Harvest Fest entertainer shares story of life in world of art

Visitors to the three weekends of Harvest Fest are sure to enjoy new experiences, but can also find plenty of familiar faces. This year’s three weekends of festivities include the Make-it and Take-it Scarecrow event at the Rockford Historical Museum all three weekends, September 25 and 26, October 2 and 3 and October 9 and 10 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Frenz Coffeehouse owner Rich Zeck poses with a caricature of himself created by Louise Bauer. Bauer annually sets up a booth during the three weekends of Harvest Fest, where she can be seen plying her trade in front of the Welcome Center by Great Northern Trading Company.

The Rotary chicken BBQ dinner sale is a favorite that began in 1983 and takes place at the Rotary Pavilion on the corner of Squires and Courtland streets (see related article, page 1) and features drive-up curbside service. Dinners are $9.

Also a returning favorite is caricature artist Louise Bauer, who has been coming to Harvest Fest for over a decade, entertaining audiences as she sketches in front of the Welcome Center near Great Northern Trading Company.

Bauer said her quiet personality may lead people to believe she isn’t a funny person, but humor, as well as art, has always been important to her—one of her lectures she offers is on the healing power of humor. She is known at Harvest Fest for the quick caricatures she sketches, but considers herself a fine artist and has a portfolio packed with drawings of people, pets and nature and a history of illustrating books for publishing companies.

“I always wanted to be an artist,” Bauer said of her background, and noted that as a little girl she was always drawing. Art, like music, can be a tough career choice, with many more people aspiring to make a living from their passions than jobs are available, but Bauer is an example of success in her field. She studied art at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and returned to Michigan, where she went to school at Kendall College of Art and Design and earned her BFA. Her advice to others, who would like to make a living as an artist, is to “keep knocking on doors and making phone calls” in pursuit of a job.

“If you make a lot of phone calls, eventually something comes through,” she advised.

Bauer always dreamed of working for Disney and started with a job at an animation company, making movies of Bible stories. There she painted cells. She worked with an artist who had worked for Disney, a man who was responsible for the squirrel in Snow White. Bauer discovered her dream of Disney animation was doomed—Walt Disney didn’t believe in hiring women animators.

“That’s the way it was back then—discrimination,” Bauer stated. “It still exists today, but it’s nothing like it was back then.”

Bauer met some interesting people as she worked her way through the world of art. She made film strips with Albert Baez, father of famous singer Joan Baez. With Baez she collaborated on a film called “Radio Isotopes” for an animated movie company associated with Encyclopedia Britannica. When the company went belly up, she found herself looking for new employment and was forced to take secretarial work.

“That was just not what I was cut out to be. For better or worse, I’m an artist,” Bauer said.

Determined to support herself through her art, Bauer nonetheless has refused jobs. She respectfully declines to do inappropriate poses and turned down a man who wanted her to draw Jesus Christ in a Nazi uniform, because she couldn’t visualize it. She will draw pet portraits, human portraits, family collages and group drawings. She drew Grand Rapids judges for an assistant prosecutor who wanted a memento, and is talented in political portraiture. Day-to-day work includes hiring out for all-night after-graduation parties, where she entertains partygoers with her drawings, and corporate events. Her work can be seen locally at Frenz Coffeehouse, where a caricature of owner Rich Zeck hangs. She is also hired by publishing companies to illustrate manuscripts.

“It’s wild,” she said of her schedule. “You never know when you are going to get a phone call.”

Bauer will be at her “usual” spot for the three weekends of Harvest Fest from 1 to 5 p.m. in front of the Welcome Center Saturdays and Sundays with the exception of Sunday, October 3, due to a birthday party. Visitors who are returning to Harvest Fest may have had the chance to watch her work or have bought a caricature for as little as $8 for a black and white. New festival visitors are invited to stop by her booth and say hi and watch Bauer as she works her magic of humor and art coming together in a one-of-a-kind piece of art. To ask about prices or to inquire about a fine art drawing or a caricature, Bauer can be reached at (616) 363-0341.

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