Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 13

Nature is the muse for the art of Julie Wiegand
by Jim McCarty | jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop
I
nspiration is everything for artists, and that's especially
true for Julie Wiegand, who expresses herself through
her paintings of the Missouri countryside. For her it
only takes a step outside the door of her unique home
to fi nd her muse and the subjects for countless oil paintings
featuring the natural world.
Twenty years ago, Julie and her husband, Tommy
Griesedieck, were living in a St. Louis suburb. " I am not a
city girl, " she relates. " I was ready to get out of the city and
so was Tommy. "
Friends told them about the abandoned Lyon School
near Berger, and the couple immediately saw the potential
in its thick limestone walls. Their multiyear efforts at
turning the school into a home became a labor of love despite
the challenges that are part of any
restoration project.
Berger
Today the school built in 1868 forms
the core of Julie's Lyon School Studio
and Gallery. A recent addition to the
school offers more living space, as
well as room for the frequent patrons
who visit the gallery in the
country to listen to music, walk
the mowed prairie paths and see
Julie's latest efforts.
Julie's latest efforts.
Here she is surrounded by nature. The property includes
14 acres of native prairie - which Tommy, a member
of the St. Louis brewing family and a landscape artist,
created out of a hayfi eld. His stone walls and walkways
form the backdrop for native wildfl owers along with colorful
annuals such as irises, daisies and zinnias while tying
the old work into the new additions to the school.
" We took it down to four walls of stone that needed
complete restoration, " Julie says. " The family that owned it
used it for storage. It had been that way for 50 years. "
One of the several contractors and craftspeople who
worked on the restoration was Howard Schutt, who attended
school here. " That was special using Howard to
rebuild the place, " Julie says. " We wanted to keep it close
to the original. "
One special touch was taking the original bell tower roof
and turning it into a garden shed, which also incorporates
the decorative cast-iron shell of the school's coal stove. The
effect of the restoration is as natural as the ancient cedar
tree that stands guard over the school.
Her studio's remote location proved to be a blessing for
Julie when the pandemic hit in 2020. " I was grateful, " she
says of the home, which is served by Three Rivers Electric
Cooperative. " I could walk out my door and go, 'Oh my
God, I am so blessed to be here.' Because I could continue
my work. I do feel an intense connection to nature and
that is what's gotten me through the diffi culties. "
Whether it's painting from her front porch on rainy days
or in the Missouri River bottoms near Augusta, Julie is
never so happy as when she is working outdoors. She's a
regular at " plein air " festivals around the state, taking part
in the one at Augusta for 18 years.
AUGUST 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP 13
Opposite page: Artist Julie Wiegand puts the fi nishing touches
on a painting of pale lavender iris outside her studio. Above: Julie
expresses the joy of the moment as sunlight breaks through on a
cloudy day. Below: Julie and husband, Tommy, saw the potential in the
abandoned Lyon School and lovingly restored it to its former glory.
A landscape artist, Tommy designed the gardens and stone work that
embrace the home. His business - Griesedieck Brothers Landscaping
and Construction - designs and installs stone landscapes in Franklin
and St. Louis counties and beyond.
http://www.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Rural Missouri - August 2021

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