GARY │A New Orleans self-taught artist who uses recycled Mardi Gras beads in artwork that has made him renown in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina is bringing his interactive exhibit Bead Town to Northwest Indiana.
Stephan Wanger, whose visit is being hosted by the Methodist Hospitals Foundation, will bring more than 60 art pieces to three host communities — Crown Point, Gary and Valparaiso.
Additionally, Wanger, with the help of school children, will create three separate pieces that will depict and grace each community.
His exhibit runs Jan. 6 to Feb. 15.
Speaking Thursday from the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts, which will serve as the Gary location of the exhibit, Wanger said thousands of children from Louisiana have helped him create Bead Town.
“This is not a Stephan Wanger exhibit, this is community involvement like you’ve never seen,” he said. “It’s amazing what these kids can do.
"They don’t want to create artworks that you just slip on the refrigerator. They want to do pieces that mean something to other people and be shown. And that is the amazing aspect.”
The Methodist Hospitals Foundation is in its third full year and chose the theme of Mardi Gras for its annual giving because it’s a faith-based occurrence, Executive Director Rob Hanrahan said.
Hanrahan said he met Wanger during a visit to New Orleans and was “stunned” when he saw his work – work that through Bead Town NWI will help support the foundation's efforts.
“We are honored he is going to do that and be part of our community, and revitalize a community through recyclables,” Hanrahan said.
Wanger not only will use Mardi Gras beads that are being delivered to the region in tubs but also will incorporate recyclables — including for Gary — items that might be steel-related.
The Crown Point location for the exhibit will be the former library on Court Street. Special Events Administrator Diana Bosse said they’re excited Wanger is coming to the city with an exhibit that will engage children and showcase the old library.
“We look forward to all it’s going to bring to Crown Point,” she said.
Karren Lee, president of the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District, hopes the exhibit will bring people from all over Northwest Indiana to see the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts.
Lee said she’s impressed with the exhibit’s focus on children. They have students from the Charter School of the Dunes and the Wirt-Emerson School for Visual and Performing Arts to assist Wanger during his six-week stay.
“They will work on the Gary, Indiana, piece,” she said.
The Valparaiso location for Bead Town is still to be determined.
Wanger was born in Germany and later emigrated to Chicago where he volunteered for the World Cup Soccer Tournament in 1994 and was later placed in charge of decorating the city for the 1996 Democratic Convention.
After 16 years he moved to New Orleans to help rebuild the city after Katrina.
“It was my time to give back,” he said.
Bead Town began after Wanger found out about all the discarded beads ending up in landfills following the Mardi Gras celebration.
For more about Wanger and his complete body of work at www.galeriaalegria.com.