TBAC artists decorate tree with own creativity

Ornaments for sale at downtown galley

News Photos by Diane Speer This colorful tree was decorated by artists associated with the Thunder Bay Arts Council Gallery. Many of the ornaments were handcrafted by the artists and being sold at the gallery as a fundraiser.

Many of the artists exhibiting at Thunder Bay Arts Council Gallery consider their latest creative efforts to be a perfect match. They have used their skills in different mediums to make a variety of Christmas ornaments that currently festoon an eight-foot tree located inside the gallery at 127 W. Chisholm.

The ornaments are being sold for a donation, with all proceeds raised going to HeART and Soul, a hands-on art therapy program for people with chronic illnesses.

“Even though we are fine artists, we also like to channel our craftiness and make homemade Christmas ornaments,” said Pat Manning, one of the gallery participants who created whimsical wooden snowmen ornaments for the tree.

The group of artists got together and agreed on HeART and Soul as this year’s recipient of their fundraising proceeds.

“We were deeply touched by the organization,” Manning said. “When we contacted them to tell them we were going to help, they were amazed that someone would think of them at the holidays. We are so excited to help, and they seem like a perfect match.”

Barb Machulis, who volunteers at the gallery, agreed with Manning.

“We like the fact that we can support another group that has to do with art,” Machulis said. “We get to support the arts with art.”

Her husband, Sam Machulis, exhibits his pottery at TBAC Gallery, and he came up with some colorful fall leaves as pottery ornaments that now hang on the Christmas tree.

Besides the wooden snowmen and pottery leaves, the ornaments include painted glass bulbs, stitched ornaments, small woven baskets, stained glass pieces and many other creative offerings.

This is the second year in a row the artists made and sold ornaments as a fundraiser, although last year they got a late start on the project.

Machulis said the inventory of ornaments will be constantly changing because as items sell the artists will replace them with new ornaments.

“It will be ever changing,” she said, adding that when artist Midge Connon brought in a supply of handwoven miniature baskets to hang on the tree, most of them were snapped up almost immediately.

According to Manning, the more ornaments that sell, the more inspired the artists become.

“As ornaments sell, it makes the artists excited and they start creating more,” Manning said. “The tree will be ever evolving.”

Starting out, the handcrafted tree ornaments were supplemented with orange decorations for fall and bulbs in the same color of blue used in TBAC’s signature logo.

This isn’t the only project that artists at the gallery have collaborated on with others in mind. Two years ago, they made an assortment of different miniature owls and hung them on a “tree” made from a branch. The tree was then presented to their downtown neighbors, The Owl Cafe, upon that restaurant’s grand reopening after a fire had forced its closure. Over time, the owls also have been replenished.

“Everyone liked doing the owls so much, they said let’s do a Christmas tree with our homemade ornaments and choose a charity to donate the proceeds to,” Manning said.

Last year the group got a bit of a late start but still managed to sell many ornaments and present a sizable donation to last year’s chosen recipient, the Foster Closet. This year, they decided to start sooner on the Christmas tree, and so far their plan has paid off as ornaments are selling at a good pace.

Besides helping out another nonprofit group in the community with their art, the group of artists also see the Christmas tree project as a way to invite people into the gallery who may never have visited before.

“It’s a neat way for people who have never been to the gallery before to get great ornaments and look around and see our jewelry, scarves, photographs, painting and pottery,” Manning said.

The hope is that the tree will be “undecorated” by Christmas.

“We hope all the ornaments have found a new home,” Manning said. “Stop in and see the tree as people take ornaments off and people put new ornaments on. We as artists tend to be ever evolving. Right up until right before Christmas we will be replenishing the tree as we come up with new and different ideas.”

For more information, contact the TBAC Gallery at 356-6678.