Artists to Watch 2018

Local artists and art authorities share their picks of creators to keep an eye on this year

Linda Muldoon 

owner, Coventry Glassworks & Gallery

Recommendation: Mark Ferrell,

P ARTS Mark Ferrell Yacth Club

Appleton Yacht Club by Mark Ferrell

“Mark is a photographer and a mentor to young artists and photographers. His life experiences, compassionate energy and intelligence make him an artist to watch. Mark is a man of many talents and in 1972 was set to be a US Olympic track athlete. A major knee injury changed his direction and he turned to multimedia and photography. He is still interested in saving the skills of film and the darkroom. Currently his work in the Valley may seem familiar, for many have shot the same scenes of the river, for example, yet Mark does not have to prove how different he is. And so, as Mark has said ‘Going around a few blocks in life, … I am at home to the lens – portraying passion’ (and patience).”

Paula Vandehey

director of public works, City of Appleton

Recommendation: Sarah Burg,


Sarah Burg. Image credit: Violet Lace Photography

“I am selecting someone from [the Sidewalk Poetry Program]. Her name is Sarah Burg. She wrote a poem that was selected in the 2017 Sidewalk Poetry Program. I found Sarah’s poem striking (as did those on the selection committee) because it was such a heart-felt creation that portrayed a great amount of human strength.”

Ryan Romenesko 

executive director, Refuge Foundation for the Arts

Recommendation: Justus Poehls,

P ARTS Colby ii

colby by Justus Poehls

“Justus Poehls is a true master of photography and is more dedicated to his craft than anyone I’ve ever come across. Not only does he still shoot primarily with film, he has also built several Civil War-era cameras – including a camera he built with the lens from a WWI German Zeppelin spy camera – to capture tintype portraits. Watching him prep for and complete a tintype is an art form all on its own. I believe Justus is deserving of recognition not only for his talent, but for his determination to always improve, and for his ability to capture emotion – whether it’s his or the emotion of the subject – in both photos and portraits in ways I have never seen. He is an absolute treasure to have in the Fox Cities.”

Mary Jo Weidert 

owner, Wild Apple Gallery

Recommendation: Cori Bartz,

Cori Bartz3

By Cori Bartz

“I’m recommending Cori Bartz. There’s nothing out there like her work. I saw one of her pieces at a show last year. I was going to just buy a print, but I ended up buying the original painting. I hung it in my entry gallery at home. It gave the wall a little bit of fun and texture. Her work is whimsical and the subject matter has to do with the times. She gets into some controversial topics too for causes. Anybody who likes whimsical art will love her stuff. She has a softest about her style. The texture is very soft and fuzzy, even with some of the harsh subjects like an arrow shot through a bird. It says a lot. It’s kind of deep. She’s good at tugging on people’s emotions. Her work is very well done, well presented and very professional. She very modest about her awesomeness and I like artists who don’t have a huge ego.”

Jean Detjen

executive director, Northeast Wisconsin Arts Association

Recommendation: Leif Larson,

P ARTS Larson Fire At The Wonka Factory

Fire At The Wonka Factory by Leif Larson

“I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to work with Leif Larson for several pop-up art exhibitions in the Fox Cities region. His paintings, drawings, murals, and live performances continually surprise and delight with their fresh wit and keen observation about humanity. While Leif’s art can be serious and often surreal, there is a sense of joie d’vivre that is undeniable about Leif’s work. Seeing Leif paint live (which he loves to do!) is a special treat. I highly encourage people to make a point to see this engaging artist in action, feeding off the energy of a crowd and space. He’s a kind and compassionate soul who freely shares his vulnerability and diverse talents with authenticity, generosity, and approachability.”

Chad Brady

muralist, printmaker and public art advocate  

Recommendation: Ally Wilber,

Ally Wilber

Capricious by Ally Wilber

“Ally Wilber is my pick for a local artist to watch. She recently moved into a studio at The Refuge and has been amazing me with her recent work, and she also curated a show of Refuge visual artists’ work which was a hit at a local fundraising event. Personally, I am first attracted to her work due to its strong nature subject matter. Her renderings are excellent, which I don’t seem to see a lot lately, but she is not content to just draw, she mixes media and 3D elements and lately has been using smoke and soot as a medium in her works. Also crystallization, science as art. She is a force to be reckoned with.”

Kate Mothes

founder, Young Space; curator, UW-Green Bay Lawton Gallery

Recommendation: Mariana Russell,

Mariana Russell1

By Mariana Russell

“I first met Mariana when she exhibited a couple of small abstract paintings at my very first pop-up art show in Appleton in spring 2015. It’s funny how sometimes those seemingly random connections can grow into other really exciting projects, and Mariana was an integral part of Articulture, an experimental “community-supported arts” project spearheaded by a small group of downtown arts enthusiasts. I’m not sure if she would describe herself as an organizer, but she exemplifies the collaborative spirit. In her studio practice and other projects, she has a fundamental understanding of artistic success being not a only personal one, but one that takes into account the power of genuine connection with others and how helping others succeed helps one also succeed.”

John Arzberger

gallery manager, The Hang Up Gallery of Fine Art

Recommendation: Deborah Malcolm,

Deborah Malcolm2

By Deborah Malcolm

“I think Deborah has a unique talent for color and design. She is adept at creating vivid and sophisticated images with her dot painting technique, focusing on animal imagery and landscapes. Deborah is new to The Hang Up and relatively new to the fine art game. I’m excited to see her development as she progresses with her work.”

John Adams

curator, Feather and Bone Gallery at The Draw

Recommendation: Jacob Royer, @street_troll on Instagram

Jacob Royer3

My Flying Hat by Jacob Royer

“[Jacob is] one of my favorite artists. He creates really vibrant, dark and meaningful images, sketches using primarily makers and ink. I first came across his work on Instagram, started following, then stared seeing it in person while he was sketching at The Draw. For me, I usually hate color, but somehow Jacob makes is make sense to me. It’s not overworked. It feels so organic, a bit messy and yet perfectly placed. He tends to have a darker subject matter, and that is what makes me like it.”

Kim Pigeon-Metzner

owner, KPM Arts Consulting

Recommendation: Shanna Koltz,


Letting Go by Shanna Koltz

“[Shanna] is a fine art photographer and a storyteller. She also does portrait photography, but her fine art photography is really edgy and thought-provoking. Her work has some dark subject matter, for example, suicide or societal pressures on women. It’s really intriguing to see how she’s incorporating these ideas into photography. She creates her own set designs and stories with her characters. That whole genre of photography is growing and Shanna does it really well. The lighting really creates a drama in her artwork that’s interesting to me. She’s so full of ideas and excitement and enthusiasm for what she does, you can’t help but he enthralled by what she’s doing.”

Meet the artists!

See work by our 2018 Artists to Watch on display at The Draw from January 19 – February 18. Meet the creators at the opening reception on Friday, January 19 from 6;30-9 p.m. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar will be available. The Draw is located at 800 S Lawe Street in Appleton. Parking is available across the bridge in the south parking lot.


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