Photo by Lindsey Van Roy

Reprinted with permission from the Post-Crescent
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

At play
Artist puts her painting to work for kids

By Kara Patterson
Post-Crescent staff writer

Artist Michelle Richeson says her paintings are a reflection of the paths she has walked.

While on a visit to North Bay, Ontario, Canada, in 2002, Richeson of the Town of Clayton took the locals' advice and visited one of North Bay's main attractions, a carousel that community artists and craftsmen had contributed to creating.

Several years later, looking back through her travel photos, Richeson painted a view of the carousel in oil on canvas, a work that now is on display at the Richeson School of Art & Gallery in Kimberly. Eventually, she decided the piece needed to be more accessible for children and their families, both in Wisconsin and out of state.

“The piece screams to be put someplace for children,” said Richeson, 46. “That was easy for me to decide. To see something built that was so beautiful and so functional for the (North Bay) community, I said, I am more than willing to give the image away to help other people and to share what this community itself started.”

Richeson will donate a 70" x 56", signed canvas giclee (print) or wall paper image of her original 84" x 68" painting “North Bay Carousel” for every print or image an individual, company or group purchases. Richeson will work with the purchaser to place the donated artwork at a site that serves youth and families, including hospitals, clinics, nonprofits and other health/human services facilities.

Her idea to contribute art to children's facilities stems from her own childhood realization that art can be a calming influence in health care settings. She experienced two operations before she was 7 years old and short stays in hospitals throughout her youth to monitor related health concerns.

“People brought me coloring books and pencils and design books, which is pretty much what I did to keep my mind off being alone and the pain,” she said. “If you have something creative to fall back on, it's like reading a book almost, you forget that you are in pain or that you are alone all day long in a hospital room.”

“North Bay Carousel” was a crowd favorite with visitors on school trips when it hung in the center's “Art Zoo” exhibition in 2007, Appleton Art Center executive directory Timothy Riley said.

“The kids would stand in front of it and ask questions. For instance, 'Is this horse moving or is it still?'” Riley said. “What Michelle does better than anyone I have seen in the region is play with light. It almost appears as if there is movement. We talked about why that is. Not all paintings evoke that kind of response, but that painting is a natural teaching tool.”

One of two donated works Richeson has placed so far is visible from the elevator for people entering the lobby of an Affinity Health System pediatric rehabilitation clinic at 1550 Midway Place, Menasha. At the clinic, children and some adults receive physical, occupational and speech therapy. The other donated artwork is at UW-Milwaukee Children's Center.

“It's great to see the children respond,” said Janine Boldra, rehabilitation manager at the Midway Place clinic. “This is kind of a fun, interactive painting for them so they start expressing themselves even more so and talking. That's good because one of our therapies is to get them to talk and express. We also see adult patients here for physical therapy, and they like it.”

Vern and Debbie Sumnicht of Appleton own the companion to the art that hangs in the Midway Place clinic. Vern Sumnicht said he first laid eyes on the piece at Art in the Park, an annual Appleton Art Center event.

“We have a house in Arizona and had been looking for something big and colorful,” he said.

The artwork hangs in their second home, across from a mirror about the same size that reflects it. The couple decided to place the donated art at the Midway Place clinic to brighten up the space where a family friend works and where their two children have received services.

How to participate

Town of Clayton artist Michelle Richeson will donate a 70" x 56", signed canvas giclee (print) or wall paper image of her original 84" x 68" painting “North Bay Carousel” for every print or image an individual, company or group purchases. Richeson will work with the purchaser to place the donated artwork at a site that serves youth and families, including hospitals, clinics, nonprofits and other health/human services facilities.

Richeson also provides the prints for use at fundraising auctions. Richeson asks that the first $2,000 of the selling price cover the cost of the print, stretcher bars, engraved plates and shipping. Funds raised beyond that amount go to the organization that's raising the funds. (The original oil painting is priced at $50,000.) In addition, every time a print sells at auction, Richeson will donate a print to the fundraising organization.

Return to Fundraising Page.