New Orleans is in the house

I love New Orleans. I love the food, health the music, the architecture, but most of all, I love the resilience of the city. From a fire in 1788 that burned down the French Quarter to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, New Orleaneans are survivors. And this spirit of overcoming hardship combined with the rich history, Cajun/French/Creole/Haitan influences and indulgent decadence of the culture creates a fascinating, generic free-spirited group of people.

So when I was sitting at the Lobby Bar one Friday evening and overheard that the gentlemen next to me were from NOLA, I was ready to throw down mint juleps like we were on Bourbon Street for Mardi Gras.

Or, at the very least, sip a Miller Lite and listen to their stories.

David and Jay came to Milwaukee on business, treatment specifically to visit Johnson Controls. It was not their first time in Milwaukee, but their first stay at the Pfister.

“I like the ambiance here,” says David. “The people are great.”

Jay has lived in New Orleans for 14 years and David is a lifer.

“I’ve lived in New Orleans for 54 years, my entire life,” says David. “Born and raised.”

I ask them what it was like to live in a place so deeply affected by weather. High-profile hurricanes and malfunctioning levees have ravaged the city throughout history and some now wonder why anyone would live so close to a large, moody body of water.

“Well, you could freeze to death here,” says Jay.

Touche.

“I would be more afraid of tornadoes, like in Oklahoma,” says David. “In New Orleans, you have plenty of time to get out.”

Both David and Jay lost a home to Katrina. Today, they have new homes in the city. Jay lives in suburban Old Metairie and David lives in Lake Vista, about 100 yards from Lake Pontchartrain.

Both of them spend time in the French Quarter, which is arguably the heart of New Orleans but certainly the heart of the city’s tourism. David says he goes to the Quarter frequently, about once a week, but Jay, who still has young children, makes it there about once a month.

For visitors, they recommended Restaurant Stella, Bourbon House and Dickie Brennans, the birthplace of the flaming bananas foster dessert. For drinks and jazz, they like the Davenport Lounge inside the Ritz Carlton, the Absinthe House (also known as “The Pirate Bar”) for something different, and the Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone which features a vintage, 360-degree rotating, real carousel as the main bar.

“They should put a carousel bar in the Pfister,” says David.

Where’s the suggestion box around here?

I then ask them if Mardi Gras, which brings in hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city every February and March, gets annoying to the natives. They both say no.

“It’s a part of life, a part of the culture,” says Jay.

Jay participates every year in a parade with a group called the Krewe of Endymion, one of only three Super Krewes involved in Mardi Gras. A Super Krewe is determined by celebrity Grand Marshals for their spectacular floats. Endymion’s parade is also the largest of the 80-plus parades that take place during the celebration.

As a member of the krewe, Jay has to “mask” (wear a costume, including a mask that covers his face) at all times. The mask changes every year, depending on the theme of the parade, but are always made of a durable material in case someone throws something at your face.

“You have to be masked or you’ll get in trouble. No one can know who you are, it’s part of the Mardi Gras tradition,” says Jay.

The Pfister Five: Meet international model Raengel Solis

Welcome to a new series on the blog called “The Pfister Five.” Occasionally, order I’ll post a five-question interview with a guest. To kick this off, here’s a chat with Raengel Solis, an international model who stayed at the Pfister recently. 

Raengel was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Eight years ago, she moved to New York City and three years ago to Miami, medicine where she works as a model for the Home Shopping Network and on Telemundo Miami.

“I love Miami,” she says. “Winter’s just not for me.”

Now fluent in both Spanish and English, Raengel moved to the United States knowing very little English, but learned the language at Worcester Community College in New York and through her job working at a busy supermarket.

“It wasn’t hard for me to learn English. Once I put my mind to something, I do it,” says Raengel.

Molly: What brings you to the Pfister?

Raengel: I am here modeling summer clothes for Kohl’s Department Store.

Just before I came here, I was modeling for Queen Latifah. She has a line of clothing called “Queen Collection.” I was so excited to meet her and she is the best famous person I have ever met. She is the same in real life as she is on TV and movies. She is not a diva.

Molly: How long have you been a model and what do you like about it?

Raengel: I have been a model for 15 years and I love it. I like the feelings I have when walking down the catwalk. I have a very fun life. I get to travel all over the world: Spain, London, Milwaukee. (She doesn’t even chuckle when she says “Milwaukee” after the two Fashion Capitals of the World. For this, I like her even more and mentally make her an Honorary Cheesehead. Actually, with her stunning looks, she’s probably one of the few people who could truly rock one of those foam cheese hats. But back to the interview…)

Molly: You were born and raised in the Dominican Republic. What is one thing about your home country that most people don’t know?

Raengel: The people are really fun. And they are very caring. Here, if you live in an apartment, you might not know your neighbors, but there, if you have a problem, you knock on your neighbor’s door and they will help you.

Molly: What are your thoughts on fashion and shopping?

Raengel: I love fashion, like all models. And I like Prada, Dolce. But it doesn’t have to be expensive for me to like it. Fashion is about personal style, mixing it together, not matching.

I don’t like shopping at all. I get tired of taking clothes on and off all day as a model, so I don’t like to go to malls with my friends even though they always go. I only shop online.

Molly: What is one thing you want to do during your lifetime?

Raengel: My mom got a fever when she was six years old and she lost her hearing. She has been to doctors but they could not help her. I would like her to see more doctors. I want her to hear my voice someday.

The three-hour Milwaukeean

After I overheard – OK, online totally nosily dipped into – Mario Guerra’s cell phone conversation when he was sitting next to me at the Lobby Bar, I gleaned he had recently moved to Milwaukee.

“So how long have you lived in Milwaukee?” I asked Guerra, who was wearing a nice suit and drinking a Bud Light.

“About three hours, click ” he said.

That explains the Bud Light in MillerCoors Country, I guess.

But really, this was the perfect opening to what would become an engaging, two-hour conversation about Milwaukee, family, disappointment, successes and what led Guerra to the Pfister Hotel.

“Why am I at the Pfister? Because it’s the coolest hotel in Milwaukee. It’s Old Milwaukee, search ” says Guerra, who actually grew up in Milwaukee and moved away in 1989.

“When I was in high school, I played here for various MPS (Milwaukee Public School) functions and I was always in awe. My job takes me all over the world, India, Australia, London, and there is something about this hotel.”

The Pfister, in fact, was a beacon on the horizon for Guerra when he first moved back – about 180 minutes before our conversation. He had been living in Los Angeles, working for Prudent Technologies, and when the company signed a Midwest contract, he was the only employee who would even consider moving to Brew City.

Once he left Mitchell International Airport, while driving his rental car to the Pfister, it really started to sink in. He was living in Milwaukee again.

“I was like, ‘I’m really living here now. Ahhhh.’ And then I showed up at the Pfister Hotel and life is good,” he says.

Guerra was born at St. Mary’s in Milwaukee, attended Roosevelt Middle School and the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, and left in 1989 to attend the University of Texas.

A musician who plays keyboards, drums and “everything,” Guerra was in many bands. While in college, he worked in a dueling piano bar as a pianist. He also worked as a DJ in a strip club.

Guerra had big plans to be a rock star but decided to let go of the dream after choking down his thousandth packet of Ramen noodles.

“You ever been broke? It sucks,” he says.

Guerra also joined the Marines and served time in Afghanistan. Although he firmly believes in his mission as a Marine, Guerra suffered during his tour. He spent time recovering from emotional trauma in a military hospital and found out his wife had died in a car accident.

Today, Guerra is raising his 12-year-old son alone. The child is in California with his grandparents until Guerra can secure housing and determine where to send him to school.

“I had a great experience at MPS. I’m not sure where to send my son, though. He’s really into sports. I was more of an art kid,” says Guerra.

But for tonight, and a few more nights, Guerra’s happy just to be a resident of the Pfister Hotel.

“I have a lot of possibilities, but I just got here a few hours ago. Right now, I’m just trying to figure out where I’m having my next cocktail,” he says.

Guerra said he missed the food in Milwaukee the most  – specifically the barbecue at Speed Queen and Brady Street’s Emperor of China.

“Their fried rice is to die for,” he says.

But coming “home” to Milwaukee hasn’t been easy in some ways. The freeways are reconfigured. Some of his favorite places like the Brady Street Pharmacy are gone. (Guerra was, however, happy to hear that the iconic, quirky shop Art Smart’s Dart Mart & Juggling Emporium was still open on Brady Street.)

For Guerra, like all of us, life has taken some unexpected twists.

“I’m in my forties and I really don’t know everything I thought I would,” he says. “But I’m here, in the awesome Pfister, and I’m at a place in my career where I can be a little more funky. Finally sing the songs I want to sing.”

Artists Among Us

The Pfister is well known for its Victorian Art collection and for supporting the arts in Milwaukee, but did you know how many amazing artists they have on staff? One of the best parts about working here has been meeting and hearing the stories about the incredibly and diversely talented staff. You never know who you are going to meet at the Pfister. The waitress in the cafe takes vintage photographs, the server in banquets creates mixed-media masterpieces, and the manager booking your event is an opera powerhouse.

Once you hear Catering Sales Manager Kristine Baker laugh, you will know that she’s a soprano. She attended the UW-Green Bay with the intent of becoming a teacher, but halfway through her first semester she realized that working with kids wasn’t the right fit. The choral director at her high school was really passionate about what he did, making it easy for her to get engaged and discover her love for music. In college, her advisor encouraged her to audition as a voice major and she thought, “That sounds like fun!”  It involved a lot of voice lessons and recitals, but she did also take center stage.

Kristine played the role of Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Dido in Dido and Aeneas. “When you are an opera singer, you always want to die a couple of times, it’s great fun,” she reveals. “Pretty much anything that is a Puccini soprano, I love, it just fits  my voice really well.” But she has always wanted to sing Rusalka – an intricate Czech opera.

At the Pfister, Kristine stays connected to the arts and nonprofits by planning annual galas and fundraising events. As we talked in her office, she sat with the posture and alacrity of Catholic school kid on the first day. Her smooth blonde hair spilled down her shoulders like honey oozing out of a jar.  Growing up, she sang in the church choir and performed solos in high school. “When you are from a small town (Merrill, WI) there aren’t a lot of options nor was there a lot of competition,” she admits.

When she laughed from her belly it was like she was singing scales. “My voice type is a meaty, heavier sound. People usually turn and stare when I sing in church.” Though I begged her to serenade me, Kristine was recovering from a cold. “It takes a lot to keep your voice healthy. You’re so reliant on your instrument,  you’re voice always has to be on. Pollen, even soda, can really mess with you,” she laments.

“But do you sing in the shower? Do you sing karaoke?” I asked, still totally intrigued by her talent. “Actually I have never sang karaoke, I think it would bug me if I heard all of those people singing songs wrong.” Kristine  sings at home in her music room and  continues to take voice lessons.

“Sopranos are bountiful,” she admits, “But I plan to audition with local groups like the Florentine Opera and the Skylight Music Theatre to begin performing again.”

Kristine Baker
Kristine Baker

 

 

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

2013 Artist in Residence Finalist – Tonia Klein

Tonia Klein – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  The facet of the Pfister Artist in Residence program that I have enjoyed int he last four cycles is that each artist in residence has had an entirely different artistic perspective. My work is highly narrative, and typically involves some sort of fairy tale mythology.  And I love patterns!

My plan is to utilize the details of the ornate interior architecture in order to make various intricate patterns and create new narratives. The studio space in the Pfister would have a computer, printer, tri-pod and digital camera, a silkscreen table and about a thousand types of patterned paper in various states of collage.

Typically, I combine traditional methods of drawing, painting and printmaking with newer computerized digital photography and design techniques. The work ends up as a collage, screen print, digital print, and lately, I have been making opaque vinyl pattern pieces for window installations.

Currently, I work in a custom framing shop near Chicago, and often work with customers bringing in interesting things to frame. I enjoy hearing their stories about the pieces they bring in, and it would be fun to turn the tables and share the stories behind my own work.

Tonia’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 18th, 2013 through February 14th, 2013.  The public will be able to vote for Tonia & the other 2013 Artist in Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.18.  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 18th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can find bios for the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Eddie Villanueva
John Kowalczyk
Pamela Anderson
Stephanie Barenz
Sue Lawton

2013 Artist in Residence Finalist – Sue Lawton

Sue Lawton – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal: In my latest body of work, an art book entitled “The Circus and the Cyclone”, I worked with a wide range of people, from family and friends, to local musicians, to folks from around the country and around the world.

Over the course of the next year, I will continue writing and illustrating a new series of fantastical tales set in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan merging everyday encounters with extraordinary happinings. The visual style utilized my unique blend of inks and watercolor inspired by artists of the Golden Age of Illustration. I also plan to continue working with The Vitrolum Republic as they embark on the journey of recording their next album.

Each tale begins as an idea, but only takes true form through interactions with participants. I would love to paint another full-sized, vintage-inspired theatrical backdrop to use for a photo shoot for one of my next works. As these stories unfold, new images will come to life through pencil sketches, ink line drawings, and finally, fully color completed works. The final steps are then executed using traditional methods as well as my own techniques I have spent the last ten years fine-tuning.

Sue’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 18th, 2013 through February 14th, 2013.  The public will be able to vote for Sue & the other 2013 Artist in Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.18.  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 18th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can find bios for the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Eddie Villanueva
John Kowalczyk
Pamela Anderson
Stephanie Barenz
Tonia Klein

2013 Artist in Residence Finalist – Stephanie Barenz

Stephanie Barenz – Milwaukee, WI

 

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 would 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

Stephanie’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 18th, 2013 through February 14th, 2013.  The public will be able to vote for Stephanie & the other 2013 Artist in Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.18.  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 18th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can find bios for the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Eddie Villanueva
John Kowalczyk
Pamela Anderson
Sue Lawton
Tonia Klein

 

2013 Artist in Residence Finalist – Pamela Anderson

Pamela Anderson – Wauwatosa, WI

 

Proposal: As the 2013 Pfister Artist in Residence I will engage Pfister visitors in dialog about the correlations and contrasts between Victorian Art and my style of painting, the Abstract Expressionist style.

Victorian Art’s vibrant colors evoked high society during the 19th century.  Brighter emotional colors and dynamic strokes were used to record the culture of the time.  The Abstract Expressionism movement was the first Art Movement formally developed in America. Exiled European artists and young American Artists found themselves conversing about the times. This stimulating dialog resulted in creation of dynamic, vibrant artworks.  The Abstract movement began as the last of the art movements of the Victorian era were ending.  I feel that the technological advances that the Victorian era made allowed the way scientists, artists and the public viewed art and aesthetics.  This began to pave the way for a new art period to begin. The visual appeal of my canvasses recognizes this through intense use of color. I have been studying the Abstract Expressionist Artists, developing my own techniques and interpretation of their artistic style.

My plan is to select 8 works from the Pfister Victorian Art Collection to study and paint my interpretation of the motions and colors used in the collection.  I will display artwork from the Pfister Collection that inspired me and explore the poetic interchange of color and emotions with the visitors in the gallery.  My legacy piece will be a work created from expanding on the possibilities of this medium and approach.

I am looking forward to my growth and education if honored to be the next Pfister Artist in Residence.

The works that speak to me for this exploration and dialog are:

  1. Incense – Roberto Bompiani
  2. Grecian Girl – Antonio Torres
  3. Music – Cesare Auguste Detti
  4. Flirtation – Georges Achille-Fould
  5. The Rose – Adolphe Piot
  6. A View of Venice – Charles Clement Calderon
  7. The Poppy Field – Louis Aston Knight
  8. Confidences – Federigo Andreotti

Pamela’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 18th, 2013 through February 14th, 2013.  The public will be able to vote for Pamela & the other 2013 Artist in Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.18.  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 18th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can find bios for the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Eddie Villanueva
John Kowalczyk
Stephanie Barenz
Sue Lawton
Tonia Klein

2013 Artist in Residence Finalist – John Kowalczyk

John Kowalczyk – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal: MKE: A City With 4 Seasons

If given this opportunity, I will create four distinct bodies of work for the gallery nights. Each body of work will include fifteen paintings and the general inspiration will be one of the four seasons. Currently I am working on a winter collection.  By limiting myself to the use of red, black and white and utilizing hard edge geometry, I capture the feeling of winter’s wind visually. There will be layers of narrative along with layers of materials.  Paint, fabric, handmade paper, ribbons, repurposed prints all become elements of the collage. I will involve the community by interviewing people about their experiences with the seasons in Milwaukee and translate their stories into my abstract paintings.  The community could create collage material with me or bring materials to be used in the finished painting.

My work is 2D and 3D inhabiting the space between painting and sculpture.  I am interested in the play between folk and fine art. I illustrate this by mixing materials that elevate in a fine art context. I will personify the seasons, infused with the communities’ stories, with my paintings to result in a body of work accessible to everyone, yet layered with hidden treasures.

John’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 18th, 2013 through February 14th, 2013.  The public will be able to vote for John & the other 2013 Artist in Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.18.  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 18th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can find bios for the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Eddie Villanueva
Pamela Anderson
Stephanie Barenz
Sue Lawton
Tonia Klein