ABOUT ARTISTS PALETTE

In early April in 1995 Jan Benson had a “STARVING ARTISTS” sale in her garage in Manitowish Waters. Val Bogdan attended and she and Jan agreed how nice it would be to have a place to give local artists a chance to sell their work. A short while after that , Jan got a call from Carolyn Bruckner, who owned Yankee Studios in downtown Manitowish Waters. She wondered if Jan and some of her artists friends would want to open a place in town! Kismet! She would rent one of her empty storefronts very reasonably, but it was only seasonable and had no bathroom. Jan called Val and the Artists Palette opened May 1st of that year.

Within a few weeks 6 artists formed a cooperative and voted in the board members. It was decided that only LOCAL and ORIGINAL artwork would be accepted into the gallery. They agreed to remain fine art and not “craft”. The following summer the current location became available and Vlasta surprised all the members by walking them across the street to ask them how they would like to move the gallery to this new location. They cheered Unanimously and Vlasta said it’s already hers! Val designed the new interior and along with her husband Ken’s carpentry help, Vlasta had the whole interior remodeled. In October of 1996, in the rain, the group carried over all the artwork as cars stopped and waved them on! As the 19 years as a co-op came to an end, Vlasta and her Daughter Val took over as owners to be able to keep the doors open! You will still find the highest quality of local and original artwork as before and maybe a few new surprises! Come on in and enjoy the ambiance!

Read about Vlasta & Val's escape from Czecholovakia in 1951

Vlasta & Val's Escape

In December of 1951 three women and two small children under the age of four had to escape their homeland without their spouses and left their fate in the hands of two strangers. The homeland was Czechoslovakia, the three women were Vlasta Polacek, her sister and her mother and the two children were Vlasta's daughter, Val Bogdan and her nephew. The two strangers were men working for the underground network that helped people escape from the communists. The spouses were already being held by the communists and these women and children were due to be separated and also put into camps the following morning.

The plan was to take a few belongings in knapsacks, dress as though they were just leaving for a few days and take public transportation and a cab to Vienna. The driver of the cab got suspicious and afraid for his family if he was to be involved in an escape and forced the group to leave his cab. This forced them to continue on foot through farm fields, frozen streams and past watchtowers with armed sentries. After more than 11 exhausting hours the agents had to leave to find people they were meeting on the other side of the border. They left the women and children to hide by hay stacks under a full moon, told not to fall asleep while making sure the children stayed warm and kept moving. Vlasta prayed for clouds to protect them from being detected and as she looked up at the moon she saw a hand pull clouds over to hide the moon. Just as it seemed that they were doomed and there was no hope for freedom a shadow appeared in the distance. Fortunately it proved to be their contact who took them to their planned rendezvous, which was a hotel in Vienna. As they all dragged themselves through the lobby of this grand hotel they could not recognize the muddy and frozen group walking past the mirror as they were being applauded by the entire staff of the hotel. They made it to safety!

Vlasta’s strong spirit and love for life are reflected in all her artwork. Her life was full of strong influences including being a teenager during the revolution in Prague leading to WW2 and her escape to freedom. She moved to the Northwoods in 1989 and is still recording her heartfelt experiences on canvas and paper with every media available. Her works are available at the Artists Palette Gallery in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. She can be reached through her daughter via email, dichroval@yahoo.com

Val’s appreciation of freedom is visible in her love of color and her free creative style, as seen in her glass and jewelry creations.