Cheryl Wassenaar ’93 says she comes from a family of woodworkers.
Her grandfather came to Grand Rapids in 1938 from Iowa to work at the city’s Hekman Furniture business. And her father and brother are also excellent wood craftsmen.
“I remember visiting my grandfather and having him show me his band saw in the basement, and teaching me how to use it,” she said. “And now my own kids go down to my father’s wood shop. There’s a legacy in what that all means.”
Wassenaar was asked by the curator of Meijer Gardens to be part of an ArtPrize exhibit called “Almost Home: Grand Rapids in Focus,” asking artists to refl ect on the city as home. Her three-dimensional piece, “Ode to W. Haldene (Pearl + Ottawa),” is an attempt to connect family, woodworking and city history.
It was natural for Wassenaar to connect her family history of woodworking and the reputation of Grand Rapids as “Furniture City.” Objects from her father and grandfather are part of the work.
Wassenaar is the second recipient of the Calvin Alumni Association ArtPrize Award, given annually at the ArtPrize event to encourage alumni artists. Calvin alumni and students were able to vote for their choice from among 24 entered artists.
“The award is a great surprise, and it is especially an honor to receive it from a community to which I am so connected,” she said.
She is an associate professor of art and chair of undergraduate design at Washington University in St. Louis.
The response of the community to ArtPrize has been impressive to her.
“I had never been to an art opening with so many people with such interest in the art,” she said. “There were many thoughtful questions and stories shared with the artists. I came away with a lot of satisfaction and gratitude.”
Her work will remain on display at Meijer Gardens through the end of this year.