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Architecture adds allure to art tour

Tom Latane does joining work on the timbers of the McIllrath barn renovation. The barn now houses a painting studio, a gallery and classrooms and is one of the stops on this year’s Fresh Art Studio Tour. (Submitted photo)

The fall Fresh Art Studio Tour, now in its 15th year, features 15 artists’ studios and galleries that are open to the public when the leaves are most colorful.

Artists will demonstrate their techniques and show and sell their work from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 4-6.

Throughout Pierce and Pepin counties in western Wisconsin, in and near the villages of Pepin, Stockholm, Maiden Rock, Durand, Ella, Plum City, Arkansaw and Bay City, artists are tucked into the coulees and hills.

Organizers promise that the artists’ studios and galleries themselves will be an inspiration. A number of the artists who participate in the Fresh Art Studio Tour have turned structures such as barns and old, abandoned schoolhouses into studios and galleries.

Historic schoolhouse

One site that’s new to the tour is the Little Plum Schoolhouse, located three miles southwest of Ella.

This one-room schoolhouse, built at the end of the 19th Century, is not far from the Laura Ingalls Wilder cabin in Pepin. The classic structure, with its bell tower and front vestibule, has been maintained by the congregation of the Little Plum Lutheran Church and used for 4-H meetings for years. The schoolhouse is also open for self-guided tours throughout much of the year.

Several artists at the schoolhouse site will demonstrate their techniques. Returning artist Beth Tabor will show hand-spun, dyed and woven creations. New artist Yvonne Wilken will describe her quilt and fabric designs. Also new is Matt Anderson, an oil painter from Arkansaw.

Horse barn transformed

Wendy Ike’s horse barn near Plum City will become a temporary gallery.

She kicks the horses out to the pastures, sweeps away the cobwebs and uses the stall fronts as gallery walls. She also has hung a wagon-wheel Mason-jar chandelier in the aisle.

The feed room is decorated with Penny Sciascia’s quilted pieces. Kay Geraghty displays her photo renditions of local sights and countryside down the horse aisle. Ilke’s passion for anything equine is reflected in her own art with bold and colorful brushstrokes in watercolors and acrylics.

Renovations in Maiden Rock

The Maiden Rock Inn, owned by Gary and Jennifer Peterson, was originally a three-story, brick schoolhouse.

Located in the heart of the village, a number of guest artists will have their work exhibited. These include Christine Foster, a watercolor, pastel, pencil and oil painter; Kristen Smith Procter, who creates silk scarves, watercolor and mixed media; and Suz Kraft, an acrylic painter.

Another Maiden Rock site is Cultural Cloth, a team of women dedicated to promoting women’s economic empowerment by bringing textiles from around the world to western Wisconsin.

The shop recently moved into a residence on Hwy. 35 that was built in 1890. The front window features displays, and the living spaces have become a showroom.

A colorful collaboration

Linda Day and Bruce Dunlap created a new studio designed to suit their two media by preventing the dust developed in Day’s clay workspace from seeping into Dunlap’s acrylic painting studio.

The turquoise stained-board exterior is trimmed in fire-engine red and yellow -- typical color pairings of the artist couple.

Familial creativity

Jean Accola’s daughter, Ella Peinovich, with a Master of Architecture degree from MIT, helped redesign the front exterior of the Accola Gallery in Durand.

The building was built as a Craftsman Bungalow in 1929 but had been altered and had lost much of its authenticity.

Frank Lloyd Wright-style leaded-glass windows and doors on the front porch are coordinated with the front entrance pendant lamp, recycled from an old Gothic church lamp and converted to Craftsman style by Pepin blacksmith, Tom Latané.

The Accola Gallery features Accola’s paintings, the work of other artists and imported jewelry and textiles from global artisans.

Barbara McIllrath of Pepin will open her renovated barn studio for the tour.

In 2010 architect Emily Gosack, daughter of Barbara, and project manager, Brad Ballard of Gordian’s Knot Construction, guided a full-scale restoration project to convert the 1880’s timber-frame barn on Barbara’s farm to four-season use.

Latané repaired and replaced several portions of the original timber structure. The barn now houses a painting studio (the former stable) and a gallery and classrooms (formerly the threshing floor and hay loft). The structure was originally made by hand by the Fleming family of Pepin.

Little Plum Pottery, the studio of Art Gannett and Barbara Andersen, features some new construction.

After the destruction of their home in an LP gas explosion in 2011, a new house has been erected farther back on the property. Gannett designed the home, and it was built by Riesgraf Contracting Company of Stockholm.

On the site of the old house, a new showroom has been built with space for instruction. The showroom, unfinished at this time, is being built by family and friends and is the design of daughter Sadie Gannett, who is currently finishing a degree in housing studies at the University of Minnesota.

Saved and relocated

Another Laura Ingalls Wilder connection is found in the Black Cat Studio of Andrea Myklebust.

In the spring of 2012, sculptors Andrea Myklebust and Stanton Sears had the opportunity to save an early pioneer house by moving it from a neighbor’s land to their own near Stockholm.

The house, built on a site homesteaded by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s grandparents in the 19th Century, had been vacant for years and was in disrepair. The small house, which is framed on a sill of hand-hewn logs, has been placed on a new foundation, stabilized structurally and has a new roof.

By the summer of 2013, the relocated house was ready to welcome visitors as the Black Cat Farmstead Fiber Studio and Farm Store. The artists view the restoration and re-use of the little house and its incorporation in the working landscape of their studio as a connection both to the past and the future.

“We were happy to have the chance to save a piece of local history. The house is a living example of how people who arrived here 150 years ago lived and worked,” said Myklebust. 

More artists’ studios and galleries on the Fresh Art Studio Tour include: Abode Gallery, Stockholm; BNOX Jewelry Studio and Pepin Farm Pottery, Pepin; Flaming Fire Art Studio, Maiden Rock; Gail Pommerening Studio, Plum City; and John Turula Studio, Bay City.

For more information, go to