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Art in the Park -- Inspired by art; Local artist Mary Therese finds beauty all around her

Local artist Mary Therese has been a regular at Bemidji’s Art in the Park for the past 20 years or so, she says. “Art in the Park is my best show . . . It’s a popular community event.” Art in the Park will be held today and Sunday at Library Park near downtown Bemidji. MAGGI STIVERS | BEMIDJI PIONEER

BEMIDJI -- More than 100 artists from around the Bemidji area will assemble their art at Library Park today and Sunday for the 47th annual Art in the Park.

For many artists, this won't be their first stroll through the park, including local surface designer Mary Therese.

"I've been doing Art in the Park since about 1994, so at least 20 years," Therese said. "I missed a few because I was an arts program director at the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts for three or four years. During that time I stopped making art, but that didn't last long. I missed it and went back to making art."

Therese, 59, has been a painter most of her life. She loved art as a little girl and took her first painting class in high school. She has since made art and painting her career but didn't start working with fiber art until 2008.

Therese taught herself how to work with fabric and has enjoyed focusing on painting and selling silk scarves since then.

"My mom was a seamstress and was working with fabric all the time, so I got some jobs designing Roman shades. That lead to painting on the fabric and silk scarves," Therese said. "I do other kinds of paintings with acrylics or watercolors and do commission work but at the art shows, I primarily bring my fabric art."

Fabric art is not familiar to many, and the process of painting on silk is not the same as painting on a canvas. Paint on a canvas will stay where it is brushed on, but dyes will bleed through fabric and spread. For that reason, Therese uses wax to create certain designs on her scarves.

"Sometimes, I will take the fabric and texturize it or put color on it first. Then I work with wax and do something called a batiking process. In this process, wherever I paint on the wax will keep the fabric white or keep it the color that's underneath the wax because it resists the dye," Therese said.

Therese never runs out of inspiration for her art. As a lifelong painter, she has learned many ways to create different texture and likes to experiment with various techniques and colors. However, one theme constant in her art and represented in many of her scarves is her love of wildlife and the outdoors.

"I'm totally inspired by nature," she said. "I just honor life and nature, and I think it's really important for us to respect it and take care of it. There is just so much beauty all around, and I get all inspired by that."

Since switching from canvas to more fabric painting, Therese says she appreciates people who enjoy her silk scarf art, especially her returning customers.

Although she is happy to have her art hung on walls, it is especially rewarding to see people valuing and using her art in everyday life.

"It's really exciting to have people utilize my art, especially when it is wearable art," Therese said. "It's so fun to see people excited about my work. I think I'd probably quit if I didn't think that people really enjoyed it."

Therese said many people often buy her scarves as gifts. She likes the fact her art is shared among family or friends. "I think it's that part, sharing my art out of love, that is special to me."

Therese looks forward to Art in the Park each year, and as long as the weather holds, she expects to sell over half her inventory.

"Art in the Park is my best show," Therese said. "I've been doing it for a long time, so people will look for me even if they aren't buying. It's a popular community event, so I feel like I'm well supported. People support my art, and that is wonderful."

Serratore is entering her senior year at Bemidji High School and is interning at the Pioneer through the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Pohlad Summer Internship Program