When University of Wisconsin Oshkosh marketing manager Madisen Potratz inherited stones and wire from 40-year UWO alumni-employee Elizabeth (Beth) Heuer ’86 and ’90 MBA, she wanted to be sure to create something special with the gift.
“Those who knew Beth know she was a selfless, kind, gentle soul,” Potratz said. “I didn’t want to use her materials for my own enrichment, I wanted to continue her legacy as a nonprofit artist.”
Heuer, who retired from UWO in 2009, died in January 2019 following a battle with cancer.
Potratz will host her Good Art for Good show in Heuer’s honor from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Fifth Ward Brewing Company, 1009 South Main St. in Oshkosh. The event is open to the public.
“It’s a tribute to Beth’s mission as an artist and to the generosity of her family who entrusted me to fulfill her legacy,” she said.
Profits from Good Art for Good will benefit the Beth Fund within Madison’s Community Restorative Justice Fund, a criminal justice organization that focuses on rehabilitating offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large. The Beth Fund, specifically, provides basic human needs to individuals recently released from prison.
“There was no doubt in my mind that the profits from this event should benefit Beth’s cause,” she said.
Potratz first met Heuer, a friend of her mother’s, Wendy Potratz ’84 and ’88 MBA, when she moved back to her hometown from Madison in October 2017 to work in University Marketing and Communications (UMC) at UWO. Wendy is a senior lecturer in accounting in UWO’s College of Business.
“Beth was very close to my mother. When I moved back to Oshkosh, we were introduced as a way to dip my toe into the local art scene,” Potratz explained. “We had all kinds of ideas to show our work together and build collaborative pieces, but to start things off we participated in a group exhibition and displayed our work alongside each other.”
An artist’s mindset
In Heuer, Potratz found a kindred spirit.
“What I enjoy about Beth’s jewelry and sculpture is that it’s similar to mine. Each piece is so different and unique that anyone could look through her work and find one thing that suits them perfectly,” she said.
Potratz believes that’s why incorporating Heuer’s materials into her own pottery has been “very natural and instinctive.”
“I’ve been of the artist mindset ever since I was a little kid,” she said. “I had every kind of coloring book, entered dozens of art contests and was heavily involved in art education and extracurricular activities during K–12.”
During her freshman year at UW-Madison, Potratz found herself drawing a portrait for a friend when she should have been studying for a chemistry exam she needed to pass as an animal science major.
“That finals week was a real turning point for me when I realized I shouldn’t swim against the current,” she said. “I ended up with a bachelor’s degree in studio art from UW-Madison that provided the foundation to continue on as a lifelong artist.”
At UWO, Potratz spends her days to promoting the University’s Fond du Lac and Fox Cities access campuses through her marketing position in UMC. Her evenings are spent taking graduate courses in the educational leadership and policy program and creating art in an independent study as a post-baccalaureate special student.
“My art professor Craig Clifford has been hugely helpful providing guidance when I need it, but ultimately giving me lots of space to go about things independently,” she said.
Potratz said each piece in her Good Art for Good collection has its own personality.
“I spend hours throwing, trimming, carving and hand-altering the things I make,” she said.” Over time, I forge a really strong connection to each piece. So when all of my work is laid out together, different people tend to gravitate toward different things,” she said. “It makes me really happy when something so meaningful to me can be meaningful for someone else.”