Creative by Design
Without knowing it, you have probably seen artwork by Bonnie Tweeton.
The Perham artist’s stained glass pieces can be found at various locations around town, and for the last 20 years her set designs have graced the Perham auditorium’s stage during the annual community musicals.
“One of Bonnie’s real gifts is that she can look at an empty stage and see a palace,” said Kevin Kosiak, who has directed many of the community plays with Tweeton creating the sets. “I look at an empty stage and see an empty stage.”
The first time Tweeton filled up some of that empty stage for Kosiak was in1993, for “The Sound of Music.”
“I volunteered to make stained glass windows out of gels that they use for the lights,” she said. “I’ll never do it again. I spent hours and hours and hours. It was like building a stained glass window, only with gels. And I used duct tape to hold them together. It was insane!”
Insane, but impressive. The next year, Tweeton was hired to take on the role of art director.
“She’s a working machine,” said Kosiak.
Take, for example, the set for this year’s musical, “HONK!” Tweeton was not only art director for the show, but also played a role as one of the characters.
“Bonnie was in costume and on stage for mic check,” said Kosiak. “Then I turn around, and she’s got a paint brush in hand! She was touching up rocks in costume with her makeup on and hair up in rollers. She is very proud of what she does.”
Tweeton also teaches art full-time at Frazee High School, and has led her classes in creating backdrops for more than 40 of their Homecoming and SnoBall festivities.
When Frazee had a theater program, Tweeton made more than 15 sets for their plays, as well.
However, Tweeton’s artwork is not limited to theater and school. She is also becoming well known for her stained glass pieces.
Around 30 years ago, Tweeton took her first glass lessons. But it wasn’t until about 15 years after that, that the hobby really took off for her.
“Part of why I got back into it was that I wasn’t growing as an artist myself,” Tweeton said. “I saw other art teachers who either painted or did pottery and did other things when we got together for art conferences. I just thought, ‘I need to do something for myself to grow.’”
“I have at least 40 (glass pieces) in a slide show I’ve put together,” said Tweeton.
Those pieces include restorations, windows, lamps and sun catchers that were made with at least one square foot of glass.
Calvary Lutheran Church, St. Paul’s Church, Perham Living and Perham Health are home to some of Tweeton’s publicly displayed glass designs.
Most recently, Tweeton completed a series of pieces for the meditation room at Perham Health.
“I researched feng shui, architecture, designing and how to decorate to make a more a calming room, a peaceful space,” Tweeton explained.
“I was trying to go with the elements,” she said about the four windows she made for the room. “They’re in different parts of the room, but if you were to put the windows all together as one … the design lines from the lead and the colors lead from one window to the next.”
Although she receives praises for her work, Tweeton doesn’t accept all of the credit.
“Yeah, I worked at it, but, it’s also a gift from God,” she said. “Especially when they’re religious windows, I ask for guidance … a direction. Where do you want me to take this? I want it to touch other people.”
Tweeton’s artistic process takes trust in God, in herself, and, in the end, even in the glass itself.
“When you’re building a stained glass window … you have this vision of what it’s going to be,” said Tweeton. “But, you really don’t know what it’s going to look like until you can pick it up and see the light through it.”
“It’s always a surprise,” she added. “You hold it up and you see all those colors and texture and you go, ‘Oh yeah!’”