Thank God it’s Wednesday

Gloria Culp paints with watercolors during a recent Thank God It’s Wednesday meeting at the Marquette Arts and Culture Center. The group meets twice a month to create art and discuss life.

Story and photos by Noah Hausmann

Far removed from the worries of the outside world, safe inside their creative space, a group of artists and friends meets to share their passion for art and life.

Aptly named, the artist group “Thank God it’s Wednesday” (TGIW) rejoices when, craft supplies in hand, they gather from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Marquette Arts and Culture Center in the bottom of the Peter White Public Library on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

“All week long I’m churning and burning, but I come home from here and I’m so relaxed. It’s so nice. Artists are lovely people—we’re so compatible,” Gloria Culp said as she painted a watercolor of the bridge at Founders Landing in Marquette.

Dorothy Kristola shows off one of many drawings made during a Thank God It’s Wednesday meeting.

Culp heard about TGIW when she was at the Art on the Rocks event right after she moved to Marquette from Texas, where she’d been involved with a similar artist group. She was “thrilled” to join.

The group has five members, all of them from Marquette County and ladies of senior citizen age, but they certainly wish more people would join. TGIW is open to anyone and any form of art. It’s free to join, with both beginners and seasoned talents welcome. The only requirement is that participants bring their own art supplies and are ready for fun and good humor. Typically, artists work individually on whatever creative endeavor their hearts desire and their wallets can afford. One benefit of meeting together is getting advice on whatever art one is pursuing, whether it be painting, knitting or any number of crafts.

“What’s nice about this group is you get to see other types of art,” Dorothy Weigel of Marquette said as she knit a hat. “Whereas, if you’re by yourself or in a class—that’s it. Here, you get to see what others are doing and try it yourself. We all do take classes, and then we meet up and share what we learned. That’s how we all learn.”

Weigel knits, paints with watercolors, stains glass and carves wood, among other talents.

“I’m Jack of all trades, master of none,” she said. “It keeps me busy and out of mischief.”

The group of five work on their own pieces. The women said they look forward to the meetings, when they can leave behind the stresses of everyday life and create art with friends.

Dorothy Kristola of Skandia, who has been a member since the start, is a photographer, snapping pictures mostly of the flowers and birds she loves. She also enjoys wood carving miniature furniture for doll houses. She paints watercolor too but “not professionally,” she said with a laugh.

The ladies often reminisce about the old days of painting plein air or outdoors.

“We started off as plein air, and now we’re just plain,” Kristola joked. “It’s just easier when you don’t have to carry all your art stuff into the woods,” she explained.

The TGIW group got its start when the original group of six Marquette County ladies were taking local artist Elizabeth Yelland’s plein air classes in June 2008 at Presque Isle, where they painted in the open air, surrounded and inspired by the beauty of the Superior shore. When the sessions ended, Yelland encouraged everyone to keep meeting and painting. Then the group took their plein air easels to scenic locales like Founders Landing, Park Cemetery, Dead River and Picnic Rocks, as well as painting parties at members’ homes. On rain and snow days, they also met in the upstairs room of the Ben Franklin Craft Center. There, the group had no teacher, but Michele Tuccini, an artist herself and an employee at Ben Franklin’s, would critique them and often give lessons. Another artist, Marge Carlson, also instructed a few times.

Dorothy Weigel takes a quick break from her artwork to talk with a fellow artist during a recent Thank God It’s Wednesday meeting.

Soon new members joined, and over the years their number grew to 13, and, in 2012, the TGIW artists moved to the Marquette Arts and Culture Center.

Group members have had their art featured around town. In August 2012, five TGIW artists and Tuccini painted new window displays of six half circles for the Maritime Museum in a project called the Windows on the Water Artist Reception. In February 2013, nine of the TGIW artists had a members’ show in the Lake Superior Art Association Gallery. They named the show “Hodge Podge” because of the variety in the 53 art pieces displayed.

Sharon Everette joined TGIW just a few weeks ago.

“It’s kind of intimidating—these other ladies are so good. I bet their pictures would sell for a lot of money if they ever decided to sell them,” Everette said with a smile as she attempted to capture the Lake Superior shoreline and the red Marquette Harbor Lighthouse in acrylics. “I’m not a detail painter yet.”

Everette enjoys the paintings exhibited on the walls of the Marquette Arts and Culture Center. She’s glad the group meets there.

“If we ever need to be inspired, this is certainly the place to come,” Everette added.

Meanwhile, new member Sally Penning started a hanging mobile made out of cardstock of pink, purple and green with raspberry yarn. All the ladies discussed the logistics of sewing through the paper.

In their time together, the ladies have grown close. As they create their art, they also share about their lives, both the happy and the sad. For these women, the TGIW is also a support group of sorts. When deaths occur in the family or dentists pry into toothaches or other stresses arise, piling up like emails in life’s inbox, gathering to enjoy each other’s company and to lose themselves in the art process is just the catharsis they need.

“Painting, or any art you do, is relaxing,” Weigel said. “It’s funny how focused you can get. It’s like you’re on another world.”

The Marquette Arts and Culture Center is the host space for many art groups and classes. The staff at the center is pleased to have TGIW grace their presence twice a month.

“It’s wonderful that they can meet here,” said Tiina Harris, Marquette city arts and culture manager. “It’s come at whatever level you are. You share what you’re doing and make connections in a creative environment.

“They’re all very supportive women, sharing,” Harris continued. “They’re all at different stages in their lives, going through different things, but the one connection is their art. No matter what’s happening in their lives they can come together and share their art. This group is important. There used to be a lot more in Marquette, but life happens—people get busy or move away. In long-term groups, they get to know each other and build friendships with fellow artists. It’s about sharing art and sharing life.

“If anyone wants to get involved, there’s really nothing to lose—except maybe you’ll make some new friends,” Harris added.

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