Mosaic Arts & Arti Gras: Art for All

Aimee Suzanne Kruse-Ross

aimee suzanne kruse-ross | mosaic arts | feb. 2016

'Ice Rafts' by Tom LazarConsider the impact that the arts have had on any society regardless of time frame: the discovery of the earliest known cave paintings in present day Indonesia, created more than 35,000 years ago, the architectural wonder of the limestone-capped pyramids of ancient Egypt, Leonardo Da Vinci's famous Mona Lisa during the Renaissance period, the surreal subjects of Salvador Dali or the cubism of Picasso. Our world is one eclectic mix of art. Regardless of language, political stance, occupation, religion or physical ability, art is timeless, valuable.

Since 1915, Green Bay has long recognized the importance and influences of art for the present as well as for posterity's sake. This tradition of cultivating and presenting local art is alive and well thanks to the continued efforts of Mosaic Arts, Inc. This local umbrella organization was formed in 1979 by a group of individuals who were passionate about the arts and the arts community. Executive Director, Tina Quigley tells us, “Mosaic is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of art in all forms: dance, literature, painting, sculpture and adornment. This organization's fundamental purpose and mission is to help support and foster those arts."

Recognizing the value of art starts at an early age and Mosaic is taking steps to cultivate this value for the younger generation. “One of the needs within the Green Bay community was identified as a need for a high quality arts education program for youth ages K-12. Mosaic is stepping up its game to meet that challenge," says Quigley. “Education as a whole has gone through a lot of budget cuts, especially in the arts programs, and there is a desire and a need for more quality art programs. Our current initiative is that we are in the strategic planning phases of developing a year-round arts education program for our youth."

Mosaic hopes to accomplish this mission in a variety of ways, namely through their hosting of two large art events each year. Artstreet, an event held late in the summer on the streets of Green Bay and Arti Gras, a winter event that is just around the corner. “As fundraisers, these events are an important vehicle to support and help fulfill the missions of Mosaic," says Quigley.

Mosaic recognizes art as a dynamic way to bring people together. Arti Gras brings the artists, their art and patrons together into a single setting.

Arti Gras 2016

Now in its 26th year, Arti Gras is held at Green Bay's Shopko Hall every March. This fine arts festival offers patrons a chance to view and purchase the works of 100 artists and craft persons from throughout the Midwest. What makes Arti Gras one of the most anticipated art shows in the area? “Part of it is the time of year," says Quigley. “It's in March, it's been a long winter, not quite nice enough to be outside, but it's a welcoming event that is refreshing to get out and see a little color, a little texture, and a little enjoyment."

Exhibited for sale are original works of art representing a variety of mediums including metal smithing, fiber, drawing, painting, wood, ceramics and pottery. In maintaining a standard of excellence, potential artists go through a jurying process before being accepted into Arti Gras. Prior to the event, artists must submit quality photos of their work in order to be considered for acceptance into the show. A disciplined process such as this ensures that the show's caliber maintains a level of quality that is consistent from year to year. It also ensures that the public gets to meet new artists and see fresh, new works of art. “There's always going to be new artists at this show," says Quigley, “but it's also exciting to see an artist's evolution, and how they continue to grow from year to year."

Artist demonstrations take place throughout the duration of Arti Gras, providing a rare view for patrons to see artists at work during the creative process. Shows like this provide a bridge between artist and consumer not found elsewhere. For the artist, being present to represent their work allows an opportunity to glean feedback from the patron, while the patron is simultaneously given an opportunity to uncover further insight and meaning into works of art that might otherwise be judged solely on their aesthetic qualities if purchased elsewhere.

'For a Gentleman' by Joy KruseJoy Kruse, an accomplished gold and silversmith, uses unique gems and natural stones alongside gold and silver to create her one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. Kruse, an exhibiter at Arti Gras for the last three years, believes that exhibiting is one of the most important aspects of her work. “Because I do not have a brick and mortar storefront, my public shows and events are very important to me. It gives me a chance to meet my customers face to face and develop a relationship with them. My relationship with my customer is the most enjoyable aspect of my work." Kruse spends 40 to 50 hours every week, all year round, working on inventory. As she says, “It is all made by hand, no machines."

Mosaic recognizes exhibiting artists who excel in a variety of ways by awarding several monetary prizes during Arti Gras. There are five Awards of Excellence given, an award for Best Display, a Purchase Award, as well as an award for Best in Show. Being Best in Show comes with a handsome cash prize, as well as public notoriety as was discovered by last year's winner, Haitian-born Gregory Frederic. "Winning 'Best in Show' at Arti Gras 2015 has increased confidence in the quality of my artwork. The award also brought public recognition for my work as a respected local artist," says Frederic.

Frederic, now a resident of Green Bay, has had no formal art education, and is largely self-taught, save his artistic mentors in Haiti. His paintings are rich and colorful with his use of acrylic paint. “I custom mix most of my colors to create the desired depth and vibrant synergy with my own technique," says Frederic. And when it comes to what inspires him to create that synergy, Frederic only has to look around himself to find it. “ I am inspired by the people I meet, personal everyday situations and stories of injustice. Music also plays a significant role in the creative process." Seeing Frederic's work displayed publically is more powerful than simply viewing it on his website. “It is vitally important to have the public feedback from viewing my artwork live because of the emotional connection people feel whenever my pieces 'speak' to them. I also enjoy all the hugs I receive from people touched by my work and meeting the next generation of young artists."

'Vase Triage' by Joy TortorellaThe next generation of young artists will enjoy their own artistic discovery, as Arti Gras comes complete with its own children's area. Here, along with De Pere's Paintin' Pottery or Bead It, this hands-on art area will provide children with the opportunity to try their hand at making a pot thrown on a potter's wheel, or use color and brush to paint a piece of ceramic. There will also be other creative take-home projects including drawing and craft activities.

Patrons and their families will also enjoy live artist demonstrations of woodturning by Kelly Bresnahan as well as a ceramics demonstration by Angela Bougie. Taking to the stage will be a Mexican folk dance performed by the Tonzantzin Dance Company, with additional dance and theater performances presented by the Birder Studio of Performing Arts.

Mosaic Arts recognizes the importance of art in Green Bay and works to maintain its commitment to further the arts and make them accessible for all. “Arti Gras has the power to connect people," says Quigley. “It doesn't matter who you are or what your background is. When it comes to the patron and the artist, you may have nothing in common, but you are able to connect over art. And that's cool."

Entry for adults is $6, children are free. Parking at Lambeau Field is free.

For more information visit mosaicartsinc.org.

Banner Image: 2015 Arti Gras Best in Show 'Harmony' by Gregory Frederic

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