An Interview with April Beiswenger: Don’t be Scared of Making

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This week I had the opportunity to sit down with artist April Beiswenger and talk to her about her exhibition currently featured in the Godschalx Gallery, April Beiswenger: The Making and Giving Project.

On sabbatical from her regular position as a professor of Theatre Studies here at SNC, Beiswenger spends much of her time in the gallery doing just what she asks visitors to do: making and giving. The exhibition offers many opportunities for visitors to create and engage including: bracelet making, typing letters on a typewriter, coloring postcards, asking the sage advice of the Bird Oracle, and much more.

The following interview explores the philosophy and mission behind Beiswenger’s interactive exhibition, an exhibition that allows viewers—or rather makers—to revel in the simple and inherent satisfaction of creation and the joy that comes from giving a creation away. The overarching message she wants you to get? Don’t be scared of making. Just do it, move on, and then do it again.

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Katie Hopkins: Tell us a little bit about how the Making and Giving Project originated.

April Beiswenger: The idea behind the Making and Giving Project is that there is an art to making, and that’s what we learn as students and as adults. As we become artists we learn the “making,” but sometimes we miss the “giving” part. And so, it happened at my gallery show last year, [April Beiswenger: ‘I like this place, and willingly could waste my time in it.”] whenever I was in the gallery and I was working on that topographical map—gluing the beads down to that—people would come by and talk to me about it, so it sort of sprung from that idea of I’m gonna make things and people are gonna watch me make things.

What am I gonna do with the stuff I make? Well, I’m gonna give it away. Because we get all these skills that we’re not necessarily gonna use, you know, like beading and knitting and crocheting and all of this stuff that it becomes like an impassioned hobby and not necessarily lucrative. But we can’t not make, so what about just giving it away? So that’s kind of where it sprung from, like what if I just gave stuff away?

 

KH: Do you think that the location of your exhibition here at the SNC Galleries helps with that “giving” aspect of your mission?

AB: I think so. There’s a giving-ness to the St. Norbert College community that has been quite apparent ever since I got here, that idea of radical hospitality, that you don’t necessarily see in other [institutions]. I went to a Catholic school for undergrad, went to a Catholic school for grad school, I worked in another Catholic school when I first started teaching, and now here. There’s always an element of giving when working for Catholics which is interesting, but there’s this element of giving that they had, but they didn’t have ingrained in their mission, this idea of radical hospitality and Communio, which is one of the reasons I love working here so much. [Here] they’re just open hearted and giving and it kinda works really nice, and watching people engage with the elements in this room makes me really happy.

 

KH: Is there a certain element or activity that visitors seem to like the best so far?

AB: That typewriter! So I bought this typewriter a bunch of years ago whenever we were gonna have a Sandbox over in the library—this maker space—and it never really ended up coming in. So [the typewriter] moved with me when I moved houses and I tripped over it in my workshop at home and I thought “let’s use the typewriter,” why not? There’s an activity to typing that you don’t get with a computer or texting. There is a physical, mechanical-ness that you get using a typewriter that you don’t get anywhere else that’s really visceral. My mom was a secretary for ages and ages, but when my sister and I were kids, she had this typewriter that she was like, please shut up, use this, and so Gina and I, my next younger sister, we would type for ages with this thing. And then my youngest sister Lisa, and Adam, my brother, we all had an experience with this typewriter. And the typewriter goes with the other mechanical objects in the gallery like the Rigid Heddle Loom and the Inkle Loom and the crocheting, that are mechanical production, hand production that is just so wonderful. There’s a pleasure to it, a pleasure to using your hands.

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The typewriting station.

KH: Do you think that the students in particular are drawn to the typewriter because they are so used to just texting on their phones?

AB: I absolutely think so. I think it’s a novelty. And it’s something that is, unlike the looms, where you have to have a little bit of skill to use the looms, the typewriter is just like your laptop and you just clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk and you’re on your way. Hopefully I can do another Making and Giving event, like last week I did silk dying and this week is the Yarn-In*, and so I have two and a half weeks left, and in that time I’ll do a “hey come touch a loom, you’ve never touched one before, come touch a loom!” And people will probably not think anything of it now, but it’ll intrigue them and ten years down the road, twenty years down the road they’ll really enjoy that and say, hey, I’m gonna buy a floor loom and see what happens.

*The Yarn-In is Friday, September 14. It is an all-day event in the Godschalx Gallery. Come and go as you please with your own project, or learn the basics of crocheting from April.

 

KH: Where can people find out when the Making and Giving Events are happening?

AB: I put them on the SNC news and I send out a classified.

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Silk Scarves dyed at the first Making and Giving Event.

KH: Do you have a favorite making station in here?

AB: The looms. I picked up weaving a couple years ago, and I did beading and it was alright. And then I got into this and  started it when I started teaching the History of Clothing and Fashion. I don’t want to give the illusion when I teach this class that these clothes sprung fully formed from a machine. In history there’s actually people making this stuff. When you see Marie Antoinette over and over in these fabulous dresses, she has a woman who runs her dressmaking studio and had the ear of the queen and affected policy. It’s the idea of somebody who makes so well that they can affect policy change. And you know that happens all the time.  And so it started there and then I did this great weaving workshop in May up at Sievers School of Fiber Arts in Washington Island. My mom and I went up and weaved pieces which was great because I got to spend time with my mom, and again it’s that mechanical making that is so, so satisfying.

 

KH: There’s a sense that you really want people to be more well-balanced and that making/mechanical production can help with that.

AB: I think so, I think so. The other one I like a lot, which is less active is the Bird Oracle and I kinda dig that. It’s just come and pull a card and get insight.

 

KH: I’ve asked the Bird Oracle a few questions and I’ve loved it every time.

AB: Excellent! I have the weirdest words in there. I went online and searched weird words and I got these lists and used them. I don’t know what they mean! I’ve forgotten what they mean. I have them written down in my notebook and every once in a while I have to go what did that word mean…oh yes, that’s what it was!

 

KH: I believe there’s magic in it, I’d like to think so.

AB: For sure. Especially because I have no clue what they mean.

 

KH: That’s the beauty of it! You can interpret it however you want.

AB: The magic of a dictionary.

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A quilt of stamped denim squares. Take one down and take it home.

KH: Do you have any future plans to keep this project going?

AB: Yes. This has worked really well. Better that I thought it would. I think the idea of performative making is something I’m going to continue to explore. I do that in my classes. We make stuff together in my design classes and in our lab class for the show. We make together and it’s like connective tissue. It’s the old idea of the quilting bee. You sit around and make together. We used to call it the stitch and bitch. My aunts and family would get together and get into a costume shop and we would all just have our projects and we’d just sit around and complain or gossip. It’s really fun, but it’s kinda stereotypical that you would expect a costumer to know all the good gossip. Which is not true. Carpenters know all the good gossip. So yeah I really like this. I might figure out a way to take it out into Green Bay, maybe with the Boys and Girls club. Maybe with taking it into Art Garage and doing a mini residency. The only reason it works really well right now is because I’m on sabbatical. I was able to take a month out of my sabbatical and spend time in here. During the regular semester there’s no way.

 

KH: What’s nice is that the concept of making and giving can easily be taken out into the world by anyone. Because of that, this is one of the most approachable exhibitions we’ve had in the galleries especially with visitors being able to physically engage with the art.

AB: And that’s why my next couple [of exhibitions] will probably be very performative.

 

KH: Those are always a big hit.

AB: I hope so.

End.

Catch the Making and Giving exhibition in the Godschalx Gallery located in Bush Art Center until September 28, 2018. Keep an eye out for those pop-up Making and Giving events and be sure to visit the gallery on SNC day, September 22 for more special activities.

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A kaleidoscope of origami butterflies.

What’s Happening Around the BAC?

As October ends the start of this year’s Juried Student Art Exhibition draws closer and with it a chance to view some of the best student artwork SNC has to offer in a formal and professional setting. To get us in the mood, let’s take a closer look at some of the student artwork currently being displayed around the Bush Art Center (BAC).

Photography

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The second floor of the BAC features some photographic selections from two of Professor Brandon Bauer’s classes: Introduction to Photography and Digital Imaging, and Contemporary Photographic Strategies. These selections make up a beautiful mosaic of digital imagery that shows just how powerful these students are with a manual camera in their hands.

Printmaking

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Also on the second floor, Professor Katie Ries’ Beginning Printmaking class has a display of hand-made monotypes. These monotypes were made by both adding and removing ink from a piece of square plexiglass that is then run through the press with a piece of high quality paper to create the print. By using only black ink, the students are able to showcase their composition and design abilities, demonstrating that you don’t need color to make a powerful image.

Drawing

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The display case on the first floor of the BAC features a selection of self-portraits from Professor Debbie Kupinsky’s class Introduction to Studio Art. Each student had to create a portfolio of 25 self-portraits for the assignment and then chose their best to display. Through the variation of line and style of mark making, the personality of each student truly shines through in each of their images.

Sculpture

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Debbie Kupinsky’s Introductory Sculpture class is also garnering a lot of attention on the first floor with their installation of “Monumental Foam.” Each student took a small object and sculpted a larger-than-life-size version from only sheets of large foam board. These sculptures are a favorite of students and faculty passing through the art building. That’s some art that is certainly hard to miss!

Clubhouse Gallery

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“Window Pains” by Jim Rogers

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“Untitled” by Ben Wylie
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“Flesh Eater” by Emerson Bartch

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Finally, students Emerson Bartch, Jim Rogers, and Ben Wylie currently have a sculpture display in the Clubhouse Gallery–the student-run gallery space on the second floor of the BAC.

The craftsmanship of these pieces, created for Debbie Kupinsky’s Intermediate Sculpture class, is truly phenomenal, and reads as a cohesive, professional exhibition. You would be remiss to miss out on seeing these pieces, so make sure to go and check them out.

If you enjoyed this selection of work by SNC students, make sure to attend the Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition in the Baer Gallery to see other great pieces. The show runs from November 13-December 8 with a reception on November 16. It will surely be a display you will not want to miss.

 

 

SNC Day 2017 at the Bush Art Center

This year’s SNC Day was a smashing success all around, and the activities held at the Bush Art Center were no exception. Over 700 students, alumni, and community members visited the BAC to tour the galleries, make pennants to mirror Katie Ries’ piece “Pennants 2017” currently showing in the Art Faculty Triennial Exhibition, and earn their Observation badge with the Land Scouts—an organization started by Ries and focused on promoting good stewardship with the land around you.

Scroll down to see some photos from the day’s events and relive the fun right along with us.

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Visitors enjoy Fr. Neilson’s work in the Baer Gallery.
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Some lucky visitors get to hear from Fr. Neilson (left), the artist himself.
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A steady stream of visitors came to make their own pennants throughout the day.
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Artist and faculty member Katie Ries brings her son to make a pennant.
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Gallery Director and Curator Shan Bryan-Hanson helps the daughter of Art faculty member Debbie Kupinsky create a pennant of her own.
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Visitors enjoy the Triennial Faculty Exhibition.
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Art major Katie Hopkins shows off her humorous side with this Magritte-inspired pennant.
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Art students and alumni volunteers ready to help make SNC Day at the Bush Art Center happen.
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Earning those badges!
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A Land Scouts field book for participants to record their observations of campus in return for earning a limited-edition, St. Norbert College color Observation badge.
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A small selection of the field books handed in.

SNC Day 2016

There was much to see, learn, and make in the Bush Art Center on SNC Day this past Saturday!   Here are a few highlights:

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Volunteers Coneria Nansubua and Emma Hanson demonstrating the flower making project to visitors. 

 

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Detail image of a wall piece by April Beiswenger

Visitors made flowers out of organic cotton and recycled t-shirt fabric.  The project was inspired by a piece in the  April Beiswenger: 1000 T-Shirt Project exhibit. 

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Visitors waiting to tour the tiny house on display as part of the Shelter and Clothing exhibit. 

 

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Rebecca Rutter, tiny house owner, designer and builder, gave tours of the house from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The house drew a lot of interest with steady waiting lines all day long. In case you missed it, there are three more days to tour the house!  Open house hours are Wednesday, noon- 2 p.m., Thursday, noon-2 p.m. and Friday, 11:00-1:00 p.m., through Friday, Sept. 23.

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Garments by Alabama Chanin on exhibit in the Baer Gallery
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Map piece by April Beiswenger on exhibit in the Godschalx Gallery

On display throughout the day were, among other artworks, gorgeous hand-sewn garments by Alabama Chanin in the Shelter and Clothing exhibit and a map piece illustrating where t-shirts are made in the 1000 T-Shirt Project exhibit.

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SNC alum, Hannah Kestly and student, Maria Deau visiting with professor Ben Chan in the Boot Making Workshop
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A full shop! 
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Professor Ries and her son at the boot workshop. 

A lot of boot making fun happened in the critique studio. SNC students and alums helped visitors craft boot models and handed out screen prints. The project was designed by professor Katie Reis and student collaborator, Maria Deau.

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Creating tiny house designs
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Tiny house drawings

Kids stopped in the Baer Gallery to draw their own tiny house designs.

Other events throughout the day included Art and Design lectures presented by Art professor, Fr. Jim Neilson and Theatre professor, April Beiswenger.  Cheers to another great SNC Day!

Ten Simple Ways to Transition to a more Ethical and Sustainable Wardrobe

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Last night, as part of Fashion This, we screened the film The True Cost . The film explores the environmental toll and human rights violations surrounding the fast fashion industry. Afterwards, a question was asked about ways to transition to a more ethical and eco-friendly wardrobe.  

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Buy used clothing.  There are many great resources for used clothing–yard sales, consignment shops, thrift stores, and online consignment and swap sites like ThredUp and Poshmark
  2. Buy quality garments that will last many years. Uncertain about how to assess quality?  Inspect your clothing items that have lasted many years.  Study the feel and drape of the fabric, inspect the seams and overall construction of the garments.  Compare this to a garment you recently purchased that quickly stretched or ripped.
  3. Care for your clothes.  Read care instructions on labels.  Put delicate items in mesh garment bags before tossing them in the wash.  Line dry clothes whenever possible.  Learn and use basic mending skills.  Store clothes with care.
  4. Shop like my grandmothers did.  They both had lovely wardrobes and chose clothes based on their personal styles rather than the latest trends.  They also purchased well-made clothes that would last many years.
  5. Host a clothing swap.
  6. Create a capsule wardrobe.  Check out Project 333 for inspiration.  A traditional capsule wardrobe is one that lasts for years, not just a season.  Build a capsule wardrobe slowly, with classic pieces that won’t go out of style.  If you crave new clothes each season try building a capsule wardrobe from thrifted clothes.
  7. Buy fair trade clothing and garments made from organic fabric.
  8. Clean out your closet regularly.  Knowing what you have and what you need can curb the urge to make impulse purchases.
  9. Support artists and small creative businesses that produce one of a kind garments.  Shop Etsy, art fairs and small, local businesses.
  10. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Make a few manageable, sustainable changes. Build on that over time.

Meantime, check out the remaining Fashion This exhibitions and events!