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The cold, the white, the quiet and early darkness of Wisconsin’s winter months brings me (and I assume many of my fellow Midwesterners) to a creative state; instead of scrambling to relish the warmth and beauty of our summer months, we pause, we are forced to and it’s quite nice.
Since the county’s pace has slowed and the snow has fallen, I have read entire books in just a few days, taken up sewing, yoga, and even asked for one of those adult coloring books for Christmas (yes, they are as awesome and relaxing as everyone says they are). But, sometimes, you gotta brave the bitter cold, leave the comfort of home, and see what others are creating.
I warmed up my Nissan, gray with the residue of road salt, and sought some color at the Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek one weekday morning. Fresh (and free) coffee awaited me at the entrance of the school’s Guenzel Gallery, showcasing a wide variety of work by local artists (some established, some not) in the January exhibit of “Artists in Wonderland.” Small-scale paintings, photographs, and pottery pieces adorned the white walls, nothing larger than eight inches. I took my time, along with a few other folks, studying a miniature ceramic tea set by Jeanne Aurelius, a sculpture of the White Rabbit sporting a waistcoat and pocket watch by Penny Niesen, and a bright floral painting by Karen Corekin. A few names displayed alongside a piece surprised me, they were friends or acquaintances I didn’t know pasted together complex collages or dabbled in photography.
Kay McKinley of the art school meandered over from her office with a bright smile and cozy-looking navy sweater. We chatted about online shoe deals (it’s tricky shopping up here this time of year), home renovations, and the art before us. “This time of year is about community,” she says. “Summer is workshops, a lot of activity, we’re focused on the students. In the winter, it’s more of a natural thing to focus on the community and what the community needs. People finally have the time to produce work!”
Established Door County artists also have time to work with local students. In February the gallery with showcase “We Love Art” and feature pieces “reminiscent of Door County artists by the students,” says Kay. “The students will ‘time travel’ with Door County artists. There will be some art history and appreciation.” We both agree this is quite a creative time for the county, a special time for artists (novice and professional alike).
I leave the gallery with a brain a little fuller and brighter than before. I consider the art I want to create when I return home and I consider making a point of submitting that art to Peninsula School of Art’s next exhibit featuring local artists.
You may assume Door County “shuts down” in the heart of winter, but I think it’s when the artists and locals truly come alive and take the opportunity to pursue their creative impulses. Therefore, this is the time to pop in their galleries and studios (send them an email or give them a jingle if no regular hours are listed) and see the color and creativity a Door County winter brings.
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