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Kreitz, Stengel to receive Master Artist awards

Breezy Point metal sculptor Jeff Kreitz was chosen a Master Artist by the Five Wings Arts Council.Submitted Photo

The Five Wings Arts Council (FWAC) recently announced the selection of Jeff Kreitz, a sculptor from Breezy Point, and Doris Stengel, a poet from Brainerd, as Master Artists.

In addition to a cash prize, each will be presented with the Gilded Feather Award, an original artist-crafted, medieval-style livery collar.

The award ceremony is part of the Five Wings Arts Council's Celebration of the Arts, scheduled for Thursday, March 31, at Great River Arts, Little Falls. The public is welcome to attend this event. Ticket information can be found at www.fwac.org.

The Master Artist Program, initiated in 2012 and made possible with funding from the McKnight Foundation, honors artists who live in Region Five (Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties) who are recognized for mastery of the art form in which they work, have accrued a portfolio reflecting a lifetime of artistic excellence, have earned the respect of peers and the general public, and contribute significantly to their community or region in which they live.

The 2016 Master Artists were chosen from a list of candidates compiled by nomination, and finally selected by the FWAC board of directors and staff. The Master Artist program is made possible through a grant from the McKnight Foundation.

Kreitz received high praise from one of his nominators when artist Kent Scheer noted, "Jeff has achieved a mastery which places his work at the top of the craft not only in our region but in our state. In addition, he is a 'cross-over artist' who skillfully bridges two widely different worlds in metalworking. On one hand he has pushed himself to build a level of mechanical skill and shop capacity to execute large-scale commercial and private commissions of high technical demand. This includes practical commissions such as estate gates, ornamental fencing and custom boat lifts. On the other hand, he readily switches gears to execute original designs in the realm of pure sculpture, including figure studies, wildlife sculpture, public art and abstract art."

Kreitz started welding and working with metals as a 7-year-old boy in his father's shop. Both his parents were artists, his mother a painter and his father worked in metal, and they introduced him to painting and sculpting at a young age.

A 1980 graduate of Pequot Lakes High School, he spent one year in college and then went to welding school. Though interested in exploring metal sculpture, he didn't think he could make a living as a sculptor. The quest for a way to support a family ultimately led him to becoming a skilled metal artist and successful small business owner.

From small sculptures to large corporate commissions, Kreitz manipulates metals to create one-of-a-kind sculptures. Each project requires extensive research and study, whether he's striving to understand the anatomy of birds or learning about the engineering required to fabricate the armature for a large scale sculpture. He works out much of the design in sketches and maquettes, 1/16 models of the final sculpture.

Through that process he comes to an accepted design for his client or clients, while also meeting his own standards that represent his personal style.

Kreitz's company, Creative Steel Works, employs two full-time assistants, as well as others as projects require additional help. His production shop in Breezy Point is the source for sculptures that are installed all over the United States.

Kreitz regularly has groups of young people touring his studio/shop, serving as an example of an artist who not only creates work that expresses his artistic calling, but also provides income to support three families.

Kreitz is generous with his talents and has created meaningful sculptures for causes that touch the region, such as Camp Knutson in Crosslake and the Veteran's Memorial Park in Breezy Point, and most recently a life-size eagle that will be installed in the Staples Veteran's Park this summer.

Stengel has published three books of poetry: "Horizons Measured," "Small Town Lines" and "Arrival & Departure." A frequent judge of poetry contests, Stengel has also led local, regional and statewide poetry groups.

Her love of poetry began in her small North Dakota grade school in the days when poetry was a mandatory curriculum component. Her father regularly read poetry to her and as she put it, "... listening to him recite 'The Children's Hour' (written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-82) put the stamp of approval on poetry for me."

Upon graduating from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in education with a major in English, she anticipated being a teacher, but found that the town to which she and her husband moved would not hire more than one person from a household, so she had to switch gears. She raised their three children and wrote voraciously in her spare time.

Since the early 1990s Stengel has been involved with the League of Minnesota Poets. Through that affiliation she also became part of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS), first attending the national convention of NFSPS in 1996 and going almost every year since then.

In the last 25 years, Stengel has chaired the local group, served as president of the state group and then in 2006 became president of NFSPS. She has participated in the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festivals and rubbed shoulders with U.S. Poet Laureates and other world famous poets. The Dodge Poetry Festivals have been influential in the writing world, giving rise to several NPR radio programs and five PBS television series as well as stimulating the writing lives of poets worldwide.

Stengel gives back to the community by sharing her talents with grade school classes, senior citizen groups and a teen hangout. She also mentors a man in federal prison in Nebraska and shares correspondence about his poetry with a retired juvenile judge in St. Paul.

In her spare time, Stengel has had roles in about 20 theatre productions at Central Lakes College and has "seniority" in the Brainerd Bethlehem Lutheran choir. She and her husband, Casey, have three grown children and live in Brainerd.

Previous Master Artists include Charles Gilbert Kapsner, painter from Little Falls (2014) and Kayleen Horsma, painter from Menahga (2012).

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