THE BIG WON
|by Sheil Mortensen
How do you present Humboldt County -- with
its diversity of people, industry and environment -- in a space
measuring 16 by 16 feet?
Ask Michael Guerriero, a 45-year-old Bridgeville artist who, in
conjunction with the Humboldt Arts Council, has risen to that challenge
for the past 10 years.
Guerriero creates the county's annual exhibit at the State Fair in
Sacramento, opening this year on Aug. 15.
Titled, Where the Redwoods Are, the 1997 exhibit includes works by
county artists, a video, and a wall of pamphlets promoting businesses
and attractions. Its signature elements are Elizabeth Berrien's
life-sized wire sculptures of a Roosevelt elk and a black bear, and two
towering freshly cut redwood trees.
Guerriero grew up in the Central Valley town of Livingston, Calif.
Guerriero's family, including an artist uncle, nurtured his creative
expression. "There weren't any inhibitions placed on me about being
interested in art," he said in an interview last month.
A high school teacher sparked a passion for screen printing, Guerriero
said, and when he entered California State University at Stanislaus in
1971 the college's new art department had little experience in that
medium, but was blessed with state-of-the art equipment.
into some of the best facilities in the country and hardly anybody was
using them," he said. "The college professors were just starting to
learn how to do it themselves. My interest got them interested, too,
and they now teach screen printing at the school."
By the time he graduated he was also an accomplished sculptor. Awarded
a fellowship in sculpture from Western Michigan University, he and his
wife Rosemarye moved to Kalamazoo.
In 1977, after earning his master of fine arts, Guerriero asked
Rosemarye if the thought of living through another Midwest winter
sounded like fun. It didn't, so they returned to California.
Following the lead of a friend who'd settled in Bridgeville, the
Guerrieros bought inexpensive land which fulfilled their love of
gardening, of being near the ocean and mountains, of living in
California -- and not cold.
For five years Guerriero has been a Bridgeville School Board member,
and Rosemarye the school's librarian, tracking the careers of their son
and daughter, now 16 and 12.
"I'm really interested in the evolution of primary education and how
much it's changed in the past few years," he said. "(There's) new and
relevant information on how the brain works and how people learn, and
seeing those new discoveries being applied to a K-8 situation is really
"Because education has to evolve along with everything else in order to
really make it relevant to the kids so that when they do get out into
high school and then into the real world they're able to make the
Guerriero's own transition from screen printer to sculptor to fair
exhibit designer has an evolutionary tale of its own.
"In 1988 someone made an appeal to the County Board of Supervisors that
we should be involved with the State Fair. They ended up offering
$3,000 to the Arts Council (to create the exhibit).
"The director at the time, Libby Maynard, had seen some of the
structural work I had done and some of my sculptures, and she thought
that I might have the skills to put one together. So we collaborated
and built that one and took it in."
State Fair exhibit by Michael Guerriero.
The exhibits are reviewed by jurors, and counties earn either a gold,
silver or bronze award. That first exhibit earned a bronze, but all of
Guerriero's subsequent exhibits have won gold awards. He's also won
Best of Show at two fairs, Best Craftsmanship four times, Best
Artifacts twice and Best Content twice. Each award carries a cash
value, and Guerriero returns 30 percent to the Arts Council.
"And that award money is very welcome," says Debbie Goodwin, executive
director. "The county's funding for our project this year is $8,400 --
other counties spend up to $40,000 -- but Michael does amazing things
with a small budget.
"Each year we must request funding from the County Board of Supervisors
for the following year's exhibit," she said. "But this year when we
approached them, they said, 'Sorry, we're out of money,' so this may be
the last time the county supports the exhibit.
"In past years we've had businesses donate a lot of things for Michael
-- and we acknowledge them as sponsors. But the county has been the one
that pays Michael for his time and the majority of the expenses. It's a
Funding for next year's exhibit will be considered by the board in
September. Whatever the decision, after a decade of doing the project
Guerriero said it may be an ideal time for him to step back and allow
other artists the chance to take over.
He'll still make his living by screen printing in Bridgeville -- only
without the yearly challenge of creating a State Fair display that puts
a collective face each year on the diversity of Humboldt County.
Class Wire Sculpture
· Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931 · email firstname.lastname@example.org
Content and images
© 1968-2010 Elizabeth Berrien. All rights reserved.
Updated Aug 8, 2010 · this page valid HTML 4.01
THE BIG WON
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