Rural arts and Culture Program
1999 Governor's Arts Award winner Mary Wright focuses on community through her art projects. Mary's ability to achieve widespread community participation in creative cultural projects is wonderful and amazing! A native of L'Anse, Mary now lives and works in Marquette. She is a member of our Rural Arts & Culture Program advisory group.

The Ancestor's Clothesline Project
Mary (Biekkola) Wright is currently working with youth and community groups to celebrate Finnish heritage through "The Ancestor's Clothesline" celebrating heritage through the common experience of the clothesline. We all are familiar with a clothesline and know that it represents real people and families. Photos of Finnish Americans' ancestors transferred onto pillowcasesized fabric and embellished with needle and creative work are displayed in community settings on a simple clothesline. Mary works with a variety of community groups in workshops -"Ancestor's Art 101" - explaining the project, teaching photo-transfer techniques, and encouraging exploration as "artists" create their unique celebration of family heritage. Sometimes old linens are used as the foundation for the presentation instead of new fabric. These pieces might include crochet, lace, or tatting actually handmade by a great grandmother or aunt. Mary wants to make sure "that our third and fourth generations of Finns continue to appreciate and be aware of their heritage." She sees opportunities for this project to be used by anyone as a way to rediscover and celebrate their heritage.

Child with ChairPoles
"Family Trees" Nearly 500 hand crafted family trees' were produced by individuals, families, school and community groups, and businesses to honor their own family heritage in the Marquette area. The 'trees' lined the bike path in Marquette's Mattson Lower Harbor Park on the shores of Lake Superior last summer as a part of the Sesquicentennial Celebration. [D picture - old guy making post] The Mead Paper Company donated the cedar poles and the community rallied to create nearly 500 individual stories of family and community history - for all to see. Trees were carved and painted and collaged. Presentations ranged from simple words to elaborate creations. Each was a unique story; altogether they took your breath away!

Chairs Finn Fest - Chairs Project In 1996 Mary inspired a flurry of activity as Baraga County residents joined together to provide a unique kind of public seating for Marquette's annual Finn Fest. Area residents donated AND PAINTED chairs, benches and seating of all kind. These public rest stops were placed throughout the community providing a colorful reminder of the Finnish heritage and a practical rest stop! All the chairs were painted in Finnish colors - blue and white.

Through her work Mary inspires widespread involvement in the production of individual creative works which when displayed together demonstrates the very essence of community. For more information contact Mary Wright, 122 E. Hewitt, Marquette, MI 49855.