When a group called “We-R-Artists” meets each month, its disabled members do not discuss their disabilities; they discuss art and art only.
Organized in 2007, We-R-Artists is a central Minnesota network for artists who happen to have disabilities of one sort or another. There are about 32 artists in the group, ranging from ages 15 all the way up to 80-plus. One woman in her 80s, Alice Cowley of Becker, is a poet and a writer of inspirational letters-to-editor. Other members’ specialties include acrylics, oils, graphic art, fiber art, drawing and writing.
Sharon Pfau of Sartell is one of the group’s coordinators, along with Stacey O’Connell of St. Cloud.
The members of We-R-Artists have exhibited, as a group and as individuals, in a variety of places, including Whitney Center in St. Cloud, the Gathering of the Arts place at St. Francis Xavier Church in Sartell and during the “Art Crawl” events in St. Cloud. During the next Art Crawl, Aug. 17-18, their works will be shown from 5-9 p.m. at Jeff’s Studio in downtown St. Cloud.
Pfau, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was a founding member of We-R-Artists. She knows first-hand very well how art is one of the best therapies in the world. With degrees in art and gerontology from St. Cloud State University, Pfau has worked as an art therapist with people in the Good Shepherd Home in Sauk Rapids and at the St. Benedict Center in East St. Cloud. She also still works in art and other activities with some of the visitors with multiple sclerosis who come to “Opportunity Matters” in Sartell.
“Art can bring about self-esteem,” Pfau said. “It’s great when someone likes your work. And what’s nice is anyone can do art, either alone or with a group. It’s fun to learn from other artists in our group. At each meeting we share a piece of art we are working on. Art is not only fun to do, but it creates a sense of self-worth. Opening your imagination can relieve stress. I even dream art when I sleep. Dreams can resolve issues I have with a painting I’m working on, and I also get ideas for art works in my dreams.”
Pfau creates acrylic paintings, she enjoys a variety of crafts and she loves doing a Polish paper-cutting technique called “Wycinanki.” It involves folding black paper, cutting shapes into the paper, then unfolding the paper to reveal birds and other nature shapes. The paper is then placed over another paper and bits of colored paper are put between the sheets to cause radiant colors to show through the holes.
Raised as Sharon Bednar in Genola (near Pierz), Bednar almost always had a pencil in one hand, paper in another. She learned her love of art from her grandmother.
“She was a farm wife, but she was also an artist – except that no one even knew it,” Pfau recalled. “So when we were alone together, we would sit down and draw. My grandmother even drew her own patterns for her embroidery projects.”
A love and talent for art is apparently hereditary in Sharon’s family. Her daughter, Jodi Campbell, is a painter who also loves doing knitting work. Some years ago, the Sartell Newsleader published a story about Campbell and how she needed more yarn for her charitable knitting work. To her amazement, she received a virtual “roomful” of yarn from dozens of Sartell residents and from places as far away as Minneapolis, Foley and even Georgia. Campbell’s son, Roland, 15, is also a painter. All three have had their works exhibited numerous times.
If anyone wants to join the We-R-Artists group, call Pfau at 320-230-9412. Also, if anyone has any art supplies to donate, call that same number.