Artisan Center creates new paths for artists
The number of amateur artists in the Kewaunee area will be growing with the opening of the new Kewaunee Artisan Center Tuesday.
More than 50 Kewaunee city officials, art instructors, students and community members turned out for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and refreshments to celebrate the new artisan center at 401A Harrison St. in downtown Kewaunee. The new artisan board is renting the building from the Kewaunee Orange Crush Bottling Co.
“A year ago all we had were some papers and ideas,” said Julie Thoreson, the new Kewaunee Artisan board president.
“We hope to make this a center for learning and camaraderie and a welcoming place for people to get to know our community,” said Mary Gaye Rank, a supporter of the center.
The Kewaunee Artisan Center was formed in 2014 by 15 local art students. The students were dismayed that Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC), which had offered art classes at Hillcrest School in Kewaunee, announced that it would no longer sponsor non-credit art classes in Kewaunee.
The students decided they would continue to offer art classes by seeking status as a 501(c)(3) organization, which they received in July 2014. From 2014 to 2015, the new board organized a variety of art classes at Hillcrest School, Holy Rosary and the Kewaunee Public Library that were attended by more than 160 students.
But in January, the board learned that the school district planned to raze Hillcrest School and began to look for a new facility to hold the classes.
“It had to be roomy enough, handicapped accessible and within our budget,” said Thoreson.
What attracted them to the new facility were the high ceilings and amount of space for both quilting and sewing machines, ironing boards, easels and other art supplies, said Thoreson. This fall, the center will offer classes in painting, landscape and portrait photography, jewelry-making, sewing, knitting, crocheting, card-making, baking and other forms of art and crafts to hundreds of county residents and visitors.
“Our students come from four counties – Brown, Manitowoc, Door and Kewaunee,” said Thoreson. “We are really excited about our downtown Kewaunee location, because when we bring people here for classes they will also support the local businesses.”
Nathan Rank, who works at OEC Graphics of Oshkosh and is a son of supporters Allan and Mary Gaye Rank, designed the signs for the facility. The Viking sewing machines were purchased with funds donated by the Kewaunee Young People’s Theater, while the carpet was donated by a student. The inside of the brown, block- tiled building features several antique quilts hung on the walls donated by students.
“The community has been really generous in helping us to grow,” said Thoreson. A key to finding the right space was room for the long-arm quilting machine, which the group purchased last fall through a loan arranged by Thoreson.
The 10- by 14-foot long-arm quilting machine allows quilters to sew together a quilt top, quilt batting and quilt backing into a finished quilt and can take significantly less time than hand quilting. It has become a popular system for quilters.
“We have come a long way in the last year with our sewing machines and long-arm quilting machine,” said Thoreson.
In addition to its adult classes, the Kewaunee Artisan Center is reaching out to students age 7 to 15 with its “Little Bit of Art for Children” classes at the Kewaunee Public Library this October. The classes will be lead by various instructors and will include Paper Art on Oct. 5, Beads on Oct. 12, Painting on Oct. 19 and Fiber on Oct. 26.
In addition to its art classes at the new center, the group will continue to offer cooking and baking classes at Holy Rosary School, including classes in holiday cake and cookie decorating and kolache making.
The group also supports the Quilts of Valor, making patriotic quilts to give to veterans in the area, which are usually made with red, white and blue fabric, said Gloria Schjoneman, who helps lead the program.
The Artisans group has also supported breast cancer patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin, working with Ribbons of Hope in Green Bay to make and produce more than 250 underarm pillows for patients at area hospitals, Schjoneman said.
“We have also become expert at fundraising,” says Rank, noting that the group has held a variety of fundraisers over the last year to finance the costs of the new center. These have included ATV rallies, bake sales, quilt raffles and plant sales.
The group will host a Arts and Quilt Show at the Kewaunee Agricultural Heritage Center on Oct. 17 and will sell art, crafts, and quilts produced by artists at the center. The board will also raffle a Christmas quilt, painting and other student art as well as sell tickets for a basket raffle. Tickets are available by emailing [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Artisan Center creates new paths for artists