Inspired by her past CUW professors, art alumna Taylor Strohmenger ('17) has carved her own path in the art world by pouring her talents into ice sculpting and ceramics.
Strohmenger graduated in May 2017 with a double major in art and Spanish. She now teaches art at John Long Middle School and ceramics at Grafton High School.
Outside of work, Strohmenger flexes her skills within the community. She recently competed in the Cedarburg’s Winter Festival ice sculpting competition, an event she’s competed in for the past three years. Out of the four contests she has competed in, she has taken 2nd place, twice!
Tell me about your involvement with ice sculpting.
Currently I only do ice carving once per year. I am working to get in contact with other festivals and competitions to branch out and carve in more competitions. I do compete, but I do it for the fun and thrill. It’s such a unique medium to work with, and I get a lot of enjoyment from carving!
What motivated you to first get involved in ice sculpting?
Professor Jeff Shawhan has always shown his ice and snow sculptures to us in class. In 2018 he was in charge of the winter festival at the Corners of Brookfield and encouraged me to sign up. I was able to borrow his tools for that competition because I didn’t have any. I was hooked from that first day.
What’s been your favorite carving? How do you decide on the shapes/creations you’ll make?
My favorite carving was my most recent one, “one fish, two fish” at Cedarburg’s winter festival. It had a lot of movement and form to it, making it really dynamic and interesting. With only 1 hour left of carving, my ice broke in half from a crack in the block of ice that was there from the start. It was something out of my control, but I was able to catch the sculpture and fuse it back together with a torch, some excess shaved ice, and some careful work. The sculpture didn’t have as much detail because of the time I lost repairing it, but this adds to it and makes me even more proud of the outcome. I ended up with 2nd place, despite the trouble! I’ve learned a lot about pushing through mishaps in my art, and that helped me in this instance.
As far as designs go, there is typically a theme that I need to adhere to. I do some research for imagery and sketch out some ideas. Eventually I come up with my design and refine it until I am happy with it.
What other media do you like to work with?
My favorite medium is clay. It’s very forgiving and unique. Using the pottery wheel is therapeutic and calming. Clay starts with a focus on form, but once fired there is a world of possibilities with decoration and glaze. It can be overwhelming but I enjoy experimenting with the possibilities and finding what works best with my pieces. I also enjoy painting with acrylic. I don’t paint as often as I work with clay, but I get pulled in any time I start a new painting.
How has your CUW experience prepared you for your current ventures?
I learned a lot at CUW, both in my art work, art process, and about myself. The fine art courses are often small in size which enabled me to work closely with my professors and get plenty of feedback and help from them. I attribute a lot of my growth as an artist to that.
Having all of the courses based in faith has also helped me tremendously. The world is a crazy place, and having my foundation in Jesus is absolutely essential. I’m very thankful that my courses, in all content areas, helped point me to my faith, which helps me look to Jesus at all times of life. Faith-based art also helps me to give God the glory. It’s Him who blessed me with these gifts! And of course, I can’t forget to mention that having friends and classmates with that shared faith was amazing. I’m very blessed to have friends from CUW that share my same beliefs.
Any professors in particular who inspired you? How so?
Jeff Shawhan helped me grow significantly in my artwork. I learned and refined my pottery with his expertise. His exploration with unique media and combinations of media has inspired me to explore in similar ways.
Gaylund Stone has taught me much about refining my process. I grew to appreciate and love art history in his classes.
Margi Bell has helped me by breaking down how she teaches introductory art. She explained how everything is a shape, when drawing, all that needs to be done is identify it. I learned how art can truly be a learned skill and taught to anyone. I explain this to my students just how she had explained it to me at Concordia.
All of the art professors are constantly producing artwork, while also teaching and balancing life. This has inspired me to make the time to create art. Life can get busy really quickly, but we fill our time with what is a priority. My professors all exemplified making art a priority and this has inspired me to do the same.
Explore Concordia’s art programs
Thanks to CUW’s decades-running collaboration with the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, students can enroll at Concordia and receive all the benefits of a tight-knit campus community rooted in faith without sacrificing the expertise and industry connections of a MIAD education.
Click on the links below to check out CUW’s joint programs with MIAD:
Concordia also offers the following in-house arts programs:
If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.