In the literal sense, it may be hard to find an alumni who has made a larger mark on our town than Ann (Friesen) Williams. In fact, her mark making was already evident in high school. With an artistic and creative passion, Ann took every art class available. She also participated in theater, helped with the sets, was in journalism, and competed in FFA speaking. Her appetency drove her to courageously approach the school board and receive permission to paint a mural on the wall across from the secondary principal’s office.
Graduating in 1997, she unsurprisingly went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from UNL. Ann worked for NET out of college and then desired to stay home with her children. She describes herself as “floundering” for the first few years of doing art with young children at home. Yet, she felt in her soul that God bestowed a gifting she needed to utilize. Citing the support of her husband, this led her to spend at least a bit of time in the studio each day, and she committed to serve in an arts ministry at church.
She was eventually employed as an art director for a church in Lincoln for several years. When that season came to a close, she returned to her own work at Envision Galleries and Studio. Ann categorizes her creations under commercial and studio. Her commercial work includes large murals and displays she produces such as those she has long created for Gateway Mall. Her studio work is more nature-inspired working with natural elements in mosaic and bronze work. Some of this is accomplished by coming to Henderson weekly to work with her dad, Vern, in his studio on Main Street.
Just as Ann has graced Henderson with her artistic abilities, it is noteworthy to understand how this was exemplified in her father. “I know I am where I am in my progression as an artist because of him.” She described how from him she observed a studio model utilized and the perseverance of practice to excellence. Having the gift of her father being able to relate to her as a fellow artist is also deeply meaningful.
Metaphorically, just as Ann started painting on the walls within the school, two decades later, her work has blossomed out the door to the walls of downtown. If you are currently living in Henderson, it would be nearly impossible to miss her latest mural. Not only is it prominently displayed, its colors would even shine through your sunglasses.
As part of a beautification project, Ann was selected to paint a large mural on the backside of the Central Valley Ag building. She could be seen for weeks in her paint clothes completing the arduous task. Heartland took advantage of the project and walked students over to meet the artist and be encouraged to persist in their own work.
When asked what she hopes community members will think when they look at it, Ann named several elements. “I hope they remember that by using the previous welcome sign reference, ‘Some Bigger, None Better’, they recall the unique history of the town.” She also alluded to the meaning of the green and blue colors signifying the agricultural foundation. But remembering the past is also balanced by a look into the future. “By using abstract art and bright color, I hope it reminds people to embrace new and different things.” Her bold selection of color stands in contrast to much of the rest of town, hoping to invoke a joyful reaction in people.
According to City Clerk Connie Brown, “Working with Ann and watching the mural take shape as she started painting was fun and exciting at the same time just knowing that she has done bigger artwork projects for the Gateway Mall in Lincoln and now she was able to showcase her talent in her own small, rural hometown.
It was great to see people stop and visit with her or to watch her interact with the Heartland art classes on any given day. You could sense her passion for art as you visited with her along with her strong faith beliefs that have guided her to become the artist she is today.
I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know Ann on both a professional and a personal level and that people who live in Henderson get to enjoy the mural on a daily basis and for those who are just here to visit get to see the talents of a Henderson native.”
Responding to what it meant for Ann to return to her hometown and complete this work of art, she commented, “I was very honored to come back and do it. It can be intimidating in your hometown to know if you will measure up.” She also recognized the irony of her small, amateur mural in the school to an eventual large-scale professional project.
As a community, we can look forward to seeing where this homegrown artist will bloom next.
You can also follow Ann on her blog: http://ann.envisiongalleries.com/
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