My mother, the Green Hornet, and other notes of love

Are you still feeling the glow of Mother’s Day? It was a glorious brunch filled day at the Pfister this past Sunday when good sons and daughters showered their moms with well deserved adoration.

Me? I was out of town, there and I’m not 100% certain that my Mom even had a good cup of coffee.

Lest you think I’m a terrible son, you should know that I did manage to arrange an early Mother’s Day lunch at the Café at the Pfister with my mother Judy. She’s a rock star of motherdom, and I wanted to make sure I had at least bought her a salad.

I also had an ulterior motive for our lunch date. My Mom has a great Pfister story that I really wanted to hear told to me at the scene-of-the–crime, as it were. This story is part of my family’s legend and lore, and I’m sure for those folks who were around the day it happened some 35 years ago, it’s still a memorable moment.

My wife Paula (a woman who is in the Top 2 of all-time great mothers on my “Mother’s I Love” List) was also included in our celebration of good mothers bread breaking because she somehow had never heard the story, and I’m also just rather fond of lunching with her.

My mom, Paula and I settled into a table in the Café right along the windows. It had been years since my mom had been to the Pfister, and as we took our seats she looked out the window as if looking back in time.

“It happened right out there,” said mom gazing at parked cars on the street. “Right in front of all the cab drivers. They had a good laugh.”

Over the years I’ve thought and thought about my mom’s story, and I’ve considered how different endings could have changed the course of my life in some pretty drastic ways. We’ve certainly laughed about it all over the years, but listening to my mom tell my wife the story put the whole thing in perspective for me once again and makes me think that maybe my mom had a guardian angel watching over her as she exited our family car to have the most eventful day ever getting her hair done in the Janice Salon at the Pfister (which has now blossomed into the full service WELL Spa® + Salon).

Paula leaned in as my mom recalled the day long ago when pants legs were flared and the music of your life had a disco beat. I was about 10-years-old and my brother was a mere toddler as my mom dropped us at a neighbor’s house so she could drive downtown to the Pfister to get her hair done, taking a well deserved break from her job at that time as a stay-at-home mom. We were a one car family back then, and my hard working father took the bus to work everyday as a tax attorney in a downtown office building a mere few blocks away from the Pfister.

Our family car was an AMC Green Hornet. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it did the job of getting us around town.

Green Hornet_May 11 2015
The AMC Green Hornet. Style, class, distinction…meh.

It also proved to be reliable for shuttling us back and forth to visit our family in upstate New York, a trip we made for the Christmas holiday and summers. That car was steady, and on our family’s modest budget it was a more than a-okay set of wheels.

Mom parked the Green Hornet on Jefferson Street right across from the lineup of cabs servicing Pfister guests in need of a ride around town. She filled her meter, dashed into the hotel, and went into the basement salon for a nice hairdo tune up.

As soon as she got settled in her stylist’s chair, someone rushed into the salon and said, “There’s a car on fire across the street!”

My mom gulped hard, panicked knowing that she herself had parked right across the street. Hoping that she heard red or orange or even brown, she asked, “What color is the car?”

“Blue,” answered the town crier who had given the car- -on-fire report. “It’s a blue car, and it’s up in flames.”

Blue was a perfectly fine color as far as my mother was concerned. It wasn’t green, the color of our sweet little ride, so she relaxed believing there was no need for concern and sunk into the stylist’s chair for one of the stunning cuts she always received, classic looker that she has always been.

As mom made her way out onto the street freshly coiffed, the news of the burning car had almost vanished from her thoughts. That is until she pulled her keys out of her purse and was stymied about how to unlock our AMC Green Hornet that was now charred and smoking parked tightly against the curb. Whether or not a Green Hornet burns blue when it bursts into flames, there had clearly been a mix up in making the announcement.

The cab drivers nearby had been waiting to see who the poor sucker was who owned the car. They told my mom that the moment she had walked into the lobby at the Pfister, flames had shot up from under the hood of the car. Had this happened a few moments earlier, my mom would have had no need for a cut and shampoo but my brother, dad and I might have had a great and powerful need for another lady who did a damned fine job of keeping us all together. It was, to say the least, the best bad timing my mother ever had.

My mom tells of walking to my dad’s office and announcing to my father that the car had burned up and that the fire department had smashed the driver’s side window when putting the fire out. I can only imagine the look on my dad’s face when my mom showed up that day to tell him that their only car was out of commission.

But here’s what I love about this story and my parents pluck and determination—we kept that car. My parents did what they could with the means that they had, and I’m happy to report that we had that little AMC for another couple of years. It even made the trip to upstate New York for Christmas a few months after the blaze. Of course, my brother and I huddled under blankets and my dad drove with mittens because heat rarely came from the dashboard after the accident.

Paula, my mother and I chuckled about it all over our salads, thinking about how crazy it was for my mom the moment she made her horrible discovery. I’m gladder than glad that no one, most of all, my mom, was hurt back in the day. I’m also proud to say that I know that standing before that smoldering Green Hornet in the afternoon sun nearly 40 years ago, my mom’s hair looked amazing.

Announcing the 7th Pfister Narrator – Anja Notanja Sieger

We are absolutely elated to name Anja Notanja Sieger as our seventh “Pfister Narrator.” In this role, she will spend time in the hotel’s lobby and public spaces, typing letters and poems on site, speaking with visitors and guests and sharing their stories right here on our award-winning blog.

“I will write personal letters for visiting strangers, and contribute to the Pfister’s blog,” said Sieger. “I hope to also host public story slams and literary readings featuring local talent, as well as to publish a book by the end of my incumbency.”

Sieger received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking and creative writing from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2009. Her performance writing art service “La Prosette” has been featured on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today Online, MSN Hotmail News and Yahoo News. La Prosette is a one-woman typewriter service that allows clients to choose from the following options: Poetry, Love Letter, Insult Letter, Letter of Recommendation, Short Story, or Letter from a Pet. Writing letters requires her to pretend for the duration of the composition that she is “Not-Anja,” but the client. Her live stories have won Milwaukee area slams held by Ex Fabula and the Pfister Hotel. Sieger is currently an Artist in Resident at In Tandem Theatre and a Writer in Residence at Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee.

Sieger was chosen to serve as narrator based on her writing style, professional experience and personality. She was selected from a large pool of qualified applicants by a review panel consisting of local writers, editors and representatives from the hotel. She will be replacing Molly Snyder, who has been blogging for the hotel since May 2013. Sieger will begin her residency as narrator on May 1, 2014.

“Anja brings creativity, enthusiasm, and a fresh perspective to the Narrator program,” said Paul Ohm, general manager of The Pfister. “We think our guests are going to enjoy her presence at the hotel and look forward to seeing how her personal interactions with them unfold on the blog.”

The 2014 Pfister Artist in Residence Finalists

Congratulations to our six 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists. Their work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, shop 2013 through February 14th, 2013. The public will be able to vote for Richard & 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, and 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 finalists by clicking their names below:

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

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Richard Dorbin

Richard Dorbin – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  I love interacting with people and learning their stories. I also love creating images that have a human narrative. These two loves can dovetail into a new medium for the Pfister Artist-in-Residence: Photography

Imagine an image of a guest’s nightstand, littered with a crumpled wedding invitation, a withered boutonniere, and crumpled tissues. How could an image of “trash” on a nightstand be compelling, emotional, or even artistic?

I believe that I have the experience as an artist, a listener, and a story teller to answer that question and do it in collaboration with guests in the gallery.

There are countless stories to be found in the objects, faces, guests and employees of the Pfister. Those images can be emotionally charged and artistically compelling.

That very collaboration will be the creative process that drives the creation of my art.

Gallery nights will also be collaborative events that will highlight established professionals and aspiring photographers as well as creating exciting, in-the-moment imagery as part of the event.

The gallery space will display an on-going and ever changing collection of images that will tell stories with a unique and textural voice, as well as being host to photography classes for underserved parts of the Milwaukee community.


Richard’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2013 through February 14th, 2013.  The public will be able to vote for Richard & 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
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Jeff Redmon

Jeff Redmon – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  The Future Is Now

As the 2014 Pfister Artist in Residence, I will bring a new dimension to the program as the first contemporary abstract painter chose, creating a body of work that stimulates people’s sense, providing excitement, intrigue and inspiration within a world class luxury hotel.

It’s fair to say that the early 21st century digital revolution has had a profound effect on our society as the 19th century industrial revolution had. This makes it an exciting time to be an artist with remarkable new ways to communicate and share creations with a global audience. I plan to take full advantage of the tools at my disposal to create a digital marketing campaign with the goal of physically driving people to my studio at the Pfister for personal interaction and sales.

Bringing the Future is Now to the Pfister is an incredible opportunity to take my artwork/artist practices to the highest level, expanding upon my distinct style of line work and vibrant colors. I will draw inspiration from our amazing city, creating a series of large-scale electrifying paintings, t-shirts, prints and various mixed media pieces.

My studio will have easels with large colorful oil paintings, exploratory drawings, and a cozy living room area for presentations and discussions. I will use paint and markers (removable) to display my latest ideas on my studio windows, creating a live interface, prompting hotel patrons to enter and interact with me.

If chosen, I will proudly carry-on The Pfister Hotel’s legacy of art and art appreciation.


Jeff’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 Jeff & 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
Niki Johnson
Stacey Williams-Ng

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Stacey Williams-Ng

Stacey Williams-Ng – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  My current body of work is a series of paintings and drawings of people, who are looking right back at us. These faces, rather than smiling or posing in portrait mode, gaze at the viewer, unaware, as if reacting to a work of art. Capturing the attention of the viewer is the primary focus of most artists – and we wonder, as we put our art into the public eye, what people are thinking and feeling when they see it. In these paintings, strangers stare back at us, in various states of interest, amusement, judgment or boredom.

As I consider this thesis within the context of the Pfister’s residency program, I can imagine how interacting with the public will add a new layer of meaning to the work. These paintings are meant to make us think about what art really is, and how we feel about is, and what role the viewer plays in bringing a work of art to life. What sort of feelings and judgments do the hotel’s guests bring with them when they enter into the Pfister’s doors? What are they thinking? How are they a reflection of who we are?


Stacey’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 Stacey & 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
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon

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

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