Longtime friends open downtown Wooster art studio

Longtime friends open downtown Wooster art studio

Image Credit: Aaron Dorksen

Longtime friends Petra Soesemann and Marilyn Hyde opened a shared art studio called The Fortune Factory in downtown Wooster in August.

Early signs point to a bright future for the studio.

The Fortune Factory is located at 135 N. Market St. in the Downing Block Building facing the gazebo. It’s a working art studio with ongoing exhibits that are open to the public for special events or by appointment.

Soesemann, who retired as a professor and department chair at the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2021, displays her fabric constructions, which explore abstraction, pattern, color and geometry.

“I’m interested in the relationships among artistic expression, the various states of human consciousness and understanding our place in the universe,” said Soesemann, who was awarded the Ohio Arts Council Grant for Individual Excellence in 2021.

Hyde, who also has an acupuncture practice, is a collage artist and painter.

“Ever since I moved back from Alexandria, Virginia, I have been jonesing for a way to do artwork around somebody else,” Hyde said. “There wasn’t something like this here in Wooster, and I’m ecstatic to be here with Petra. It’s helped me immensely to take it more seriously.”

After retiring, Soesemann knew she needed to find a way to continue her work and be around another artist.

“It’s really terrific to have a location as well-appointed as this,” Soesemann said. “It’s great that it’s downtown and wonderful to be sharing the studio with Marilyn. We really bounce ideas off of each other and give each other critiques.”

Any vibrant downtown includes the arts, and Soesemann said there has been talk of setting up an arts corridor in Wooster, with recommended locations to visit.

The Fortune Factory is accessible to the public by appointment, and art work is always on sale. They will have a holiday sale open to the public on Nov. 26 from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Soesemann’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is included in numerous public and private collections.

Previous exhibitions and awards include Riffe Gallery/Ohio Arts Council in Columbus, Kent State University Art Museum, first prize at the Quilt National Exhibition in Athens and a Fulbright Grant to Peru. Additional grants have supported artist residencies and research in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Spain and Istanbul.

“My major in undergraduate and graduate school was sculpture, so I was always working dimensionally,” Soesemann said. “I ended up shifting to fabric, in part because I got really tired of lugging around big, heavy sculptures with no place to put them.

“I really enjoy the texture and the tangibility of fabrics. I like everything about it — the surface qualities, the patterns, the colors. I like the fact that we’re all intimately connected to fabric in one way or another. We sleep under fabric; we wear it.”

Soesemann’s fabric art pieces are wall pieces, aka art quilts.

“They’re designed for the wall, not to be functional,” said Soesemann, who earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Cleveland Institute of Art and Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Hyde and Soesemann actually both went to Wooster High School together in the 1970s, but life took them to different places around the country.

After studying at the University of New Hampshire, Hyde worked as a journalist, photographer and editor before studying acupuncture.

It wasn’t until years later she learned to paint with oils, one of the mediums she loves most.

Hyde described her collages as narrative works, often whimsical.

“They depict slightly unrealistic situations made to look realistic by the use of the collaged pieces,” she said. “The ideas for the collages come in different forms. Sometimes it’s a happenstance juxtaposition of a few images that spawns an idea, and then a story line emerges.”

Hyde studied photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She also studied art at the University of North Carolina and School of Visual Arts in New York City.

“Sometimes my artwork comes from a feeling or an image already in my mind,” Hyde said. “I’m very influenced by the landscapes of this Ohio upbringing: farmland, rural open spaces, a love of animals. When I’m not creating collages, I love the freedom of oil painting.”

Visits to The Fortune Factory can be made by appointment. Email the artists at petra.soesemann@gmail.com or hyde.marilyn@gmail.com.