The Mastermind Behind Downtown Appleton's Mandalas Project: Tony Conrad


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Tony Conrad’s pattern-centric paintings and drawings are the results of an ongoing interest in various cultural and historical movements including Persian textiles, Tibetan Buddhism, psychedelic rock culture, and meditative states.

Conrad received his MFA degree in painting and drawing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2009.  Currently, Conrad is a Lecturer of Art at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.  Conrad’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States in various solo, group, and invitational exhibitions and has won a number of awards including the Lawrence Rathsack Scholarship and the Frederick R. Layton Fellowship.

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I came up with this idea of the Appleton Mandala Project late last year (2015).  I wanted to do a public art project that would help make downtown Appleton more visually engaging.  The mandala to me has always been a powerful symbol of peace and empathy.  The Buddhists have historically used the mandala symbol to establish a sacred space, a space for meditation.

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The barn quilt trail project that has been rapidly building over that past 15 years in this country has been a great inspiration to me on this project.  Since the initial 2001 grouping of 20 or so quilts that were painted and installed in Adams County, Ohio, local quilt guilds, arts councils, school groups, and other organizations have joined in the efforts to develop a huge grass roots art project that can now be enjoyed throughout many rural areas around the country.  I love this idea of a community coming together to create a visual landscape that is thought provoking and simply beautiful.  I look forward to working in collaboration with other area artists on the second installation of mandalas in downtown Appleton.  I can only hope this project builds some momentum, bringing all different types of people together to make our area and others more beautiful and interesting.

1All photographs were taken by Kim Thiel Photography

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