Fort museum invites Whitewater artists

By Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

The busy artists of the Whitewater Arts Alliance (WAA) have made enough of a stir with all of their recent activity to summons an invitation from the Hoard Historical Museum in Fort Atkinson.

It's quite an honor to be noticed and invited to display their works in such a prestigious museum, WAA members say.

"I am delighted to be able to display my art at the Hoard," said Karolyn Alexander. "My husband and I have attended many exhibits there and have found (it) to be very pleasant and conducive to a good art show."

Alexander will be displaying her watercolors and earthenware at the upcoming exhibit, to run Aug. 16-Sept. 3.

"They have a very nice display space," said Mary Anne Gerlach, who's shown her artwork there in the past. "I appreciate how supportive they are of the arts in this area."

Through all of their hard work to bring the arts to everyday life in Whitewater-from their displays in local businesses to the Fountain Festivals and their themed summer projects, Fish Out of WhiteWATER in 2005 and the Come, Sit, Enjoy chair display this year, just to name a few-WAA's energy and original ideas have really gotten people's attention.

"We have heard so much about the Whitewater Arts Alliance and all of their activities are just great," said Hoard Historical Museum Director Sue Hartwick.

"This exhibit is a great chance for our communities to collaborate through art."

Visitors can expect to see a wide array of works from the WAA artists. The group as a whole has been working with watercolors recently, so expect to see plenty of works with this medium, but artists have used many other mediums as well.

Marilyn Fuerstenberg prefers to paint flowers and forms of nature, she said. "My subject matter stems from my relationship with my parents. My mother always had flower gardens, cut flowers and houseplants. My dad loved the outdoors, hunting and fishing."

"The artwork that I am submitting for the Hoard Art Show is all flowers," said Joyce Follis. "Right now that is what is appealing to me, as I like to see my blank piece of paper come to life with something that is attractive or pretty in my eyes."

Pieces include wispy nature scenes, animals, fantasy images, silhouettes, color, black-and-whites and everything in between.

Just like the people you live or work with, these artists show that you don't necessarily have to be a professional to join in on the fun-although some of them are.

Shirley Matthews has always had a knack for art, but never made a living of it-though those who knew her knew her artistic talents were special.

"I am told watercolor is one of the most challenging mediums," she said. But that didn't stop her from trying. She will be displaying a number of watercolor pieces in the show.

Mary Anne Gerlach spent her days teaching math at UW-Whitewater until her retirement gave her time to pursue art. She began with acrylics and also water-based oils and expanded to still-lifes and a painting based on black-and-white photos.

Veronica Davis, on the other hand, graduated with a degree in art from Indiana University and taught art for kindergartners through junior colleges for 35 years.

"Watercolor painting has been a new adventure during my retirement," she said. "I have combined my love for color and design with pen and ink."

Fuerstenberg, too, has been involved in the arts for many years and is also a member of the Wisconsin Watercolor Society. Her works have been shown nationally and sold worldwide, plus she offers private classes to adults and children.

As individual as the artists themselves, each person's technique and finished product varies widely.

"I particularly enjoy using watercolors to create semi-abstract landscapes of places I have visited, especially Door County and northern Wisconsin," says Alexander. "The problem-solving process to bring the painting to completion is more quiet and thoughtful, but also fun and very rewarding. When I can look at a painting and recall the sights, sounds and emotion of visiting the place, I consider the piece finished."

"I enjoy being able to turn an idea into a painting, and sometimes that painting turns out to be better than I expected," said Gerlach.

"It is a learning process to me, a challenge and a relaxation time," Matthews said. "It's also a time to spend with friends."

"I try to make each painting better then the one just completed," says Fuerstenberg. "I will never complete painting all that I have in my mind. I am always up to the challenge and the satisfaction I have when I have been able to accomplish what I set out to do."

This may be the first museum exhibit for the WAA artists, but be assured, it won't be their last.

"After moving to Whitewater, I felt I had found my place," said Davis. "I had never met so many creative and talented people all in the same area. Each person I was introduced to was in some way involved with the arts. Many create it, others are observers-but very interested.

"The Arts Alliance and its members are beginning to open up a whole new life for Whitewater. I feel very proud to play a small part as it continues to grow."

"Bringing art to the forefront in the Whitewater community has given me personal joy," Fuerstenberg said. "When the WAA was asked to have a show at the Hoard, I felt like now we are a recognized group of artists that other communities were validating. This is especially rewarding for me, as well as seeing some of my students' art in this show."

The Hoard Historic Museum is located at 407 Merchants Avenue, Fort Atkinson. Admission is free, hours are Tuesday- Saturday, from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Road construction may make finding the museum a little more challenging, but Hartwick says the detour will have Hoard Museum signs directing folks to the museum (from Whitewater, turn right on Bark River Road, left of East Street then left on Fourth Street). For more information, call (920) 563-7769 or visit For more information about WAA, visit