Artwalk artist details how Art Reach program shaped her work

Margaret Colarelli works on her drawings in her art room in Italy. Courtesy Photo | Margaret Colarelli

When Margaret Colarelli entered her drawings into the Art Reach of Mid Michigan Artwalk in 2017, she didn’t expect that a first-place prize would lead to the evolution of her artwork. 

Art Reach of Mid Michigan is a program that aims to unify the communities of Mid Michigan through creating and promoting the arts. The program holds classes in drawing, painting, photography and other disciplines to community members of all ages. 

Each summer, Art Reach hosts Artwalk, a month-long art show held in Mount Pleasant, comparable to ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. 

Art Reach Center of Mid-Michigan sits at 111 East Broadway Street in downtown Mount Pleasant on Friday, Oct. 12.

When Colarelli, now Midland resident and former Mount Pleasant resident, entered graphite drawings into Artwalk, she wasn’t prepared to go on the artistic journey that she went on. 

Central Michigan Life: How long have you been an artist before entering into Artwalk?

Colarelli: I always did artwork as a kid and continued to be very active in high school. The plan was to go to art school and I was accepted into a program that focused on arts. I even went once a week to an art class at Pratt Institute in New York during my senior year of high school. Once in college, I tried out a music major but wound up going with major that integrated a lot of different areas including art history and literature and so on. So, I’ve done a little bit of artwork over the years but really started getting back into it about seven years ago in Midland. 

Why did you want to join Artwalk?

I had gone down to Grand Rapids to see my daughter and saw ArtPrize. It was so amazing and I was really impressed that Mount Pleasant was doing something similar. I strongly believe in the importance of the arts for the health of the community and of society, so when I learned of Art Reach and Artwalk and the opportunity that I had to enter in my work, I decided to give it a go. 

How did Artwalk shape you as an artist?

Being a part of Artwalk was a tremendous experience every step of the way. I was accepted into a great venue at the University Gallery and I felt so honored to be there. I was selected to be one of a handful of artists to give an art talk during Artwalk. An art talk for any artist is going to be a big step, too, because usually we only show our artwork. It was a big developmental part because I got to talk to people about what I was doing with my art and what the art meant. The final surprise was to win the jurors' first prize for my work. 

This graphite drawing was one of a series that she entered in the Artwalk competition. Courtesy Photo | Margaret Colarelli

Overall, the opportunity that was given to me and to so many other people by Art Reach is so rich and encouraging. I really felt so grateful to the people at Art Reach for doing this tremendous job of organizing the event and giving artists the opportunity of an audience. 

What did you do with the prize money from Artwalk?

I was awarded $5,000 for the juror's first prize and thought “Okay, what am I going to do with this?” Being fortunate enough to not have to spend it on putting food on the table, I saw this as an opportunity. So, I thought carefully and I wanted to put it back into my development as an artist. It gave me the opportunity to do something that I probably would have never even thought to do. 

I applied for a research artist residency and wound up in a town outside of Florence, Italy called Chianti. I spent three weeks there in May 2018. I was able to put total focus on my artwork and in life, that’s an extraordinary experience because I teach and have a house, and a family. It was such a rich experience to be in Italy, surrounded by other artists who specified in all different types of art and be able to learn from them and we could feed off of each other's work and experience. 

Being there helped me take my art in a fresh direction that resulted in very rich outcomes in terms of the pieces that I developed. And that helped me to be where I am now with being able to hold my first solo exhibit. 

Do you have any advice to aspiring artists who want to develop their work or enter their art into shows like Artwalk?

I wholeheartedly recommend traveling outside of the U.S. I think you benefit from it as everyone else does. It puts you in a new environment and gives you a new look at the world. You can see things with fresh eyes and there’s a tremendous variety of wonderful things for an artist to be exposed to. 

It’s very hard to be a full-time artist. Life can be demanding and can get in the way of your art, but whatever you can do, do it, and continue moving forward at any pace that you can. 

For entering into shows, you just have to go for it. Give it your best shot, you might be surprised. I know I was. Do things that will help build your resume. Artwalk is a wonderful venue to show your work. 

Art is all about putting yourself out there and trying new things and showing people a new side of the world. 

For those interested in participating in Art Reach or Artwalk, visit the Art Reach of Mid Michigan website. Class schedules and information can be found there as well as information regarding the 2019 Artwalk in August.