Seek and Find Inspirational Spark

By: Amy Beck, marketing and communications manager on September 14th, 2016

Story ideas continue to percolate and overflow during these days after the Birds in Art opening weekend. Part of my role at the Woodson Art Museum is brainstorming story ideas to suggest to media outlets.


Artists gather for 2016 preview festivities

Privileged to have a singular window on the art and artists, I identify themes and personalities, try to line up media interviews with artists during their brief and busy time here, and strive to facilitate news stories that prompt Museum visits.

Whether for television, radio, or print, assignment editors always want to know what’s new or unique about this year’s Birds in Art exhibition. That’s never a difficult task. While looking for story ideas, I marvel at the myriad ways that artists work wonders through their artistic interpretations of three words: birds in art.

Sometimes story ideas germinate from themes that several artworks share. The intelligence of ravens, crows, and corvids is a fascinating thread woven throughout work by 2016 Master Artist Karen Bondarchuk and others, too.


Karen Bondarchuk, The Requiem Series

Nests figure prominently in artworks by Wendy Brockman and Diana Höhlig. Attempting to reduce potential media-interview jitters, I paired Diana, a first-time Birds in Art artist from Switzerland with Wendy – who’s been interviewed here during previous Birds in Art openings, a 2015 summer workshop, and her 2012 artist residency.

Reporters folded brief snippets into opening-weekend stories; check the Museum’s Facebook page for links to these and more to come. Late last week, various reporters interviewed a dozen artists for opening-weekend stories and others designed to air throughout the exhibition, on view through November 27.

For some stories, family themes emerge. Although Josh Guge is a first-time Birds in Art artist, he recalls that as a 4-year-old he attended Birds in Art opening festivities with his father, Robert Guge, whose woodcarvings were included for fifteen consecutive years from 1982 through 1996. Elizabeth Nicholls also is both a first-time and second-generation Birds in Art artist who attended this year with her father, Calvin Nicholls. Elizabeth’s graphite drawing and Calvin’s cut-paper artwork each are included in the 2016 exhibition.


Josh and Laura Guge

Master Artist Karen Bondarchuk, Wendy Brockman, and Josh Guge all mentioned the cathartic power of creating art while dealing with the loss of a parent.

Additional stories emerge from intersecting aspects of artists’ lives. Wisconsin artist Kevin Kohlman still chuckles – and blushes a bit – when he recalls his initial interactions as a newbie with one veteran Birds in Art artist. Kohlman recalled that for years he and his wife traveled each fall from La Crosse, Wisconsin, for Birds in Art opening festivities and was overawed, in particular, by the work of Belgian artist Carl Brenders. After a 2011 trip here, he spent so much time closely studying Brenders’ painting that Kevin mentioned to his wife during the car ride home that Carl probably thought Kevin was a stalker. The next year marked the first time Kevin’s work was selected for the exhibition. So imagine his amazement, Kevin said, when he arrived that fall to discover his artwork installed adjacent to his idol’s. “I thought, ‘when Carl sees me next to his artwork, he’ll probably call the police.’ ”



Kevin Kohlman media interview

Even though sixty Birds in Art artists have flown away until next fall’s opening festivities, you still can listen to insights from fourteen artists via audio tour tracks that contain video, too; listen on a Museum iPod or download the Museum’s free app on your smartphone or tablet. Teachers and parents, take advantage of the opportunity to explore themes with your students and children by checking out the Birds in Art 2016 pre-visit materials and the Activity Guide, which both can be found on the Museum website’s education resources page.

Make up your own seek-and-find game to play when you visit with friends and family this fall. Which artworks incorporate the mere suggestion of a bird, perhaps with only a feather, a shadow, or traces left on a sandy shore?

Visit soon and often – always admission free – to see what’s new and what inspires you. As your ideas percolate, I invite you to capture the overflow by sharing them with me via an email message.

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