Bead Town artist unveils plans for works inspired by local landmarks - February 17, 2014

Courtesy of NWI Times

CROWN POINT | The Methodist Hospitals Foundation did not let a little snow get in the way of the unveiling of a new, regional community art project.

Foundation and city officials joined New Orleans-based artist Stephan Wanger in unveiling three canvases that will become part of a traveling exhibit to be known as Bead Town Northwest Indiana.

The canvases will spend the next few weeks in the former Crown Point library and at the Marshall Gardner Arts Center in Gary’s Miller section. Members of the community, with help from Wanger, will turn the canvases into beaded mosaics depicting images from Crown Point, Gary and Valparaiso.

Wanger, who moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, is known for creating the more than 70 mosaics in Louisiana known as Bead Town. Created with Mardi Gras beads, and with the help of more than 10,000 volunteers, the mosaics showcase iconic images of Louisiana and New Orleans.

Now, with the help of local volunteers, Wanger will begin work on mosaic images that will showcase the region: the Old Lake County Courthouse, Orville Redenbacher and the dunes in Gary’s Miller Beach area.

Wanger sketched and painted the outline for each image on canvas, and beads of various colors will be glued in place to create the mosaic. Wanger also intends to incorporate popcorn into the Orville Redenbacher image, he said.

“We’re excited about the impact and storyline you’re going to (create) in Northwest Indiana,” Crown Point Mayor David Uran said before adhering the first beads to the courthouse image with Wanger’s help.

Wanger will be hosting workshops beginning Tuesday in Crown Point and Gary. Any interested volunteer will be able to help him begin to create the mosaics.

Wanger’s original vision for Bead Town in Louisiana came to him while working on crews helping to rebuild the city after the hurricane, he said. Seeing so many Mardi Gras beads that would otherwise have ended up in landfills, Wanger decided to combine his interest in recycling with his art. He used beads to create the mosaics that became known as Bead Town.

“We got to protect planet Earth while promoting the places that we go to,” he said.

The Northwest Indiana mosaics eventually will become part of a traveling exhibit he will take to other cities and communities.

Currently, there are 30 pieces in the exhibit, including the New Orleans riverfront and images of Mardi Gras.

The new mosaics will be works of art that also promote the region as they travel the country, said Robert Hanrahan, executive director of the Methodist Hospitals Foundation.

The Marshall Gardner Arts Center and the former Crown Point Library building will be open to members of the community who wish to participate in the project beginning Tuesday. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.