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holiday window art by the Novemberistas

Holiday Windows

Seasonal art cheers strollers and shoppers.

by Bob & Jorja Feldman

From the December, 2017 issue

Partial as we are to the piney woods on a crisp winter day, some of our favorite December walks are on downtown sidewalks. We will be looking for wintery scenes with snowflakes, reindeer, and snowmen painted on shop windows.

On the first day of November, Bob found Mary Thiefels and two other artists applying acrylic paints to the windows of Cherry Republic at Main and Liberty. Thiefels and artists she recruits paint holiday scenes at more than 100 Ann Arbor businesses each winter. At peak times she may have as many as eight artists working; they paint, with a lunch break, from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon, seven days a week.

Thiefels, who also owns Tree Town Murals, calls the holiday painting crew the "Novemberistas." John Copley, for decades an Observer artist, preceded Thiefels in having this business. He turned it over to her a few years ago, although he continues to put in what he calls "cameo appearances" as a painter. While the Novemberistas are not the only artists painting holiday windows, they are responsible for most local windowpane art.

The major venues are the Main St., Kerrytown, State St., and South University areas. About half the engagements result from emails sent out by those areas' businesses associations; the remainder come in by word of mouth or from people who've seen the paintings.

A certain amount of physical stamina is required. The artists work outside in weather that is often cold enough to send us scurrying into the nearest coffee shop for a cup of hot cocoa. In sleet or heavy snow they shift to work on storefronts that are under awnings or otherwise sheltered, but they power through lesser obstacles. When Bob saw Thiefels on November 1, a light snow was falling; she paid no attention. (She was painting with fingerless gloves.)

Each business owner chooses his or her own design. Some continue with the same one year after year, some change to a new design or alter an existing one. They also determine the seasonal works' longevity. Some remove the paintings at the end of the year (Thiefels recommends warm water and razor scrapers). Others let them continue to grace their windows into the New Year.     (end of article)

[Originally published in December, 2017.]


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