Big Work

large-scale artist starts local art co-op

Aryn Widule, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Steve Kearney has been creating art for over 30 years. He sold his first watercolor when he was 9, and has since painted buildings, completed fine art murals dozens of feet long, and even used oil paint on the surface of a pool. Despite his body of work and his large commission pieces, like most artists Steve maintains a day job – in his case as a contractor rehabilitating and renovating buildings.

Steve works large. He considers himself a mural painter, but maintains the personal motto, “I paint anything on anything.” Most of his pieces nowadays are contract work, with his most recently completed piece consisting of five four-foot by eight-foot canvas panels. The mural was commissioned by the Center for Catholic Charities in Minneapolis, and depicts service sites, people, and ideologies that represent charities in the city. Kearney says that he personally enjoys doing work with non-profits and public organizations, and has created large-scale art both indoors and out for a number of these groups.

His experience isn’t just limited to large pieces, or commissioned work. Over the years both Steve and his wife have been involved in art and craft shows.  These shows are often the only places where artists and crafters have a chance of not only exposing their work to the public, but of getting paid for it.

“Unfortunately much of the time an artist might only make the money back that they paid for their table, or in fact come out at a loss,” Kearney says. “What these people do is a passion, as it is for most artists. If you work out the amount of time they put into their craft with how much money they make, sometimes it ends up being pennies per hour.”

These observations combined with his personal experience moved Steve to utilize unused workspace and open the Crafters Collective of the Chippewa Valley.

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