A Palace for the People

The King of Hospitality knows a thing or two about throwing a party. I, along with 500 of Mr. Marcus’s closest friends, attended a dinner celebration last week to commemorate his 50th anniversary of Pfister Hotel ownership.

Both Mayor Barrett and Governor Walker declared December 6th “Steve Marcus Day” in Milwaukee. Guests even took home Steve Marcus bobble heads. If there’s any indicator that you’ve made it in life, a mayoral declaration and a personalized bobble head should really top the list.

Stephen’s father, Ben, handed the hotel over to him in 1962 in total disrepair so Steve undertook a $7 million renovation and added on the 23-floor tower. He later found out that the collection of Victorian art was worth more than the hotel at the time. Steve was able to carry out the original vision for the hotel, creating a “palace for the people.”

A few other fun facts I learned:
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  •  Every president since McKinley has stayed at the hotel
  • Rosemary Steinfest was the first female GM and worked there from 1962 to 1996 (She’s a lovely lady – more on her to come in January)
  • Dr. Jeffery Hollander has been the musician in residence for 30 years
  • There was a piano piece commissioned in 1894 called The Pfister March



The three Marcus boys talked about the historical significance of the hotel and its impact on their life and family. Greg, Steve’s son, put it best when he said they think of it more as “caring for” the hotel, rather than owning it.

Andrew, Greg, Steve and David Marcus

The Pfister is filled with special memories for so many other people too. I shared a table with George and Anastasia Papageorge, who married at the Pfister on October 26, 1958. Their daughter also got married there in 1972 and they even celebrated their 25th and 50th anniversaries there. Now, they are hoping their granddaughter will carry on the Papageorge tradition and tie the knot at the Pfister soon! They say that the “Pfister was, and is, the one and only hotel in Milwaukee.”

Anastasia and George Pappageorge


Through all the remarks, laughs and historical details, the most touching part of the evening was that after all these years, the Pfister is still relevant and marvelous things still happen every day.

Timothy Reflects: Part One – On “‘Studio’ Practice”

Timothy’s time as Artist in Residence has just about reached it’s halfway point.  And oh, what a marvelous six months it’s been for Timothy.  I’ve asked him to reflect on some of his experience, and we’ve decided to break down his experiences into four parts, this is Part One – On “‘Studio’ Practice”

During “Art-Making” I love to use the phrases “studio practice” and “art practice.” It describes the concepts and thoughts behind our methods.I enjoy how it can describe the meditative processes outside of the art itself. I set alarms on my phone for twenty minutes before I have to leave the studio. It allows me to get lost in the work and then a chime tells me when it is clean up time. Then on to dinner, a meeting, and art exhibit or even, rarely, bed.

When you’re working a part time job and trying to be a practicing artist, any spare minute of your day you’re working. Having the opportunity to create every day, all day, I have had the extraordinary opportunity to truly define what I need to create and environment most conducive to my art making. What does the environment need to have in it? The contents of my hotel storage space, the studio itself and the drawers of my sewing machine have changed dramatically since the first day of my residency.

One of the most profound revelations was the use of audio books as a therapeutic device. Being that some of the cassette tapes that I’m weaving into cloth are various publications on tape you would think this would have been obvious to me. It took a severe boredom of my iTunes to make the discovery. I do not read. I weave, I make lists, and I imagine. I am far too distracted to sit still and look at words to build images. But I love stories. I love listening to epic tales of the mountainous shelf dangers of hunting for groceries at a supermarket. I had a terrific library teacher in elementary school. I specifically loved her reading of “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” and “The castle in the Attic.”

Being read to by audio books has been one of the most soothing studio practices I’ve ever experienced. AND so relevant! I’m weaving books on tape! It is inspiring my use of these books and how I treat the tapes before I weave with them. I hope to soon give all of the tapes one final play before they land at their final destination as fabric. Audio books are the best “Television Series” imaginable because hour-long episodes never end. There will always be another book, another voice, and another story. I am easily bored with music and it is crucial to be listening to music that inspires the projects I’m creating. A costume can be influenced by what is happening during its creation.


The Beginning

This is the first of three posts where I wrangle an unsuspecting Pfister guest into a short story project.

Pt 1. – The Beginning (this one)
Pt 2. – The Middle
Pt 3. – The End

Today, I asked for random details to shape the beginning of a story.

Jeff / Milwaukee/ Writer & Producer

  1. A fire you had to put out this week? Deciding on whether to spend a lot of money on a rug.
  2. Where do you go for peace? Lynden Sculpture Garden
  3. Favorite relative? My Aunt Vanda. She reminds me of my mother, who’s no longer with us. She’s wise, not book smart.  And she’s curious. I think that’s important.
  4. Best gift or surprise you’ve given? I teach.  I think passing along information and knowledge is like giving a gift.
  5. A food you won’t eat? Onions, because I’m allergic.
  6. A city you’re curious about? Istanbul
  7. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Lawyer
  8. Something you have that’s broken? I can’t think of anything that’s bugging me. I usually fix everything.
  9. Describe your favorite boss. In college, I waited tables.  This boss was not like most other restaurant owners.  She was actually kind to her employees and took interest in us.  We were part of her family.
  10. Describe your least favorite teacher. My gym coach.  He was… well… we just didn’t mesh well.
  11. What does this character want? Peace of Mind

Okay! Here we go…


Corinne shrugged the coat from her shoulders and stood on the ribbed floor mat to stamp the snow from her boots.  She would still have to remove the boots before entering the kitchen.  Aunt Vanda had often scolded that “mud room” didn’t mean “make as much mud as possible.”

Corinne pushed open the door, the familiar chimes tinkling above her head. Aunt Vanda stood at the stove, swallowed by a cloud of steam.  The windows, usually framing a view of wildflowers or snow sculptures, were opaque and sweating.  Aunt Vanda peered into an enormous, grumbling pot.  As she stirred, her signature swag of silver bangs was pinned back with a glittery barrette.  Corinne remembered when the edgy auburn bob had boasted only one thick streak of grey. They all loved this full head of platinum and smoke.

Aunt Vanda greeted Corinne without looking up from her pot. Corinne walked to the cabinets and pulled down a coffee mug.  She never had to ask if there was coffee made. Aunt Vanda always had coffee.

She sat at  the tall wooden table in the center of the kitchen, sipped her coffee and watched Vanda at the stove.  Corinne hadn’t met many people who also appreciated silence.  She and Aunt Vanda had shared powerful moments that hadn’t included a single spoken word.  The best was when Aunt Vanda had introduced her to the Lynden Sculpture Garden and they’d strolling the grounds in exquisite and soothing quiet.  Corinne was grateful to find someone that finally understood her non-language.

After a few more minutes of tantric stirring, Aunt Vanda lifted the long-handled spoon to drain a dark strip of fabric.

“Is that the teal?” Corinne asked.

“No, this’ll be more of a smoky blue once it dries,” Aunt Vanda said. “I think she’s making a dress with this one.” Corinne watched  Vanda transfer the dripping fabric into a bowl of cool water.  Whether it was cooking or creating, they could often push open the kitchen door to find Aunt Vanda floating about her vast kitchen, peeking into cabinets, lifting lids from multiple large pots, kicking closed the oven door, grinning to herself.

The first time Corinne entered this space, she was arrested with thick aromas of cumin, mint, figs and lamb.  Aunt Vanda was fascinated with Istanbul at the time, and her menus reflected that passionate curiosity.  She’d even splurged on an expensive Turkish floor rug, once she’d learned that their artistry rivaled that of Persia and Egypt. Morocco was Vanda’s next fantastic study.  Later,Vienna .Singapore. New Orleans.  Aunt Vanda couldn’t treat herself to much travel in those days, but she gifted herself with knowledge, as she put it, learning everything she could about the culture or city of the moment.  Anyone who spoke with her would’ve thought that Aunt Vanda had lived in locales around the world when, actually, she’d never traveled further than 100 miles beyond this farmhouse in her entire life.

As a child, Vanda watched her family’s farm waste away after her father died and her mother had taken to the drink. Vanda protected her six siblings from most of their mother’s violent tirades, but not all of them.  They each carried a constellation of scars and dark memories.  Vanda’s siblings fled the farm and the small town, one by one, and never came back.  Not even after their mother died and Vanda was alone on the farm.  Vonda didn’t fault them. She had simply learned to live with the ghosts howling in the shadows.

Then she met her truth.  Jim showed up on her doorstep like an angel dispatched from the clouds.  He was passing through town and decided he might stay for a while. He asked if he could earn a few dollars by helping repair things around the property. Vanda had thanked him, but told him that she usually fixed everything herself.  Whenever Vanda retold the story, her eyes always twinkled at the part where Jim had asked her if she planned to spend her life always doing what she’d always done.

They were wed in seven months.  The marriage had, indeed, been tumultuous but Aunt Vanda said she would always think back to their first date when Jim had ordered for her and instructed the waiter not to include onions. She hadn’t even remembered telling him about her allergy, but he’d obviously remembered some passing mention of it.  If he could care for these small parts of her, she decided, they could manage the big parts together.

In fact, Jim was integral in opening the World Café & Inn.  He converted the old barn into a restaurant, scavenging the entire region for scrap parts and used equipment.  The farmhouse rooms were even converted into a boarding house.  Jim loved her fiercely and completely until his passing.  That’s when Vanda had the idea to change the inn from a boarding house for adults to a transitional home for teens.

When Corinne came to the Inn, she’d been braced for another tooth-and-nail, survival-of-the-fittest foster home.  She was aging out of the system and was relieved learned to be placed in a group home where she would work at a restaurant in exchange for room and board.  Most foster kids found themselves homeless once they turned 18 and were released from the state’s care. Corinne had barely survived her foster homes; she wasn’t cut out to make a life on the street. Her social worker had been a childhood friend of Vanda’s and said  she only placed her most promising kids at the World Café.  Corinne had listened to the warm endorsement but couldn’t help rolling her eyes at the words “treats you like her family.” The social workers always said that. They’d always been wrong.

It had been seven years since Corinne lived at the Inn, and she was one of several “World Kids” whose heart never moved away.  Vanda had become their family, which is why they called her Aunt Vanda.  There were nearly three dozen of them breathing out there in the real world.  A handful had perished, but most of them had been refortified after lifetimes of abuse, neglect, rage and fear.  They’d become musicians, gym teachers, lawyers, mothers, soldiers, sous chefs. They’d become whole.  Corinne worked at a jewelry store.  She liked dressing up and being surrounded by beautiful things and loved the serenity.

She lived in the city now, but found her way back to visit Aunt Vanda at least once a month.  She liked observing the new Kids as they stocked the silverware trays or carried fresh greens to the barn.  They were doing more of the cooking now, since the nearby culinary school had taken an interest in the Café and its mission.  Vanda still set the menu (apparently, she was all about Serbia these days) but she filled her cooking time with creating hand-dyed fabrics for a designer in the city.

Corinne stood to refill her coffee mug.  She could feel Aunt Vanda’s eyes on her this time. She knew.  Vanda always knew.

“So,” Vanda said wiping her hands on a rag and taking a seat at the high wooden table. “What’s eluding you, kiddo?”

Corinne let the warm coffee rest on her lip while she thought.  “Peace of mind,” she answered.  “I can’t seem to get any peace of mind.”


Read parts 2 & 3 here:

Pt 1. – The Beginning (this one)
Pt 2. – The Middle
Pt 3. – The End

October Gallery Night and “The Art of Marcus”

This October’s Gallery night was a particularly special one, not only for Timothy and The Pfister, but for associates across all three properties owned by our parent company, Marcus Hotels.

“The Art of Marcus”

Some incredibly talented artists from here at The Pfister Hotel, The InterContinental Milwaukee & The Hilton Milwaukee City Center gathered together on Friday, October 19th in the Rouge Ballroom for a special exhibit entitled “The Art of Marcus.” Featuring twelve artists, and over 40 pieces of work, this special exhibit curated by current Pfister-in-Artist, Timothy Westbrook.

Featuring work across numerous mediums from fabric, to ceramics to painting, photography and more – Associates had a chance to display an often hidden and unknown side of their talents beyond their roles as hotel employees and members of the Marcus Hotels family. We posted early about all of the participating associates here.

As part of the event, Timothy created 5 awards in the following categories that were announced by Marcus President & CEO, Greg Marcus towards the end of the post-Gallery Night reception:

  Viewers Choice –
 Best in Show, Pfister Hotel –
Best in Show, InterContinental Hotel –
Best in Show, Hilton Milwaukee City Center –
Best in Show, Overall –

Best in Show, Overall winner, Charles Nickles will have his own exhibit at Gallerie M in the Intercontinental Hotel in early 2013

Sponsors of the event included Utrect Art Supplies and Digital Edge Copy & Print Centers.  Prizes across the categories included a Utrect supply bag, gift certificates to Digital Edge, Profolio Art Portfolios and more.

In all, four individuals were thrilled to have been recognized in the award categories, including the Pfister’s own Alison Barnick as Best in Show, Pfister Hotel and Charles W. Nickles as Viewers Choice and Best in Show, Overall.

As part of his Charles’ awesome honor (and probably the part we’re most excited about), Charles will have his own exhibit hosted at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel.

Joshua Hunt took the award for Best in Show, InterContinental Hotel and Daryl Stoll won Best in Show, Hilton Milwaukee City Center. 

Timothy Westbrook, Artist-in-Residence

All the while curating and coordinating the “Art of Marcus” event in the rouge, Timothy’s studio was jam packed through much of Gallery Night as visitors stopped in to see his progress to-date.

Featuring several of his dresses from the RunUp 2012 event at the Pritzlaff Building a few weeks earlier, and his in-progress unicorn costume for Halloween, there was really no shortage of conversation to be had for visitors to the Westbrook studio.

A personal highlight by many were the awesome PBR shoes that Timothy had made for a PBR Art Show that occurred on the same night as RunUp 2012.


All and all the evening made for a fantastic turnout, with arguably the best Gallery Night reception we’ve held at the Pfister yet.

You can check out our full gallery of photos from the “Art of Marcus” event over on our Facebook page (and you don’t need a Facebook account to see them). 

The Art of Marcus – Gallery Night Exhibit


We’re making this Gallery Night one of the most memorable ever as we feature our very own aspiring and inspiring artists, capsule in a very special Marcus associate exhibit.  Associates were invited to share the works of their artistic passion with their co-workers and the Milwaukee art community.

Associates were encouraged to submit their finest pieces for inclusion in this juried exhibit, curated by current Pfister Artist-in-Residence, Timothy Westbrook, with the Best of Show winner receiving a featured exhibit at Gallerie M at InterContinental Milwaukee in Spring of 2013.

Gallery Night: Friday, buy cialis October 19, 2012

  • The Art of Marcus Show opens in The Rouge at 9am. (Lobby Level of the Pfister hotel.)
  • Gallery Night is 5pm-9pm in The Rouge and the Artist in Residence studio.
  • Gallery Night Reception 9pm – 11:30pm in The Rouge with complimentary snacks and a cash bar.

Artist Awards
Five artist awards will be presented at 10:00pm on Friday, October 19th, during the Gallery Night Reception.

• Viewers Choice
• Hilton Milwaukee Best in Show
• InterContinental Milwaukee Best in Show
• The Pfister Hotel Best in Show
• Overall Best in Show

As prelude to this exciting exhibit, we wanted to take a moment to recognize each of the participating artists and members of the Marcus family by putting a face to their name.

Please note: Not yet pictured are artists Carol Kraco, Charles W. Nickles, Valerie Ryan-Cone & Amanda Walters.



Artist: Alison Barnick
Hotel: The Pfister Hotel
Department: Cafe
Title: Server

Artist: Jenny Cesar
Hotel: The Hilton Milwaukee City Center
Department: Hilton Cafe
Title: Server

Artist: Joshua Hunt
Hotel: The InterContinental Milwaukee
Department: Valet
Title: Bell/Valet

Artist: Shelly Liban
Hotel: The Pfister Hotel
Department: Mason Street Grill
Title: Server

Artist: Kevin Maille
Hotel: The InterContinental Milwaukee
Department: Catering
Title: Catering Event Manager

Artist: Rae Malecki
Hotel: The Pfister Hotel
Department: Front Desk
Title: PBX Operator

Artist: Michelle J. McCarragher
Hotel: The Pfister Hotel
Department: Executive Office
Title: Executive Assistant

Artist: Daryl Stoll
Hotel: The Hilton Milwaukee City Center
Department: Reservations
Title: Reservation Sales Agent

Rock Star

“Let me tell you a story about the Colorado River…”

The speaker is only a few minutes into her keynote address. From my seat at the back of the grand ballroom, I can barely see her diminutive frame on the dais. I’m sitting on a stray banquet chair between two elaborate exhibits for water purifiers and intelligent faucets. I’m pouting.

I’d been unable to wrangle a conversation from the conference planners I’d met down the hall. They’d gracefully ducked my efforts to engage them, then shuffled me to the ballroom to hear their luncheon speaker. Passing the elevators, I thought better of leaving. I had nothing to lose by listening for a few minutes, even though I couldn’t imagine what could hold my interest at the World Water Summit.

Then she said “story.”

Her name is Pat Mulroy.  She’s the General Manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District and Southern Nevada Water Authority, entities that oversee, treat and deliver water to more than two million Nevada residents and 40 million annual visitors.

“… the Colorado River runs through seven states, starting with Wyoming all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. This one river is the artery for all of the southwest…”

Pat had been introduced to this audience as a “rock star in the water world.”  I look around the ballroom and crinkle my brow, an involuntary response when my brain is challenged to consider the interior of a new world. Whether its guidance counselors, line dancers, contractors, chefs, funeral directors, renaissance fair gypsies, socialites or water execs, every world has its own culture, and every culture gets a rock star.

“…we use more water per capita than anyone else in the world. As a nation, we do this because we can. We take for granted that when we turn on the faucet, fresh, clean water will pour out. It is difficult trying to tell people that water will not always be there…”

There are nearly 500 business suits in the ballroom, sitting in rapt attention.  Pat speaks with fire and authority, facts and context. She never looks down to notes or stumbles over her words. She is an anomaly in the industry. First, she’s a woman. Second, she didn’t arrive at the post with the typical background in science or law. Rather, she holds a degree in German literature. When she assumed the position, the establishment was caught unawares with her networking finesse, strategic grit and wherewithal for a good fight.

“…in the west, property ownership has no relation to water rights. You can’t just dig a well on your land and tap into a water source; you have to apply for water rights. The discussions around water in our region are, naturally, contentious…”

This watershed runs through through farms and communities of Nevada,Arizona,Utah,Colorado,New Mexico,Wyoming and California. In fact, half of the water supply of southern California depends on water from the Colorado River. Pat’s story chronicled the events, threats and challenges that led to a landmark, 1922 treaty over the seven states’ access and delivery of Colorado River water. Today, this river region provides 20% of the nation’s fruit and vegetables and 27% of the country’s GDP.

“…we’ve learned through hard knocks that you can’t poke at any point of this system without causing a domino effect…”

In 1990, Pat says that experts and authorities in all of these states agreed that they were running out of water. Lake Meade, one of the two reservoirs funneling water through the region has dropped to a water level that almost reaches its lowest mark since 1956.  Falling water levels of the other primary reservoir, the Hoover Dam, threaten the electricity source as well as water for three states.  Pat explained how the Upper Basin and Lower Basin communities of Nevada decided to band together to develop new partnerships and solutions.

“…it was unheard of in Western water. We threw away our water rights. We threw away proprietary plumbing. We pooled our resources. We were able to speak as one Nevada, one voice. It was not a pleasant experience for the other states…”

Pat, who also has experience as a lobbyist, described the tension and challenge of renegotiating Nevada’s role in the Colorado Compact which, previously, favored the more agricultural states. Now, 20 years after taking the post, Pat is heralded across the nation as a key player in reshaping the industry’s approach to water politics and conservation. The states brokered creative partnerships for storing, channeling and leveraging Colorado River resources.  In her own district,Las Vegas went from a city with the highest level of consumption to becoming a national model for water conservation.

“…we are a dry community, so most of our water savings will happen outdoors. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with home owners associations and, once everyone stopped worrying about whether their trees were going to die, we were able to make progress.  One thing I learned, however, is that nothing will interfere with senior citizens and their car washing schedules…”

Although the car washing “car pools” were a bust, as well as the ban on water fountains, the Southern Nevada Water Authority successfully implemented a residential watering schedule and distributed $200 million in rebates to customers who removed grass and replaced landscaping with desert plants instead.

“…we have people who move here from Chicago and Florida, but Kentucky bluegrass is not indigenous to the Mojave desert. Oh, let me reassure you, my Midwestern friends, that doesn’t mean rocks, a cactus and a dry coyote skull. There are plenty of beautiful plants and flowers on the desert landscape…”

Pat and her communities engaged in more than conservation strategies; they changed their culture. As a result, 94% of the water in southern Nevada is recycled and the region reduced its water use by one third in less than six years.  Today, they’re even able to “loan” water to California.

“…the drought we’ve been experiencing for the past 12 years will have astronomical economic, social and geological consequences if we do not continue to explore partnerships and aggressive solutions. There cannot be winners and losers. There will only be losers…”

I sense that she is nearing the end of her presentation. I look up to scan the room for the first time since she’d started speaking. I’ve been scribbling furiously in my notebook, too fascinated by her every word to observe the attendees.  These are executives and researchers and policy makers gathered from all over the world to discuss the “future of water,” a proposition that, sadly, few pedestrians like me will often think about.

“…a water conversation is the most difficult to engage with the public, but it’s a conversation whose time has come. We showed that it can be done.”

Now, I watch the audience.  They are unified and focused.  There is no side chatter, no early exits.  She is speaking their gospel.  This is their world and it is clear –even to an outsider like me– Pat Mulroy is a Rock Star in it.

Can You See Me Now?

Maggie Janssen is the Senior Vice President of Global Communications for one of the largest and most respected non-profit organizations in the world.

Well, not yet.

I found Maggie stationed at a skirted table outside of the Imperial Ballroom.  At the entrance behind her, a diagram has been pinned to the partition beginning a maze of  exhibition panels and displays.  A similar schematic is on the table where Maggie sits.

The ballroom is almost empty and its deflation of energy was palpable.  A handful of people in lanyards milled around, the long day beginning to drape heavily over their shoulders.

Maggie is still smiling.

I introduce myself to Maggie and her supervisor, Elizabeth. They work for Bon Ton, the parent company for a portfolio of department stores, including the local Boston Store.

“What’s going on today?” I ask.

The supervisor, Elizabeth, says, “This is our global vendor fair. We invite suppliers from around the world to present their materials and make bids to produce for our private label.”

“Interesting,” I say, looking from Elizabeth to Maggie.  “Who do I get to talk to about the event?”

Elizabeth, a short bespectacled blonde with a glint in her eyes and sideways smile, points to Maggie. “I’m delegating,” she says with a playful chuckle.

I turn to Maggie and she’s beaming.

“Sure!” she says, clearing the seat beside her.

“So, what’s your role?” I ask.

“I coordinate the planning and logistics for this event.”

“All of it?”

Maggie nods.


Maggie nods again, smiling.

“That’s kind of a big deal,” I say.


Maggie’s exact title is International Vendor Fair Event Coordinator – slash- Global Sourcing Specialist.  One day, she tells me, she’d like to be director of events and communications for a non-profit. Just last year, however, she was a new college grad in search of a job.

“I studied PR and business at UW Stevens Point,” she says.  “I started here as a temp a few months after graduation.”

“Not bad for your first gig,” I say.

“Yeah, I got lucky.”

More smiles.

As a temp, Maggie supported last year’s organizers by handling data entry and helping with logistics.  “This is what I want to do,” she says of the experience. She even enrolled in classes at a local community college last fall to earn a certificate in event management.  Maggie’s three-month temp assignment became seven months and, ultimately, a permanent full-time position.

“I was texting everybody as soon as I found out,” she says.  “So excited.”

A facilities manager approaches the table to ask for clarification about the schedule.

“You can go ahead and lock those doors in back,” she says to him. “We won’t need to get in there until eight.”

I ask Maggie whether she’s already started thinking about tweaks for next year.

“I was just making a list,” she says excitedly.  “Like, I want the reception to feel more like a party.  It’s all business around here.”

She notices a hotel staff person fussing with a breakout room door.  “That lock doesn’t work,” Maggie calls out.  “You don’t have to bother with it. Someone’s coming back to fix it already.”

I ask Maggie if any of her family or friends might be surprised to see her in a role like this.

“Not at all,” she says.  ‘

“Let me guess,” I say.  “Captain of your sports team? President of your class?”

Maggie nods with a sheepish grin, “Yeah, I was class president.”

She’s also the oldest of five, three sisters and a brother from a town of about 10,000 people. “It was kind of expected of me to be a leader,” she says. “I’ve always liked pulling people together, making things happen.”

“What’s something else you’re challenging yourself to make happen, outside of work even?”

“Golf,” Maggie says. “My boyfriend is helping me learn.  I’m not too awesome.”

“Not yet,” I say.

Big smile. “Right,” Maggie says.  “Not yet.”

She turns her smile to a trio of women exiting the ballroom, heading toward the elevators.

“Bye ladies,” Maggie sings. “Have a good night.”

“What has been the hardest part about going from temp to official?” I ask.

Her reply was instant: “Making myself known.”

Maggie describes how the layers of management make it difficult for any higher ups to witness her talent. Common with most large companies, rookies rarely gain audience with the top brass.  As the keeper of all the event details this time, Maggie hopes to parlay her logistics intel into a memorable interaction –or two– with her boss’ boss.

For the first time, I glimpse the fierceness and determination in her eyes. Far more than providence or discipline, this young woman is fueled by deliberate and raw ambition. As Maggie spoke, the sudden hard angle of her jaw nudged my imagination forward to the future version of her, with a commanding maturity and series of impressive notches to her resume.

“Has your plan been working?” I ask.

“It’s going well,” Maggie says with a slow smile.  “He’s talking to me. He knows who I am.”

“When this is over, do you start planning for next year right away?”

“Not yet,” she says. “It’ll take a few months for us to process the orders that happen here this week.  As soon as we get back, my temp will start to input–”

“Wait,” I interrupt. “You have a temp?”

Maggie smiles. “Yes.”

Of course. Of course she does.


Finalists Exhibit Artist Profile – Sara Mulloy

As part of the Pfister’s ongoing commitment to the arts and those incredibly talented artists who’ve taken the time to submit their candidacy for our Artist-in-Residence position, we’ve put together a fantastic evening at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts to highlight Artist in Residence finalists from the first four years of the program. The show, debuted as part of the Hidden River Art Festival on Friday, September 14th from 5.30-8.30pm.  You can find an photo album of the show here, on our Facebook page (a Facebook account is not necessary).

The pieces are on display at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center through October 17th. Participating Artist in Residence Finalists include: Albin Erhart, Anthony Suminski, Brandon Minga, Bridget Griffith Evans, Hal Koenig, Jeremy Plunkett, Kate Pfeiffer, Katie Musolff (former Artist-in-Residence), Matt Duckett, Mutope Johnson, Pamela Anderson, Reginald Baylor (former Artist-in-Residence), Sara Mulloy, Shelby Keefe (former Artist-in-Residence), Steve Ohlrich, and current Artist-in-Residence Timothy Westbrook.

Your Name: Sara Mulloy
The year you applied to be AiR:
Genre of your work:
Still life
Medium of choice:
oil paint and my palette knife
City of Residence:

Q: What have you been working on in the time since you applied?

A: Since applying for the Pfister Artist-in-Residence in 2010, I was fortunate enough to be hired to open the Milwaukee branch of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, a Chicago-based auction house. We just had our one year anniversary and are enjoying great success thus far. I work with clients who are interested in consigning fine art to auction and assist them throughout the auction process. I do continue to paint, and was in a group show at Katie Gingrass Gallery in 2011.

“Untitled” by Sara Mulloy

Q: What inspired you to become an artist?

A: My father is a photographer and took photos of everything while I was growing up. He was able to find something interesting and beautiful in the most inconsequential thing. Some people are born with a desire to create, and a point of view just a little different than everyone else. It was passed to me by my father and I am inspired by the hard work, successes and failures of people who try to make the world a little more beautiful.

Q: Is there another medium that you have, or would love to experiment in? If so, why does this appeal to you?

A: I have actually just started working in another medium. I am in the beginning stages of a fabric design and furniture upholstery business, Furnish Upholstery. No artist is limited to one medium, and I love finding new ways to work with my hands. To be able to take something old and give it a new life is an amazing feeling and becoming more and more relevant in today’s up-cycled culture. My website is www.furnishupholstery.com, there you can see current and past projects.

Sacred Harvest

I’ve always enjoyed fall. Not because of the burnished and bronze treetops or the soft comfort of an old sweater or for the ubiquity of football. Definitely not for the football.

Rather, I am incredibly buoyant during the early fall months, inspired by the season’s warmth and currents of change. Perhaps it’s trace enthusiasm for the first days of school.  It might be my practice of renewal during my Libra days. Or, maybe, I have ancient agrarian roots still eager about the harvest. Yeah, maybe.

Whatever the source, I am aware of the conversion taking place. My stroll is more purposeful against the retreating grass. The days approach more urgently as my calendar is layered with more meetings and appointments. I am meditative about possibilities and metamorphosis and preparing for harsher winds to come.

I carry this thoughtful quiet with me into the café this morning.  The restaurant is filled with guests. I take a deep breath and steel myself.  High voltage energy will require an extra effort from me today.

As is my usual rhythm, I take a seat to watch the room. After 20 minutes, longer than usual, I realize my calm has been absorbed into the low hum of the room.  I’m unaccustomed to early mornings in the hotel. At once, I am started and soothed by the stillness among this restaurant full of people. The servers smile and pass swiftly with plates of food. A large table is holding a breakfast social in the back.  A trio of guests lightly lob orders over the counter for made-to-order breakfast sandwiches. A woman sitting alone uses her forearm to pin down a paperback book  beside a plate of eggs. The space is active and still … still.

I move into the lobby lounge and find more morning mediation in motion: newspapers fan open and closed like rustling butterflies, revealing only glimpses of the people behind them; tall cups of coffee dot the table-scape of the room; no one is making eye contact; no one seems to be aware of the person beside them.  Everyone carefully packing and unpacking their ideas and plans for the day.

Although I’m pulled from my own thoughts, having begun to imagine the stories seated at each of these tables, I am loathe to interrupt anyone.  Not even the few tables with pairs of people talking in animated whispers. Not even them. Not this morning. This morning feels sacred somehow, as guests scroll through their smart phones, scribble into notepads, consult their watches, and wait.

The quiet will end soon.

A man sitting on a lobby couch folds his paper and stands.  He’s a tall, stocky guy, I’d guess in his mid 50s, dressed in jeans and a Raiders long-sleeve shirt.  He tucks the newspaper into a pocket of his roller bag and guides his luggage out of the lobby lounge.

I step back over to the café side and nearly collide with a conga line of guests leaving their large table meeting.  New diners are arriving in twos, some with matching padfolios and some with matching wedding rings.

The quiet. It will end.

A woman races in, arms weighted with bags and folders and gadgets.  She rattles off a breakfast order, bounces from foot to foot while the barista and cook prepare, pays for her to go meal and flies out again.

The quiet has gone.  In a matter of minutes, the vibration of the cafe has changed to a heightened frequency and the new guests are arriving with intention.

I am still in a space of contemplation, however, and would like to hover here a bit longer.  Perhaps this is what endears me to Fall, a sense of being suspended inside the transition from summer to winter.  Here, in this narrow window of days, transformation is the priority.  Right now, inside this sliver of a harvest morning, it will be the promise of emerging possibilities to carry me through a gorgeous autumn day.

Finalists Exhibit Artist Profile – Albin Erhart

As part of the Pfister’s ongoing commitment to the arts and those incredibly talented artists who’ve taken the time to submit their candidacy for our Artist-in-Residence position, we’ve put together a fantastic evening at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts to highlight Artist in Residence finalists from the first four years of the program. The show, debuted as part of the Hidden River Art Festival on Friday, September 14th from 5.30-8.30pm.  You can find an photo album of the show here, on our Facebook page (a Facebook account is not necessary).

The pieces are on display at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center through October 17th. Participating Artist in Residence Finalists include: Albin Erhart, Anthony Suminski, Brandon Minga, Bridget Griffith Evans, Hal Koenig, Jeremy Plunkett, Kate Pfeiffer, Katie Musolff (former Artist-in-Residence), Matt Duckett, Mutope Johnson, Pamela Anderson, Reginald Baylor (former Artist-in-Residence), Sara Mulloy, Shelby Keefe (former Artist-in-Residence), Steve Ohlrich, and current Artist-in-Residence Timothy Westbrook.

Your Name: Albin Erhart
The year you applied to be AiR: 2012 Finalist
Genre of your work: Outsider Art
Medium of choice: Acrylic
City of Residence: Hartland, WI

Q: What led you to apply for the Pfister’s Artist-in-Residence position when you did?

A: Exposure to visitors from out of state, art making in public, and the money.

Q: What have you been working on in the time since you applied?

A: Themewise: More self portraits, portraits of friends, dog portrait, commerical illustrations (Mom’s Gourmet). Stylewise: used underlayments for the top colors, multiple layers of colors, colored lines rather than black lines, using lines less dominant, larger formats – from 14″ x 17″ up to 4′ x 5′, experimented with wall sculptures, painting alongside my 18 month old grand daughter.

“2012 Fashion” by Albin Erhart

Q: What inspired you to become an artist?

A: Coloring books. I’m also an introverted individual – painting is like talking for me.

Q: What piece of art (or artist) are you most inspired by?

A: In the past: the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism (Ernst Fuchs, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Arik Brauer), Expressionists (Kirchner), Blaue Reiter (Kandinsky), Fantastic Realism (William Blake, Gustav Moreau, William Turner).  Today: Artists around town that I meet in person inspire me most.

Q: What part of your process do you find to be the most difficult? Most rewarding? Easiest?

A: I’ve learned in recent years that the ugliest beginnings yield the most gratifying endings. Also if you’re stuck but then you get through it has the same effect.

Q: Is there another medium that you have, or would love to experiment in? If so, why does this appeal to you?

A: Sculptures, wall sculptures – the added dimension appeals, also working with and combining of different materials.