addition to his 30-year tenure as the Pfister Hotel’s Musician-in-Residence. “He is so talented, I love the way he interprets the music. No one else plays like he can.” Natalia will be the first to tell you that he is not your typical lounge pianist. “No other place in Milwaukee has this kind of ambiance.” She has admired his work for the past seven years as a fixture in the Lobby Lounge.  So much so, that she made it into Katie Musolff’s painting of Dr. Hollander that is hanging in the hallway outside of the cafe. Originally from Russia, Natalia is a classical pianist herself, holding a Master’s degree in piano performance. Now, she teaches at MATC and has private students, among other engagements.

Natalia leads me over to the painting to show off her cameo. “I’m the one who looks like I am falling asleep on the couch.” she proudly points out her muted likeness in the strokes on the canvas. “After hearing kids torture the keys all day, I come here and listen to him. This is my mental spa, my therapy.” She softly slips into this happy place as she describes just how affecting his music can be. And quickly, she gravitates back to her seat close to the piano, with a clear view of his hands on the keys. I sneak away and allow her to return to therapy, with my own renewed sense of admiration of Dr. Hollander’s talents.

Natalia, proudly standing next to her likeness in Katie Musolff's painting of Dr. Hollander
Natalia, proudly standing next to her likeness in Katie Musolff’s painting of Dr. Hollander

 

#PrintMKE at The Pfister Hotel

The Pfister, along with the rest of Milwaukee, is exited to welcome the attendees of Print: MKE 2013.  What’s even more exciting, is that this year, Timothy and his friend and fellow artist, Erin Close are participating in their own off campus exhibit, titled Hurry Or Your Ears Won’t See What I’ve Made.

The exhibit, which is in Timothy’s Studio, is open from 7am-9pm daily from March 20th through the 23rd. With a reception on Friday, March 22nd, from 5-9pm.

Erin and Timothy’s official description of the exhibit is as follows

Both Erin and Timothy were raised around people with an absence of vision—Erin with her parents and Timothy with his grandfather. This instilled a heightened awareness of physical presence in them both. The pair has transformed this acuteness in their relationship with materials and tools. The tape of an audiocassette mirrors yarn as the starting point for a potential experience. Through the playing of the tape and the weaving of the yarn a sensory experience is performed. The repetitive function of a slate and stylus for writing Braille echo the marking on a plate in printmaking, both building to a completed sensorial language. Work will be created live throughout the conference. Erin and Timothy invite you to feel with your eyes and listen with your hands.

As Timothy wraps up his time as our Artist-in-Residence we invite you to stop in and experience him, and his work while you can including his Print: MKE 2013 exhibit!  You can find more info on the event on the official Facebook event page.

Stephanie Barenz Named as the Fifth Pfister Artist-in-Residence

The Pfister is thrilled to announce that we’ve named Stephanie Barenz as the fifth Pfister Artist-in-Residence.  Stephanie will begin her residency on April 1st after our current and fourth Artist, Timothy Westbrook ends his.  Stephanie was chosen by the Pfister’s selection committee made up of community leaders in the arts and other disciplines.  You can learn more about Stephanie at her website, stephaniebarenz.com.

Additionally, finalist Eddie Villanueva finished first in the public round of voting and will receive a solo art show at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel.

Background

“The Pfister is the perfect stage for my work, which deals with how travel affects one’s relationship to place,” said Barenz. “The hotel carries thousands of stories from over a hundred years. The Victorian art collection, the antiques, and spaces have served as silent witnesses to all of it.”

“Over the course of the year, I plan to create a body of work that will include 20 to 30 paintings. Images of these paintings will be turned into a book and I plan to collaborate with the Pfister Narrator, the hotel’s writer in residence, to write text for the images. I am so looking forward to moving into the studio, starting my project, and getting to know more of the Milwaukee community through my platform at The Pfister.”

Barenz primarily paints and draws on wood panels using a range of media, including acrylics, sumi ink, and pencil. A Milwaukee-area resident for the past two years, she currently works as a full-time artist at Plaid Tuba, the studio of The Pfister’s first Artist in Residence, Reginald Baylor. With extensive experience teaching and studying art, Barenz has taught in Southeast China, studied in Florence, Italy, and completed a one-year residency at the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., with a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Proposal

“THE CARRIERS”

The Pfister carries thousands of stories from over a hundred years. The famous Victorian art collection, the antiques, and rooms have served as silent witnesses to all of it. Every day a new story is written and this is where my proposal begins.

The title “The Carriers” is used to describe how I would use images of the hotel’s people and objects to “carry” the memories and stories of the Pfister. For example, I woudl ask guests if I could interview them about where they were coming from, their visit at the Pfister, what they brought with them, and what kind of transportation brought them to Milwaukee. I would then paint an image of their luggage or the train car that they arrived in that is piled high with their stories and memories from our conversation. Our conversation would most likely extend beyond their stay at the hotel and I would work from images they give me.

I would also create works solely based on the hotel’s past and present history. Anything could carry a memory, such as a hotel room or an old chandelier. This playful approach has endless possibilities. I would turn the Victorian collection and the hotel archives for imagery and inspiration.

Over the course of a year I would like to create an entire body of work entitled “The Carriers” that would include 20 to 30 paintings. I would turn these images into an illustrated book and hopefully collaborate with the Pfister resident journalist and storyteller to write some text for the images.

Work Samples