“The Hotel Is a Creative Force”
Painter Todd Mrozinski loves his post as Pfister Artist-in-Residence
If home is where the heart is, then Todd Mrozinski should sit back in a recliner in the lobby of the Pfister, drop his feet on the coffee table and grab the remote. Because Mrozinski, now Artist-in-Residence at the Pfister Hotel, and the seventh since the program’s inception in 2009, clearly loves his post.
The program is considered pioneering, certainly in Milwaukee, not to mention on a national basis among hotels. Applications to be an artist-in-residence are due by December 1st for the next round. After selection, the artist’s year runs from April to the following April. Mrozinski, 41, is in mid-year of his residence.
Mrozinski is originally from Fond du Lac and is a graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and says he had excellent relationships with his instructors. He also paid his dues as a house painter and mural artist.
“I learned a lot at MIAD,” Mrozinski says. “I learned that being an artist is a lifestyle. The instructors I had were really passionate.”
As for his work, Mrozinski says, “I like to paint non-traditional portraits. A lot of my work is symbolic.”
It appears Mrozinski paints what speaks to him emotionally at a given time. “When I met my wife Renee, I started painting symbolically about how I felt about her,” Mrozinski says. “I don’t just paint objects, I paint things that interest me, and I paint about my life.
Within his studio at the Pfister, Mrozinski gets a birds-eye view of life in the hotel: people coming to town on business, pro baseball teams arriving for a series with the Brewers, families on vacation. All are potential inspiration or subjects for a painting.
“The people in the hotel are a conduit for what I’m feeling in my art,” Mrozinski says. He says the energy in the space keeps the ideas coming. The studio is open to guests who are welcome to stop by and talk or ask questions. Mrozinski says visitors often recall when they used to paint and watching him at work has prompted them to look in the closets for the old brushes and palettes.
Mrozinski learned about the program through a friend. The program requires artists to be in studio a minimum of 30 hours a week. In return they receive a place to work, visibility and $1,000 a month stipend.
“People around (the hotel) serve as inspiration,” Mrozinski says. “The art is accessible to them. It’s real. It’s great to have that sense of play. If artists aren’t interested in working collaboratively, I’d say this isn’t for them.”
He says he’s a quick painter and can do a smaller portrait in a matter of hours. Guests are welcome to — and often do — commission a work from Mrozinski.
“It’s nice to be in a position to paint, something I love, and help support my family.”
Then there is the Pfister’s art, the largest Victorian art collection of any hotel, Mronzinski notes. “To have a studio here is amazing. If I’m not painting I can wander the halls and take it all in.”
“In my opinion, the hotel is a living, working, breathing entity,” Mrozinski says. “It’s a creative force.”
Mrozinski’s wife is also an artist and has organized a limited term art show in the old Roger Stevens clothing store adjacent to the lobby of the Pfister.
Mrozinski says he’d definitely encourage artists to apply for the program, provided they like people and have a gift of gab. It’s not for the moody-blue artist who just wants to be alone, but the perfect post for many artists.
“I think there are tons of young painters right now in Milwaukee,” Mrozinski says. “MIAD is bustling with lots of energy.”
The Pfister also has a paid Narrator-in-Residence that writes stories about guests and maintains a blog. The hotel has truly become a cultural resource for the city, offering a memorable experience for Mrozinski.
“Just a few days ago I met with a couple who’d been coming to the Pfister for years,” Mrozinski says. “They have a special relationship to the Imperial Ballroom. They wanted a painting of them in the ballroom. So, I brought them up there at a time I thought the sun was right and did this outline of their shadows. They loved it, told me they were bringing a part of the Pfister into their home.”