Taking Over Art on The Square this Year

May 9, 2014 

Kathleen Kaiser
Contributing Writer

Art on the Square will celebrate its 13th year of bringing over 100 Fine Art artists to Belleville’s public square May 16th - 18th. Being ranked #1 or #2 in the Nation for the last 5 years has drawn over 900 artists to apply to this coveted show in 2014. This year, many of the artists selected by jury to participate are artistic couples - coupling their creativity, joy, and passion for art, and each other, to fulfill their lives. Three of the artist couples are featured here:

RENEE & JIM ENGEBRETSON - Glass Artists

Enjoying his profession of glass making, both as an instructor and artist for over 45 years, Jim Engebretson has been creating now for almost half a century. He convinced his wife Renee to join him in his passion, as she too has been an artist most of her adult life. For the past 30 years, Renee has brought her painting and print making aesthetic to Jim’s glass blowing creations, and the results are absolutely breathtaking. Forming their exquisite glass is actually a “collaborative effort” from start to finish. Each piece is created by Jim in his “hot shop” Studio where he combines colored glass with layers of clear to form the unique hues in their pieces. Next stop is for Renee to create the artistic dimension of the glass by drawing and etching the design that will be sand blasted by Jim through the glass, forming a one-of-a-kind creation. Once Jim has completed that step, the vessel is often returned to Renee so that she can add more surface elements to the piece in her studio before additional sandblasting is done. Much of the inspiration for their creations comes from their home and studio, which is located at what used to be the largest Fish Hatchery in the Midwest, circa 1900. Much of the hatchery remains in its natural state, as the area is still filled with an abundance of wildlife and water, complete with grasses, reeds and native trout, and they hope that you feel this inspiration in each of their pieces.

GAYLE & GLEN WANS - Photography Artists

After learning graphic design in New York City, Glen moved to Kansas City to start a new job as a naval photographer. While in Kansas City, he met Gayle, but then had to move to Phoenix to take on a new position at a studio there. The Phoenix studio also hired a new stylist, shortly after Glen’s arrival, and surprisingly, it was Gayle! While their personal relationship grew, so did their professional one, so after marrying in Phoenix, Gayle and Glen returned to Kansas City and decided to open their own advertising studio. Their new studio focused on still and food photography and advertising agencies from around the country would hire them for their photography work. Still-life photography seemed to transform every aspect of their lives, as both Gayle and Glen began to focus on the beauty in the ordinary and unnoticed things in nature, and started to photograph them. While out on excursions around their home or traveling around the country, things in nature seemed to intrigue both Gayle and Glen, as they began perfecting the texture transformation and lighting techniques in their studio, transforming their finds, as their career path also transformed from advertising art to fine art photography.

According to Gayle, the photographs they produce are not perfect until you get that “Zen feeling when you look at them. You should feel the sense of nature when viewing - beautiful, tranquil and calming.”

DOUGLAS & RENEE SIGWARTH - Glass Artists

In 1994, Renee began to follow her passion for glassblowing while attending the Anoka Ramsey Community College. She was introduced to the medium by her friend’s brother, a professional glass artist in Minneapolis. She was hooked. Renee moved on to attend the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, renowned for its art program and contemporary studio glass emphasis. It was during this time, she met Douglas Sigwarth, a stage actor from St. Paul, Minnesota with a BA in Theatre from the University of Northern Iowa. As their relationship grew, Douglas became enamored with this mysterious medium as well. He followed Renee’s lead as their passion for glass, and one another, continued to grow. The couple wed in 1996 and chose to honeymoon in Murano, Italy, an island near Venice which is known for some of the world’s most famous glass artists. While at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport, a ticketing agent recognized Douglas’ surname from his passport and told the couple about the Sigwarth Glass Factory in Hergiswil, Switzerland where three members of her family worked. This information came as a huge surprise to the couple who later learned that Douglas was a descendant of this family, who were glassblowers by trade for several generations. Serendipity was at work in both their lives. Renee was the perfect woman to reintroduce glassblowing to this American born Sigwarth. Douglas and Renee have spent the last 20 years together, focusing on building their career in glass and raising their children Eva (16 years old) and Oliver (13 years old). Their children have grown up watching Mom and Dad creating beautiful art pieces outside in the glass studio, and traveling with their parents to summer art festivals throughout the country.

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