Osakis native lends artistic talents to portal projectOsakis native Claire Witt recently came home to share her artistic talents and help local students leave a legacy. Witt is an Osakis High School graduate and has made a career as an artist. Now, she’s taking part in a 10-day artist in residence program.
By: Amy Chaffins, Alexandria Echo Press
Osakis native Claire Witt recently came home to share her artistic talents and help local students leave a legacy.
Witt is an Osakis High School graduate and has made a career as an artist. Now, she’s taking part in a 10-day artist in residence program that provides an opportunity for students to learn from her as they create clay tiles.
Students will make one tile to take home and one to be used in a large mosaic installation at the interior entryway on the south side of Osakis Public School.
In all, there will be about 120 participants of various ages and abilities, including adult potters, taking part in the tile project.
Grants are funding the program, including $2,940 from Lakes Region Arts Council and $2,000 from the school district’s Friendly Youth Integration diversity program.
CREATING A MOSAIC PORTAL
The collaborative efforts of Witt, students and the community will come together to create a mosaic portal for all to pass through at the school. For Witt, there’s a lot of symbolism in the portal piece, particularly for the senior students.
“I think we all have various portal experiences in our lives. These seniors are entering a portal of change; they’ve been in their parents’ homes and now they’re going out into the greater world. Some of the symbology in this portal has to do with that transition,” she said.
Other public mosaic projects Witt has worked on include vividly colored mosaics of handmade and recycled ceramic tile, mirror and glass used to compose childlike whimsical scenes of birds and animals at play and imaginary plants in joyful settings.
She helped create “El Porto de los Milagros: The Doorway into Hope” at Foley Elementary School, “Harmony Park: Project for Reducing Rural Violence” in Long Prairie, “Kindness Archway” at Discovery Elementary School in Waite Park and more.
Volunteers are needed to help assemble the final mosaic portal in April. Witt will provide the training. To volunteer, contact art teacher Gretchen Resley at (320) 859-2193.
PUBLIC MADE, PUBLIC ART
“It’s really about public property and that everybody is responsible, everybody participates and everybody enjoys,” Witt said.
The public-made, public-art concept is central to Witt’s artistic style and focus.
She created “The Blue Sky Project,” the public-made, public-art that promotes community health and ethics.
Witt said the mosaic portal in Osakis will be a piece of public art that will be a permanent part of the school for decades.
“It will literally be made by 120 people who live here,” she said. “When they’re grandparents, they can come back and tell the story of how they participated. It’s an experience that they made something that will be in their town for 50 years. With that act, they’ve left something permanent behind and they’ve helped beautify their town.
MORE ABOUT WITT
Witt grew up in Syracuse, Nebraska, graduated from Osakis High School and from the University of Nebraska with a visual arts degree, specializing in sculpture.
Working with the Minnesota Department of Education’s Rural Minnesota Art Expansion Program, she wrote one of the first multi-disciplinary projects in the state, Landscape Tradition: Drawings in the Dirt, which used art to teach local history and ecology. She implemented the program as an artist-in-residence in 23 rural Minnesota schools and in Novosibirsk, Siberia.
Witt studied religious folk art and portrait painting in Vera Cruz, Mexico, traveled to Barcelona, Spain to study the work of master architect Antonia Gaudi and to Cape Town, South Africa to visit anti-apartheid memorial sites. She also worked in Ravenna, Italy, studying traditional mosaics from the fourth century.
After September 11, 2001, she created “The Blue Sky Project.” Her first project, “El Portal de los Milagros: Doorway into Hope,” helped children talk about loss/resolution.
Currently, Witt and her sons, Larry and Karl Brink, are working on a community-based project called “Sweetspot Bike Racks” in St. Cloud, making bike racks from cast-off bikes.