On the third Saturday of the month, it’s very likely that Sarah Martin of Ephraim and her children — Chase, age eight, and Josie, 10 — will be participating in Family Art Days at the Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek.
“For years we have taken advantage of Family Art Days,” Martin said of the free program that offers a kid-oriented art project for the whole family to enjoy. “It is a great opportunity, especially during the winter months, to get out of the house and do some projects that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to facilitate at home. I’m strictly not a very artistic person, so to have somebody who can set the stage and orchestrate that kind of stuff is great.”
Family Art Days is just one of the many programs that the Peninsula School of Art offers to people of all ages to enrich the artistic interests of residents and visitors alike. And although the cold and snow of winter have settled on the rest of Door County, the school is a hotbed of activity.
Catherine Hoke, executive director of the Peninsula School of Art, said the programming emphasis changes a bit as the weather gets cooler. “We’re a different kind of busy during the winter,” Hoke said. “We run workshop programming May through October, so we’re pretty heavily invested in students from outside of Door County coming in and taking classes. But in the winter it’s more focused locally, including lots more school kids. We serve 3,000 local kids and families in the winter time. It’s a different set of objectives.”
Hoke said the school’s goals in the winter include providing a visual-arts resource for all of Door County and for artists and aspiring artists of all ages.
Those objectives have certainly been met for Martin. In addition to taking her children to events, she has also enrolled them in classes at the school and used its facilities for her Girl Scout troop.
“I like how casual, yet organized Family Art Days are. There is no need to preregister or arrive at a set time. You can come and go as you please. Sometimes we’ve stayed 30 minutes and sometimes two hours,” she said.
Her children are equally enthusiastic, with Chase observing, “I like going to the Family Art Days because they are fun, and sometimes we get to use clay.” His sister, Josie, said, “I like to make the bowls so I can give back to my community,” referring to the popular SOUP fundraiser which, for the past several years, has involved local children in making ceramic bowls or tiles. The bowls were then sold to fill with an abundance of soups, with the profits going to the school and other community ventures.
This year, however, the school is shifting to T-shirts and tote bags to kick off its first annual Winter Print event. “We’ve been doing [the SOUP project] for 12 years, and it was time to do something different,” Hoke said. “We also purchased new screen-printing equipment this year, so that’s also part of it — we’re trying to encourage people to use that equipment.”
To be held on Feb. 2 from 10 am to 2 pm — in conjunction with Fish Creek’s Winter Festival — Winter Print will offer artist-designed screens inspired by the festival printed on T-shirts. Or, visitors to the school can pull their own screens to print T-shirts or hand-color a preprinted T-shirt. Block printing on T-shirts and tote bags will also be available for children. Entrance to the Winter Print event will be $10 per person, which includes one item — a T-shirt or a tote bag — to take home.
Hoke said that the fees the school charges for its programs are intended to be very affordable. She added, “We understand that not everybody can afford fee-based programming, so we try to balance the fee-based programs that we offer with some of these community initiatives that can ensure that everybody knows that we are a place that they can come and participate without boundaries in the visual arts.”
A new adult program that will run through April aims to do just that. On Thursday nights from 5:30 to 8:30 pm, the Peninsula School of Art will offer Open Studios: access to the ceramic, printmaking, painting and metal studios, plus a life-drawing offering with a model. The cost for each evening will be $10 per person, though some programs may require an additional materials fee.
“We’re hoping to engage a local audience, with Open Studios becoming a destination on Thursday nights and where you can come and try different media. If you don’t have studio space at home, you know you can come here and work,” Hoke said. Facilitators will be available in the various media areas to offer their assistance.
Teens are not forgotten either: Teen Workshops will allow 13- to 18-year-olds the chance to spread their creative wings. One Saturday per month from 9 am to 3 pm, teens will be able to work with a variety of artists in a certain medium. “The students have a chance to really connect with other like-minded teens in the area and to work with professional artists and get some mentoring,” Hoke said. The dates and schedule for the program are available on the Peninsula School of Art’s website. Tuition will be $30 per session.
In addition to the planned projects, the school’s gallery also hosts exhibitions, including its first juried member exhibit, running from November through the first week in January and focusing on local artists who have produced creative works at the Peninsula School of Art.
In addition to the work from members, there will be an exhibit of pieces created by the 2019 faculty. “People can get a sense of who is going to be teaching here at the school,” Hoke said.
Beginning on January 18 and running into March, the school will host Midwest Made, an invitational printmaking exhibition featuring artists from around the Midwest.
To kick off Midwest Made, renowned printmaker Miguel Rivera will give a lecture and demonstrate printmaking on Jan. 17 during the Open Studios event. His presentation will be free and open to the public. Another printmaker will provide a kid-friendly demonstration on Jan. 19 at the Family Art Day.
Hoke said that all of the offerings at the Peninsula School of Art fulfill an important role. “We as an organization feel that access to the visual arts is critical to people of all ages — whether that’s the skills they teach young people in terms of problem solving and creative thinking, or whether it’s the outlet for creativity or even just mental health and stress reduction in older people.”