Don Vander Leest discusses his landscapes with West Racine Art Walk visitors
Art is where you find it. Saturday it was in West Racine, in some unusual places.
Various artists were ensconced in some of the retail stores -- The Red Bell, Nelson's Variety, Commitments, for example. But there also was artistry of a different sort at Larsen Bakery, Gethsemane Lutheran Church and the storefront that used to be Riley's Sweet Shop. All you had to do was join the shoppers wandering from store to store during the West Racine Art Walk to find it.
Here's some of what we saw (and none of it involved the news (or non-news) about the potential gas station / restaurant that may (or may not) locate at the corner of Washington and West Blvd.
Nelson's Variety Store had something different as well: Harold Solberg held forth at the lathe, turning small bowls and explaining his work methods to fascinated onlookers. One interesting tip: When he turns the inside of a bowl, Solberg's lathe rotates in reverse, so he gets a better look at what his turning chisels are accomplishing.
Larsen Bakery had an unadvertised special. Oh, there was a visiting artist in the store -- a jewelry maker alongside the display cases with tasty treats -- but I was more interested in what I glimpsed through their window, in the back room behind the bakery showroom. Working quietly and alone decorating a variety of beautiful cakes, was a young woman wearing a Muslim head scarf. She turned out to be Beth Sharid, 30, who grew up in Kuwait and Iraq, living through invasions by both Saddam Hussein and American troops.
She comes from a family big enough by current standards for an American TV show: eight brothers and four sisters. "Enough kids to take care of me in my old age," her father said. Beth came to Racine 10 years ago (following a brother who came to the U.S. to study engineering in 1995.) Her artistry crosses borders as well: She started drawing as a little girl, and later became a professional seamstress. At Larsen's for 18 months, she makes pastries and desserts -- and decorates special cakes.
Art can be so satisfying!