Recently retired from the Architecture Department at Opus Group, Pete Lewis, Dan Young Dixon and Joe Mamer are building on their lifelong interest in the arts with a new exhibit of their works in fused glass, ceramics, and woodworking and photography, respectively. The results of their creativity are on display now through May 29 in the Art Loft at Boréal Gifts & Goods, 2276 Como Ave.

“The three of us worked together for over 20 years at Opus,” said Lewis, who lives in Merriam Park. “Dan was in design. Joe and I were in project architecture. We worked on several buildings that Opus constructed at the University of Saint Thomas. Dan retired a few years ago, Joe retired last year just before COVID hit, and I was laid off last June due to the COVID economy.”


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architects to artists
Fused-glass artist Pete Lewis and ceramicist Dan Young Dixon display some examples of their art that is featured through May 29 in the Art Loft at Boréal Gifts & Goods, 2276 Como Ave. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Lewis had been planning on semi-retiring in 2023. “Now I’ve joined Dan and Joe in full retirement,” he said. With more time to devote to his art, he approached Boréal last summer about a possible exhibit in the Art Loft. The gallery’s owners “suggested I team up with a couple of other artists to fill the space,” he said.

For the exhibit, Lewis is showing glass pieces he made over the years along with newer works. They include what he describes as fused-glass paintings. “I take my inspiration from Chinese, Japanese and Korean brush paintings, watercolors and impressionist paintings,” Lewis said. “That’s the feel I’m after.”

“Most of my photography is of natural environments or cityscapes,” Mamer said. “I try to find common subjects that most people overlook and display them in a better light. The woodworking I’m showing is functional for the most part with an artistic side. It explores how functional furniture and accessories can be elevated to a higher level. Unexpected materials—leather, glass, stone—are combined with a variety of wood species to produce unique, functional pieces.”

Young Dixon, a longtime resident of Highland Park, will be showing functional ceramics such as pitchers, plates and cups, some with abstract interpretations, reflecting both the aesthetics and functionality of his work in architecture. Unlike Mamer and Lewis, who create out of their homes, Young Dixon has been using facilities at the University of Minnesota where he studied fine art as an undergraduate. He also uses his daughter’s home studio and fires his pieces at local kilns. “My daughter is a ceramicist, too,” he said.

“I’ve had a creative spirit all my life. It’s what brought me to architecture…. And it’s natural for people who spend their working careers being creative to want to continue being creative.”

Keely Young Dixon was a fine arts major in college who is working now as an elementary school teacher in Minneapolis. Her pottery is also included in the exhibit at Boréal. Young Dixon said his daughter was an inspiration for him as he returned to his lifelong interest in the creative arts.

In college in the early 1970s, Young Dixon took classes from renowned ceramicist Warren MacKenzie. “He really inspired me with a love for ceramics or, as he called it, ‘throwing dirt’ and ‘throwing mud,’” he said. “But I realized I wasn’t going to make a living doing that.”

When he switched to architecture, Young Dixon promised himself he would return to ceramics someday. “When I retired in 2017, I went back to the U and started taking ceramics classes,” he said. “If it weren’t for COVID, I’d still be doing that.”

Creative spirits

Mamer came about his interest in art by “a circuitous route,” he said. “My parents owned a small residential construction company, so I was always around construction. After getting a degree in commercial photography, I worked with a couple of architectural photographers. That introduced me to the world of commercial architecture. I returned to my hometown for a few years to build houses with my family’s company. After a couple of winters working outside, I decided to pursue architecture as a career.

“I’m not an architect,” Mamer said, “but I worked my way up from draftsman to running large projects under the direction of an architect. And woodworking was an interest of mine from a young age. While building houses, the finishing carpentry work is what I enjoyed most. When I bought my first house, I needed furniture, so I started building my own.”

Lewis grew up in Wisconsin and became interested in drafting and architecture through the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. “Wright had one of his studios in Wisconsin,” Lewis said, “and I became aware of the homes he designed. Most if not all of the homes incorporated stained-glass windows. That was the start of my interest.”

Lewis learned from an architect friend about classes in stained glass conducted by Joe Ring at his shop in Saint Paul’s Hamline-Midway neighborhood. Lewis took classes from Ring, whom he described as “a local institution in all things stained-glass.” He eventually gravitated to fused glass.

“I’ve had a creative spirit all my life,” Mamer said. “It’s what brought me to architecture. Architecture is a creative profession, and it’s natural for people who spend their working careers being creative to want to continue being creative.”

“The work we were doing in our profession was so fast-paced,” Young Dixon said. “Now we’re able to reflect a lot more about the meaning of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

Lewis cited the support for artists that abounds in the Twin Cities. Opportunities such as those afforded by the Art Loft at Boréal are invaluable, according to him.

Boréal Gifts & Goods “opens its gallery space for aspiring artists for a month at a time without charge,” Lewis said. “They only ask a small commission on sales. This is a fantastic resource for aspiring and up-and-coming artists.”

The Art Loft at Boréal is open from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m.-4 pm. Sunday. For information, call 651-560-9900.

— Anne Murphy


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