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Art up close: Museum, arts center hosting in-person exhibits
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Art up close: Museum, arts center hosting in-person exhibits

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During a year in which so many exhibits are canceled or online only, the Anderson Arts Center is going old-school with its Annual Winter Juried Show.

The artwork — some 150 pieces — is on display, and the public is welcome (in a safe, socially distanced manner) to walk through and view it.

The arts center’s lakefront location, expansive grounds and views of Lake Michigan are an added bonus at no extra charge.

In fact, the whole show is free — and appreciated by visitors.

“People who have come here say they are happy to have something to do,” said Rena Lee, the arts center’s administrator.

Her first months on the job have been eventful. Consider: Since being hired in January, Lee oversaw the reopening of the facility after a $4.3 million renovation project.

But just three weeks after that public celebration on Feb. 23 — showcasing the historic mansion’s new geothermal heating and cooling system, repaired roof, freshly painted walls, LED lighting and new handicapped accessible bathrooms — Anderson had to close its doors again due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since reopening in June, the arts center has been welcoming visitors under COVID-19 restrictions, limiting capacity and requiring face masks.

“Our first priority was to the safety of visitors and volunteers,” Lee said. “We want everyone to have a good experience when they visit or when they support us as a volunteer.”

The Winter Juried Show, the arts center’s second exhibit since reopening, “has some really interesting pieces,” Lee said. “There’s a huge variety of works.”

Selecting the pieces

Those works were selected for the show by juror Lisa Bigalke, a Kenosha printmaker and book artist who teaches printmaking and crafts at Carthage College.

Bigalke was “excited to be asked to jury this exhibition. I find it inspiring to see what other artists are making.”

Having art exhibits during the pandemic is important, she added.

“In the best of times, artists are very solitary; shows like this give artists and the public the opportunity to interact.”

The wide variety of pieces in the show is no surprise to Bigalke.

Open juried exhibitions “are by nature varied,” she said, “and jurors only get to choose art from what was submitted by the artists. There is no theme, and anyone can enter. This means all artists can submit their best work. The result is a variety of work in subject and media.”

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All that variety is a plus for visitors, she added.

“As a viewer, I like shows like this because people can find work they may not normally gravitate toward,” Bigalke said. “For example, I am a printmaker but get inspired by ceramics. It gives everyone a chance to connect with a piece — I may love the photo of the city and your favorite piece is the still life watercolor. We both walk away with art we connected to.”

As a juror for an open juried show, Bigalke looks “for technical skills and a dedication to conceptual development. Did the artist show a mastery of their chosen media? And could I tell they were invested in their chosen content? Focusing on these two questions keeps me open minded to work I may not be aesthetically drawn to. This is how I selected the overall exhibition.”

Once the juror (Bigalke) selected the pieces for the exhibit, curator Kathleen Laybourn got to work crafting the show’s layout.

“My job as juror was easier than the curator’s,” Bigalke said. “I could select work based on an artwork’s merits alone. If I thought a piece showed mastery in technique and conceptual development, I selected it for inclusion — with no regard for whether it worked as part of a larger whole. Kathy (Laybourn) had to try and make visual sense of the pieces I selected.

“Making all these wonderfully diverse pieces work together on a wall or in a room sounds really daunting to me.”

Also on display at Anderson is “Tinsel and Garland” by the Area Artist Group and, for the first time, the resident artists at Kemper Center’s Lakefront Studios will host an exhibit in the Lakefront Studios gallery space.

The studios are located on the third and fourth floors of Kemper Center above the Simmons Auditorium, in what were once dorm rooms for the students at Kemper Hall.

Museum’s print show

Also on Kenosha’s downtown lakefront, the Kenosha Public Museum is hosting an art exhibit.

“Masters of Their Era — Prints from the Ronald L. and Mary K. Ruble Collection” runs through Oct. 30.

Artwork in the show includes prints from Ruble, a Wisconsin artist who first fell in love with art while visiting Kenosha museum as a child (in its former downtown location, now the Dinosaur Discovery Museum).

Ruble’s prints have been included in more than 90 national and international juried art exhibitions, and his work can be seen in numerous museums.

The show on the museum’s second floor features “a lot of pieces from our collection, including a Picasso print, that haven’t be on display for a long time,” said Dan Joyce, executive director of the Kenosha Museum Campus, which includes the Kenosha Public Museum, Civil War Museum and the Dinosaur Discovery Museum.

Also sprinkled throughout the show are prints by well-known artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Marc Chagall and Salvador Dali.

Ruble and his wife, Mary, curated the show, which “documents the evolution of the art of printmaking in America over time and shows the influence of Wisconsin artists in particular,” said Peggy Gregorski, the museums’ deputy director.

The exhibit “showcase dozens of his pieces,” she added. “The prints in the show are the ones he calls his ‘Masterpiece Collection,’ the best of the best.”

Ruble, who lives near Madison, attended the opening reception for the show and said he hopes this exhibit “can inspire someone else to become an artist — to be inspired like I was as a boy at the museum.”

The Kenosha Public Museum, 5500 First Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Admission is free. Note: Visitors are required to wear face masks (available for $1). For more details, call 262-653-4140 or go to the museum’s website and/or Facebook page.

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