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GLAA fosters art appreciation in Lake Geneva

GLAA instructor Ken Cottingham works with Nancy Mancuso on her oil painting.


ABOUT THE GLAA - The Geneva Lake Art Association's mission is to promote a community appreciation of the fine arts through member exhibits, monthly guest speakers and demonstrations, art classes and workshops. Membership is open to anyone 18 and older interested in the arts. GLAA sponsors Art in the Park, an annual juried fine arts show the second week in August; the Paint-In, an outdoor event demonstrating art on Lake Geneva's downtown streets; and four member artist exhibits and student shows each year. Located in the North Shore Pavilion, 647 Main St., Lake Geneva, the GLAA features an art gallery of members' work and an art school. The gallery is open to the public Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Summer hours include Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m. To contact the GLAA, log onto the website www.genevalakeart.org.
March 21, 2012 | 08:30 AM
This is the third in a continuing series about local organizations in the area. The Regional News already has highlighted the Lake Geneva Rotary Club and the Geneva Lake Women's Association.

Mary Abbott stood as she carefully used a thin brush to stroke some dark oil paint onto her canvas work colorfully depicting a bear standing in a wild, rocky river. For Abbott, what started out as a hobby about four years ago has now become a labor of love and also has resulted in a number of awards and accolades for her painting talents.

But Abbott is a relatively typical member of the Geneva Lake Art Association, a local group more than 100 members strong, that focuses on promoting an appreciation of the arts. The GLAA annually organizes and runs Art in the Park and the Paint-In. It also has a gallery in the North Shore Pavilion at 657 W. Main St., that displays members' works and is open to the public on weekends and for other special events.

"We have been around since 1947 and are a support group for anyone interested in the arts," GLAA president Jeanne Dyer said. "We work toward combining our monthly meetings with demonstrations. We have watercolor artists and photographers speak and talk about technique or a topic. We also have had people from the Milwaukee Art Museum talk about their plans and the opportunities for members to exhibit there."

Among the highlights and most known of the GLAA activities are the classes, which include oil painting, watercolors, botanical painting, photography and jewelry making.

"The classes are integral part of what we do," Dyer said. "We have very talented teachers in our area who are also well-known artists."

Longtime GLAA teacher Lynne Railsback, who lives in Williams Bay, led the organization's Art in the Park events for several years. She is a specialist in botanical painting and leads a watercolor class on Fridays in which that is the focus.

Railsback said when she retired, she wanted to paint.

"I paint things I like," she said. "So, that is how it started with the botanical. It is just so much fun."

She sees the positives of the GLAA and its limitations.

"What I think is good about the group is it gives anybody the chance to exhibit their artwork," Railsback said. "The artists get exposure, there are classes and workshops at the meetings when people come in and demonstrate. The Art in the Park also is really important as it brings art to Lake Geneva."

Fellow teacher Ken Cottingham, who has been with the GLAA for 10 years said he thinks the organization is special because people of all talent and experience levels can attend classes and enjoy art. Cottingham teaches an ongoing oil painting class on Monday nights at the gallery.

Cottingham was an art teacher and coordinator in the New Berlin, West Allis and Greenfield schools and was at one time in charge of 29 teachers.

"I like to see people develop in their painting and achieve what they would like to achieve," Cottingham said about teaching the GLAA students as he pointed out three in the oil painting class who had never painted before. "Everybody is different. There are always classes for someone."

The classes and Art in the Park are not all the GLAA wants to be known for.

The group, which is generally made up of people older than 55 because they have the time to express themselves and work on their art, also would like to be more visible in the community. Dyer, who joined the group in 2006, said past president Carol Smith worked on that during her tenure and the effort is to continue.

"Over the last couple of years, she was working toward getting us known through the community through interacting with the retail stores that sell art," Dyer said of Smith. "She was active in trying to get more art walks downtown. Our goal this year is to continue the work she started."

Among the efforts include working with the Friends of the Geneva Theater. The GLAA is supportive of that group's efforts to save the downtown theater and create a cultural arts center.

"If and when they get the building, they will have an area with a multipurpose room that will have a spot for a gallery," Dyer said. "We would work with them to display our members' works. We want to broaden our reach with our members."

In the meantime, the GLAA leadership also is looking to find a more visible location downtown.

"There are people who look for our gallery and can't find it," Dyer said.

Railsback said she believes it also would be a benefit to have a more visible space for the GLAA members.

"The quality of the work in here is amazing," she said. "There are quite a few really good artists here and that wasn't the way it was in 2003. The space here currently works well for classes, but it would be nice to be more visible."

The GLAA still has come a long way in the past few years and the leaders and members have some lofty goals for the future.

Those goals revolve around creating an art gallery.

"We are of a different mindset, some of us, but there would be a possibility to create a gallery where artists would rent space in a gallery, which doesn't happen now," Dyer said. "What we would do is if we move into a larger space, to help pay to support it, we would charge artists for floor or wall space. We are looking into that as we are looking at different locations. A lot of things change in downtown Lake Geneva and sometimes all you have to be is patient."

She said the GLAA appears to be slowly changing from what may have been a more social organization to one in which members want to sell their works.

"Change is evolutionary," Dyer said. "Maybe at that time, the organization was meant to be a place to get together and share artworks and concepts. Today it has become more than that. People want to not only do art as a hobby, they want to sell their art. We are looking to help them achieve that. We want to be able to offer them a place to exhibit their art and motivate them with their sales."

Dyer said she would like to see more younger people in the group and just be more known around the community as the organization that puts on such activities like Art in the Park and the Paint-In among others.

"We are encouraged to keep membership about the same, but would love to be able to grow it and have younger people," Dyer said. "The more young people you have, the more activity and energy you get. A lot of people who have been here a long time would prefer it to stay a social group. There are others who would like to sell their artwork. We are trying to help all of them achieve their goals.


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