Interviews by Teresa Nguyen
Awards and Accolades
1998 Wisconsin Collection Artist for the Channel 10 Great TV Auction
1999 UW-Whitewater Distinguished Alumni Service Award
2016 Winner of “Watercolor Wisconsin “at Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts
2006 United Arts Alliance Arts Hall of Fame
2013 Craig High School Honor Wall Award
2014 Lead Artist for the Janesville Rotary Botanical Gardens Fundraiser
2015 UW Rock County Foundation “Life of an Artist” Award
2019 Connie Glowacki Exhibit at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic
Established Artist in the Hardy Gallery in Ephraim, Wisconsin
Heritage Featured Artist for Milwaukee Public Television
Former Officer - Philanthropic Educational Organization
Signature Member of the Wisconsin Watercolor Society
Watercolor U.S.A. Honor Society Member
Door County Art League Member
Wisconsin Visual Artists Member
Janesville Art League Member
National Watercolor Society
Ladies Elks Board Member
The Early Years
I was born and raised in Janesville. I have two older sisters, one ten years older, Betty, and one two years older, Juanita. Dad worked at General Motors - Fisher Body at the time. On the side, he built houses.
Like me, my sister, Juanita, is also an artist. Betty was artistic in her interior decorating skills.
We lived on Walnut Street, near Washington school. Everybody got to know everybody. At 9:30 at night, before the parents called us to come in, we’d have up to 40 or 50 kids playing “Red Light Green Light”. We weren’t afraid of being out at night or gone in the afternoon playing neighborhood games. We knew all the parents and they knew us.
Washington Elementary was my first school. In 5th grade, I moved to the Wilson School area. Dad sold our house and was able to eliminate his debts at that time, so we moved to one of the apartments that he owned. I attended Marshall Junior High, then Craig High School and graduated in 1960.
My teachers were wonderful and discipline was minimal. We’d get on a bus, ride around Janesville and go down to Lion’s Beach. We’d hang out with friends and then stop and get an ice cream cone at Arbuthnot’s. At that time, the different schools would hand out a free ticket to shows at the Jeffris Theater on Saturdays. We would see all the old-fashioned movies with friends. We’d often get to know people there, as well.
You really got to know the people in your class. We ran around in a group of gals and we’d pick each other up. We lived on Hawthorn Avenue, then, and had friends down on Centerway and on Maple, by Washington School.
It was a gentle, mild time, when we were about 28,000 in population. You expected the best. And it didn’t seem that there was a lot of crime in the area.
An Interest in Art
I had always had an interest in art. I loved to draw. My sister, Juanita, and I would draw together. My earliest memory was drawing bird’s nest with a pencil, round and round and round and round, and then putting eggs in it. We did art projects, loved to cut and paste, wrap presents and such. My sister started oil painting then.
We were also involved in music. She played the violin and I played piano. And we would play together. We played often enough that I would know what tempo she would play; you get this interaction when you are playing closely together. I was drawn to music and always sang in choirs.
During high school, we put on the musical Showboat in 1959, my senior year. We had some really good singers! I would have thought I was a good one if these people hadn’t been there! Joy Brassington and Susie Ullius were the soloists. I was the next level down. Mr. Fritz was in charge and he started The Spotlighters, which I was in, as well.
I had a hard time deciding whether to go into art or music, as I received good grades in both. So, I chose music in high school and never had the art classes! I happened to be in an art room for my home room with Mrs. Olds. I looked around and thought, “I want to do this, too!”
We came from a very happy home, both parents loving and gentle. I remember my sisters and I; we would get out all the dolls and set up a classroom. We were the teachers and we’d make up stories for the day. So, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I joined the Future Teachers Club in school.
I attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to study Early Childhood Education. Then I went on to receive my M.S. in Education in 1968.
As a matter of fact, we went to the Presbyterian Chuch then, and the gentleman in charge of hiring the district faculty knew that I had been the church Playground Director in the summer, when I wasn’t in college. He liked me and signed me on to teach for the School District of Janesville before I even graduated! So, thankfully, there was no big cliff to jump off.
I started at Roosevelt Elementary and then worked at Wilson under Norm Graper, a wonderful person. His wife, Jan, had a preschool and that’s where our kids attended. I taught kindergarten for seven years, then stopped when I had my two children.
Return to Painting
When our children were in 2nd and 4th grades, I had a little extra time and took a watercolor class from well-known, Janesville artist, Wayne Gunness. He had his own store and frame shop. What he said made sense, and he demonstrated in front of us.
Within a year, I was doing my first art show, which was the Tallman Arts Festival. Then, Milton had their Arts and Craft fair at the Milton House and we set up there. People came by and said, “I’d like to buy this picture, and that one.”
Mike replied, “You what?” It just took us by surprise!
Mike is an “artist of numbers”. He has a gift for business. That has worked out well. We’ve been together 59 years!
Mike & Connie, Finding Love
(This interview with Mike occurred prior to his health decline)
Mike: I was ahead of her through school, but never knew her. She was on the honor roll, the smart girl. I was the working guy. We lived only about four blocks apart.
It was my second year at Whitewater and her first year. We both didn’t go home one of the weekends. The sign in the dorm said, “Square Dancing at Lucy Baker Hall…and food!” So those of us at the men’s dorm went over for food and dancing.
After square dancing, they played a song by Johnny Mathis. And that was it! She kind of chose me.
Connie: Oh, I think it was mutual. Then we found out that we had so many things in common!
Mike: I didn’t know her until then. I have a business and accounting degree and then I ended up working at the Parker Pen Company in their IBM Computer Department. After three or four years of working with computers, I wanted to work more with people, so returned to Whitewater for a degree in teaching. I became a 7th grade teacher for 16 years. I started at Marshall. When they opened Edison Jr. High, I was part of the new staffing there. Fantastic school, fantastic kids!
I resigned from teaching in 1983 to join Connie and her art business.
Professional Artist Career
Connie: I’ve always painted subjects that have some sort of meaning, beyond trivial or trite. I felt good about my work. My first sale was of the railroad track out west of town toward Monroe. The man who bought it said he wanted to give it to the guy who was in charge of that area of the track and the fellow was retiring. It held a special meaning.
Mike: We kept going ahead. After doing the event at Milton House, we applied for the Wilhelm Tell Festival in New Glarus. We weren’t sure how to title our brochure. We decided it would it be, “Wisconsin Regional Artist”. To us, it was a major statement to say that, because we represented a wide area.
Connie: We ended up at numerous regional art shows, like in Rockford, Illinois. After about five years, we started going to the larger national expos, many that were in the Midwest so that we could drive there and come home. We’d leave Friday morning, set up Friday night, be there all of Saturday and Sunday, take down Sunday night, drive home Monday, do laundry and I would start painting again on Tuesday! Then, we’d head out again on Thursday to a new region, like Kentucky or Georgia for another show.
Mike: Some of Connie’s travels have taken her art to the Art Expo in New York City and American Artists Professional League at The Salmagundi Club in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan. She has shown her work at Fifth Avenue, New York City, Milwaukee Lakefront Festival, The Great Fair at Fountain Hills, AZ, Ann Arbor, MI plus the Hardy Gallery and Miller Museum in Door County. She’s traveled to many other national shows.
Now, we can say she’s “worldwide” because Connie taught classes for 12 years on Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii and we have sold her works over there.
Connie: My motto is - I have not seen the pot of gold, it’s no big deal. We’re living the rainbow!
Time in Hawaii
Mike: We had always wanted to go there. The first year, we inquired about it. We were visiting galleries there and the local artists instead of the commercial guys. I told them, “My wife’s an artist.”
Well, they hear that from every tourist that stops by. They happened to have the trade book from the trade expo we were in and I said, “We’re on page 17.”
They replied, “Ooh, you really ARE an artist!”
I asked some local teachers if they needed watercolor instructors, and they just so happened to be looking for one. We spoke to them, returned home, then sent them some information and things. Connie was then invited to be a demonstrator in an art supplies store. We did that for a couple of years in a row, then we went out on our own.
In Kauai, there was a scene near the end of the movie South Pacific, and Connie taught one driveway north of that view of the ocean on a hill. There was a bed and breakfast place where a woman would have artists come out to teach classes there. So, we did that and continued to reach out, presenting ourselves to many people.
Connie: We placed an ad in a local paper with a drawing that shows the style of work and information about my class. At the Royal Kona hotel, 20 people showed up. It was the perfect place!
Mike: Because we were doing shows every weekend, we’d have about 70 nights in hotels throughout the year, so we’d earn all those hotel points. That got us two weeks at The Marriott over there!
In the mid-1990s, we started traveling there in the winters and did that for 12 years until 2008. We’d go to the three different islands, spending four days on each island.
Connie: It was wonderful, and we still get Christmas cards from friends there.
Connie and Mike’s Teamwork
Mike: I’d get in trouble because I tell her what to do.
Connie: He’s the fellow who knows about taxes, insurance, the matting and framing.
Mike: When we traveled to the Czech Republic, I set up a press release for a Door County magazine. Connie did the typing after I opened the door to it.
We worked the words out, who was reading it, what interested them, etc. We included a photo of me at the Embassy.
“Welcoming” – A Favorite Painting
As we were selling our art in Louisville, Kentucky, on a street named St. James Court, we were in front of this house. It was getting dark and they turned their lights on. I took a photo of it, then painted it later.
At another art fair in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was explaining the piece to a lady. I said to her, “I’m waiting for somebody to take it into their classroom and write about it, because you’d find out so much about the students and their ideas.”
She said, “I’m just starting to teach 8th grade, send it to me!”
So, I did.
She had them write about this painting. An 8th grade girl named Candice Bayer wrote this poem for her English class, which often accompanies the painting:
I’ll leave the light on; you can come home.
Whenever you want, if you’re ever alone.
I’ll leave the light on, when it gets colder.
Love me or not, you can cry on my shoulder.
I’ll leave the light on; you can fall back in my arms.
Don’t be afraid, don’t be alarmed.
I’ll leave the light on, there’s a key by the door.
I’ll leave the light on, forevermore.
I got her permission to use the poem. I’d be delighted if she contacted me someday. I’m glad to see how people are touched by the painting. It also represents my faith, that there is always someone who accepts you the way you are, no matter what happens. It’s so important.
Taking it on the Road
Connie: Over the years, we have communicated with customers via newsletters, cards and through our website. We’ve sent out exhibit schedules to all of our fans and customers.
Mike: When we would take the kids with us. They would travel all over - to Wisconsin Dells, Minocqua, La Crosse, Minneapolis, wherever we were going.
I remember one day my son came home from school and said, “Mom, Dad, I just realized that the other kids never go anywhere!” The other kids were surprised by how much our own children traveled around. They have come to appreciate it.
Connie: They were usually trips for work, not just for play. Both of our children loved to travel, had no fear of it and really enjoyed it.
In these last few years, things were not as crazy busy, but we were still very active, getting continuous requests. We took several paintings to the Beloit Public Library and, because of that display, had to use other paintings for a display at St. Elizabeth’s in Janesville, which overlapped on the schedule.
Exhibit in the Czech Republic
The former United States Ambassador to the Czech Republic from 2017 to 2021, Stephen B. King, is a former businessman from Milton, Wisconsin. He and his wife were familiar with my work. They told me, “We are interested in showcasing your work at the U.S. Embassy while we are there in the Czech Republic.” We directed them to our website to select what they liked. (Click on the following photos to enlarge.)
This happened in 2019. The program, Art in Embassies, puts American artworks on display in 200 U.S. embassies worldwide. The nine paintings they chose will hang there at the embassy in Prague for a three-year period.
We made a trip over to Europe to see the exhibit!
Both of our children were good at art. Matt was getting straight As in art classes. He is also really into music. Shelly excelled in business.
Shelly is a lot more like her like her dad. She is a full professor at Ball State in Indiana. She’s been teaching Adult Continuing Education since 1995. Shelly earned her Masters from Northern Illinois University in 1997 and her Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1999.
Our son, Matt, is a highly sought-after national speaker on disabilities and diversity. ( http://mattglowacki.com/ ) Matt was born without legs in 1973. There was no finding out in those days, so it was a surprise for us.
Mike said, “Well, we will sell the house if we need to.”
The doctor replied, “Let him surprise you.”
And, boy, has he surprised us all the way!
When he was a little tot, Mike put some drawer pulls along the side of the staircase and, next thing you know, Matt was scooting himself up those stairs!
Matt played on the USA Paralympic Sitting Volleyball team for 8 years and participated in the 2000 Paralympics in Australia.
Matt has also written a 2017 motivational book called, Able-Bodied Like Me.
In addition to presenting for a variety of corporate events and trainings, Matt currently serves as the Diversity, Inclusion, Workflex Director for the Wisconsin State Council of SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management).
We have one granddaughter, Zina, who is not only our pride and joy, but often my subject matter in my paintings.
The Shop in Door County
Mike: In 2008, we started to get tired of all the running around. We wondered where we would go to open a little shop. We knew the market of Door County from doing some shows up there. So, I called a realter. We had an upcoming show and we drove up there Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday we bought a gallery, on Friday we bought a small condo and Saturday we thought, “What the heck did we do?”
We stayed up there every year for six months, during the good weather months. The shop was in Fish Creek and our condo in Sister Bay, just a 15-minute drive along the shore.
We probably saw more Janesville friends and classmates up in Door County than we saw when we were back home! One of the disadvantages of living up there in summer was that we were gone from Janesville every weekend, so we lost our connection to our church groups and social events down here that we were involved in.
Connie: I belong to the Janesville Art League. The Art League meets once a month, but they also provide locations for exhibits, such as The Women’s Club. We also have ongoing shows at the Janesville Performing Arts Center. We replace the art several times throughout the year.
When we were in town, we could participate, otherwise it was too difficult to attend if we were up north.
For years I’ve been an active member at Cargill United Methodist Church and I’ve enjoyed singing in the church choir.
Mike: When Rotary Botanical Gardens first started out, we were some of the original supporters and many of Connie’s paintings are of different areas of the gardens.
Favorite Subjects and Locations
Waterfalls, children playing on beaches, sunsets, the palm trees, woodlands, snow and water scenes from Door County are all favorite subjects. In Janesville, I gravitate to Rotary Gardens. The corner of Rugar Avenue and Highway 14 is also a favorite area.
I love painting the clouds where the sun streamers are peeking through, especially if you’re looking over farmland. I love the farms, too.
I was showing one of my paintings at Darien of sun rays shining through the clouds, when a woman came up to me and recited her poem:
“The Streamers of the Sun, as they emerge from great gray banks of thunderclouds, may be the arms of God, stretched out in benediction, renewing the promise of hope, no matter what the darkness.” ~ Eleonore – Melissa
I tend to like the artists who paint more realistically. I like paintings that show a freedom, where you get the feeling for what’s really there, but not all the details.
The various teachers I’ve had along the way have influenced me, as well.
Reflections of Faith
I don’t like to say, “This is what you have to believe.” But I like to show that it’s out there. It enriches your life, if you chose to acknowledge it.
I’ve always created my own Christmas cards. We had a friend who we met on the road, Steve Felder. He’s a carver. I was going to paint him as Joseph, and I had his wife next to him, holding the baby. But after I painted him, I saw a unique spirituality there and thought he looked like Jesus.
Life During Covid
People were wearing masks in Door County, and we were able to keep the shop open. Everything was slow, but we just continued on. We got our boosters and all. Then, like many, we did eventually end up getting COVID-19 in January of 2022.
After that, we took a trip out west to the Grand Canyon, so we were doing well to climb out of that!
Normally we would have done a longer trip, but this was about 3-weeks long. We love visiting special places. We stayed on the south rim, and in winter it’s not too crowded. I didn’t do any serious work or shows down there, we were just enjoying vacationing together.
Mike’s Health and New Changes
About two and a half months after our trip, we were planning to go up to Door County and reopen the shop the following week. Everything was normal. Then Mike had his stroke on the 26th of April in 2022.
It turns out, he was diagnosed with the beginnings of Parkinson's disease, as well. It affects the muscles and it took over his mobility very quickly. At the time, I was 80 and Mike was 81. So, we both had to suddenly retire.
Cedar Crest had just finished up a nice apartment unit and we moved there the 26th of May, one month after his stroke.
When it first happened, Mike wanted to die. In fact, he told so many people that he wanted to die, they put him on suicide watch. But he kept eating. It was an extremely difficult change for him to experience. We’ve talked things through and continue to do so. We talk about heaven and I believe we need to do that.
We had to close the shop in Door County. Our daughter helped us a lot. She came up there and we prepared everything. Mike stayed back at Cedar Crest. We had to sell our condo up there, as well.
We used the money we had sent in for newspaper ads to create one larger ad, a quarter page, preceding a big sale.
It’s been heaven up there in Door County…all those years!
A month or two before Mike had his stroke, I was sitting in the bay window of our house on Summerset in Janesville, which we built in 1970. Mike planned it and hired people to build it. He maintained it all those years. I looked out the window and thought, we have filled our dining room with up to 14 people at the holidays. Now, most of those people are gone, and the house is just too big for us.
And then this happened and our lives changed. But that house served its purpose and it was wonderful for us all those years.
Back in Janesville, I had two big sales from my home. I brought some of my favorite paintings to my apartment here at Cedar Crest. My daughter, Shelly, also has a number of my originals and prints down there in Indiana.
It’s been a year and 6 months now since Mike’s stroke. For the last few months, he’s had to be lifted up and transferred from one place to another. The situation is difficult for him and for us all to witness.
Matt had brought some small candies for his dad. When Mike held out his hand, it was at an angle and the candies would fall out. He couldn’t hold his palm open flat. That’s why I’m helping him eat at meal times. I spend breakfast, lunch and dinners with him. He can hold his toast, but it’s difficult to hold the spoons straight. When we’re done, I take him back to his room. He is supposed to sit up as much as he can, so the congestion is less.
Physical therapy is over, as it won’t help any further and he can’t do it anymore. It has also affected his speech, so it’s hard for him to communicate. But our son, Matt, understands him, even better than I can. Matt comes to visit 5 out of 7 days, since he also lives in southern Wisconsin.
I read out loud to Mike quite often. I’ve gone through Readers Digest 40 Years of the Best Stories, and the editor of the Milwaukee Journal wrote a book of stories and we’ve read all of those. Right now, I’m reading Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
This is our reality. We didn’t have a big choice. Of course, it’s been a difficult transition, but you just do what you have to do. You just have to learn how to deal with it.
All those years, Mike let me be the star, didn’t he? My name was on everything! Of course, we had friends from all the various art fairs and places, so they really knew what he did. But, for the most part, I was the one in the limelight. That’s not “me”, but it’s the way it worked out.
Yet, behind the scenes, Mike did everything, even our grocery shopping! He had worked in a grocery store as a teen, so knew exactly what to get.
He arranged everything for me and for my art shows, and we worked together on everything. He packed and drove the van and ordered the mats and frames and framed everything.
I do remind him of all the wonderful things he’s done that allowed us to have such a beautiful life and for me to have this career.
Beautiful final words from the earlier interview with Mike: “It’s been an honor to be by her side.”
Changing Times and the Janesville Community
My great concern is the decline of the family and of morality and of all we have stood for. Too many children are not being raised by their families and there’s a problem with youth homelessness in our area. Church attendance is declining, as well. I worry about the political fighting and where this country is going.
There is so much addiction, too. People throw their lives away. What have we lost that makes people so desperate? Thankfully, there are groups out there that help those in need.
If everyone had someone, even one person, who loves them dearly, things would be better.
But it’s been wonderful to see what’s been happening in Janesville in the last few years. It’s opening up and blossoming! There’s so much opportunity for the students, and there are wonderful events at the parks and so much going on at the Janesville Performing Arts Center. And with the new art, there’s so much to see and do in our community if you’re willing to go!
I’m not able to drive anymore, which has been a challenge. I’ve always been a leader and have driven myself wherever I want to go. But now, my friends often help me get out and about. They take me to church and to the Janesville Art League events. Those are most important to me. It’s hard to not be as involved in church as I used to be.
I am still in the church choir, and have been involved in the choir up in Door County. But my voice is changing! I can’t go much above a middle C very often. But I can go lower now (Connie demonstrated the scale up and down, nicely on pitch!). I still play piano, but, not as much as I played before. The other day, I visited the Rotary Gardens to hear the dulcimer group and it was just wonderful! My friend, Pat Tobin, is a member of that group. Music is often so comforting.
I am active here at Cedar Crest, too. I had an early career as a teacher, and continued teaching many painting classes in various locations around the world, in Janesville at L’atelier Art Studio and I’ve taught private lessons. So, it seemed only natural to continue teaching a group of residents here at Cedar Crest. My class is called “Playing with Paint”. Some of the participants are widows and some have husbands with physical problems, so we do have things in common.
Currently, this fall, the Good Samaritan Society Scandia Village in Door County will be displaying 15 to 20 pieces of my originals and reproductions that they will be showing in The Medows Gallery. Tom Seagard is in charge of it. He has his own gallery with his wife in Sister Bay. They are both award-winning artists. Tom worked with the art league in Door County for many, many years and would feature artists at The Meadows in Scandia.
My son, Matt, recently took me up there, a four-hour drive, to see my exhibit. The gallery has about 3 rooms and they all look great!
It’s a happy ending to have people there up in Door County still enjoying my work.
I will continue to paint, but how much energy I will have, that is another question. I recently finished a painting of a sunset over a harbor titled, “Door County Memories”, which I took down to the Janesville Performing Arts Center for their fall exhibit.
Having faith is so important. There is someone who loves us, who wants the best for all of us. I think God is right here, all around us. I’ve been lucky in life. Not all of us can go out and do good. But, ask God to guide you.
Realize that you CAN help. If you see someone who is in pain, see if you can help them. Say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
When you meet someone in the hallway, say, “Good morning!” and share a smile. I try to let my neighbors know that I’m available if they need something, so they know there is one more person they can turn to. Show concern and love for other people.
We’re all in this together.
Connie Glowacki’s art will be featured at Cedar Crest’s Art Showcase & Assisted Living Open House on Thursday, November 16 from 2 - 3 pm! It is a chance to see the art, to meet the artists and to take a self-guided tour of the newly renovated facilities. Click on the link to the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/979861659965649/?ref=newsfeed
You can also contact www.info@CedarCrestLife.com for more information.
(Click on each photo to enlarge. Click the arrow on the right to see next photo.)