BELOIT - Thanks to the Art Women and the Beloit College Art Department, attendees at this year's ArtWalk will have the opportunity to take part in the interactive activity of brass rubbing.
Beloit College has loaned the Art Women medieval brass plates for viewing and for rubbing, which entails placing a piece of paper over the plate and rubbing a wax crayon over it to make an image of real people who lived in the medieval period.
"This is irresistibly fun, and it's great for kids. It's like putting paper over a penny, until you see President Abraham Lincoln, only you are seeing knights and church figures. Some of them have animals on them - it's magic," said Ann Bausum, a local author who is the daughter of the original owners of the brass plates, Henry and Dolores Bausum.
Attendees are invited to the unique event to be held at The Villager, 429 E Grand Ave., from 5-9 p.m. on Friday, May 10.
Villager Art Gallery and Custom Framing owner and Art Women member Betsy Schmiechen explained how brass rubbing was originally a British enthusiasm for reproducing onto paper the relief images of commemorative brass plaques found in English churches. Usually on the floor, the plates depict the image of who was inside a tomb. When brass rubbing became increasingly fashionable in the 1970s, some of the original European works became a bit compromised with all of the rubbing by tourists. Eventually, replicas of the plates started being sold for rubbing.
The plates to be on display at The Villager, which belong to Beloit College's Wright Museum of Art, were donated by Dolores and the late Henry Bausum. They are reproductions of images of people living in the 1400s to 1600s.
Ann Bausum recalled how her parents obtained the plates in the 1970s. Ann Bausum was a student in Beloit College and her parents were professors on sabbatical when they met up in England, and Ann Bausum introduced them to the art of brass rubbing.
"At that time in the 1970s it was a real pastime, to go around to churches and make arrangements with vicars to make rubbings. I can remember going to one where this vicar who gave me a foot-long key to let myself in the church to do a rubbing," Bausum said.
It became so popular brass rubbing centers cropped up so travelers wouldn't have to traipse all over Europe to do it.
"We enjoyed it so much and my mother got interested enough to think people in the states would like to do it too, and she decided to embark on this entrepreneurial venture," Ann Bausum said.
Although the stateside rubbing venture never became as successful as her mother would have hoped, the Bausums created a traveling exhibition of them and conducted educational activities when they lived in Lexington, Virginia. At one point they were on display the Washington Cathedral in Washington D.C.
When the Bausums retired to Beloit in 2000, they brought all of the plates with them and the decision was made to donate them to Wright Museum of Art.
"In addition to these replicas, we amassed quite a collection of rubbings that are being studied from time to time by the students," Bausum added.
She said it was always her parents' hope the plates would be used. She said the event to be hosted by the Beloit Art Women was fantastic.
"That's just what the family had hoped," Bausum said.
She said her mom is 91-years-old and might "pop down" to visit the event and see the plates again.
In addition to seeing the brass artwork, visitors to the event will be treated to a display of medieval costumes, including armor for women, courtesy of re-enactor, historian and artist Rhoda Bombard. She explained how many women wore armor in their everyday lives because of the danger of the time period. They were known to join in battles alongside their male counterparts.
The Art Women is a group of female artists who support each other, occasionally work on projects collaboratively and hope to bring more arts activities to the community.
Their first endeavor was re-creating Édouard Manet's famous work titled "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" at the Villager Gallery in February. Guests were invited to see the mural and take selfies with it on Valentine's Day and the Beloit International Film Festival.
The Art Women are excited about their second community art activity, the brass rubbings, and hope to bring many more surprises to the community.
"We are learning about one another, building relationships, and sharing different forms of art, from traditional such as painting and sculpting to cooking and home arts, costume arts and theater arts," said Susan Beck.