Art Forward: Christmas in the Mansion 2021

Dec 15 2021 | 2:30 p.m.

Local news

Members of the Advisory Board of Friends of the Rahr-West Art Museum pose with Director Vadney in the central gallery of the Vilas-Rahr Mansion

By Greg Vadney and Diana Bolander from Rahr-Museum of Art of the West.

Thanks to the talented decorators and with the support of Banque Nationale Nicolet, Christmas at the Manor is back!

The Rahr-West Art Museum continues to host itsChristmas at the Manor exhibition during this holiday season, albeit under abnormal circumstances. We are in the process of building an elevator in the mansion, which is why the museum has changed its decoration plan to focus on the first floor of the historic Vilas-RahrMansion. Despite the limitations, volunteer staff and decorators have maintained their commitment to filling the museum with holiday garnishes after missing the exhibit in 2020 due to the COVID shutdown.

Jim Day and Joe Cibulka’s Artemis and Stag Installation

Each room in the mansion is decorated by a team of designers who write an individual holiday story in the decor of the rooms. We spoke to some of the decorators to find out the stories behind their designs.

Bob Kellner speaks with visitors to his facility at the annual membership party

Bob Kellner and Mary Zboralski’s bedroom theme, “There’s no place like home to vacation: Even a bird needs a home” finds birds and nesting boxes all over the room . Most of the birds belong to Mary, indeed some of them belonged to her mother Maggie before her. Maggie was an avid bird enthusiast and gardener who passed away a few years ago. Bob and Mary remembered Maggie as they decorated the room. Bob and Mary have been decorating rooms in the mansion for years, influenced by their joint work in a flower shop. Bob typically creates original paintings for a Christmas installation in the mansion. This year he has three original paintings in the room. One is done with special acrylic paint on an old window he found in the attic of his daughter’s garage. The paint took three weeks to harden. One of the smaller paintings Bob made especially for this room installation is a small wall room that needs a special touch. He finished it in just two days. Bob’s final painting is actually on loan from Mary, whose kids ordered it a few years ago as a Christmas present.

Joe Cibulka and Jim Day decorated the east room with the title “The Remembrance of Christmas Past”, a nod to the French novelist Marcel Proust. Most of the objects, including the stereoscope and a collection of 19e The dolls of the century presented under the Christmas tree come from their personal collections of art and antiques. Inspired by a Victorian Christmas, Joe and Jim made sure to include candied fruit as a special Victorian Christmas treat. A table features a favorite sculpture of Joe’s of Artemisand a deer by Royal Copenhagen. The piece from the early 1890s depicts the art deco-looking goddess with stylized hair and a garland on the deer. Joe acquired the sculpture during a real estate sale in California while running an antique store in San Francisco.

Linda Miller and Mary Jo Stangel decorated the central gallery this year. This sister team is regular decorators for Christmas at the Manoir. Mary Jo is an active member of the Friends of Museums Advisory Board and Linda is a professional decorator. They used a Santa Claus theme and infused the design with whimsy and fun, toys and Santas all over. The couple also used old decorative frames with Christmas ornaments paired with pretty red fabric and pictures of Santa Claus to create a decorative composition on the wall of the main gallery. Linda joked that she loved decorating for the holidays and that she loved the opportunity to “put some more glitter on her head”. Museum staff can attest that she did have glitter on her face when decorating!

The winter wonderland themed staircase with handmade swags.

Friends Donna Ney, Mindy Peters and Linda Wallander decorated the mansion’s staircase, which this year can only be seen from below as the second floor is closed due to construction. This presented a particular challenge. Linda really wanted to do something beyond the traditional green and red decorations. Donna contributed a winter wonderland theme with mostly white and silver decorations. The results are simply astounding. Mirrored ornaments and silvery snowflakes create pretty reflections that visitors pass through as they walk from the Porte Cochère to the Manoir. The trio made the garlands by climbing the stairs from an old tree they used in a previous installation.

The Rahr-West Art Museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. We will be closed on December 24th and 25th for the Christmas holidays. Find more information about the museum and the programs on

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