Superior’s artistic flairMembers of the Wisconsin Arts Board got a taste of Superior’s artistic flair Saturday before holding its quarterly meeting. They stopped along Tower Avenue to sample both Phantom Galleries Superior, which turns empty storefronts into art displays, and Back Door Project murals brightening the alley access to a number of businesses.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Members of the Wisconsin Arts Board got a taste of Superior’s artistic flair Saturday before holding its quarterly meeting. They stopped along Tower Avenue to sample both Phantom Galleries Superior, which turns empty storefronts into art displays, and Back Door Project murals brightening the alley access to a number of businesses.
“It was extraordinary,” said George Tzougros, the board’s executive director. “We are very proud of both the Back Door Project and Phantom Galleries.”
But they didn’t see just a series of static displays. Chalk drawings from Jeredt Runions brightened their path. Quilter Angela Haworth worked outside and, once the rain started, inside the gallery at 1112 Tower Ave., Runions painted outdoors, as well. To round out the performance art, singer Adam Sippola “blew us away,” Tzougros said. The young singer used a looping machine to turn his solo voice into a choir.
“It was extraordinary to see random acts of art along the way,” Tzougros said. “It was a wonderful way to showcase how arts can transform things.”
It was an honor to have the board stop by Superior, said Erika Mock, director of Phantom Galleries Superior.
“We’ve been fortunate in the last couple years to receive Creative Community Grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board” she said, for both the galleries and murals. Saturday, board members got to see its funds at work.
Phantom Galleries Superior transforms vacant storefronts into art exhibits at four sites — 1302, 1412, 1112 and 1215 Tower Avenue.
“We had an incredible year,” Mock said. “I never thought that I would see people walking down Tower Avenue and having art experiences at what are vacant storefronts.”
“Phantom galleries make the space look alive again,” Tzougros said, and people are more interested in renting.
With construction work slated for Tower Avenue in 2013, gallery organizers are working on a plan. It may include relocating for a year.
“We are phantom galleries, so we do show up and we disappear,” Mock said. The group also plans to stage a trio of student art galleries this spring, entitled “Seeding the Next Generation.”
There are a number of phantom gallery projects throughout the state, Tzougros said, but the Back Door Project is unique in Wisconsin. It provides beautification and a sense of place, he said, bringing something positive in advance of upcoming Tower Avenue reconstruction work.
“Ultimately the back door goal is to provide a way for people to be guided that’s more beautiful than street signs,” Mock said.
The galleries, back doors and other art initiatives in Superior show that great ideas are not just found in big cities, Tzougros said. He also applauded the partnership between the BID, Superior Public Art Creating Community Environments (SPAC2ES) and the Superior Council for the Arts in launching these initiatives.
“Business leaders understand the value of collaborating with the arts,” Tzougros said. “That’s not found everywhere you go.”
And it was one of the draws the area held for the board.
“The WAB, with its foci on the creative economy and economic development, is particularly interested in evolving and successful collaborations between business and art,” said Jerry Hembd, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and a current member of the board. “Superior provides some solid examples in this area.”
Art does more than beautify. It improves communities. Wisconsin’s nonprofit arts industry generates 15,103 full time jobs and $61 million in state and local government revenue, according to a recent economic impact study. The nonprofit arts industry generates $418 million in economic activity statewide.
“Arts power is multi-faceted,” Tzougros said. It not only provides a quality of place, but jobs.
And the move toward public art is growing in Superior. Recently, an East End dentist commissioned a mural on his building.
“Keep watching,” Mock said. “The arts are very vibrant. We hope to go beyond visual art, go to performance, expand on what we’ve got.”
For information on the Wisconsin Arts Board, go to http://artsboard.wisconsin.gov. For information on Phantom Galleries Superior or the Back Door Project, contact Mock at (715) 392-1150 or email@example.com. Back Door Project murals can be found behind 816, 1112, 1114, 1118, 1201, 1210 and 1315 Tower Avenue.