Artist and business owner creates success in Boulder Junction
Story and Photos by Lori C. Adler
When artist Sara Muender was unable to get her work into area galleries, she did what any good business woman would do…she opened her own gallery. And so in 2001, Moondeer and Friends Gallery in Boulder Junction was born. It’s been a thriving business ever since.
For as long as she can remember, Sara wanted to be an artist. Growing up in rural southwestern Wisconsin, Sara found herself with few options for entertainment and began drawing at a young age. When it was time to think about a career, Sara said it was simply assumed by everyone who knew her that she would become an artist, adding “I never considered anything else.”
Sara, knowing she wanted to make her living as an artist, pursued training in commercial art at Madison Area Technical College and graduated from the program with honors in 1975, earning an Associate’s degree. She took her first professional job at Watt-Peterson Printing in Minneapolis that year, but quickly moved onto free-lance work for several small design firms.
Things really changed for Sara when she met Thomas Folsom, a cranberry grower from Manitowish Waters. Sara was married in 1976 and has lived in Manitowish Waters since then. She continued to develop her artistic talents while living in the Northwoods, adding photography and pen-and-ink drawings to her skill set. In 1990, she attended a watercolor workshop at Dillman’s Bay Resort in Lac du Flambeau, well known for the quality of its art instructors and artist retreats. This experience allowed her to create works more appealing to the general public. Though graphic design is still her passion, it is Sara’s water media artwork that allows her to operate a successful business selling art.
Though she had developed more saleable art and had won several art competitions by this time, Sara still had difficulties finding places to exhibit her work, so she decided to open her own gallery. Searching for just the right place for an art gallery, Sara chose Boulder Junction because of growing tourism and upscale visitors. The way the town was laid out was a bonus as well, with a broad and open Main Street area. Housing her new gallery in a rented building, Sara grew her business and then outgrew her space. In 2008, a new building of her own design was finished. Situated just down the street from the original location, this building allowed Sara to expand the gallery to include more local artists and artwork. This building is perfect in every way and remains the home of the gallery today.
Walking in the door at Moondeer Gallery is an emersion of sight and sound. The gallery is filled with a variety of works of art, in every style, color and medium that can be imagined. The sound of music from around the world greets visitors immediately, as likely does Sara, who welcomes her guests, introducing herself, offering a glass of wine, and adding interesting bits of information about the art and artists represented in her gallery.
Over 150 different artists and companies are part of this gallery, including works from Sara herself as the gallery’s artist-in-residence. Many of the artists featured are local to the Wisconsin Northwoods, but the gallery is further enhanced by the inclusion of published books, music CDs, gifts and antiques. Art of all mediums is on display, including acrylics, oils, watercolors, pastels, photography, fiber, wood, metal, glass, and pottery. Most items have an overall Northwoods feel with animals, flowers, and scenic views of lakes, rivers, and forests being common themes.
The gallery displays originals of these artworks, but many of the two-dimensional pieces can be purchased as giclée prints. Giclées are created with a superior ink jet printer and specialty ink which renders a vibrant, high-resolution image. This process allows the image to be enlarged without losing clarity and is so close to the original that it takes a trained eye to discern the difference. These prints can be made on different types of paper and in a wide array of sizes, allowing customers to create a piece custom-made for their space. To further enhance the customization, Main Street Framing resides inside the gallery, offering custom framing options, including handmade birch bark, barn wood, and twig frames.
While operating a successful art gallery leaves less time for her own artwork, Sara is still creating. Her art continues to appear in numerous exhibitions and competitions. She has won many awards and has had her work published in several brochures, magazines, and books. Sara’s art can be found at other galleries and shops throughout the Northwoods as well as on the Caribbean islands of St. Martin/Sint Maarten and Saba, since Sara and her husband spend their winters there. In addition, she is a member of the Manito Art League (Manitowish Waters) and participates in their annual Manito Art Show, as well as designing the art show poster and booklet. Sara and Moondeer and Friends Gallery are also part of the yearly summer and fall Northwoods Art Tours.
Whether touring the various art studios and galleries, or just enjoying everything the area has to offer, a visit to Moondeer and Friends Gallery is a must while in Boulder Junction. The variety of artwork means there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy and admire, and maybe even a little something to take home. More information on the gallery, including hours and location, can be found at www.moondeergallery.com.