Heidi Bohnenkamp

Q&A with Tamsie Ringler: 2016-2017 Belwin Artist in Residence

The River Lee Project, 2018, Durational Iron Pour, Iron R-18: The National Sculpture Factory, Cork Ireland. Funded by MCAD/McKnight Foundation. Image: Jedrzej Niezgoda © NSF.

Belwin: What are you currently working on?
Tamsie Ringler: I’m the director of Winter is Alive! A Cooler World Carnival taking place in Madison, Wis., February 12 through March 7. Our goal is to create venues for personal reflection, environmental dialogue, and provocative inspiration.

What inspired the festival?
Having lived in St. Paul, Minn., for the past 10-plus years, I always loved the energy of the Winter Carnival. I love the “krewes” and the social nature of the event in the city. Also, the visual beauty of snow and ice amid city lights and fire is inspiring and also reflective. 

Sometimes one way of sharing distressing information and a call to action is through art presented in a very accessible way, through a very visually compelling and familiar platform — a winter carnival. It also brings up a certain feeling of the precious nature of nature — and winter.

The idea of a winter art carnival themed on global warming and the climate crisis stayed with me for several years until I moved to Madison last year. I had the good fortune to meet Karin Wolf, director of the City of Madison Arts Commission, who proposed a winter art collaboration.

“Sometimes one way of sharing distressing information and a call to action is through art presented in a very accessible way.”

Tamsie Ringler

Winter is Alive! is that collaboration, strengthened by the participation of Marc La Pointe, who came up with the name and is co-curating and producing the project; Bethany Jurewicz, who is one of the main site directors and co-curators at Garver Feed Mill; Anna Orbovich, website designer and curator; and many other sponsors and collaborators. The Winter is Alive! Krewe!

Tamsie’s “North Pole Project” as proposed for 2021 Winter is Alive! Image: Tamsie Ringler

Will you have any work featured in Winter is Alive!?
Tamsie: Yes, the “North Pole Project,” supported through a City of Madison Arts Commission Blink Grant. It’s an illuminated public sculpture that will be displayed on Lake Mendota in Madison. The winter season is an important time in many Northern cultures where light is celebrated in the midst of the darkness and cold of the season. The idea uses the traditional form of a holiday light display to illustrate the relationship between our lifestyles and the systems that support us — in this case the oil and gas extraction that fuels our economy but at the same time is contributing to global warming and the loss of arctic sea ice — essentially the North Pole of legend and reality. I am grateful for the generosity of our home — we live in a sunlit garden in infinite night.

Are there ways for people to participate in Winter is Alive! without attending in person?
We are asking people to share a short self-narrative on winter and global cooling by March 7. Ask yourself: What do you love about winter? What worries you about climate change? How do we all contribute to global cooling? Submissions will be posted on the website.

Thank you, Tamsie. We hope the Winter is Alive! carnival will become an annual tradition!

Tamsie sets a mold at Belwin’s Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields. Image: Lily Wujek

Tamsie Ringler is an installation and foundry artist whose performative iron casting events engage environmental and political awareness. Recent projects include Fenced, performed at the Festival of High Temperatures in Wroclaw, Poland, and the River Lee Project, held at the National Sculpture Factory, Cork, Ireland. Recent exhibitions include Still Life, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Blanket-piece in the exhibition Confluence, Safehouse 1, London and Cutting in, at the Backspace Gallery, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has received numerous awards including a 2017 McKnight Fellowship and is a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors. Tamsie was the 2016-2017 Belwin Artist in Residence. She recently served on our Artist Selection Panel for 2021.

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