(First published in the February 14, 2019 issue of City Pages)
Red Door Galleria focuses on healing through art
M Peterson is an exhibiting artist who manages the Red Door Galleria downtown
When you walk through the red front door of Red Door Galleria at 316 Washington St. in downtown Wausau, you enter a safe and comforting space where art is used to facilitate mental health healing. This rather hidden gallery, first opened by Nounie Siy in December of 2017, now carries the works of six artists in various mediums. Five of the artists hail from San Francisco, where Siy lives part-time. The sixth, local artist M Peterson, is also taking up residence in the space, using it as her working studio.
Peterson, a registered nurse with a degree in fine arts from the UW-Stevens Point, met Siy at an event at the nearby Center For Visual Arts a few years ago, and the two began talking about how best to showcase the art scene in Wausau while highlighting the healing property of art. “And not just visual art but also meditation, sound—like music— and also complimentary approaches to mental health,” says Peterson.
Siy purchased the building and remodeled it into the small, upscale gallery it is today, open by appointment and for special events. There are no street-level windows of its small storefront between Oz Nightclub and Poppy’s Boutique, facing Wausau Center Mall; just that red door and the building’s bricks.
“It’s a really an intentional building concept,” says Peterson. To date, Red Door Galleria has held several art workshops, a yoga benefit, and meditation and recreational therapy like Reiki. The gallery is available for rent to the public for events, and will be holding more healing arts workshops.
The artists whose works are displayed in the gallery all have a background with mental illness, either personally or through a family member. Peterson herself struggled with mental illness for most her adult life. At age 17 she fell into a major depression and suffered a head injury from a skiing accident, she says. She was 30 years old before she sought professional help and was then diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
Peterson’s drawings hang in the gallery and her current show runs through Feb. 27. “I love to draw because I love to observe in detail and I also like to problem solve,” she says. “I am interested in describing spaces with line work and patterns.”
One of her works will be heading to San Francisco this week for display at a mental health-focused healing art show in that city. Peterson’s work has also been in a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) healing art show in Madison.
Red Door Galleria plans to do shows like that soon in Wausau. “We can really reach out to local people who are artists and want to share their voice. We want people to know this is a safe place and we are in this together,” Peterson says. “Mental illness can be a taboo subject. The process of making and sharing your art expresses what words cannot.
“Right now I am working with one local youth who has been diagnosed with severe anxiety and some other issues,” she says. “We spend the time making art and doing relaxed meditation. The first time here, I said, ‘This is your free space, use my materials, I trust you completely, we can work on the floor or on the table… this is the place you can be yourself, nobody will make fun of you here.’” That is what we are going for.”
For more information on Red Door Galleria, workshops or special events, or for a private showing, go to reddoorgalleria.com, find them on Facebook, or call 715-558-1734.