Izzabella Goettelman created a puppet during Family Art Day in 2015.
by LAURA HAYES
For months leading up to the event, Joy Davis Ripley’s daughters ask her "When is Family Art Day?"
The family began attending the event after their youngest daughter was born. “We had heard about Family Art Day so many times that we finally decided we had to see for ourselves what it was all about,” Davis Ripley said. The day is filled with fun activities such as pottery and woodworking — Davis Ripley’s daughters absolutely loved it. “My children love painting and blowing the gigantic bubbles, but their favorite activity every year is making kites. That’s the very first thing they always want to do, and they love running in the grass next to the pavilion after their kites are finished,” Davis Ripley said.
Family Art Day was founded one night when artists Julia Crozier and Bernadette Mahfood were sitting in Crozier’s gallery and were struck with an idea — a workshop made up of different booths where community members could go from booth to booth to sample different mediums of art. Mahfood, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in December 2015, was involved with countless organizations and projects throughout Winona such as Frozen River Film Festival, Theater du Mississippi, Winona-Dakota Unity Alliance, and the River Arts Alliance (RAA) and helped spearhead arts events like Winona Art Walk and Family Art Day.
Now, currently in its 10th year, Family Art Day is still going strong. RAA Board Member Tove Wiggs, who coordinates Winona’s Earth Day celebrations, is chairing the event this year. Wiggs knew Mahfood from various art events in Winona. “Bernadette was a force in the art world here. It’s really beautiful to see these things that she helped start to continue to blossom and grow,” Wiggs said.
RAA sprung from the Blue Heron Project that was spearheaded by Mahfood and sculptor Lynette Power. The larger-than life herons raised money to fund arts projects in the community. In 2016, Power said Mahfood had a gift for asking people to donate money to fund the Blue Heron Project. RAA was born from the Blue Heron Project Committee and it has led a number of arts events throughout Winona including Family Art Day, the Winona Art Walk, and the recent HBC fence project. “I definitely feel the loss of her,” said Ovenbird Bindery owner Jill Krase, who worked with Mahfood during past Family Art Day events. “I think it might take us awhile to realize how much she was really doing for art in Winona. She was constantly and diligently but quietly working behind-the-scenes to promote art in Winona.”
Krase has led classes at Family Art Day since the beginning. “The reason I’ve stayed is that I just love the atmosphere and the community of it,” she said. “It restores my faith that people will come out and do art.” In the past, Krase has taught a number of fun, book-related activities and she tries to do a new activity every year, she explained. This year, she will teach kids how to make accordion books.
The point of Family Art Day is to expose children to different art mediums, Wiggs explained. “There aren’t many opportunities where you can go to an event and create wooden sculptures and then go throw clay on a wheel and learn how to make little pots and tie knots. It’s such a unique event because there are so many different things to offer,” Wiggs said.
While there may be familiar faces leading Family Art Day activities, there will also be some new artists and new activities for families to try. For the first time in several years, there will be movement art led by Riverway Learning Community teacher Jacque Paulsen. She uses a formula: music plus movement equals magic. Everyone is born a dancer, she explained. In her sessions, Paulsen will guide dancers of all ages and abilities through some movement. “I think it’s important to share the message that we’re all dancers,” Paulsen said. “Movement is good for the body and good for the mind.”
With two kids of her own, Paulsen tried to foster the value of art and artistic expression in her children. The event, local artist and Riverway Learning Community teacher Brianna Haupt said, gives parents a chance to see how art benefits kids. Inspired by an activity she did in her childhood, Haupt will teach kids how to make their own puzzles during Family Art Day. “Watching children make art — it can be so powerful,” she said.
Crafting and making art was a big part of Wiggs’ childhood. “I don’t feel like that creativity is necessarily happening with so much coming at us — even as children,” she said. These days, it’s important to offer kids a place to be creative and explore, she said. “I think it’s important to encourage creativity. Creativity solves problems,” Wiggs said.
Family Art Day will be held on Saturday, September 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Jaycee’s Pavilion.