The Manito Art League was founded in November 1965 as an organization dedicated to the development and appreciation of the visual arts. In 1976, The Manito Art League organized the first Arts and Crafts Show which was part of the July 4th celebration in Manitowish Waters. In 1979, this was expanded to include creative and performing arts. The summer of 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the League!
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The History of the Manito Art League (Lakeland Times Publication)
Manito Art League Celebrates 50 Years of Supporting Arts in Northern Wisconsin
Manito Art League is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and appreciation of the visual, creative and performing arts in Northern Wisconsin. It has been fulfilling this mission for 50 years. A fifty-year anniversary is a significant event in the life of any organization. Certainly, this is so for one that has no paid positions and operates solely on volunteer power. Recently, a group of members with long-time connections to the League gathered to share memories and discuss how the group began and how it has evolved.
Founding member, Barbara McFarland, recalled that as a young artist working in Manitowish Waters, one of her patrons was Florence Daniels. Daniels had the idea for an art group to encourage appreciation and development of the visual arts. She invited Barbara and others to join. The group began with twelve members. Meetings were held in Daniel’s home. The group soon outgrew the space, and moved to the Manitowish Waters Community Center, where it still meets today. In 1966, the group adopted the name Manito Art League. In 1979, the mission was expanded to include creative and performing arts. Today the League roster lists 107 members. When including summer residents, members come from many states. Permanent residents of the northwoods represent the Wisconsin counties of Vilas, Oneida, Iron, Price, Langlade, Lincoln and Marathon and Gogebic County in Michigan.
How the League grew and what kept members coming was an interesting item for discussion by long-time members. An important goal of the group has been to encourage artistic growth by holding workshops for members and other interested artists after the monthly meetings. Sue Pucci, a member for 45 years from St Germain, mentioned how important these workshops, the fellowship and encouragement of other artists were to her own development as an artist. Audrey Hood Hampton, who has been making the drive from Elcho over thirty years, credits a workshop in watercolor by guest artist, Val Thelen as having a great influence on her work.
Barbara McFarland explained how other organizations influenced and helped grow interest in the arts and Art League membership. Nicolet College was beginning outreach into local communities and offering art workshops during these formative years. Many members met other artists at these workshops and these artists joined the group. The same was true of artists taking workshops at Dillman’s Creative Arts Foundation in Lac du Flambeau. The Wisconsin Regional Arts Program, through the University of Wisconsin Extensions and the Wisconsin Idea encouraged artists to exhibit their art through regional and state exhibitions and offered workshops. Many instructors encouraged League membership.
Family connections also influenced membership. Barbara McFarland’s mother, Trudy Pangburn also was a founding member. Ann Egan shared that her mother, Aileen Taborsky, was accustomed to taking art classes in Madison and was not at all sure she would find an opportunity to further develop her artistic skills when moving to the north in 1986. She joined the Manito Art League and found like-minded friends. When Ann visited, they would take League workshops together and classes at Dillman’s. Ann and her husband retired in 2006 and moved to Manitowish Waters. She joined the League and served as its president in 2009-2010. Other members such as Barb Boneck and Marion Burmeister have had a lifelong interest in the arts, but pursued other avenues until retirement. They have found a place to grow their skills and try new ideas in the Manito Art League.
Another core League effort is the Annual Art Show. This affords an opportunity for members to exhibit their work and is also open to other artists. Artists must show new work that has not been seen publicly. Over the years, it has grown to a premier event in the north, respected for the outstanding quality of work shown, bringing many visitors to the community. The 50th Annual Art Show will be held this summer at the Manitowish Waters Community Center July 16 -19.
The League offers a significant scholarship program made possible by generous donations from patrons. Scholarships are given to graduating seniors pursuing degrees in visual, creative and performing arts and to adults who are continuing their education to further their artistic growth. Applicants must reside within a 70-mile radius of Manitowish Waters. Over the past fifty years, close to $200,000 dollars have been awarded in scholarships, art show awards and workshops.
Long-time member, educator, and past League President, Joanne Nock Olsen, noted with pride that the flow of creative energy has affected our communities for the better. Members have created businesses that add to the economic and creative life of the community. Former and current members own many northwoods galleries. Robert Metropulos, owner of Parkside Gallery in Minocqua served as Manitio Art League president from 1994-98. Sara Muender, owner of Moondeer and Friends Gallery in Boulder Junction, is a past president and an active member, as is Val Bogdan who with Vlasta Polacek founded the Artists Palette Cooperative in Manitowish Waters. Mitchell and Laureen Myers, owners of Odonata Gallery in Mercer and Arlene Bozicnik, owner of Arlene’s Pottery and Gallery in Boulder Junction are also active members of the League. The artist-owned galleries not only represent their own work, they include the art of other northwoods artists, creating income for these artists which also returns dollars to the community. League member, Christine Alfery, developed and organizes the Howard Young Gallery, a flourishing exhibition program at the Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff. Many members participate in the Northwoods Art Tour that attracts hundreds of visitors in the summer and fall.
The League has always valued education for members and the community. This focus has enabled it to meet challenges, absorb new ideas and to adapt. In 2008, Florie Enders started the Northwoods Outdoor Artists, a plein air group in the League. The artists gather Thursday mornings in the summer to paint, sketch and create at outdoor sites. Their gatherings are open and free to League members, non-members, and visitors to the north woods who enjoy the fellowship of creating with other artists inspired by working outdoors. This year, League members exhibited work at the North Lakeland Discovery Center’s Birding Festival and at the Vilas County Business Incubator in Manitowish Waters.
Manito Art League looks forward to the next fifty years. It plans to continue enriching the quality of life in our communities by remaining an active part of the growing northwoods art scene