February 2011: Ice, by Jeanne Mannesto
Header image: Ice, by Jeanne Mannesto

Featured Artist: Jeanne Mannesto

Last updated: February 1, 2011

..Jeanne Mannesto with “Shaman” at the Algoma Fall Festival in 2005.

Jeanne Mannesto
with “Shaman” at the Algoma Fall Festival in 2005

It’s hard to imagine what the arts in the Sault would be like without retired teachers. A quick trip through the roster of Alberta House artists turns up Moonyeen Albrecht, Bernie Arbic, Marion Boyer, Barbara Bryant, Doug Chambers, Judy Colein, Larry Gilbert, Judy Hamilton, Kyung and Ken Hatfield, Irene Hungerford, Ginny Johnson, Tom and Kate Marshall, Bill Morrison, Sharon Schmeltzer, Janet and Bryce Smith, and Paul Wilson and we’ve probably missed more than a few. Maureen Mousley is still teaching. Ron Corey has been a teacher. A good many of the Sault Summer Arts Festival exhibitors are or were teachers, including Best of Show winners Larry Gilbert, Tom and Kate Marshall, and Craig Weatherby. What these people have in common, other than their creative abilities, is a love of learning and the discipline necessary to practice and learn a skill. And this brings us to this month’s featured artist, Jeanne Mannesto, another retired teacher.

Jeanne, like many young women, was discouraged from pursuing art and steered into a more “practical” area, in her case, teaching. She holds a B.A. in Education, with a minor in English and Fine Arts from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in Reading from Central Michigan University. Originally from the Sault, she moved back in 1994 after a twenty-six year teaching career at both the secondary and university level in Michigan public schools.

Jeanne has always loved to read and worked to instill a love of reading in her students. One way she did this was through story telling and this led to story telling with puppets. This, in turn, led to the puppets, themselves, and soon Jeanne was taking the basic bodies and turning them into the characters they would represent. This led to making leather clothing and learning beadwork (for Hiawatha), and finally to the doll making, which won her an Honorable Mention at the Algoma Fall Festival of the Arts in 2005, for an originally designed, stitched and hand beaded leather doll she calls “Shaman” (shown above) . Another way to instill a love and understanding of reading in youngsters was to encourage them to make and illustrate their own books, which Jeanne called “dummy books”. She also made and illustrated books for them.

Wolf Tracks and Moose Scat: A Visit to Isle Royale, book by Jeanne MannestoJeanne has always had a strong interest in the natural world—in ecology, geology, wildlife, and the north woods. This led her, while still teaching, to apply for grants, one of which, from Michigan Tech, enabled her to study wolves at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. This experience resulted in a two week teaching unit, “The Truth about Wolves”, published in the National Science Teachers Journal in 2002, and contributed to her passion for wolves. (She is currently working on a wolf mask, combining the wolf idea with puppetry and story-telling.) She has studied winter ecology in Alberta, Michigan, backpacked on Isle Royale, lived aboard a research vessel studying the ecology and biology of Lake Superior and received five teaching fellowships through the Educators’ Science and Mathematics Institute Series.

While looking for guidebooks on Isle Royale, she discovered that there were none that were accessible to children. The result was a children’s information book, Wolf Tracks and Moose Scat: A Visit to Isle Royale, that she wrote and illustrated (see cover at right). The book was published by the Isle Royale Natural History Society.

Jeanne has been hiking and studying with the Sault Naturalists for fourteen years. She has also been scouring the shores of Lake Superior, between Whitefish Point and Crisp Point, looking for agates. When a visit to the Steele’s Riverstone Gallery turned up agates with holes already drilled, she began making jewelry. Her donation to SAAC’s 2010 auction was a turquoise necklace and earring set.

In addition to the Sault Naturalists, Jeanne is a member of the EUP Craftsmen, the LSSU Elders, the Sierra Club and the Bayliss Book Club. She is an enthusiastic traveler, and is probably visiting her son in Hawaii (where she plans to paint his portrait), as you read this. Favorite places include Istanbul, Finland, and Crete.

It is obvious that what this former teacher has been doing aggressively since her retirement is learning—more about the natural world, as well as the new skills she needs to pursue her new interests. Her last exhibit (Alberta House Mini Gallery, May, 2007) featured mostly oil and watercolor paintings. Since then she has taken up pastels, taking a plein air workshop with Tom Marshall, and another in the Leelanau with Mary Fuscaldo. She studied watercolor journaling with David Bigelow. She studied book binding and has made her own books. She studied stained glass long enough to make a panel for her front door, and took up rug hooking long enough to decide that it was not quite her thing. She is experimenting with painting on fabrics. She paints animal portraits (see below). She is a photographer and uses her photographs in her work. She is well versed in needlework, employing quilting, embroidery, beadwork and appliqué in much of her art. She studied calligraphy, which she uses a good deal, and is taking piano lessons and yoga through the STARS program. In addition to writing books, Jeanne writes poetry.

Her wide range of interests results in a wide variety of art. Her entry in the “Home” juried exhibition was a handmade bag and paintings. Her entries in the “Folk Art” exhibit were an apron (below) sporting a painting of her own home (which now hangs in her kitchen) and the pastel painting that was a model for the apron. The quilt, featuring a fabric portrait of her dog, is really a painting with fabric and incorporates quilting, appliqué and decorative embroidery. Jeanne Mannesto is an artist in the broad sense that the arts council strives to emphasize—creativity not limited to the visual arts but including literature and music. She knows that it’s not enough to be creative; it’s not enough to have an idea. An artist must have the discipline and patience necessary to acquire the skills that will make his creation a reality. It also helps, of course, to love to learn and to have the energy and enthusiasm that Jeanne exhibits in abundance.

Works by Jeanne Mannesto
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.

Agate necklace and watch by Jeanne Mannesto

Agate necklace and watch

Jeanne Mannesto and her aunt with apron and painting in “Folk Art” show

Jeanne and her aunt with apron and painting in “Folk Art” show

“Ice”, painting by Jeanne Mannesto

“Ice”, painting by Jeanne Mannesto

“Mouth of the Montreal”, pastel by Jeanne Mannesto from workshop with Tom Marshall

“Mouth of the Montreal”, pastel from workshop with Tom Marshall

Saber (photograph)

Saber (photograph)

Saber (painting) by Jeanne Mannesto

Saber (painting)

From pastel workshop in the Leelanau with Mary Fuscaldo—photograph of the scene

From a pastel workshop in the Leelanau with Mary Fuscaldo—photograph of the scene

The painting by Jeanne Mannesto from the pastel workshop in the Leelanau with Mary Fuscaldo

The painting from the pastel workshop in the Leelanau with Mary Fuscaldo

Quilt by Jeanne Mannesto from 2007 Exhibit

Quilt from 2007 Exhibit

Sault Area Arts Council Home Page 217 Ferris Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
e-mail: saac@saultarts.org Phone: (906) 635-1312