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Featured artist Nolan Prohaska to bring whimsical botanicals to Waterway Arts Festival

March 25, 2019

The spring flowers blooming on the banks of the Waterway will be joined by delicate glass counterparts when The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival takes over Town Green Park in April.

Artist and horticulturist Nolan Prohaska and his brightly-colored, crystalline plant forms were chosen by members The Woodlands Arts Council as this year’s featured artist. Prohaska’s work, exclusively, has been used to promote the festival for months, appearing on brochures, posters and fundraising materials.

“I’m putting myself into the artwork,” Prohaska said. “I think the joy I get out of what I create is the people who collect my work — they somehow get that same level of appreciation for it. They see the whimsy and the personality and the fun I have.”

Prohaska’s featured exhibit at the April 13-14 festival will be the third time the Somerset, Wisconsin-based artist shows at the festival. He can’t quite remember how he first heard about it or got involved, he said, but his glass gardens caught the eyes of Marketing Chair Susan Vreeland-Wendt and the festival’s graphic designer, Maureen Donelan as they made their selections at the 2018 festival, where Prohaska also won “Best in Show.”

“What we liked so much about (Prohaska’s) work was the movement and the bold colors, humor and variety,” Donelan said. “It’s important we choose an artist that has work that’s eye-catching.”

Vreeland-Wendt said in an effort to fully represent the scope of art on display and for sale at the festival, the selection committee has tried to build a diverse portfolio of featured artists throughout the years. The festival has featured painters, potters, jewelers and artists that work in drawing media.

Although the festival uses only the featured artist and their art in promotional materials, the work chosen also reflects all of the 200-plus artists on exhibit, Vreeland-Wendt added.

“We want to represent the overall quality and variety of all the art in the festival,” Vreeland-Wendt said.

Prohaska studied horticulture and art at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He needed an elective and, having been interested in ceramics as a high school student, saw glassblowing as a good option.

Heavily influenced by his glassblowing professor, Prohaska sought to find what would set his work apart from the bowls and vases commonly seen made from blown glass. The hobby turned into an obsession, he said, and for the two decades since, Prohaska has been creating poppies, peonies, wildflowers and succulents out of molten glass.

“You can develop the technical ability to make anything,” Prohaska said. “The hard part is coming up with a unique idea.”

The featured artist’s booth takes center stage at the Waterway Arts Festival — a large tent placed squarely in the center of Town Green Park, giving Prohaska the chance to display each of his creations with the space they need to be appreciated.

The glass plants are uniquely his, Prohaska said, and on April 13 and 14, residents of The Woodlands will have a chance to make it theirs.

“I don’t make what I make for other people,” Prohaska said. “I make it for me.”

mrincon@chron.com