Clem Wortz originally spelled his name Wuertz until his family changed it during World War II to appear less German. The 79-year-old played baseball in the same amateur league as Bob Uecker and spent 36 years as a Milwaukee police officer before becoming a Pfister Hotel security guard. The highlights – and secrets – of his life all seem to tumble out as artist Katie Musolff paints his portrait.
Being artist-in-residence at the Pfister has exposed Musolff to a new world. In a way, she’s on display as much as her paintings. “The whole experience has made me think on my feet and make sharper, clearer decisions, because I am seeing it from the audience’s point of view,” she says.
The program, which Pfister general manager Joe Kurth says is the only one like it in the nation, is in its second year. Musolff works about 30 hours a week while hundreds of passersby ask questions and interact.
“There is a beauty in being able to give guests something they can’t find elsewhere,” says Kurth. “Art truly comes alive when you have someone to show how it’s created.”
Kurth dreamed up the idea for the program while reviewing options to make the Pfister’s extensive Victorian art collection more relevant. The gallery space in the lobby was the perfect venue for local artists to create and display their art.
“It takes the mysticism away from what an artist is and does,” says Reggie Baylor, the Pfister’s first artist in residence.
A committee of six selects the artist, who works for a year, getting a monthly stipend.
Musolff says it took about six weeks to get used to working in front of an audience. Now she likes it. “I’m excited to see what happens,” she says. “My work is definitely going to change.”